Space Station Sunday: Happy Sixteen New Years!

Happy 2016, space fans!  It's looking like it'll be another great year for science, progress, and adventure aboard the ISS.  Let's see what's up...

The Rocky Mountains look like serene snowdrifts from space.
Fortunately no one has to worry about digging out the car in bad weather up there.
(Image courtesy Scott Kelly.)

This week, after orbiting through sixteen sunrises into 2016, astronauts Scott Kelly, Tim Kopra, and Tim Peake sent a video message to Earth, wishing us groundlings a happy new year and expressing their appreciation for all of the men and women who serve in various capacities to keep the ISS aloft.

Triple-backflip signoff!  Love these guys.

2015 involved some major milestones for the ISS and its crew, including the 15th year of continuous manned operations in space, the 50th anniversary of spacewalking, the commencement of the historic One Year Crew mission, the growth (and subsequent consumption) of the first lettuce grown in space, and much more.  On the ground, despite myriad failures, the SpaceX company was able to land a Falcon rocket upright for eventual re-use as a cargo craft, and also made plans to eventually ferry commercial crew to the station.

It's a busy place in space.
(Image courtesy Scott Kelly.)

Overall, the station saw the arrival of eight cargo ships in 2015.  Some 450 experiments were tended to over a course of 1900 man-hours, thanks to crew members ferried up in four different Soyuz launches.  Seven spacewalks occurred for maintenance and upgrades to the station (which is expected to remain operational until the mid-2020s.)

Scott Kelly has been enjoying his ride, particularly when the ISS serves as a
"glass bottom spaceship over the Bahamas"!
(Image courtesy Scott Kelly.)

Not to be outdone, 2016 will see some significant science striding forth, including the addition of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (B.E.A.M.), a lightweight and inflatable module that will add an instant expansion in habitable space to the ISS.

The One Year Crew, comprised of Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, has continued apace with their research, which is expected to yield an amazing amount of scientific knowledge concerning human life on the station.  To add further fascination, Kelly's twin brother Mark (a former ISS astronaut himself) is undergoing many of the same challenges that Mark is, albeit within the bonds of gravity.  This week, both brothers were administered identical flu shots, to observe whether Scott's immune system was significantly altered by his lack of exposure to many Earthbound pathogens during spaceflight.  Both brothers will then undertake a series of blood tests to note what changes occurred, if any, on a molecular level.

Let's hope astronaut Kelly's immune system holds up.
Can you imagine sneezing in a space helmet?
(Image courtesy

And in closing this week, NASA has released a time-lapse video of Earth imagery shot from space, coupled with quotes from the ISS crew and an original Yanni score entitled "Seven Billion Dreams."  Here's to many more orbits!  We'll see you next this space!

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