Space Station Sunday: A Lovely Landing & Fire In The Sky

Good afternoon, space fans!  It's been an informative and intriguing week, 200-odd miles above the Earth, and also back down dirtside...

Always nice to be able to continue to post images like these.
Congrats on the completed mission, gentlemen!
(Image courtesy

On Tuesday, the Cygnus cargo spacecraft was released from the station and sent to its fiery demise in Earth's atmosphere.  The Cygnus was grappled away from the station by NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, who used the Canadarm-2 robotic arm to maneuver the spacecraft.

The Cygnus, upon approach.
It has since turned into a giant fireball...for science.
(Image courtesy

The Cygnus was equipped with the Saffire-1 experiment, which measures the impact of fires in microgravity.  Special equipment inside the spacecraft measured oxygen consumption of an intentionally-set fire, while also monitoring flame growth and other critical aspects of space arson.

This will help NASA to determine which materials are safest for spaceflight, how to curtail flammability in microgravity, and more information to thwart damage from alien lasers  prevent one of space travel's biggest threats.

To date, torching the 16 by 37-inch piece of cotton and fiberglass inside the Cygnus was the largest fire ever set in space.  You can learn more about Saffire-1 and its successors here!

So long and thanks for all the science, Cygnus!
(Image courtesy

On Friday, shortly before the Soyuz departure, command of the spaceccraft was ceremonially handed over to NASA astronaut (now Commander) Jeff Williams by Tim Kopra.  Commander Williams remains aboard with cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin, the official crew of Expedition 48.

Three new crew members - NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, and Takuya Onishi of JAXA (the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) will join them on July 9th after a launch from Kazahkstan on July 7th.

Williams, top center, is now the ISS Commander,
and thus the official ambassador to aliens.
(Image courtesy

On Friday, ESA astronaut Tim Peake, NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko (bottom left to right in the above image) returned safely to Earth in their Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft.  Malenchenko piloted the Soyuz to a clean landing in Kazahkstan, completing his sixth space mission and accruing a total of 828 days in space, making him the silver medalist of Russian spacefarers, just behind veteran cosmonaut Gennady Padalka.

Kopra has completed 244 days in space over the course of two missions, while Peake was on his inaugural trip as Britain's first ISS astronaut.  He served 186 days on this mission, beginning when the crew launched from Baikonur on December 15th.

And considering how much fun he seemed to have,
he probably can't wait to go back!
(Image courtesy

Though it was Peake's first trip to space, he sure acclimated well!  A video of him doing scientific somersaults (EIGHTY of them) recently surfaced in which Peake (and impromptu spinning coach) Tim Kopra conduct a "provocative" and entertaining experiment.  Peake was making an attempt to get dizzy in space, which is difficult as the brain reverts to information from the eyes (rather than the inner ears) after a short while in space.

During his mission, Peake even ran the London Marathon in space!  Too bad there's no space gymnastics events in the Olympics...yet.

Peake also managed to capture some excellent images while are some of his favorites.

A volcano on Russia's east coast.

"I'm guessing there was an impressive storm going on
under that cumulonimbus cloud!"  -Tim Peake

"This cloud looks good enough to surf!"   -Tim Peake

That's all for this week, space fans!  We'll see you soon with more excellence from orbit!  Watch this space!

And you thought driving through fog on Earth was eerie.
How about this ethereal green aurora?
(Image courtesy Tim Peake /

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