Space Station Sunday: Fire It Up!

Good morning / afternoon / evening (depending where you are on this fine planet), space fans! Here's what's been up lately in low-earth orbit!

Lookin' good, homeworld!
 The Northern Lights were so strong this week,
Reykjavik, Iceland turned off their streetlights to watch the whole show.
(Image courtesy NASA.gov.)


NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins, who recently became part of the first team to sequence DNA in space, took time this week to explore how solids in microgravity dissolve into liquids. As part of a study funded by the Eli Lilly corporation, this experiment could eventually help to improve the design of pharmaceuticals, allowing them to dissolve more effectively in the human body. She’s the Chuck Yeager of the blood-brain barrier!


She's so skilled, she's got the world at her feet.
Especially on spacewalks, like this one she co-conducted in September.
(Image courtesy NASA.gov.)


Speaking of melting things in space, a new fuel-burning study will soon be underway. The Group Combustion experiment, which is currently being set up by JAXA astronaut Takuya Onishi, will monitor droplets of decane (a fuel component) as they are set aflame on thin-fiber lattice points. 

Since microgravity blocks convection, the conditions will be more amenable to studying the variance of flame and droplet positions, as well as their temperature distribution. This will help to better understand the nature of combustion in space (don’t worry, they test everything in a multi-purpose payload rack designed for these things…no extra shooting stars will appear in the night sky anytime soon.)



Fire in space does strange things...time to get some more science on that.
(Image courtesy spaceflight101.)


Newly-minted ISS commander Anatoly Ivanishin studied how charged particles behave while held in a magnetic trap in microgravity. This could impact the development of future photovoltaic cells used in space and totally has nothing to do with Russia working on solar-powered electromagnetic space gulags. Probably.

Ivanishin also studied how to assess and report back to Earth instances of natural and man-made disasters as witnessed from the orbital office, seeing as how we’re probably slated for a whole lot more of these issues thanks to the way we treat the planet and each other. Get it together, humanity! Not all of us are going to be lucky enough to expatriate to Mars!


Fortunately this is just a volcanic eruption,
but with the way we humans have been acting lately,
who knows what will follow.
(Image courtesy discovermagazine.com.)


In the meantime, the ISS residents will be able to analyze underlying disaster-affected areas of Earth using the Photospectral system (PSS) science hardware, which uses sensors to assess the reflected radiation spectrum of the afflicted area. This will ultimately not only help to deduce the depth of disasters, but also to forecast where they might naturally occur next.


Some disasters are actually visible from space with the naked eye.
(Image courtesy bbc.com.)


If you want to space out whenever you feel like it, be sure to check out the ISS livestream cameras! In the meantime, here's some select space-based shots of Earth for your enjoyment.



Over the Strait of Gibraltar.




Ciao, Italy!



Egypt...ancient aliens perusing the pyramids not included.

That's all for this week, space fans! We'll see you soon...watch this space!


A majestic moonrise...sweet dreams, spacefarers!
(Image courtesy NASA.gov.)






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