Sunday, November 04, 2007

Cooperation and teamwork bring success to NASA

By Carol Gee

NASA Makes Space Station Repairs

In A Dangerous Emergency Mission Astronaut Fixes Ripped Solar Panel. NASA Makes Space Station Repairs. From CBS/AP:

Astronauts successfully unfurled a torn solar power wing at the international space station on Saturday after space walker Scott Parazynski cut loose a tangled clump of wires and patched everything up. His emergency surgery saved the solar energy panel — and the space station. In the tense buildup to the spacewalk — one of the most difficult and dangerous ever attempted — NASA repeatedly warned that station construction would have to be halted if the wing could not be fixed.

The prospect was so grave that NASA felt it had no choice but to put Parazynski practically right up against the swaying power grid, which was coursing with more than 100 volts of electricity. No other astronaut had ever been so far away from the safe confines of the cabin.

Even before Parazynski made his way back inside, the radio traffic was full of cheers and congratulations. Shouts of "Yay! All right! Beautiful! Great news!" streamed from the linked shuttle-station complex once the wing was unfurled to its full 115-foot length. Mission Control promptly relayed thanks from NASA's top brass.

Harmony -- Other countries contribute a great deal to the U.S. space programs at NASA. Scott Parazynski rode to the farthest reaches possible to make the repair on a jury-rigged combination of robotic and sensor arms. First developed by the Canadian Space Agency in 1981, this work horse has undergone modification and improvement all along the way and is still the star of orbital space whether outside the shuttle or on the ISS. Canadian astronaut Dave Williams flew recently on STS-118. Sarmad Aziz, loaned from CSA, serves as the lead in the robotics control center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The International Space Station is a truly international enterprise. Russia and Italy are currently the "accented" voices we hear from the International Space Station in earth orbit. Japan will come on board next year. Yuri Malenchenko is the Russian crew member currently aboard the ISS. He has been an important and integral part of ISS Commander Peggy Whitson's support for the current Shuttle Mission 120, helping to handle space walkers as they went outside and returned inside yesterday. (See S/SW link to biographies of the STS- 120 crew).

Nations around the earth cooperate in a number of ways in space. The European Space Agency, for example, provided ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and the Node 2 module (named "Harmony," the first European-built module to be permanently attached to the Station) that headed for the International Space Station on 23 October 2007. Nespoli has served during the entire mission as the Inter vehicular Astronaut handling the choreography of the several Mission-120 space walks, as well as major support for egress and ingress to the ISS.

The next module to be joined to the ISS will be the Japanese Space Agency's inside/outside module called KIBO set for the spring of 2008, complete with a crew member, Takao Doi, to go along.

The European Space Agency -- ESA also provided tracking for the new Chinese moon orbiter satellite. Thirty six countries are involved in some form of space exploration. "Space Exploration 3.0 is about to begin," according to Nicolas Peter, a research fellow at the European Space Policy Institute. To quote:

Peter said there had been two phases of space exploration since the first Sputnik satellite was launched 50 years ago. The first phase, up to the early 1990s, was driven by Cold War rivalry between the US and the former USSR with cooperation extended to political allies of the two principal space powers. The second phase, up to the present, has seen the emphasis shift to scientific and practical applications of space with many new countries developing space programmes.

The number of space agencies in the world has been steadily rising since the 1990s and reached 36 in 2005. Bilateral and multilateral agreements between agencies are also growing. The advent of the International Space Station has it made it possible for many countries to take part in long-term, structured programmes of space research.

What Peter described as �Space Exploration 3.0� is about to begin.

He said that while humans will play a major role in space in future it would no longer be in the context of competing states but in cooperation between many parties. �It will involve industry, universities and other non-governmental organisations. This adventure will be driven primarily by a quest for knowledge, involving not only the hard sciences but arts and humanities as well.

Cooperating nationally as well as internationally, NASA consists of ten different centers across the nation, along with several other special facilities, such as the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Nor could NASA be successful were it not for a broad range of cooperative efforts within the U.S., collaborating with business and education interests in dozens of locations.

Great links for "space junkies":

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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