March 21, 2019

17.02.11: A Busy Season at ISS Central.

As construction work at NASA’s International Space Station winds up, some real science projects are starting to bear fruit. Yesterday, cosmonauts Dmitry Kondratyev & Oleg Skripochka completed a under 5 hour spacewalk to deploy two key instruments: Radiometria and Molniya-Gamma.

Radiometria will collect seismic data, but it’s the Molniya-Gamma experiment that especially caught our attention. An Earthward looking instrument, this is designed to catch terrestrial gamma-ray flashes from lightning and thunderstorms. Fans of this space will remember that the Fermi Gamma-Ray Observatory has recently shed light on terrestrial gamma-ray flashes and positron emissions on Earth as well. Associated phenomena such as Elves and Sprites are still elusive and poorly understood, and Molniya-Gamma may go a long way in revealing the nature of lightning, which is surprisingly poorly understood. This also a sort of prelude for the arrival of the spaceward looking Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) to arrive aboard the final flight of the space shuttle Endeavour on STS-134 later this year. Due to its massive power requirements, AMS is ideally suited for placement aboard the ISS. Some pretty awesome images have been taken from the cupola pictured above, and it’s worth your while to follow the astronauts via Twitter. Add to this yesterday’s launch of the Kepler ATV-2 and next weeks’ launch of Discovery in what’s been termed as the “Never Ending Tweetup,” and you have a busy but exciting time for the ISS!

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