By Fred Johnson
Two Russians recently spent over seven hours in a spacewalk to rig power and Ethernet cables outside the Mir space station in preparation for a new lab that’s due to arrive in a few months. The astronauts wore Russian-made spacesuits.
The U.S. spacesuits are currently banned from use after an Italian astronaut almost drowned when leaking water flooded his helmet during a spacewalk a month ago. NASA is still investigating last month’s close call. The problem appears to be in the life-support backpack. The spacesuit will be sent back for analysis early next year. Until the trouble is identified and resolved, U.S. spacewalks are on hold. The reason for the delay until next year is that the U.S. has no spacecraft to visit the space station and must rely on Russian rockets and Russian schedules.
NASA signed a new deal this year that will keep American astronauts flying on Russian spacecraft through early 2017 at a cost of $70.7 million per seat — about $8 million more per astronaut than the previous going rate. The $424 million deal is good for six seats aboard Russia’s Soyuz space capsules. Under the agreement, Soyuz vehicles will now ferry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station through 2016, with return and rescue services extending until June 2017. The previous contract provided Soyuz flights for NASA astronauts through 2015, at a cost of roughly $62.7 million per seat.
NASA has been mapping asteroids that come near the earth. There are now over 1,400 asteroids included on the map, NASA considers these to be potentially hazardous both because they follow orbits that pass close to Earth’s orbit and because they are massive, each at least 460 feet in size. It is believed that an asteroid collision killed off the dinosaurs on earth. Another large asteroid could destroy life on earth as we know it.
NASA might well eventually find an asteroid that is on a collision course with earth. They have already tracked one that passed between the earth and our satellites in synchronous orbit 22,000 miles above the earth. Hopefully, Russia will loan us some spacesuits and supply us a rocket to take our astronauts out to intercept these asteroids. I wonder how much they will charge us.