.. but be warned: the commute to most any job besides astronaut is kind of prohibitive.
NASA ( @NASA ) announced on Friday that they have awarded a $17.8 million dollar contract to Bigelow Aerospace to create new expandable habitat areas that will be used to expand the current size of the International Space Station. Based on the limited and somewhat vague information given in the press release, it looks like Bigelow plans to design and implement light-weight, collapsible habitat systems that can be shipped to the Space Station and installed to accommodate a larger crew. Moar astronauts means moar science!
“The International Space Station is a unique laboratory that enables important discoveries that benefit humanity and vastly increase understanding of how humans can live and work in space for long periods,” NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said. “This partnership agreement for the use of expandable habitats represents a step forward in cutting-edge technology that can allow humans to thrive in space safely and affordably, and heralds important progress in U.S. commercial space innovation.”
After Space-X Dragon’s successful docking maneuvers to the Space Station and Felix Baumgartner’s successful stratospheric parachute ride (which successfully demonstrated the utility of a commercial flight suit in emergency bail-out situations), this is yet another example of commercial innovation in the space program.
At this point, photos coming from the International Space Station on a daily basis has become routine. You do realize, dear reader, how truly amazing that is all by itself?
But for us science bloggers who weren’t able to view the Venus transit across the sun, the ISS is once again going to deliver an incredible consolation prize in the form of photos taken by astronaut Don Pettit from the Space Station’s cupola. As common as photos are from ISS, this set will still be significant in that they represent only the third set of photos taken from the cupola, which features exceptionally-clear glass windows for perfect photography.
And of course, this will be the first set of photos of Venus’ transit from space. As the video below does a great job explaining, the cultural significance of this moment is not without precedent, as Captain James Cook observed the last Venus transit from the recently-discovered island of Tahiti.
It was originally though that Pettit would be able to release photos in real-time, but that doesn’t appear to have happened, based on his Twitter and Facebook profiles. Hopefully, we don’t have long to wait!
Like I’m sure a lot of my readers were, I spent a remarkably unproductive morning staring in rapt attention at the live feed of NASA’s Mission Control and SpaceX’s Mission Control rooms as they docked the SpaceX Dragon to the ISS for the first time. This is a historic event which points the way to a rapidly-increasing presence in space for humanity, as there is now financial incentive for private companies to go out there and stake their claims. And yes, I realize that sounds very Republican. But our country’s history has always been an equal mix of public and private effort, as this event typifies.
Such a momentous occasion required at least a few screen shots, which I decided to lay out for you here: