Science & Astronomy
24. November 2014

I already posted the November edition of Shift Change in Space at the beginning of the month, but yesterdays Soyuz launch to the International Space Station was so amazing that it warrants at least a little article of its own. The absolutely flawless launch from Baikonur and the later docking was so well-timed that there was an uninterrupted video stream throughout, showing especially the rendezvous with the station like it had rarely been seen before – with amazing views from both the station’s and the Soyuz’ cameras broadcast live from space. Fascinating highlights – like the Soyuz bathed in a golden glow from the setting sun – are already available of the launch, the docking and the wonderful welcoming ceremony on Youtube.

The three new stations occupants Samantha CristoforettiAnton Shkaplerov and Terry W. Virts already seem to be quite at home in their new environments, but there have, of course, been no tweets or other social media posts from them – yet! All three of them are on Twitter (click on the link for my now updated list of tweeting Astronauts in space!) and Samantha Cristoforetti had been writing her Logbook on Google+ almost until shortly before launch – and she already mentioned that she will begin chronicling her Futura mission in exactly the same way as soon as possible. [Update 11/25 – which she did with a first posting from orbit!]

The media’s reaction was, as usual, mainly lukewarm and not really interested – if it wasn’t for the fact that the Soyuz is also carrying a zero-g capable espresso machine called ISSpresso. The machine was developed by Lavazza and the italian company Argotec, which had already supplied food for the missions of Luca Parmitano and Alexander Gerst before, which is certainly interesting – but suddenly only the espresso and the kilo of caviar this launch also seems to be carrying are all over the press. [Edit: only the Guardian does it right by publishing an interesting in-depth article about the ISSPresso!] This already led to silly comments that there is too much luxury abroad the space station and that this is supposedly wasted taxpayer money – but who else can make space travel more comfortable with good food and drink if not the astronauts themselves? This is part of scientific research like everything else, which unfortunately gets mentioned not nearly often enough.

There is also the somewhat belittled fact that Samantha Cristoforetti is the first female Italian astronaut going to the ISS, which should be really important and a completely normal at the same time. This time she also joins Yelena Serova, making the crew of the station 2/3rds female for the first time since Expedition 24 in 2010, when NASA astronauts Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Shannon Walker were part of the station’s crew. I shudder at the thought what the press would make of the fact that Cristoforetti and Serova are both on their first spaceflight, while Barry WilmoreTerry VirtsAleksandr Samokutyayev and Anton Shkaplerov are all on their second flight… but hopefully nobody is going there except to mention that the two women on the station are spaceflight pioneers in the best sense of the word.

I think Expedition 42 is going to be amazing, whatever the press is going to make of it. Social media is playing a huge role in popularizing and supporting space space travel, and with the three new arrivals on the station it’s only going to be more interesting and fascinating.

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