Wow. The International Space Station (ISS) was reached by a Russian Soyuz craft in less than six hours on Thursday evening, a record-blasting flight for the journey. It normally takes two days to travel the 250 miles into space. As you might imagine, the new shortcut demanded some precision timing from the astronauts, but the trip went off without a hitch.
The Soyuz craft launched from Karakhstan at 4:43 EDT on Thursday afternoon and arrived at the ISS at 10:28 EDT that night. In the past, the trip has required about 34 earth orbits to get into position. The new technique took only four.
Because the Soyuz craft is notorious for its cramped conditions, a Russian spokesman said that the ultimate goal is to make the trip in only two orbits. The shorter trip also cuts down the time that the crew is exposed to side effects of traveling through space, including nausea and vomiting.
Chris Hadfield, as Canada’s first commander of the International Space Station, has set a record himself. The 53-year-old astronaut is only the second commander who wasn’t from either the United States or Russia. He took command earlier in March, after the departure of Expedition 34, headed by NASA’s Kevin Ford.
The popular Canadian actively reaches out to his public. With well over half a million Twitter followers, he tweeted his observations of the Soyuz high-speed trip in both English and French, the official languages of Canada.
While keeping watch, he captured this image of an unknown space object:
While looking for the approaching Soyuz, I caught a glimpse of another orbiting body in the distance. twitter.com/Cmdr_Hadfield/…
— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) March 29, 2013
He was also actually able to photograph the launch of the Soyuz all the way from his observation post on the International Space Station:
Tonight’s Finale: Soyuz Rocket Launch – the moment of ignition, as-seen from their target, the Space Station. twitter.com/Cmdr_Hadfield/…
— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) March 28, 2013
My Ford Focus might still go 250 miles a tad faster than six hours, but it doesn’t have to drive uphill both ways in the snow through outer space. I have to admit that I’m impressed. What do you think about the new shortcut to the International Space Station?
[photo of International Space Station courtesy NASA]