Afraid of heights in space: NASA astronaut details flight

NASA astronaut Joseph Acaba, above, completed one spacewalk on the mission, to lubricate an end effector and install new cameras on the station’s arm and truss. (NASA)
Updated 03 May 2018
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Afraid of heights in space: NASA astronaut details flight

  • NASA astronaut Joseph Acaba is making his first public appearance — on the ground — since his February 28 return from the space station
  • Acaba completed one spacewalk on the mission, to lubricate an end effector and install new cameras on the station’s arm and truss

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Mississippi: When NASA astronaut Joseph Acaba was out doing a spacewalk during a recent trip to the International Space Station, he held on tight. That’s because Acaba is afraid of heights.
“If you look at the pictures, I’m holding on to the railing,” he told a crowd at the Stennis Space Center on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. “It does take a little bit of work while you’re doing a spacewalk to realize, okay, it’s okay. You are not going to fall.”
Acaba was making his first public appearance — on the ground — since his February 28 return from the space station. He spoke to employees at the space center and with The Associated Press after his talk about his experiences in space; future trips to the moon and beyond; and working with his Russian counterparts.
Acaba, who has logged more than 300 days in space on three separate flights, said space travel for private citizens is closer than many think.
“In the next year or so, we’re going to have commercial flights flying NASA astronauts, and that’s the first big step,” he said. “And, it’s never going to become routine. Going to space is difficult, but I think here in the near future, we are going to have more opportunities for people to fly in space.”
The ultimate goal, he said, is to get humans on Mars. But the path to Mars goes through the moon first.
“It’s a logical first step to go back to the moon,” he said. “And while we’ve been there before, it was a very limited time-frame, and we have new technologies that we want to test, not only on the lunar surface but just orbiting the moon, getting some kind of a gateway so that we can go to Mars from there.”
The goal is to get to Mars in the 2030 time-frame and to the moon before that, he said.
Acaba took off on Expedition 53/54 with a crew of Russian colleagues on September 13, 2017. While Acaba was working quite closely in space with his Russian colleagues, tensions between Russia and the US have heated up back on earth over allegations the Russians tried to manipulate the US elections.
In his address to NASA employees, he said it was “nice to see where you can work in a field that kind of rises above all the politics that’s going on.” He described the Russians as “great to work with.”
During the mission, which lasted nearly six months, Acaba and the crew conducted a number of scientific experiments. The research focused on such projects as the manufacturing of fiber optic filaments in microgravity, improving the accuracy of an implantable glucoses biosensor and measuring the Sun’s energy input to Earth.
Acaba completed one spacewalk on the mission, to lubricate an end effector and install new cameras on the station’s arm and truss.


Saudi team develops payload for use in joint lunar exploration with Chinese Space Agency

Engineers and researchers at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology display the payload they have developed after months of painstaking research and testing. (SPA)
Updated 21 May 2018
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Saudi team develops payload for use in joint lunar exploration with Chinese Space Agency

  • The joint exploration is in line with a memorandum of understanding concluded between China and Saudi Arabia during King Salman's visit to Beijing in mid-March 2017,
  • Under the agreement, the Saudi side will build a payload for a space censoring system for use in filming and take photos of the moon.

JEDDAH: Saudi engineers and researchers have completed work on a payload for a Chinese space vehicle that will explore the moon, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
The joint exploration is in line with a memorandum of understanding concluded between China and Saudi Arabia during King Salman's visit to Beijing in mid-March 2017, the SPA said, quoting Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed, president of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).
The joint venture intends to study and explore the moon, "particularly the invisible side of it to provide scientific data for researchers and specialist in space research and science."
As agreed upon by the KACST and the Chinese Space Agency, the Saudi side will build a payload for a space sensory system for use in filming and take photos of the moon.
"The payload was readied in a record time of no more than 12 months during which the Saudi research team faced numerous challenges, most prominent of which was the importance of manufacturing a compact payload with a high capacity of less than 10.5 cu.cm and a weight of no more than 630 grams on the Chinese satellite," the KACST head said.
The payload consists of photographic and data processing units, among others, that is not only light in weight but also able to endure the space environment.
The equipment is capable of taking photos from different angles and altitudes that varies according to the lunar orbit changes, Prince Turki was quoted by the SPA as saying.
"Saudi Arabia's taking part in this great event would boost, no doubt, its efforts to develop its satellite technologies and use it in several fields of reconnaissance and distance censoring as well as space telecommunications, in addition to proceeding with the march of catching the world race in this field," he said.