An ad-MIR-able Feat of Orbital Assembly


  1. Congress did something right!
  2. Location, Location, Location
  3. An ad-MIR-able feat of orbital assembly

Current events

Despite the prolonged government shutdown, NASA fared exceptionally well in the FY 2019 budget Congress passed last Friday, receiving a $21.5bn allocation, a 3.5% increase over last year and 8% more than what the White House requested. Adjusted for inflation, this is NASA’s best budget in a decade (Woohoo!! Tax money actually being spent properly!). NASA tends to benefit from generally bipartisan support; that being said, NASA’s budget still makes up only ~0.5% of the federal budget, a far cry from the 4% NASA received during the heyday of the Apollo program. Check out this link to read more and see each of NASA's programs by allocation

Today I learned

Why is Cape Canaveral, FL the spot where we launch most of our rockets? Mostly, it has to do with taking advantage of the Earth’s rotation to get a boost into space. Rockets need to achieve very high lateral speeds to avoid falling back down due to Earth’s gravity (the ISS orbits at 17,150 mph); since the Earth’s rotation is fastest near the equator (as opposed to the poles), for the US it makes sense to pick a location as far south as possible. Because the Earth rotates eastward, rockets are usually launched due east to capture this motion. It’s ideal that Cape Canaveral is on the eastern coast of Florida so that if a rocket launch fails, the debris falls over the ocean instead of over human habitations (a Chinese Long March 3B rocket failed in 1996 and crashed over a nearby village, killing at least 6 people).

This day in space history

On February 19, 1986, the first module of the Soviet Mir space station was launched on from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan (the Russian equivalent of Cape Canaveral). Mir was the world’s first modular space station, meaning it was assembled piece by piece in orbit by six Proton-K rocket launches and one Space Shuttle launch (in a collaboration with the US). 

Space Shuttle Atlantis docked with Mir, 1995

Previous smaller space stations were launched by a single rocket. Interestingly, the first crew to inhabit Mir spent 52 days there, then used their Soyuz spacecraft to travel in-orbit to Salyut 7, another Soviet space station operating at the time, marking the only time in history when a crew transferred between two active space stations. It also holds the record for longest single human spaceflight (Valeri Polyakov, 437 days from 1994-1995). Mir was intentionally deorbited in 2001 to free up funding for the new ISS (and because it was well past its design life), burning up in the atmosphere upon reentry. 

Comparison of orbital space stations

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