Remember all those fears a few weeks back that the International Space Station might have to go unmanned come this November? It looks like those worries may have been premature.
ROSCOSMOS, the Russian space agency, announced Tuesday that it plans to launch manned Soyuz missions to the International Space Station on November 12 and December 20. The November mission is a schedule delay after the Progress cargo mission that went awry in August, which was launched by a rocket that uses a third stage that is similar to that used on manned Soyuz launches.
Progress was the fourth lost Russian spacecraft since last December. There have been concerns that the Russian program would severely delay launching new crews to the station as the agency investigated its failures. NASA, for example, delayed launching another space shuttle for nearly three years as it investigated the Challenger and Columbia shuttle accidents.
There are six people aboard the International Space Station. Three are scheduled to return home this week, and the remaining three are to leave in late November. Without the shuttle to send new crews to the station, serious delays could have required its de-manning.
ROSCOSMOS has also scheduled two Progress launches: one on October 30 and another on January 26, 2012.
It's not like aliens put up a welcome banner or anything, but scientists now have newly identified at least one planet that could potentially sustain life.
The European Southern Observatory has just announced the discovery of more than 50 new exoplanets (planets outside our solar system), including 16 super-Earths (planets whose mass is between one and 10 times that of our own planet).
"The bright sun, a portion of the International Space Station and Earth's horizon are featured in this image photographed during the STS-134 mission's fourth spacewalk in May 2011. The image was taken using a fish-eye lens attached to an electronic still camera."Source: NASA