Learn about the Cluster mission and the results of this mission. Also learn about the training of the Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers.
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Learn About the Cluster Mission As launch time approaches, anxious scientists and their families nervously await lift off. Blasting off from Kazakhstan, the Russians Soyuz rocket safely takes off for the European space agencies clash the mission. A day later than scheduled and four years after the first mission tragically blew up on launch. The mission will last mission will last for two years and will be investigating the complex relationship between the earth and the Sun. Four satellites are currently working in space on this mission. The satellites are linked and travel in a wide orbit around the earth together, gathering information. The nuclear power house that is the Sun is constantly shooting streams of electrically charged particles into space. When the solar wind crashes into the earth’s magnetic field, the magnetosphere, it can break through damaging orbiting communications satellites and affecting the weather. It’s possible to see these solar particles as the aurora borealis, the shimmering lights in the sky near the earth’s magnetic poles. Interest was high as the four satellites of the cluster mission begun beaming back data from this cosmic battle zone hundreds of kilometers above our heads. The most exciting thing was that with the early data, scientists were able to confirm some of the theories they had but they are also able to see phenomena which hadn’t been expected. Things that were different from the theories said they should be. The aurora borealis, the northern lights are the most visible sign of solar weather hitting the earth’s magnetic shield. But cluster should give earlier warning of solar storms which can seriously disrupt the space born communication systems on which we now rely so heavily. Classes start early for people at star city the cosmonaut training center outside of Moscow. Complex space flight theory is combined with Russian language tuition for Dutch astronaut, André Kuipers, ahead of the delta mission to the international space station. Although interpreters are used at the space center. The crews need to be able to understand the ground staff once inside the Soyuz space craft. Mach versions of the Soyuz TMA are used to train would-be cosmonauts. The Dutch astronaut learns everything from how to deal with the electrical systems, to setup experiments to making food. After the technical training, Kuipers is tested to make sure he is medically fit enough to endure a spaceflights. Inside the hyperbaric chamber, the Dutch astronauts sits in a simulated high altitude low pressure environment. With cooling lines and an oxygen supply, the suit will keep it’s shape if pressure suddenly drops inside the Soyuz. A medical team also monitors his performance under intense centrifugal forces as well as simulated weightlessness training session. The astronauts are taught how to move in a zero gravity environment. Here Kuipers struggles with his training suit during one simulated weightlessness situation. The astronaut then needs to prepare for worst case scenarios which thought to lead the spacecraft should appear off course and land under water. Luckily, when it came to mission time he did not need the emergency training. The Dutch astronaut returns to earth safely with other returning astronauts and cosmonauts.

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