Ariane rocket blasts off from French Guyana

The Johannes Kepler takes off from French Guiana bound for the International Space Station.

Get a Rare Look Inside a Soyuz Capsule in Flight

These pictures come via a Russian space blog and show us a rare glimpse inside a Soyuz capsule in flight.

Check them out below:

Source.

ISS Guide to Eating in Space

This excellent video from ISS Commander Scott Kelley guides us around how they eat and what they eat on the ISS. Very cool!

Christmas Message from the ISS Crew

Here’s the annual Christmas message from the Expedition 26 crew on the International Space Station.

They even have a tree!

Great Pictures from an ISS Astronaut

I came across this excellent post of 29 pictures on the photography blog TriggerPit. It features 29 pictures taken by ISS Astronaut Douglas H. Wheelock.

Check them out here.

Astronauts from Expedition 26 Arrive at the ISS

Here’s an ITN News report on the arrive of the Expedition 26 astronauts at the ISS.

Virgin Galactic Aims for Orbit

This news made the rounds in several news outlets and frankly, when isn’t Virgin Galactic in the news? They’ve barely conquered sub-orbital flights and they’re already planning to go orbital.

From Gadling:

Today, Virgin Galactic officially announced plans to team up with two U.S companies in pursuit of developing a commercial manned orbital spacecraft.

Backed by fearless entrepreneur Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic has chosen to support Sierra Nevada Space Systems (SNC) and Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDEV2); an initiative designed to stimulate the development of privately-operated space vehicles. This falls in line with the comments Branson made in our exclusive interview at Spaceport America, saying that NASA’s role should transition to apportioning out money to private space companies.

Since it’s conception in 2004, Virgin Galactic has primarily worked alongside Mojave-based company Scaled Composites to develop a reusable sub-orbital craft, dubbed “SpaceShipTwo”. This design will take passengers over 62 miles into space, but lacks the power required to completely escape the Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in about 5 minutes of weightlessness. Orbital flights would give passengers a much longer weightless experience and views of the entire surface of the Earth.

SNC and OSC are following Scaled’s lead by researching designs that will utilize lifting-wing bodies and runway landings in an effort to minimize cost and maximize passenger safety.

Source.

Spaceflight Now had some more details on what Virgin Galactic and their partners are planning:

Already cornering the market for brief up-and-down joyrides for space tourists, Virgin Galactic announced Thursday it has an agreement to sell seats on two lifting body spaceships proposed under NASA’s commercial crew development initiative.

Both spacecraft are being designed to rotate government astronauts to and from the International Space Station, but they could serve other markets in low Earth orbit.

Virgin Galactic, founded by wealthy businessman Richard Branson, is supporting spacecraft proposals by Orbital Sciences Corp. and Sierra Nevada Corp., the company said Thursday in a press release.

Both companies are vying for NASA funding under the second round of the Commercial Crew Development program, or CCDev 2.

Orbital and Sierra Nevada are designing separate lifting body space planes designed to take off on top of an Atlas 5 rocket, conduct a mission in orbit, then return to Earth for a runway landing like the space shuttle.

Source.

This is all very exciting news and we’ll be watching this closely!

Cool Kid’s Mom is an Astronaut – New York Times Profile

The New York Times has profiled a young boy named Jamey Simpson, who’s mother happens to be an astronaut who just lifted off to the ISS for a 5 month mission.

From the article:

Jamey offered these thoughts from the Fishbowl, a glass-sided room that faces rows of technicians and screens showing the view from the Soyuz space capsule. If he has a complaint, it is the waiting. “When they say, ‘O.K., in about four hours something’s going to happen,’ and then, when it finally happens, it’s like, one little tiny thing,” he said. The view from the Soyuz showed the space station emerging out of the darkness. It was the size of a Volkswagen, then a Winnebago, then an apartment block. After takeoff last Wednesday, Ms. Coleman and her crew mates — Paolo Nespoli, an Italian, and Dmitri Kondratyev, the Russian commander — wore braces to keep their legs from breaking in case of violent impact with the ground. Outside the capsule, the temperature ranged from minus 148 (in the shade) to 302 (in the sun.)

For Jamey, his mother’s training has meant long and difficult separations. He barely got a chance talk to her the four days he was in Baikonur, he said, because the crew was kept in isolation to avoid exposure to infection. Jamey hugged his mother once or twice, quickly, behind a tree. When the Soyuz achieved orbit, the grown-ups were so relieved that they proposed a toast; Jamey, allotted a thimbleful of whiskey, required emergency treatment with candy. He described his feelings as “sort of disappointed and a little excited and happy and kind of sad.”

Read the rest here.

New Crew Blasts off to ISS

Expedition 26 has lifted off from Kazahkstan. Watch the spectacular video below.

Tour of the New Cupola Window Module on the ISS

ISS Commander Scott Kelly takes us on a tour of the new window cupola module on the ISS. Wouldn’t it be great if that was your view at work?