What happens when a normally reliable Russian Soyuz rocket fails just after launch, forcing two astronauts to take evasive action to escape? Cancel all future flights? Nope. You fix the problem and go again. On Monday, two rookie astronauts, including one from the U.S., will head for the International Space Station just 53 days since a sensor failed to signal the separation of the first and second stages of a Soyuz rocket. At least they will know that the rarely used abort system has been recently tested.
However, the nervy launch of Expedition 58 to the ISS is merely the first of two huge events for NASA on Monday. The second lacks the edge of concerns over the safety of astronauts, but will still be a nervous moment for NASA engineers as its OSIRIS-REx completes a two years+ journey to arrive at Asteroid Bennu.
Both events can be followed online, at breakfast and lunchtime in the eastern U.S., followed by the possibility of an incredible meteor shower at night. Here’s how:
1 – Astronauts from the U.S., Canada and Russia endure a nail-biting rocket launch to the space station
Date: Monday, Dec. 3, 2018
Time: 6:31 a.m. EST
How to see it: NASA TV
In the first of two incredible space events Monday, will three astronauts make it safely to the International Space Station from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome? Last time out in October, the usually reliable Russian Soyuz spacecraft failed at 31 miles up, forcing Flight Engineer Nick Hague of NASA and Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos into an emergency abort landing (Hague will now go to the ISS in March 2019). Now it’s up to Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency on Expedition 58 to see if the Russian engineers solved the problem.
Russia’s successful launching of a rocket carrying cargo to the ISS on Nov. 16, 2018 will calm nerves slightly, but Monday’s countdown is nevertheless going to be tense.
2 – NASA arrives at an asteroid
Date: Monday, December 3, 2018
Time: 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. EST
NASA gets its first close-up of an asteroid Monday when OSIRIS-REx arrives at Asteroid 101955 Bennu after a two-years, two months, 25 days journey. OSIRIS-REx will be at the 500 meter-wide Bennu for 18 months surveying the asteroid using its with five scientific instruments. Its mission is to identify a location that is safe and scientifically interesting to collect a sample to return it to Earth.
Splashdown of a bit of Bennu, which could possibly harbor organic matter, is planned for September 24, 2023. NASA calls it a ‘time capsule’ from the early solar system, and the rock sample could give clues to the origins of the solar system. Bennu is also thought to be on a trajectory that could strike Earth sometime after 2169, though that’s rated at about a 1 in 2,500 chance.
3 – A surprise meteor shower?
Date: Monday/Tuesday, December 3/4, 2018
Time: midnight EST
How to see it: clear, dark sky
Universe Today is reporting that a normally obscure and ignored meteor shower may trigger a lot of activity tonight. The Andromedids are famous only for causing incredible displays of shooting stars in the late 19th century (as many as 15,000 in 1885). Look to the east towards the constellations of Andromeda and Cassiopeia, but shooting stars could appear anywhere in the night sky.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes
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