Sunday, 1 September 2013

Spaced out over Reunion

Astronaut Karen Nyberg recently took this photo of Reunion and Mauritius from space. Nyberg was the 50th woman in space and is currently in Expedition 36 on the International Space Station. The Seven Sisters star cluster is also known as the Pleiades. You can see the photo on Karen's Facebook page here.

"Seven Sisters overlooking Reunion and Mauritius Islands in a
moonlit Indian Ocean. Taken August 25, 2013. KN from space."

Cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, current commander of the International Space Station (ISS), has also taken photos of Reunion from space. As of May 2013, Vinogradov has flown into space three times, has conducted seven spacewalks and is one of the top 20 astronauts in terms of total time in space. He is currently in space for the duration of ISS Expeditions 35 and 36, from March to September 2013. The ISS flies over Reunion at least twice a day at an altitude of 400km. The photo below was taken on April 9th 2013.

photo of Reunion Island from space taken on April 9th 2013 by Pavel Vinogradov

In 1997 students from a school in Reunion (College Jules Reydellet), together with Russian space scientist Vladimir Syromyatnikov, put into orbit Sputnik 40, the first school satellite in the world. Sputnik 40 was a Franco-Russian amateur radio satellite launched to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1, the world's first artificial satellite. A 4-kilogram one-third scale model of Sputnik 1, Sputnik 40 was deployed from the Mir space station on 3 November 1997. Built by the school students from Reunion, the spacecraft was constructed at the Polytechnic Laboratory of Nalchik in Kabardino-Balkaria, whilst its transmitter was assembled by the school in Réunion with technical support from AMSAT-France.

Sputnik 40

Vladimir Syromyatnikov (1933-2006) was best known for designing docking mechanisms for manned spacecraft; it was his Androgynous Peripheral Attach System which, in the 1970s, linked the Soviet and American space capsules in the Apollo-Soyuz test flight. Syromyatnikov also helped design and develop Vostok, the world's first manned spacecraft, which launched Yuri Gagarin into space in 1961. In the 1990s, he updated the design of his docking mechanism for the meeting of the Mir space station and the Atlantis space shuttle. Syromyatnikov's designs are still used by spacecraft visiting the International Space Station

Vladimir Syromyatnikov in 2006 (Credits: Alexander Gronsky)

In November 2012 a memorial to Vladimir Syromyatnikov was inaugurated in St Denis, Reunion – a sculpture of the docking mechanism he designed, placed in the middle of a roundabout. Syromyatnikov popularised space in Reunion on his many visits to the island. Syromyatnikov’s son Anton attended the inauguration and took the photos below.

the memorial to Vladimir Syromyatnikov (photo Anton Syromyatnikov)

the memorial at night (photo Anton Syromyatnikov)

Another ambitious project is currently underway to make the most of under-used airspace in the south of Reunion for the development of sub-orbital space tourism. For the past two years, consideration has been given to this subject, and a presentation of "South Indian Ocean Spaceport Dreams" was made ​​in Nagoya, Japan in June 2013 at the "29th International Symposium on Space Technology and Science" by Jean-Marc Péquin, President of the Reunion Science Park and Ryojiro Akiba, former Director General of ISAS Space Agency (JAXA) and current President of the Aero-Space Incubator of Hokkaido Region.

If you're interested in seeing photos of space from Reunion, take a look at some of Luc Perrot's photos on his website or here on my blog.

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