Christmas treats rocket toward astronauts
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. >> Christmas turkey rocketed toward the International Space Station on Wednesday, along with cranberry sauce, candied yams and the obligatory fruitcake.
The SpaceX booster missed its landing zone on the ground after liftoff, however, and ended up in the sea just a couple of miles offshore. Groans filled SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne as live video showed the first-stage rocket booster spinning out of control, still high above Cape Canaveral. It was the company’s first missed ground landing, although it has overshot floating barges plenty of times in the past, a tougher feat to pull off.
A SpaceX commentator called it a “bummer,” but noted it was secondary to the Falcon 9 rocket’s main mission of getting the Dragon capsule to orbit.
The disappointment was offset by the successful flight of the Dragon capsule and its 5,600 pounds of cargo. It should reach the space station Saturday.
Besides smoked turkey breast and all the other fixings for Christmas dinner, the delivery includes 40 mice and 36,000 worms for aging and muscle studies.
Researchers expect a tenfold increase in the worm population. There will be plenty of room on board for all the tiny nematodes. It turns out their muscles are similar to ours in structure and function, making them perfect lab substitutes, said lead scientist Timothy Etheridge of the University of Exeter in England.
The launch was delayed a day when NASA discovered that the food for the mouse-tronauts was moldy. More food had to be rushed in from California.
Just two days earlier, three astronauts arrived at the space station to join the three already there. The crew includes two Americans, two Russians, one German and one Canadian.