Because We Should Care

APOD once again reminds us of things that sometimes don’t get the attention they need. Like our friends on Mars, there are important things happening in the near space of Earth orbit.

Here’s why:

The Jules Verne docked smoothly using its automated, laser guided rendezvous system. It was in many respects a repeat of the dry run on Monday. That practice approach brought the ATV to within 36 feet of the docking port.

The Jules Verne launched from Kourou, French Guiana, on an Ariane 5 rocket on March 9.

Solar arrays deployed as planned after two engine firings more than an hour and a half after launch. That placed the ATV in a parking orbit about 1,200 miles from the station…

It was, at almost 22 tons, the largest payload ever launched by the Ariane 5.

The Jules Verne is named after the acclaimed French science-fiction author. It is the first of perhaps seven such spacecraft to be built.

The ATV can carry about three times the cargo weight carried by the Progress, the reliable Russian unpiloted cargo carrier…

The spacecraft is scheduled to remain at the station until August, for unloading and to reboost the orbiting laboratory. Subsequently it will be filled with station garbage and discards. Then it will be deorbited for destruction on re-entry over the Pacific.

We are, as a species, learning to live in space. We are learning how to lift more and more material into orbit, using automated techniques that, just a scant 30 years ago, required the skills of human astronauts. We are learning how to build equipment that can survive in space for a long time. \

What’s the next step, do you think?

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