When things become too hectic on Earth — between the ongoing climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a seemingly never-ending POTUS administration — it can be seriously fascinating to see what we're doing in outer space. Falcon 9, SpaceX's two-stage rocket, launched on Sunday, Dec. 6, from Falcon 9's second stage, sending a cargo capsule to the International Space Station.
Although the second stage was predominantly launched for the sake of research, rumor has it there may also be Christmas treats in store for those currently in orbit. Keep reading for more on this incredible mission, everything you need to know regarding Falcon 9's second stage, and for some seriously out-of-this-world news.
A Falcon 9 rocket launched from the Kennedy Space Center at 11:17am EST (1617 GMT).— Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) December 6, 2020
This is the:
• 101st Falcon 9 flight
• 24th SpaceX launch of 2020
• 21st SpaceX space station cargo flight
• 1st upgraded Cargo Dragon
• 128th launch from pad 39Ahttps://t.co/FAMaoqlOTP pic.twitter.com/q3YllbTOEe
Here's what you need to know about Falcon 9's upper and lower stages:
Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket with an upper stage, which contains only one engine, and a lower stage, that contains nine, according to USA Today. The lower stage is much heavier than its upper counterpart, and can therefore be catapulted into outer space with far more force, while the upper stage is smaller and contains the Dragon Capsule, a pressurized cabin that often carries people and supplies into space. It recently underwent a massive to be able to carry more gear and crew members.
As of May 2020, according to NASA, Falcon 9 has flown successfully a total of 83 times, including 24 times this year, and recently embarked on yet another mission. For the latest mission, stage two is carrying about 6,400 pounds of necessary supplies to crew members, as well as research supplies to conduct research. According to Space.com, it's also going to be toting a selection of "Christmas treats" for the crew.
"The crew is going to get some type of Christmasy food on orbit," said Kenny Todd, NASA’s Deputy program manager for the International Space Station, as per Space.com. "I don't think that will be any surprise to them, but anything more than that… I don't like to get out in front of Santa Claus. Let's see what happens when they open the hatch."
What are scientists researching ini space right now?
The European Space Agency (ESA) is currently working on a number of experiments right now. They are testing the affects of microgravity on biomining, as per The Verge, which refers to the extraction process of obtaining certain elements from rocks, using microorganisms. The ESA will also be conducting the first-ever drug research experiment for COVID-19 in outer space, in a one-of-a-kind attempt to improve an antiviral drug called remdesivir.
Dragon 2 is also in the process of transporting a commercial airlock module, which basically attaches to the outside of the aircraft. The point of doing this is to obtain various materials from outer space, and to bring them back in a pressurized environment to perform various tests and extensive research.
Falcon 9's stage two endeavors are seriously incredible — it's doing some pretty phenomenal things for life on Earth as a whole.