Space Station astronauts are probably more disappointed than we imagined by the delay – from 9 to 23 March – of the European Space Agency’s launch of its third Automated Transfer Vehicle robotic supply ship. Named Edoardo Amaldi after the late Italian physicist considered a pioneer of European spaceflight, ATV-3 is loaded with some 2.5t of dry cargo, water and oxygen, in addition to 5.4t of fuel to power itself and “re-boost” the Station to its full altitude. Another 860kg (1,900lb) of fuel will be carried for transfer to the Russian part of the Station.
But now we learn a bit more about that cargo. According to the ATV’s builder, Astrium, one of the items the ATV-3 will be carrying is a new ventilator for the European Columbus laboratory, a component that needs regular replacement.
But of much more pressing concern to the astronauts are toothbrushes of different bristle hardness and toothpaste of various flavours – sort of a care package designed to make them feel at home 400km above the ground.
And, they’ll also find some Lego Technic sets, part of a range of experiments that NASA is conducting for a special series of lessons for school pupils back ...