International Space Station Gets Special Delivery: Japanese Whiskey – For Science

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Marcia Dunn reports: Spirits arrived at the International Space Station on Monday. Not the ghostly ones, but the kind you drink — distilled spirits.

“The six astronauts won’t be sneaking a sip. It’s all for science.”

A Japanese company known for its whiskey and other alcoholic beverages included five types of distilled spirits in a space station cargo ship. The station’s big robotic arm — operated by Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui — grabbed onto the supply craft launched Wednesday by his homeland. Flight controllers helped anchor it down.

The supply ship contains nearly 10,000 pounds of cargo, including the six liquor samples. Suntory Global Innovation Center in Tokyo wants to see if alcoholic beverages mellow the same in space as they do on Earth.

[Also see – うん!Suntory Plans Space-Aged Whiskey]

The samples will be used for experiments and will spend at least a year in orbit before being returned to Earth. An identical set of samples will be stored on the ground in Japan. Read the rest of this entry »


Maersk Tigris Update: Cargo Ship Seized by Iran released 10 Days Later, its Crew Safe

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Christine Mai-Duc reports: Iran has released a commercial cargo ship more than a week after it was seized by Iranian naval forces, the ship operator confirmed Thursday.

The Maersk Tigris, which was seized on April 28, was freed by Iranian officials after a court order, according to Cor Radings, a spokesman for Rickmers Shipmanagement, which manages and crews the vessel. Iran’s Ports and Maritive Organization confirmed the ship’s release.

Map depicting the MV Maersk Tigris’ original path toward the UAE and diversion after being intercepted by the IRGCN. (Source: marinetraffic.com)

The ship’s 24 crew members are in good condition, the company said in a statement. Radings added that “absolutely no violence” was used by the crew’s Iranian captors during the incident. The ship will now continue on to the port of Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates, where company officials will meet and attend to the crew.

“Given the circumstances, they were treated in a fair way,” Radings told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday. Read the rest of this entry »


UPDATE Strait of Hormuz: U.S. Navy Ships to Accompany US-Flagged Ships in Gulf

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U.S. defense officials say U.S. Navy ships will begin accompanying U.S.-flagged commercial ships when they transit the Strait of Hormuz.

The move is in response to what Washington views as provocative Iranian behavior in the Persian Gulf. Earlier this week Iranian naval vessels reportedly fired warning shots near a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship and have detained it and its crew. Iranian officials say the Maersk shipping line owes it money…(read more)

ABC News


UPDATE: Contact Made With Crew of Ship Detained by Iran: Sailors on Maersk Tigris in Good Condition but Confined to Cabins

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DUBAI— Asa Fitch reports: The manager of a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship Iran seized in the Persian Gulf said its crew members were in good condition, but were confined by guards to their cabins and the ship’s mess area.

“They’re all in relatively good condition, but it’s not a good situation and is still of concern to us.”

Rickmers Shipmanagement, the Singapore-based global shipping company that operates the M/V Maersk Tigris, had brief phone contact with the crew of 24, most of whom are from Eastern Europe and Asia, said Cor Radings, Rickmers’ spokesman.

“They’re all in relatively good condition, but it’s not a good situation and is still of concern to us,” Mr. Radings said. He added that the company was working with “international parties and experts” to secure the ship’s release, although he declined to provide details of that effort.

“Cargo-vessel seizures are a rarity in the Gulf, through which hundreds of ships carrying oil exports travel each day.”

On Tuesday, an Iranian patrol fired warning shots over the bow of the Maersk Tigris and directed it to a rendezvous point close to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, said U.S. officials and Rickmers. Rickmers said the ship was in international waters at the time.

In response to a distress call by the Maersk Tigris, the U.S. sent a Navy destroyer Tuesday to the Strait of Hormuz, the 21-mile-wide passage through which 30% of the world’s seaborne oil shipments pass.

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“The seizure comes as conflict in Yemen has heightened tensions with Saudi Arabia, which sits on the southwestern shore of the Gulf, and Iran, which sits across from it.”

On Wednesday, the USS Farragut and three other smaller Navy ships were keeping watch on the strait and sending surveillance planes overhead, said Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Under agreements between the U.S. and Marshall Islands, Col. Warren said the military had a treaty obligation to protect the Maersk Tigris, but said the U.S. was pursuing diplomatic options to resolve the confrontation.

Pentagon officials said Iran’s intentions in seizing the cargo ship were unclear. Some officials said they saw the move as an effort by Tehran to demonstrate its ability to control the strait after the U.S. military moved an aircraft carrier through the region as a warning to Iran to turn back a flotilla suspected of carrying weapons bound for Tehran’s allies in Yemen. Read the rest of this entry »


SpaceX Launches Rocket, Attempt to Land Booster Falls Short: ‘Close, but No Cigar’

 reports: Elon Musk’s SpaceX sent a cargo capsule loaded with International Space Station supplies into orbit Saturday morning, but the company’s unprecedented attempt to set down the craft’s first-stage rocket on an ocean barge was rocky and damaged the booster.

“Rocket made it to the drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho.”

— Elon Musk

The Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral at 1:47 a.m. Pacific time.

Within minutes, the cargo-filled capsule separated from the first-stage booster rocket and continued on its way to orbit and rendezvous with the space station.

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That was when SpaceX attempted what had never been done: flying the 13-story booster back to Earth and landing it upright on an ocean barge.

The booster made it to the barge, but Musk tweeted that some of the vessel’s equipment was damaged by the impact. “Ship itself is fine,” he wrote. “Some of the support equipment on the deck will need to be replaced.”

“Didn’t get good landing/impact video,” he tweeted. “Pitch dark and foggy. Will piece it together from telemetry and … actual pieces.”

Hawthorne-based SpaceX hopes to one day be able to reuse the first stage, which includes the expensive and powerful engines needed to blast the capsule to orbit. The planned landing and recovery of the first stage is part of Musk’s goal to eventually be able to refly the same spacecraft many times, greatly lowering the cost of space flight. Read the rest of this entry »