The ISS crew has some unloading to do. The European Space Agency’s fifth automated transfer vehicle linked up with the International Space Station early this morning. This delivery marks the final one by Europe’s fleet of automated transfer vehicles or ATVs.
The ESA has been resupplying the orbiting space station since 2008 with the fleet. This morning, the Georges Lemaître docked ‘flawlessly’ with the ISS. The ship is named after the Belgian astronomer and priest, who has been credited with originating the Big Bang theory.
Seven tons of supplies were transported up to the orbiter, including food, water, spare parts and new scientific experiments. The crew of six aboard the ISS will start unloading their giant care package shortly. Outside of the resupply, the scientific gear includes a European Space Agency experiment called Haptics-1.
Astronauts will get to use the Haptics-1 joystick to play simple video games. Researchers are looking into how microgravity affects motor control. Get ready for some serious pong action.
Some upgrades also came with the supply ship. New docking and rendezvous sensors will be installed and tested for future ESA space vehicles. Another scientific experiment is a metal-melting experiment to see how atoms arrange and rearrange themselves. Using the zero-g environment, scientists will be able to observe the physics of the melting and solidifying processes.
The ISS will keep the Georges Lemaître docked for about six months. Once the supplies are offloaded, they will use the ship to load trash. After the six month period, it will be jettisoned to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.
From this point, resupply missions will rely on Russian, Japanese and private US firms. The astronauts will not have to worry about running out of resupply options. The only capsule that is reusable is SpaceX’s Dragon capsule. All the others are one-use only, burning up in the atmosphere. The Dragon does a soft splashdown, aided by parachutes.