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Pizza, ice cream and E.Coli: NASA sends 3350kg of cargo to space

The cargo ship, Orbital ATK, is also transporting 14 miniature satellites, known as CubeSats.

science Updated: Nov 13, 2017 10:08 IST
Agencies, Cape Canaveral
NASA,Orbital ATK,International Space Station
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft on board, launches from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.(NASA via Reuters Photo)

A stash of frozen treats and other supplies rocketed toward the International Space Station on Sunday, this time from Virginia’s cold eastern shore.

NASA’s commercial shipper, Orbital ATK, launched the cargo ship just after sunrise from Wallops Island, aboard an unmanned Antares rocket.

The Cygnus capsule should reach the orbiting lab Tuesday. It’s loaded with 3,350 kilograms of cargo, including sweet treats for the six station astronauts. There are frozen fruit bars, ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches and cups of chocolate and vanilla ice cream — about 80 in all, according to NASA.

The crew expects pizza as well. Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli has been craving pizza for months.

“Pizza and ice cream on the way!” NASA astronaut Joe Acaba tweeted following lift off. “Eagerly awaiting the arrival.”

This marked Orbital ATK’s first launch from its home turf in more than a year. The last time it made a space station delivery, it used another company’s rocket flying from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Crowds gathered at Wallops in freezing temperatures and cheered as the rocket soared toward the southeast. Sunrise made it hard to see the launch farther afield. The field of visibility stretched from New England to the Carolinas.

Among the experiments on board is also satellite that will test how bacteria, E. Coli, grows in microgravity, and determine the minimum amount of antibiotic needed to stop its growth.

Knowing how bugs will act during long-duration missions will help the US space agency, which hopes to send people to deep space in the coming decades, with a human mission to Mars sometime in the 2030s.

The cargo ship is also transporting 14 miniature satellites, known as CubeSats.

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket is seen on launch Pad-0A, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. (NASA via Reuters Photo)

A launch attempt on Saturday was nixed after a plane strayed into the restricted airspace. Sunday’s try was almost foiled by a couple of boats that briefly wandered into the keep-out zone.

Orbital ATK named the capsule after the last man to walk on the moon, Apollo 17’s Gene Cernan, who died in January. During the final minutes of the countdown, a launch controller paid tribute to Cernan as well as JR Thompson, a high-ranking NASA and Orbital ATK official who died last week.

The current crew of six astronauts on duty at the space station include three Americans, one Italian and two Russians.

The capsule will remain at the space station until the beginning of December, when it’s cut loose for a test of close proximity flying, a series of mini satellite deployments and, lastly, a fiery re-entry with a load of trash.

SpaceX is NASA’s other prime supplier. It’s next station delivery is next month.

Read: List of space groceries by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Published: Nov 13, 2017 09:58 IST