Christmas turkey, fruitcake rocket to space station The first stage booster from a Falcon 9 rocket, background center, experiences a control problem during its descent, landing in the Atlantic Ocean just east of the launch site instead of a landing zone at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. (Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today via AP/AP Photo/John Raoux)
Christmas turkey, fruitcake rocket to space station
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Christmas turkey rocketed toward the International Space Station on December 5. The rocket carried cranberry sauce, candied yams and the obligatory fruitcake.

The SpaceX booster missed its landing zone on the ground after liftoff and ended up in the sea just a couple of miles offshore.

Groans filled SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne, California. Live video showed the first-stage rocket booster spinning out of control, still high above Cape Canaveral. It was the company's first missed ground landing. Although it has overshot floating barges plenty of times in the past, a ground landing is a tougher feat to pull off.

A SpaceX commentator called it a "bummer." But it was noted it was secondary to the Falcon 9 rocket's main mission - that was getting the Dragon capsule to orbit.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk said the booster appeared to be undamaged. The hydraulic pump for the landing fins apparently stalled, but the engines stabilized the approximately 160-foot-tall booster just in time. This allowed for "an intact landing in water!" That's what Musk noted via Twitter. "Ships en route to rescue Falcon," he tweeted.

SpaceX's 12 previous ground landings — dating back to 2015 — all were successful. Altogether, the company has recovered 32 boosters following liftoff — 33 once this one is towed back, said Hans Koenigsmann, a SpaceX vice president. He did not know if it could be reused.

Koenigsmann said the booster deliberately avoided land after sensing a problem, a built-in safety feature. It even managed to touch down upright in the Atlantic, atop its landing legs.

"Public safety was well protected here," he told reporters.

The disappointment was offset by the successful flight of the Dragon capsule and its 5,600 pounds (2,500 kilograms) of cargo. It reached the space station December 8.

"What a great day for a launch," said Kennedy Space Center director Bob Cabana. Twenty years ago, Cabana commanded the shuttle mission that carried up the first U.S. part of the space station.

Besides smoked turkey breast and all the other fixings for Christmas dinner, the delivery included 40 mice and 36,000 worms. These were for aging and muscle studies.

Researchers expect a tenfold increase in the worm population. There will be plenty of room on board for all the tiny nematodes. It turns out their muscles are similar to ours in structure and function, making them perfect lab substitutes, said lead scientist Timothy Etheridge of the University of Exeter in England.

The launch was delayed a day when NASA discovered that the food for the mouse-tronauts was moldy. More food had to be rushed in from California.

Just two days earlier, three astronauts arrived at the space station to join the three already there. The crew included two Americans, two Russians and one German. It also included one Canadian. The newest residents will remain on board for six months, while the others will return to Earth on Dec. 20.

SpaceX has been making station deliveries for NASA since 2012. The private company expects to start launching station crews next year.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What would you miss most if you spent the holidays on the International Space Station?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (4)
  • DylanL-dec
    1/07/2019 - 10:33 a.m.

    All this gingerbread is making me hungry. How much time do people have.

  • jacobt-orv
    1/25/2019 - 02:26 p.m.

    I would miss Christmas because I would not get presents or I would not get to spend time with my family or my twin.

  • rlogs-wim5
    2/07/2019 - 12:39 p.m.

    If I spent the holiday's on the International Space Station it would be being with my family. I would still be glad I was in the International Space Station though, I mean come on that would be so cool! But yes sadly, we humans do have emotions and do miss people and I would just miss my family and friends altogether. Also, if I got a chance to got the International Space Station I would have had to have accomplished something pretty good.

  • Neveahh-orv
    3/13/2019 - 02:53 p.m.

    I would miss thanksgiving like spending it with my family and i would miss Halloween because i get to eat all that candy and share with my brothers and i would miss my friends.

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