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NASA tries launch again tonight; where you could catch a glimpse

Friday night’s launch will take place at 9:16 p.m.
A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus resupply spacecraft is seen as it is transported to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus resupply spacecraft is seen as it is transported to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.(Photo Credit: (NASA/Terry Zaperach))
Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 11:31 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 2, 2020 at 3:31 PM EDT
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After a scrubbed attempt Thursday night, NASA will try again to launch the Northrop Grumman’s Anteres rocket to send Cygnus a resupply craft to the International Space Station. The launch is set for tonight (Friday, Oct 2) at 9:16 p.m. from Wallops Island, Virginia. The launch may be visible locally a few minutes after liftoff, but you’ll need to get up high and look to the east.

Since the sun will have set, being able to see the condensation trail from the rocket may be tough, but you might be able to spot the bright dot of light in the eastern horizon with a pair of binoculars if you get up higher.

A new toilet, a crop of radishes, cancer research, and virtual reality technology are all headed to the International Space Station as part of a Cygnus resupply mission set to launch Thursday from Virginia. This will be Northrop Grumman’s 14th commercial resupply services mission to deliver NASA science investigations, supplies and equipment to the ISS.

LAUNCH DETAILS & WHERE TO LOOK

  • New Launch Time: 9:16 p.m.
  • Vehicle: Anteres Rocket (unmanned)
  • When and where to look: Approximately a minute after launch time toward the eastern horizon

You’ll want to get to a dark place, away from city lights, and try to get as far as possible above the horizon. NASA suggests looking toward the eastern sky about 1-3 minutes after launch (around 9:40pm-9:43pm), however, it may be good to have your eyes set and ready to go even at launch time as things can escalate quickly.

Local astronomer John Goss offers these tips and locations where you may be able to check out the rocket, weather-permitting.

  • Blue Ridge Parkway at the Pine Tree Overlook (mp 95.2)
  • Blue Ridge Parkway at the Montvale Overlook (mp 95.9)
  • Look directly east at the unobstructed horizon for a slow-moving climbing point of light
  • Binoculars will surely help

Our weather should be ideal for sky watching, but the launch trajectory can often make it challenging to see them unless conditions are just right.

WHAT THE ROCKET IS CARRYING

This will be another unmanned launch, meaning no humans are onboard. However, there a several technological and agricultural experiments that will make their way to the ISS.

NEW TOILET TECHNOLOGY

A new toilet is headed to the space station and has a number of features that improve on current space toilet operations and help prepare astronauts for future missions, including those to the Moon and Mars. According to NASA.gov, the Universal Waste Management System (UWMS) demonstrates a compact toilet and the Urine Transfer System (UTS) that further automates waste management and storage. Automated emptying of backup storage allows simultaneous use of both toilets on the space station, saving crew member time. A more reliable waste-disposal method makes things easier for the crew and allows them to focus on other activities such as research.

RADISH RESEARCH

Speaking of research, more gardening will be conducted in space. A new crop of radishes will be studied as they develop ways to produce food in space and help sustain crews on long-duration missions, including those to the Moon and Mars. Previous experiments have grown different types of lettuces and greens aboard the space station. The Assessment of Nutritional Value and Growth Parameters of Space-grown Plants (Plant Habitat-02) investigation adds radishes to the mix, cultivating seeds to see how different light and soil conditions affect growth.

CANCER RESEARCH

Scientists will also use the mission to study cancer drugs using microgravity. According to NASA.gov, using microgravity, they are able to tests drugs based on messenger ribonucleic acids (mRNA) for treating leukemia. The mRNA plays a role in the process of making proteins, and it can be different in healthy versus cancer cells. In normal gravity, the drugs to be tested are onco-selective, meaning they can tell cancer cells from healthy ones. Researchers expect any drugs that also demonstrate this trait in microgravity could make good candidates for safer, more effective, and affordable medicines to treat leukemia and other cancers. This could improve survival rates for thousands of people every year.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE LAUNCH AND RESEARCH: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/ng14-research-highlights

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