Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply spacecraft, named in honour of deceased astronaut Kalpana Chawla, the first woman of Indian descent to go to space, was launched earlier on Saturday morning from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. It is scheduled to arrived at the ISS two day later, on Monday afternoon.
The spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) with nearly 8,000 pounds of scientific investigations, technology demonstrations, commercial products, and other cargo, including a new kind of toilet for the space station.
“A new toilet is headed to the space station. Its features improve on current space toilet operations and help NASA prepare for future missions, including those to the Moon and Mars. The Universal Waste Management System (UWMS) demonstrates a compact toilet and the Urine Transfer System that further automates waste management and storage. The smaller footprint of the UWMS supports a possible increase in the number of crew members aboard the space station, as well as planning for future exploration missions,” said NASA in a statment.
Further, a new crop of vegetables is headed to the space station, that is, raddish. 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. Also a 360-degree virtual reality camera that will be used to fil m during spacewalk for an immersive cinematic production is headed to the station.
According to reports, Northrop Grumman wanted to name their next Cygnus vehicle after someone who has played a key role in space exploration, and decided to honour Chawla and named the spacecraft after her. She had passed away along with her six crewmates aboard space shuttle Columbia in 2003. It was her second space mission.
Born in Haryana, Chawla’s contributions were in the field of space were immense. Being the first Indian born astronaut, she also inspired millions of Indian to follow her footsteps.