SciTechBlog   « Back to Blog Main
March 28, 2008

Showtime for "Jules Verne"

Posted: 01:15 PM ET

If all goes as planned, the new European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) will dock with the International Space Station next week. It's a task that has flight controllers at NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Russian Space Agency hugely excited, and nervous. Up until now, the only vehicles to dock with the ISS have been the space shuttle and the Russian Progress and Soyuz spacecrafts. All of them have long and mostly reliable track records in orbit.

Source: ESA

As the guys in Monty Python would say, "now for something completely different."

Christened "Jules Verne," this ATV is the first of five that will resupply the International Space Station at a rate of one every year and a half or so. It launched to space on March 8, but has been essentially parked in orbit for the duration of the space shuttle Endeavour's assembly mission to the ISS.

Before ESA gives the final "go" for docking, flight controllers will put the spacecraft through a series of tests to make sure all the onboard systems are working properly. A malfunction close to the station could spell disaster.

On Monday, flight controllers will practice maneuvering the spacecraft within 36 feet of the station, to work out any kinks before executing the actual docking on Thursday. The main objective is to test the close range sensors and the guidance and navigation systems. The station crew will also call for an "abort" to make sure they can successfully call off a docking in the event something goes wrong. Closest approach should happen about 12:45pm ET.

If all checks out as planned, the docking will happen at 10:40am ET on Thursday. "Jules Verne" will latch onto the Russian Zvezda Service Module, where it will remain for about six months. After it is unloaded, it will be repacked with trash and eventually directed on a "death dive" into the atmosphere, burning up over the Pacific Ocean.

When I mentioned that last fact in a previous blog entry, we got a tidal wave of outraged comments about the waste and inefficiency of discarding the hardware in such a manner. For the record, currently there are two ways to "take out the trash" on the ISS. The Russian Progress resupply vehicles are used in the way described above. Additionally, some "trash" is returned to Earth by the space shuttle. Much of what they take the trouble to bring back is broken equipment that they want to either refurbish for future use, or take apart to figure out why it broke and how to modify the design to make it more durable in the future.

If you want to watch the "Jules Verne" demo day/docking day events, check out NASA TV.

–Kate Tobin, Sr. Producer, CNN Science & Technology


Filed under: European Space Agency • International Space Station • NASA • Space

Share this on:
Patrick Anthony Drake   March 28th, 2008 1:59 pm ET


Judy Harper   March 30th, 2008 11:23 am ET

I sent the following e-mail to 20 friends this morning.

You might want to catch Larry King Live Tonight at 9:00 pm – Sunday, March 30th – a special on UFOs. If it contains a few of the interviews he aired a couple of months back, it will be riveting!

Quite unabashedly I have fully opened my mind and heart to this reality. I suppose it began when my father saw a UFO on an afternoon in the mid 1950's. Hovering over the field behind our house on the edge of Orangeville, then a small Ontario town where both sides of my family had been born and raised, he watched the object through binoculars that he always kept handy to catch a closer look at birds in flight. I was about nine at the time and my younger sister and I were at a twenty cent Saturday afternoon matinee and my mother would have been managing the lady's clothing store she owned on the main street – Broadway.

The third eldest of a farm family of ten, Percy Aaron Watts graduated from grade eight and quietly spoke nothing other than his own truth. Dad volunteered and served as a sergeant mechanic in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) from 1939-1945. From vast experience, he knew what a single wing aircraft could and could NOT do. When this silver disk at last took off at a 45 degree angle, he felt confident in describing something quite extraordinary in aeronautical potential.

In the next while he clipped articles from small weekly papers of other reports in the vicinity -Shelburne and Grand Valley -although he never made any official statements himself. He simply wouldn't have thought to do that.

Until his death at the age of 90 in 1998, he read any of the limited books on the subject he could find and as a teenager I read them too. He would speak about the event to anyone when the topic came up over the years – earnestly and factually because it was his life experience. As much as the two hours he was forced to stand at parade attention in miserable weather before World War I flying ace, Billy Bishop, drove by in an official visit to RCAF Base Trenton, one of the southern Ontario pilot training bases where Dad helped keep the Harvard training craft in the air.

Over the years, as part of a natural curiosity about life and its inherent mysteries, I have come to unconditionally accept the fact there MUST be more going on in the universe than what we chose to acknowledge. The details in Shirley MacLaine's personal accounts which she published at great risk of ridicule and censor in 1983 strongly support this theory. I watched the made-for-television video version again this past week and everything about the sightings in Peru and the matter of fact acceptance by the locals resonates. Based on the synchronous events that define my world these days – as I am virtually hours away from completing the first Pandora Process manuscript – her experiences kept leading her forward and searching for answers too.

Out on a Limb verifies what common sense dictates: there is no logical way that as humans on this small planet we can argue that WE are the only life in this vast universe. The crop circle phenomenon, magnificently documented in Star Dreams part of the Spiritual Cinema Circle Series, leaves the viewer with few alternatives either. During the last twenty years the increasing number of these humbling and majestic designs can be accepted as communication pathways from the stars…or??? Every probe into deep space – including the Voyager missions and Hubble – only proves there are billions of places in the Cosmos where potential new friends are just waiting to meet us.

How we DARE to find the hubris – the human arrogance – given our three-dimensional limited understanding to believe we ARE the universe constantly amazes me! Personally, just as the Richard Dreyfus character did in Close Encounters of a Third Kind, I would feel absolute honour and joy to make Contact. For I believe in every strand of my DNA and cellular memory, there are wondrous discoveries ahead, delivered with love and acceptance from and for out intergalactic family. And any help we can get to extract us from our muddle – in 1985, there were 55,000 nuclear warheads embedded on Mother Earth – would be welcomed.

Judy Harper, BA
Barrie, Ontario, Canada

shawn fillius   March 30th, 2008 9:25 pm ET

Unlike most that exsist on planet earth most find it fascinating to believe in other life forms not of this world. Yes we have a lot of un-explained things happen in this world. But we also have a lot of legends. Picture the aspect of if we actually have contact with another life form not of this world. How many people, especially people of christian believe would all of a sudden not believe in the events of Christ. People would start asking them do they believe in God Almighty the King of Heaven! And Earth? Jules Verne is the topic. An imaginaitve mind with lots of creations that we may have in the future to live in space. Not contact with other life forms (E.T) . Let the man who thought it all imaginable have his moment.

Donald   March 31st, 2008 4:52 am ET

The subject is about an unmanned spacecraft that will dock with the ISS. This is an important mission for the space agencies around the world. One careless slip and the ISS is doomed.
I guess the most effeicent way to dispose of space debris is to let it burn up in the upper reaches of the atmosphere. Thats better than letting float around the earth for all eternity.
As far as people turning their backs on Jesus...whether you beleive in God or not or whether you beleive Jesus is God's Son or not, the truth is and this is recorded by Jewish historians that didn't beleive he was their Messiah, Jesus actually lived and breathed and you will never find one word to disputes that he was a good man that he loved others unconditionally and encouraged others to do the same. So if aliens walk into the White House tomorrow and blast the place to bits, it will not affect the way true believers in Jesus Christ feel about him. The existence or non existence of extra-terrestrials neither proves or disproves the existence of God or Jesus.
I can't prove that any of them (aliens, God and Jesus)exist and you can't prove that any of them don't. All I know is I have faith that all of them do and at some point man-kind will be at their mercy.

Chad T.   March 31st, 2008 1:48 pm ET

Which is it!!???

I heard a report that the Arctic Temps rose over 9 or so degrees in the last decade!
Now there is histeria about this Ice Sheet breaking off in Antarctica because of global warming.

It seems like the Y2K hype all over again.
As you know came and went like any other day year, etc.

I have a Green Bridge for sale!!

Donald   April 1st, 2008 7:50 pm ET

I think you're right Chad, seems everyones an expert too. Where'd they get all their expireince if this is so new? They're pulling this stuff out of their behinds thats where. I think we're just in a warm happens, this is the first time it's happened when we have mass media and sweeps week to consider. The cool,or maybe not so cool, thing is it could be 50 to hundred years or more before it subsides, maybe by then we will able to forget how the oil companies where price gouging us..

zach   April 2nd, 2008 3:10 pm ET

Donald and Chad, I think you are delusional and your comments are wishful thinking. We have historical data to show that CO2 levels are higher than they have ever been. The science is solid on greenhouse effect. The only questions remaining are: how long do we have and what can we do to mitigate?

Jason Tobin   April 2nd, 2008 3:25 pm ET

I do believe that simply dicarding this expenive piece of equipment it is a huge waste of resources! No wonder we are not getting anything done!

Mr. Spock   April 3rd, 2008 1:13 am ET

Okay, bottom line, does anyone know what the ATV costs? Ship, launch, and operation? Oh and I guess you have to figure in development costs as well.

Capten Kirk   April 7th, 2008 4:58 am ET

Mr. Spock I think the government likes conspiracies, and with the economy the way it is now they would probably keep it a secret from the public.

Capten Kirk   April 7th, 2008 5:24 am ET

Dear Judy,
I completely agree with you infact, my father saw a UFO one night when he was in Mexico in the 1960s... he was with his friend (both sober, for the record,) and they both noticed a moving dot of a light in the sky, at first they thought it was helocopter or an areoplane but it was moving too fast for being that far away and all-of-a-sudden it stopped without even slowing down at all and just sat there for at least a few minutes then went completely the opposite way, then changed directions three times befores leaving the earth's atmosphere, speeding up all the while! (which is physically impossible for any man-made craft,especially in the '60s, to accomplish)!!!

John   April 25th, 2008 4:27 pm ET

It does seem like a tremendous waste of recourses to just burn the ATV up after it takes out the trash. If it has enough power to go back into orbit then it probably has enough power to escape orbit and head out into space. Why not put what ever sensors on it that seem appropriate and send it towards the sun? It can be collecting data for us and sending it back until the gravity of the sun pulls it in and burns it up. That way there is no worry about pollution and mishaps on reentry and we get some useful data at the same time.

Artem   May 19th, 2012 2:17 pm ET

Have you ever considered about adidng a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is valuable and all. But imagine if you added some great pictures or videos to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with images and video clips, this site could undeniably be one of the most beneficial in its niche. Very good blog!

Leave Your Comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

subscribe RSS Icon
About this blog

Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

subscribe RSS Icon
Powered by VIP