Space Station astronauts are probably more disappointed than we imagined by the delay – from 9 to 23 March – of the European Space Agency’s launch of its third Automated Transfer Vehicle robotic supply ship. Named Edoardo Amaldi after the late Italian physicist considered a pioneer of European spaceflight, ATV-3 is loaded with some 2.5t of dry cargo, water and oxygen, in addition to 5.4t of fuel to power itself and “re-boost” the Station to its full altitude. Another 860kg (1,900lb) of fuel will be carried for transfer to the Russian part of the Station.
But now we learn a bit more about that cargo. According to the ATV’s builder, Astrium, one of the items the ATV-3 will be carrying is a new ventilator for the European Columbus laboratory, a component that needs regular replacement.
But of much more pressing concern to the astronauts are toothbrushes of different bristle hardness and toothpaste of various flavours – sort of a care package designed to make them feel at home 400km above the ground.
And, they’ll also find some Lego Technic sets, part of a range of experiments that NASA is conducting for a special series of lessons for school pupils back on Earth.
Let’s just hope the 153 bags containing 1,062 individual items are well labelled, and that the toothpaste and Lego aren’t buried too deep in the ATV’s hold.