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Their return was delayed for a while, but three ISS crew members are finally home. Plus, engineers have started assembling the Giant Magellan Telescope!

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(Intro music)

This week, a capsule carrying three astronauts from the International Space Station landed in Kazakhstan, marking the end of the mission known as Expedition 43, which began in March. It has proved to be 91 days very well spent. That is, when it finally ended. Expedition 43 was supposed to have ended back in May but, the space station schedule got messed up when a cargo ship was lost a few weeks ago, spinning out of control and burning up in earth's atmosphere. But while engineers on earth were trying to figure out how it would be safest to bring the crew home, one of the astronauts was still up there setting records. With about 200 days in orbit, flight engineer Samantha Cristoferetti, a European Space Agency astronaut, can now claim the title of having spent more time in space than anyone else from her home country of Italy and is also the woman who has spent the most time in space in a single mission.

In terms of the research that's been done, you might also remember that Expedition 43 marked the start of the one year mission in which NASA and Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, teamed up to study the effects of life in orbit on the human body. So a lot of the expedition's studies focused on the physiological effects of long-term spaceflight, like muscle atrophy, but the crew also completed some more short term projects, like a remote control hand shake. Using joysticks and so called augmented reality cues, like video, astronaut Terry Virts and an ESA roboticist shook virtual hands while nearly 5000 Km apart. The hope is that this sort of remote control technology can be used on future rovers, so if we spot an interesting rock or something, we can basically just reach over and pick it up, all the way from Earth.

Expedition 43 also got to test out the new space coffee cup. If you had to drink out of a regular cup on in ISS, even if you used your very own SciShow coffee mug, available at, you'd have some problems, well with the micro-gravity and everything. That's why this new space coffee cup has such a weird shape. It's sharp corner allows the action know an capillary flow to do what gravity can't, and pull the liquid toward the drinkers mouth. A nice convenience for the astronauts and a fun experiment in fluid dynamics for the rest of us.

Expedition 44 has now officially begun, and three more astronauts will join the crew in July. It's set to last until the next departure from the station, in September.

But those of us stuck here on Earth aren't exactly left behind: we're always looking for new ways to explore the universe. Back in 2013, we talked about how an international team was banding together to construct the largest optical telescope ever, called the Giant Magellan Telescope. With seven mirrors, creating a light gathering surface that's 25 meters wide, this thing is designed to have 10 times the resolution of Hubble. Plans for this giant telescope have been in the works for about 10 year and now they've finally started assembling it.

Of course it's not just the size that makes it so powerful, one of the reasons the observing space from Earth is so hard is that the light that reaches the telescope gets distorted by particles in our atmosphere. Compensating for that is hard, but the Giant Magellan Telescope, as well as a bunch of other telescopes, do it by incorporating what's know as adaptive optics. After the light bounces off those huge primary mirrors, it'll hit another set of mirrors, and those secondary mirrors will be constantly adjusted using hundreds of tiny built-in motors to compensate for atmospheric turbulence. By measuring how much the light is distorted on its way through the turbulent atmosphere and flexing the mirrors to cancel that out, Magellan will be able to create some of the clearest optical observations ever made from the surface of Earth. The telescope is set to begin operation in Chile in 2021, and will be fully operational by 2024.

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