back to article Fourth Euro star truck christened Albert Einstein

The European Space Agency's next Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) to roll off the production line will be called Albert Einstein. The Johannes Kepler docking with the ISS in February 2011. Pic: ESA Space trucks Jules Verne (ATV-1) and Johannes Kepler (ATV-2, pictured above) have already carried supplies to the International …


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  1. Alain Moran

    I'm probably missing something here...

    Why on earth (or even why on the ISS) do they take 'air' up with them ... surely pure oxygen would be more efficient?

    "and 100 kg of air (oxygen and nitrogen)."

    1. Peter Hawkins

      This is a title

      They learned the hard way that a pure oxygen environment can be very bad. See "Apollo 1 disaster" for the reason why.

    2. Kristian Walsh


      You can't breathe pure oxygen, it'll kill you. Nitrogen or other inert gas would be needed to dilute the oxygen to a breathable concentration.

      So, given that you're going to need both in the air supply onboard, why send separate Nitrogen and Oxygen, thus creating a flammable payload (O2), only to recombine them in orbit?

      1. BillboBaggins

        Oh no it isn't!

        Oxygen is only a poison under pressure. (Ask any scuba diver.) if it was a poison at normal atmospheric pressure, then all those hospital patients would be toast! (ie brown bread)

      2. Tom 260

        Re: Hyperoxia

        Given that they condense at different temperatures (and therefore different pressures in a storage tank), perhaps its more efficient to keep them separate.

        The issue I'd query is what is using up the nitrogen that is already on board the ISS, or is there normally a marginal air loss at an acceptable rate that exists, and this just replenishes the supply?

      3. Fat Jez

        You can't breathe pure oxygen, it'll kill you.

        Not true, on Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, they used a pure oxygen atmosphere in space, but at a partial pressure of 5lb/sq in (equivalent to the same density of Oxygen on earth).

        When doing a plugs out test on Apollo 1, the capsule had to be positively pressurised, therefore the pressure of the oxygen was greater than atmospheric. Under those conditions, some otherwise benign substances will burn fiercely, although the crew were in their space suits and on a different breathing loop.

      4. John Hughes

        It's a question of partial pressure

        Yes you can breath pure oxygen, but you need to lower the pressure. This was why they were doing it on Apollo 1. (It's obviously nice to be able to lower the pressure in your spaceship - you don't have to make it so strong).

        They use pure O2 for spacewalks as a sufficient pressure of "air" would turn the fabric suit into the michelin man and the astronaut wouldn't be able to move. That's why some people want to move to hard suits.

        (Flame icon used in memory of Apollo 1, not anger).

        1. Kristian Walsh

          ... so I get to use one of the new icons :)

          I stand corrected. That's what I like about El Reg: the comments are (mostly) written by people who know stuff.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Surely the next Space Truck

    should be called the 'Deep Purple'...

  3. Marvin the Martian


    Einstein wasn't born in Germany, but in the Kingdom of Württemberg. That's the nationality he renounced in favour of becoming Swiss, to avoid military service.

  4. Alain Moran

    Sorry I should have been more explicit ...

    If they remove the CO2 and replenish the O2 then they can retain the N2 they already have.

    1. defiler

      That's what I'd have expected

      Sort of like a scuba rebreather - just automagically remix the gases to keep the proportions correct.

      Yes, you'll lose some to space, but it's only really the oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen we're worried about, and they'll make their own CO2.

      Still, if I can come up with that idea it 10 seconds, I'm sure other clever people have already considered it and ruled it out. Anyway, I have my own job to be getting on with!

  5. Hooch181

    Just wondering...

    if the article should have been called:

    Worlds biggest tumble dryer to be called the Albert Einstein.

  6. Robert Hill

    I dunno...

    This is Albert freakin' Einstein we are talking about here. The man who gave us more physics in a few years than we could have hoped to have invented in the next 50.

    And the BEST we can do is name a TRUCK after him? OK, I admit it beats a crater, or an asteroid...but seriously, don't we have to put his name on something a little bit more exotic than a space least a nuclear powered deep space probe, or the first ion-engined ship to Mars?

    1. Mike Richards Silver badge

      I agree

      I'd rather they'd named them Truck 1, Truck 2 and so on rather than give them the names of great scientists. It's not a very impressive memento to be filled with odds and sods, emptied, loaded up with sewage and then crashed into the ocean.

      I expect Einstein would be more impressed with his element (99) than this thing.

    2. Notas Badoff

      Like all ships...

      they can re-use the name, once the previous massively expensive nameplate holder has ceased usage. This one will last only a few months, like its predecessors, going out like a star when discarded.

  7. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Air replacement

    I'm not sure what they do when they have to open an airlock; I don't know if they have turbo pumps to evacuuate the airlock before opening the outer door. It may be easier to just vent the air to space, and then replace the air later?

    On the subject of just removing the CO2, I think there are scrubbers to do that, but maybe you get all sorts of things in the air and it might be a good thing to vent some of it occasionally.

    Imagine if you lived in a completely sealed house with plants to convert the CO2 to O2. What about the other stuff? You know the gasses you get depending on what you eat, and the poisonous fumes given off by all that Ikea furniture as the glues and other things used to make it slowly evaporate from it?

    1. Steve Evans

      Re: nasty gases

      A lot of time is spent ensuring that things on board do not release nasty gases. Astronauts will unfortunately produce some smelly, but non-lethal varieties, but you've got a limited supply of oxygen, so you can't just go venting it into space just because someone has been on the sprouts!

      Given that washing facilities are also rather basic, I think it's pretty certain that a space station does get pretty smelly.

  8. mike 32

    What's that brown blob...

    on the right side of the picture of the trucks in space? Just above the one solar panel(?). Doesn't look like the moon, or anything else I recognise...

    Anyone else noticed it?

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      That's not a moon !!

      Actually, it is, as far as I can see

  9. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  10. Alain Moran


    Aha ... that sounds like the piece of information I was missing ... thanks :D

  11. SoupDragon

    @Alain Moran

    what, that the ISS is an Ikea flatpack, I know things are well hidden in their stores - I must search harder next time - my son would love it as his bedroom!

    'Lemon Entry my dear Watson'

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Submissions for the next name?

    Perhaps the "Ellen B. RIpley"?

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