On November 27th, the Australian research council revealed the winners of their annual Discovery Program grants. One of the projects selected for funding was the International Space Station Archaeological Project (ISSAP) headed by Dr. Alice Gorman, of Flinders University in Australia, and Dr. Justin Walsh, of Chapman University in the United States. This grant could be groundbreaking for the emerging field of space archaeology.

The ISSAP is a fantastic new example of contemporary archaeology in practice.  It is the first archaeological project aimed at studying a human habitat in outer space. The goal of ISSAP is to explore how the physical environment and material objects discovered aboard the space station have formed the development of a unique multicultural micro-society.

The genesis of ISSAP is in the endless fascination that archaeologists have with garbage.  Now that ISSAP has won the grant from the Discovery Program by the Australian Government, they intend to expand their research, especially by building a database to manage the 18 years worth of digital data produced and distributed by the astronauts and space agencies involved with the International Space Station.  

In other news, a rodent problem has caused SpaceX's next resupply mission to the International Space Station to be postponed until tomorrow (Dec. 5).

Technicians were preparing a mouse experiment for loading onto SpaceX's robotic Dragon cargo capsule yesterday (Dec. 3) when they realized there was mould on some of the rodents' food bars, according to NASA officials in a pre-launch news conference.

The Dragon spacecraft was slated for liftoff atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket this afternoon (Dec. 4) from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. However,  the food could not be replaced in time to meet that target, said NASA officials in a statement made last night. So, mission planners are now hoping to launch tomorrow at 1:16 p.m. EST (1816 GMT).

Lastly, yesterday (Dec. 3) NASA's first asteroid-sampling mission, the OSIRIS-REx probe, arrived at its destination. However, there is still lots of prep work to do before the spacecraft can dig into the diamond-shaped asteroid known as Bennu.

This event marked the end of a deep-space chase that lasted 27 months and covered over 1.25 billion miles (2 billion kilometres).

The primary objective of the $800 million OSIRIS-REx mission involves sending a sizeable sample of asteroid material back to Earth in 2023. However, the spacecraft is far from ready to gather any space-rock debris. First, OSIRIS-REx isn't even in orbit around the 1,650-foot-wide (500 meters) Bennu yet; it's presently flying alongside the asteroid, just beginning to take its measure in detail.

Are you excited about the OSIRIS-REx mission? What information do you think we will find when we send back a sample of an asteroid to Earth?

Let us know in the comments below!