nasa (33)

A Voyage In Her Lifetime...

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Image Source: Link in the article text

 

Topics: International Space Station, Interstellar, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight, Star Trek

 

Light Sails were first mentioned in the year 1610 in a letter by astronomer Johannes Kepler to his friend, Galileo Galilei. “With ships or sails built for heavenly winds, some will venture into that great vastness.” In his character of Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Avery Brooks used his Starfleet engineering prowess deciphering ancient text to recreate an ancient Bajoran solar sail in the episode "Explorers." The possibilities have vacillated between science and fiction ever since.

 

I've enjoyed reading the speculation by Avi Loeb, Chair of Harvard University's Department of Astronomy on the Oumuamua object in Extraterrestrial. I've also enjoyed the healthy counter debate, as that's how ideas in science are refined before they become laws, doctrine, or accepted universal theorems.

 

On the "billionaire space race": Eli Musk started it with his SpaceX rocket system. It would be nice in current geopolitical tensions not to rely so much on Russian Soyuz capsules to get to the ISS. Brian Branson and Jeff Bezos have probably opened up space tourism, but in the foreseeable near-future and exorbitant price tag, it will probably be a dalliance of the wealthy. Desktop computers used to cost between $2,000 - 3,000, cell phones irradiating Gordon Gekko's skull in the movie "Wall Street" used to be the size of Canada. Even the fictional Zefram Cochrane needed a financier, Micah Brack, to get Warp One going. Whether that leads to a utopia of limitless energy, the end to poverty, money, life extension, and eliminating inequality is yet to be seen.

 

The article title, Breakthrough Starshot: A voyage to the stars within our lifetimes, Astronomy Magazine, takes into account the bane of our spacefaring existence: mass, quite literally a "drag," and cannot be compensated for by technobabble "inertia dampeners" or artificial gravity. We are currently accelerating at 9.8 meters per square second to the Earth's center, but we're used to it after living here a while. Twenty percent of the speed of light would get a nano solar sail craft propelled by a high-energy laser to Alpha Centauri in twenty years but would turn human passengers (if any were that small) into DNA goo against the bulkhead. Starshot launching in 2060 means my granddaughter will be forty-one, her parents might be grandparents, and I would have to be a spry ninety-eight to witness it. "Our lifetimes" must be humankind, that is if we haven't overextended our resources to make the endeavor fruitless. From the end of the article:

 

But as award-winning Cosmos writer and producer Ann Druyan, a member of the Breakthrough Starshot advisory board, said during a 2016 press conference announcing the initiative: “Science thinks in timescales of billions of years. And yet, we live in a society that only thinks in terms of, generally, the balance sheet of the next quarter or the next election. … So, this kind of thinking that looks at a horizon that’s 35 years away — possibly 20, possibly 50 — is exactly what’s called for now, because it’s this kind of multigenerational enterprise that nets us such great results.”

 

Godspeed, "Little Bit."

 

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Ganymede...

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A global view of Ganymede, based on data gathered by NASA’s Voyager 1, Voyager 2, and Galileo spacecraft. Credit: USGS Astrogeology Science Center, Wheaton, NASA and JPL-Caltech

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, NASA, Planetary Science, Space Exploration

Ganymede, get ready for your close-up.

No probe has gotten a good view of Jupiter’s largest moon since 2000 when NASA’s Galileo spacecraft swung past the strange world, which is the largest moon in the whole solar system. But on Monday (June 7),  at 1:35 p.m. EDT (1735 GMT), NASA’s Juno spacecraft will skim just 645 miles (1,038 kilometers) above Ganymede’s surface, gathering a host of observations as it does so.

“Juno carries a suite of sensitive instruments capable of seeing Ganymede in ways never before possible," principal investigator Scott Bolton, a space scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a NASA statement. “By flying so close, we will bring the exploration of Ganymede into the 21st century.”

Ganymede is a fascinating world for scientists. Despite its status as a moon, it’s larger than the tiny planet Mercury and is the only moon to sport a magnetic field, a bubble of charged particles dubbed a magnetosphere. Until now, the only spacecraft to get a good look at Ganymede were NASA’s twin Voyager probes in 1979 and the Galileo spacecraft, which flew past the moon in 2000.

NASA’s Juno Set for Close Encounter with Jupiter’s Moon Ganymede, Meghan Bartels, SPACE.com, Scientific American

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Sun Quake...

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The first coronal mass ejection, or CME, observed by the Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager (SoloHI) appears as a sudden gust of white (the dense front from the CME) that expands into the solar wind. This video uses different images, created by subtracting the pixels of the previous image from the current image to highlight changes. The missing spot in the image on the far right is an overexposed area where light from the spacecraft solar array is reflected into SoloHI’s view. The little black and white boxes that blip into view are telemetry blocks – an artifact from compressing the image and sending it back down to Earth.
Credits: ESA & NASA/Solar Orbiter/SoloHI team/NRL

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, ESA, Heliophysics, NASA

For the new Sun-watching spacecraft, the first solar eruption is always special.

On February 12, 2021, a little more than a year from its launch, the European Space Agency, and NASA’s Solar Orbiter caught sight of this coronal mass ejection or CME. This view is from the mission’s SoloHI instrument — short for Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager — which watches the solar wind, dust, and cosmic rays that fill the space between the Sun and the planets.

It's a brief, grainy view: Solar Orbiter’s remote sensing won’t enter full science mode until November. SoloHI used one of its four detectors at less than 15% of its normal cadence to reduce the amount of data acquired. Still, a keen eye can spot the sudden blast of particles, the CME, escaping the Sun, which is off-camera to the upper right. The CME starts about halfway through the video as a bright burst – the dense leading edge of the CME – and drifts off-screen to the left.

For SoloHI, catching this CME was a happy accident. At the time the eruption reached the spacecraft, Solar Orbiter had just passed behind the Sun from Earth’s perspective and was coming back around the other side. When the mission was being planned, the team wasn’t expecting to be able to record any data during that time.

A New Space Instrument Captures Its First Solar Eruption, Miles Hatfield, NASA

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40 Years Since STS-1...

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The first mission of the Space Shuttle Program, STS-1, blasts off from launch pad 39A on April 12, 1981, attempting to kick off a new era of rapid access to space.

Topics: History, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight, Space Shuttle

In April 1981, John Young — America’s premier astronaut and one of only 12 people to ever walk on the Moon — was training with co-pilot Bob Crippen for STS-1, the maiden voyage of the space shuttle Columbia. Though eager, Young harbored no illusions that he might never return from this first mission of the Space Shuttle Program.

After rocketing into space, Columbia aimed to circle our planet 36 times over two days. But then, unlike the previous spacecraft, it would glide back to Earth, landing on a runway like an airplane. NASA hoped its reusable fleet of four shuttles — Atlantis, Challenger, Discovery, and Columbia — would launch weekly with crews of up to seven, allowing more rapid access to space than ever before. The Space Shuttle Program promised to both revolutionize and routinize spaceflight.

But, as with all cutting-edge technologies, the risks were severe. A month before STS-1, as Columbia sat on Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, several technicians were asphyxiated by nitrogen fumes while working in the shuttle’s aft fuselage. Two of them later succumbed to their injuries. The accident served as a deadly reminder that spaceflight is a dangerous business, even when still on Earth.

40 years since the first space shuttle mission, STS-1, Ben Evans, Astronomy

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Snaps From Perseverance...

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Combining two images, this mosaic shows a close-up view of the rock target named “Yeehgo” from the SuperCam instrument on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. The component images were taken by SuperCam’s Remote Micro-Imager (RMI). To be compatible with the rover’s software, “Yeehgo” is an alternative spelling of “Yéigo,” the Navajo word for diligent.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/CNRS/ASU/MSSS
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Touchdown...

 

Topics: Mars, NASA, Perseverance, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

Editor's Note: This release was updated on Feb. 22 to correct the metric unit for the speed at which the rover's wheels made contact with the surface to kph.

A new video from NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover chronicles major milestones during the final minutes of its entry, descent, and landing (EDL) on the Red Planet on Feb. 18 as the spacecraft plummeted, parachuted, and rocketed toward the surface of Mars. A microphone on the rover also has provided the first audio recording of sounds from Mars.

NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover Provides Front-Row Seat to Landing, First Audio Recording of Red Planet

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Aiming the Archer...

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The 18 members of NASA's Artemis Team, from top left to bottom right: Joe Acaba, Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, Matthew Dominick, Victor Glover, Woody Hoburg, Jonny Kim, Christina Koch, Kjell Lindgren, Nicole Mann, Anne McClain, Jessica Meir, Jasmin Moghbeli, Kate Rubins, Frank Rubio, Scott Tingle, Jessica Watkins and Stephanie Wilson.  (Image credit: NASA via collectSPACE.com)

Topics: Diversity in Science, Moonbase, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

Artemis, in Greek religion, the goddess of wild animals, the hunt, and vegetation, and of chastity and childbirth; she was identified by the Romans with Diana. Artemis was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and the twin sister of Apollo. Source: Britannica

The Biden administration's crucial first 100 days in office now includes a big human spaceflight pledge.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday (Feb. 4) that President Joe Biden will carry on the Artemis program to land humans on the moon in the coming years. Artemis began under Biden's predecessor, then-President Donald Trump. 

"Through the Artemis program, the United States government will work with industry and international partners to send astronauts to the surface of the moon — another man and a woman to the moon," Psaki told reporters in a White House press briefing Thursday.

"Certainly, we support this effort and endeavor," she added.

Psaki's comments, which were in answer to a reporter's question, did not mention NASA's 2024 target for the first crewed Artemis moon landing, a deadline set by the Trump administration. Last year, a bipartisan effort in the U.S. House of Representatives sought to push that landing mission to 2028 instead, in line with NASA's previous goals.

US still committed to landing Artemis astronauts on the moon, White House says, Elizabeth Howell, Space.com

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High Flight...

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In this illustration, NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter stands on the Red Planet's surface as NASA's Perseverance rover (partially visible on the left) rolls away.Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Topics: Mars, NASA, Planetary Science, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

"High Flight" by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Ingenuity, a technology experiment, is preparing to attempt the first powered, controlled flight on the Red Planet.

When NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, it will be carrying a small but mighty passenger: Ingenuity, the Mars Helicopter.

The helicopter, which weighs about 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms) on Earth and has a fuselage about the size of a tissue box, started out six years ago as an implausible prospect. Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California knew it was theoretically possible to fly in Mars’ thin atmosphere, but no one was sure whether they could build a vehicle powerful enough to fly, communicate, and survive autonomously with the extreme restrictions on its mass.

Then the team had to prove in Earthbound tests that it could fly in a Mars-like environment. Now that they’ve checked off those objectives, the team is preparing to test Ingenuity in the actual environment of Mars.

“Our Mars Helicopter team has been doing things that have never been done before – that no one at the outset could be sure could even be done,” said MiMi Aung, the Ingenuity project manager at JPL “We faced many challenges along the way that could have stopped us in our tracks. We are thrilled that we are now so close to demonstrating – on Mars – what Ingenuity can really do.”

Ingenuity survived the intense vibrations of launch on July 30, 2020, and has passed its health checks as it waits to plunge with Perseverance through the Martian atmosphere. But the helicopter won’t attempt its first flight for more than a month after landing: Engineers for the rover and helicopter need time to make sure both robots are ready.

6 Things to Know About NASA’s Mars Helicopter on Its Way to Mars

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Lattice Confinement Fusion...

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Illustration of the main elements of the lattice confinement fusion process observed. In Part (A), a lattice of erbium is loaded with deuterium atoms (i.e., erbium deuteride), which exist here as deuterons. Upon irradiation with a photon beam, a deuteron dissociates, and the neutron and proton are ejected. The ejected neutron collides with another deuteron, accelerating it as an energetic “d*” as seen in (B) and (D). The “d*” induces either screened fusion (C) or screened Oppenheimer-Phillips (O-P) stripping reactions (E). In (C), the energetic “d*” collides with a static deuteron “d” in the lattice, and they fuse together. This fusion reaction releases either a neutron and helium-3 (shown) or a proton and tritium. These fusion products may also react in subsequent nuclear reactions, releasing more energy. In (E), a proton is stripped from an energetic “d*” and is captured by an erbium (Er) atom, which is then converted to a different element, thulium (Tm). If the neutron instead is captured by Er, a new isotope of Er is formed (not shown).

Topics: Astrophysics, NASA, Nuclear Fusion, Propulsion, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

A team of NASA researchers seeking a new energy source for deep-space exploration missions recently revealed a method for triggering nuclear fusion in the space between the atoms of a metal solid.

Their research was published in two peer-reviewed papers in the top journal in the field, Physical Review C, Volume 101 (April 2020): “Nuclear fusion reactions in deuterated metals” and “Novel nuclear reactions observed in bremsstrahlung-irradiated deuterated metals.”

Nuclear fusion is a process that produces energy when two nuclei join to form a heavier nucleus. “Scientists are interested in fusion because it could generate enormous amounts of energy without creating long-lasting radioactive byproducts,” said Theresa Benyo, Ph.D., of NASA’s Glenn Research Center. “However, conventional fusion reactions are difficult to achieve and sustain because they rely on temperatures so extreme to overcome the strong electrostatic repulsion between positively charged nuclei that the process has been impractical.

Called Lattice Confinement Fusion, the method NASA revealed accomplishes fusion reactions with the fuel (deuterium, a widely available non-radioactive hydrogen isotope composed of a proton, neutron, and electron, and denoted “D”) confined in the space between the atoms of a metal solid. In previous fusion research such as inertial confinement fusion, fuel (such as deuterium/tritium) is compressed to extremely high levels but for only a short, nano-second period of time, when fusion can occur. In magnetic confinement fusion, the fuel is heated in a plasma to temperatures much higher than those at the center of the Sun. In the new method, conditions sufficient for fusion are created in the confines of the metal lattice that is held at ambient temperature. While the metal lattice, loaded with deuterium fuel, may initially appear to be at room temperature, the new method creates an energetic environment inside the lattice where individual atoms achieve equivalent fusion-level kinetic energies.

NASA Detects Lattice Confinement Fusion

 

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Crew-1...

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Image Source: NASA

Topics: Astronautics, International Space Station, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

Happy Veteran's Day.

Expedition 1 and Crew-1. These historic International Space Station missions lifting off 20 years apart share the same goals: advancing humanity by using the space station to learn how to explore farther than ever before, while also conducting research and technology demonstrations benefiting life back on Earth.

Crew-1 made up of NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Mike Hopkins, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, continues the legacy of two decades of living and working in low-Earth orbit by becoming space scientists for the next six months.

Not only will the Crew-1 astronauts and fellow Expedition 64 NASA astronaut Kate Rubins conduct hundreds of microgravity studies during their mission, but they also deliver new science hardware and experiments carried to space with them inside Crew Dragon.

Check out some of the research flying to the space station alongside Crew-1, and scientific investigations the astronauts will work on during their stay aboard the orbiting laboratory.

  • Food Physiology: A better diet for better health
  • Genes in Space-7: A look at astronauts’ brains
  • Plant Habitat-02: Growing radishes in space
  • BioAsteroid: Microscopic microgravity miners
  • Tissue Chips: Using space to study organs
  • Cardinal Heart: An experiment with heart
  • SERFE: Testing a cool spacesuit

Crew-1 Heads to Space Station to Conduct Microgravity Science, Erin Winick, International Space Station Program Research Office, Johnson Space Center

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One Small Step...

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Topics: Moonbase, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight, Star Trek

Cultural references: Neil Armstrong's quote: "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," and the title of a Star Trek Voyager episode, season 6, episode 8.

On August 4, 1972, the sun unleashed an incandescent whip of energy from its surface and flung it toward the planets. It was accompanied by a seething cloud of plasma called a coronal mass ejection, which traversed the nearly 150 million kilometers between sun and Earth in just more than half a day—still the fastest-known arrival time for such outbursts—to briefly bathe our planet in a cosmic fire.

Earth’s shielding magnetosphere crumpled and shrunk by two thirds, sending powerful geomagnetic currents rippling through the planet. Dazzling displays of “northern lights” stretched down to Spain, and overloaded power lines strained as far south as Texas. Off the southern coast of Haiphong, North Vietnam, the seas churned as the celestial disturbance prematurely detonated some two dozen U.S. Navy sea mines. The geomagnetic storm is one of the most violent solar events in recorded history, certainly the most violent of the space age.

The astronauts of Apollo 16 had been home about three months from their lunar foray, and those of Apollo 17 were still preparing for their December launch. The fact that the solar outburst happened between the penultimate and final crewed moon missions was simply a matter of chance. If the members of either crew had been in space during the solar storm, especially if they had been traversing the portion of the “cislunar” region between Earth and the moon that lies outside the magnetosphere, they would have been exposed to a potentially deadly dose of radiation.

We got lucky in 1972. And in terms of space-based hazards, that luck has largely held throughout humanity’s off-world excursions. To date, the only humans to actually die in space were the three cosmonauts of Soyuz 11, who asphyxiated because of faulty hardware as their spacecraft began its descent to Earth. Yet despite what most estimates would seem to consider a near-sterling safety record, today the prospect of venturing back beyond low-Earth orbit somehow seems more daunting—more dangerous—than it did when the Apollo program ended. Equipped with more knowledge than ever about the environs beyond our home, we now seem more reluctant to leave it. Maybe we know too much.

Can a Moon Base be Safe for Astronauts? Rebecca Boyle, Scientific American

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4G on the Moon...

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Topics: Cellular Service, Moonbase, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

Telecom equipment supplier Nokia will use a $14.1 million grant to build the moon's first wireless network as part of NASA's plans to establish a human presence there.

NASA is investing the money in Nokia-owned American research company Bell Labs, which will build the 4G-LTE network, it said on Wednesday, October 14.

The improved data transmission will help astronauts control lunar rovers, navigate lunar geography in real-time, and stream videos.

The mission ultimately will help show whether it's possible to have "human habitation on the moon," Bell Labs said.

NASA gave Nokia $14.1 million to build a 4G network on the moon, Grace Dean, Business Insider

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SABRE...

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Courtesy: Reaction Engines

 

Topics: Aerodynamics, ESA, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

 

The pursuit, exploration, and utilization of the space environment can be misinterpreted as a luxury. History portrays space as an exclusive domain for global powers looking to demonstrate their prowess through technological marvels, or the stage for far-off exploration and scientific endeavor with little impact on daily life. However, the benefits of space are already woven into our everyday routines and provide utilities and resources on which society has grown dependent. If these were suddenly to disappear and the world was to experience just “a day without space”, the consequences would be evident to all.

 

The utilization of space is set to become more important still. A new vision for the future is starting to emerge that will feature even more innovative uses of space, ranging from space-based manufacturing and energy production to global Internet connectivity. Space-debris management is also receiving greater focus alongside lunar and Martian exploration, and even space tourism.

 

While some of these new innovations may sound like they are confined to the realm of science fiction, there are already companies furthering the technology to turn them into reality.

 

Conventional rocket vehicles are propelled by a fuel (liquid hydrogen, kerosene, or methane) and an oxidizer (liquid oxygen) carried within the vehicle body. When the fuel and oxidizer combust, mass is projected out of the back of the rocket, creating thrust. However, this approach – and especially the use of heavy onboard liquid oxygen – is constrained by Tsiolkovsky’s rocket equation. It basically tells us that everything carried onboard a vehicle has a penalty in the form of the additional propellant, and structural mass of the vehicle needed to get it off the ground. In other words, this approach hampers mission performance, mission payload, and mission time.

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A concept image of the Reaction Engine’s Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE).

 

SABRE, on the other hand, is a hybrid air-breathing rocket engine. During the atmospheric segment of its ascent, it will use oxygen from the atmosphere instead of carrying it inside the vehicle, before switching to onboard oxygen upon leaving the atmosphere. A SABRE-powered launch vehicle will therefore have a lower mass for a given payload than a conventional rocket vehicle. This mass benefit can be traded for systems that will enable reusability and aircraft-like traits, such as wings, undercarriage, and thermal-protection systems – all the features needed to fly the same vehicle over and over again, achieving hundreds of launches.

 

Air-breathing rocket engines: the future of space flight, Oliver Nailard, Physics World

 

 

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Starliner...

The CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to be flown on Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT)

The CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to be flown on Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT) is viewed Nov. 2, 2019, while undergoing launch preparations inside the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Credits: Boeing

Topics: NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

NASA and Boeing continue to make progress toward the company’s second uncrewed flight test of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft prior to flying astronauts to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The Commercial Crew Program currently is targeting no earlier than December 2020 for launch of the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) pending hardware readiness, flight software qualification, and launch vehicle and space station manifest priorities.

Over the summer, Boeing’s Starliner team focused on readying the next spacecraft for its upcoming flight tests as well as making improvements identified during various review processes throughout the beginning of the year. NASA also announced an additional crew assignment for its first operational mission, NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1, with astronauts to the space station. Here’s more on the recent progress:

Starliner Progress

Teams from Boeing are well into final assembly of the crew and service modules that will fly OFT-2 to the space station inside of the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. OFT-2 will fly a new, reusable Starliner crew module providing additional on-orbit experience for the operational teams prior to flying missions with astronauts. For Boeing’s Commercial Crew missions, the Starliner spacecraft will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

With the majority of assembly complete, recent progress is focused on the NASA docking system re-entry cover, which was added to the design for additional protection of the system. The team also has completed the installation of the Starliner propellant heater, thermal protection system tiles and the air bags that will be used when the spacecraft touches down for landing. As final production activities continue to progress, the crew module recently entered acceptance testing, which will prove out the systems on the spacecraft before it’s mated with its service module.

Boeing’s Starliner Makes Progress Ahead of Flight Test with Astronauts, NASA

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Perseverance...

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Image Source: NASA.gov

Topics: Mars, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

After years of anticipation, NASA hopes to launch its latest robotic explorer, Perseverance, to Mars on Thursday, July 30, at 7:50 A.M. EDT. Set to depart Earth atop an Atlas V-541 rocket from historic Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the ambitious rover is the latest in a long lineage of rolling robotic explorers that NASA has sent to the Red Planet.

If Mars 2020 is not able to blast off during its two-hour launch window tomorrow morning — due to hazardous weather or unforeseen technical issues — the space agency will have just two more weeks to get it done. That’s because after August 15, Mars and Earth will no longer be aligned in a way that allows for quick interplanetary travel, meaning NASA would have to store the rover for two years until the next favorable alignment.

“We have four objectives,” Ken Williford, Deputy Project Scientist for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, told Astronomy earlier this year. “The first three are really our core science objectives. And the fourth is … preparing for human exploration.”

Perseverance’s science objects are: seeking out sites that were potentially habitable in the past, looking for signs of ancient microbes within rocks known to preserve life, and collecting and storing promising rock samples for a future return mission.

Mars 2020 Launch: NASA's Perseverance Rover Ready for Journey to the Red Planet, Jake Parks, Discovery Magazine

NASA: Perseverance

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Splashdowns and Pandemics...

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"Good Trouble"... The Griot Poet, image source Smithsonian Magazine

 

Topics: Civil Rights, International Space Station, John Robert Lewis, NASA, STEM

This will be the first splashdown that's occurred in a while, but particularly during a global pandemic and the internment of a legend. It was germane during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. The Space Shuttle brought to mind the CGI and FX ease of take offs and landings in Science Fiction movies, regardless of genre: somehow massive spaceships can magically levitate, and "ease" into orbit without accelerating to escape velocity in a planet's gravity well.

Today, we're laying to rest a civil rights icon, John Robert Lewis. He was BLM before the Internet and hashtag. He was notorious for getting in "good trouble," leading a sit-in on the House floor - breaking rules for twenty children and six adults slaughtered at Sandy Hook, for what he and Dr. King called "The Beloved Community." Like moonshots, that was "conspiracy theorized" away, callously, but revelatory of how depraved this republic was before this current moment. Hopefully, the citizens of Alabama will rename the bridge currently carrying the name of a confederate traitor and Klan grand dragon in HIS distinct honor.

During splashdowns and pandemics: I can dream.

 

*****

NASA will provide live coverage of activities leading up to, during, and following the return of the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight with the agency’s astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley from the International Space Station.

The duo arrived at the orbiting laboratory on May 31, following a successful launch on May 30 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA and SpaceX are targeting 7:34 p.m. EDT Saturday, Aug. 1, for undocking of the Dragon “Endeavour” spacecraft from the space station and 2:42 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2, for splashdown, which will be the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the space station.

Coverage on NASA TV and the agency’s website will begin at 9:10 a.m., Aug. 1, with a short farewell ceremony on station and resume at 5:15 p.m., with departure preparations through splashdown and recovery at one of seven targeted water landing zones in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida.

All media participation in news conferences and interviews will be remote; no media will be accommodated at any NASA site due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To participate in the briefings by phone or to request a remote interview with the crew members, reporters must contact the newsroom at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston at 281-483-5111 no later than two hours prior to each event.

NASA to Provide Coverage of Astronauts’ Return from Space Station on SpaceX Commercial Crew Test Flight

#P4TC link: Dragons and Dystopias...

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Mars by Venus...

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An artist's depiction of a rocket carrying humans to Mars. (Image: © NASA/John Frassanito and Associates)

 

Topics: Mars, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

The roads of human spaceflight all seem to lead to Mars. For decades now, it's been the logical next step after the moon.

But if you're an astronaut or a cosmonaut on your way to or from Mars, you might make a surprising pit stop along the way: Venus.

A flight to (or from) Mars can happen more quickly and cheaply if it "involves a Venus flyby on the way to or on the way home from Mars," Noam Izenberg, a planetary geologist at Johns Hopkins University, told Space.com.

Izenberg is one of a number of scientists and engineers advocating that a crewed mission to Mars also visit Venus. This group of researchers has drafted a white paper on the subject, to be submitted for peer review at Acta Astronautica. According to that paper, using Venus as a stepping stone to Mars isn't just one option — it's an essential part of a crewed Mars mission.

Astronauts bound for Mars should swing by Venus first, scientists say, Rahul Rao, Space.com

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Off World Concerns...

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NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner are the next crewmembers scheduled to launch to the International Space Station.
(Image: © NASA)

 

Topics: Biology, NASA, International Space Station, Space Exploration


The procedure to ensure that astronauts don't bring an illness to the International Space Station is under evaluation as NASA enacts tactics to help slow the spread of the novel-coronavirus disease COVID-19.

Governments and agencies around the world have been enacting measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus; those measures include social distancing and quarantines for people who think they may have been exposed to the virus. But these tactics aren't new territory for NASA astronauts, who take such measures to prepare for close-quarter, secluded living that can last six months or longer.

 

With coronavirus spreading, NASA may tweak astronaut prelaunch quarantine plans
Doris Elin Urrutia, Space.com

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A Beautiful Life...

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NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson (second left) is honored onstage with actors (left to right) Janelle Monae, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer - the stars of "Hidden Figures," which focuses on Johnson's work with NASA's Mercury program - during the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. NASA astronaut Yvonne Cagle is seen standing behind Johnson
(Image: © Kevin Winter/Getty Images) Space.com

Topics: African Americans, Diversity, Diversity in Science, Nanotechnology, NASA, Women in Science


Despite segregation, setbacks and Jim Crow, Katherine Johnson is one of the many "shoulders of giants" we stand upon.

As alluded to yesterday, nanotechnology is multifaceted: molecular biology, materials science, electrical and mechanical engineering, chemistry and physics. Her specific area was applied mathematics and computer science, without which no data could be analysed post an experiment.

That's what women were called back then: computers. Computer mainframes were just beginning development, the transistor - discovered by William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Houser Brattain - was exploited to reduce payload by the nascent NASA to win the space race against the Russians who launched Sputnik. The spin off from that effort was codified in Moore's law that has given us everything from flash drives to smart phones. The foundation of all this is mathematics - paper, pencil, chalk or dry erase board. The answer sometimes has to be wrestled with and ground out. From the calculus step, one typically encounters an impressive breadth of algebra to wade through.

I particularly thought of Ms. Johnson on a MATLAB (matrix laboratory) assignment coding the Euler equation. Though daunting, my code successfully executed what I asked of it. I did it in the 21st century, where I did not have the indignity of bathrooms designated based on my skin color or gender. I have you, my sister and many other giants to thank for that.

The two things I can say that are most appropriate and respectful to Ms. Johnson's family in this time of their loss:

Thank you.
Godspeed.


HAMPTON, Va. (AP) — NASA says Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who worked on NASA’s early space missions and was portrayed in the film Hidden Figures, about pioneering black female aerospace workers, has died.

In a Monday morning tweet, the space agency said it celebrates her 101 years of life and her legacy of excellence and breaking down racial and social barriers.

 

Pioneering NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson of ‘Hidden Figures’ fame has died at 101
The Associated Press on TheGrio.com

#P4TC links:

Admiration and Gratitude...August 27, 2018
Modern Figures 28 February 2017...February 28, 2017
Katherine Johnson...February 2, 2018
Euler's Method...January 17, 2017
Hidden Figures...January 6, 2017

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Annie Easley...

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Image Source: NASA

Topics: African Americans, Computer Science, NASA, Women in Science


Ms. Easley likely did her great work with a slide rule. It's a lost art, like cursive writing.

Annie Easley had never heard of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) when she read an article about twin sisters who were “human computers” at the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory in Cleveland, Ohio. The Lab (the predecessor of the NASA Glenn Research Center) was in need of people with strong math skills, and she was in need of a job after recently relocating from Birmingham, Alabama. Two weeks after reading the article, Easley began a career that would span 34 years. She would contribute to numerous programs as a computer scientist, inspire many through her enthusiastic participation in outreach programs, break down barriers for women and people of color in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, and win the admiration and respect of her coworkers.

In 1955, Easley began her career as a “human computer,” doing computations for researchers. This involved analyzing problems and doing calculations by hand. Her earliest work involved running simulations for the newly planned Plum Brook Reactor Facility. When hired, she was one of only four African-American employees at the Lab. In a 2001 interview she said that she had never set out to be a pioneer. “I just have my own attitude. I’m out here to get the job done, and I knew I had the ability to do it, and that’s where my focus was.” Even in the face of discrimination, she persevered. “My head is not in the sand. But my thing is, if I can’t work with you, I will work around you. I was not about to be [so] discouraged that I’d walk away. That may be a solution for some people, but it’s not mine.”

When human computers were replaced by machines, Easley evolved along with the technology. She became an adept computer programmer, using languages like the Formula Translating System (FORTRAN) and the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) to support a number of NASA’s programs. She developed and implemented code used in researching energy-conversion systems, analyzing alternative power technology—including the battery technology that was used for early hybrid vehicles, as well as for the Centaur upper-stage rocket.

In the 1970s, Easley returned to school to earn her degree in mathematics from Cleveland State, doing much of her coursework while also working full time. A firm believer in education and in her mother’s advice “You can be anything you want to be, but you have to work at it,” Easley was very dedicated in her outreach efforts at NASA. She not only participated in school tutoring programs but was a very active participant in the speaker’s bureau—telling students about NASA’s work and inspiring especially female and minority students to consider STEM careers.

 

NASA biography: Annie Easley, April 23, 1933 - June 25, 2011

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