Astrobotic Wins NASA Research Contract to Target Landings on Icy, Outer Planet Moons

Astrobotic will develop software to help spacecraft on possible future missions land near unmapped or dynamic scientific targets in the solar system, including close the south pole of Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus. The Cassini spacecraft captured images showing plumes erupting from the moon’s surface (left) during multiple fly-bys of the moon. Scientists believe these plumes are the result of active thermal processes occurring in a salty, subsurface, global ocean (artist’s concept, right). (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic PR) – Today Astrobotic announced a program to study advanced navigation techniques that could allow the next generation of spacecraft to target landings at some of the most interesting scientific destinations in the solar system.

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Mars Virtual Reality Software Wins NASA Award

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, right, and Erisa Hines of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, try out the Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headset during a preview of “Destination: Mars” at Kennedy Space Center visitor complex in Florida. Based on OnSight, a tool created by JPL, “Destination: Mars” lets guests experience Mars with holographic versions of Aldrin and Hines as guides. (Credits: NASA/Charles Babir)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — A mixed-reality software that allows scientists and engineers to virtually walk on Mars recently received NASA’s 2018 Software of the Year Award.

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Recycling in Space: Waste Handling in a Microgravity Environment Challenge

NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Expedition 30 flight engineer, is pictured among stowage bags in the Harmony node of the International Space Station. The bags, containing trash and excessed equipment, will be transferred to the docked Progress 45 spacecraft for disposal. The unpiloted ISS Progress 45 supply vehicle is scheduled to undock from the space station on Jan. 24, 2011. (Credit: NASA)

By Leejay Lockhart
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA, in partnership with NineSigma, is seeking new ideas to facilitate recycling in space, through a crowdsourcing challenge as part of the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL). The Recycling in Space Challenge is an opportunity for the public to submit proposals for components capable of storing and transferring trash to a thermal processing unit.

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Still No Word From NASA’s Opportunity Rover on Mars

Opportunity’s panoramic camera (Pancam) took the component images for this view from a position outside Endeavor Crater during the span of June 7 to June 19, 2017. Toward the right side of this scene is a broad notch in the crest of the western rim of crater. (Credits: NASA/JPL (Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.)

NASA Mission Update
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, Calif.

Updated at 2:15 p.m. PDT on Oct. 11, 2018

One month since increasing their commanding frequency, engineers have yet to hear from NASA’s Opportunity rover.

NASA hasn’t set any deadlines for the mission but will be briefed later this month on the progress and prospects for the recovery campaign being carried out at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

JPL engineers are employing a combination of listening and commanding methods in case Opportunity is still operational. It’s possible that a layer of dust deposited on the rover’s solar panels by the recent global dust storm is blocking sunlight that could recharge its batteries. No one can tell just how much dust has been deposited on its panels.

A windy period on Mars — known to Opportunity’s team as “dust-clearing season” — occurs in the November-to-January time frame and has helped clean the rover’s panels in the past. The team remains hopeful that some dust clearing may result in hearing from the rover in this period.

Opportunity has exceeded its expected lifespan many times over. Both Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, were designed to last only 90 days on the Martian surface, with the expectation that the planet’s extreme winters and dust storms could cut their mission short. The rover has lasted nearly 15 years: It last communicated on June 10 before being forced into hibernation by the growing dust storm.

JAXA Postpones Hayabusa2 Landing on Asteroid Ryugu

Image of Ryugu captured by the ONC-T at an altitude of about 64m. Image was taken on September 21, 2018 at around 13:04 JST.This is the highest resolution photograph obtained of the surface of Ryugu. Bottom left is a large boulder. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, Aizu University, AIST).

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — On the basis of the recent observations and operations in the vicinity of asteroid Ryugu by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft, the project team have decided to postpone the touchdown (TD) from the end of October this year (2018) to after January next year.

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Virgin Galactic Entering Next Phase of SpaceShipTwo Flight Tests

View of SpaceShipTwo Unity from the tail boom. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SpaceNews has an update on Virgin Galactic’s progress in testing SpaceShipTwo Unity.

Speaking at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight here Oct. 10, George Whitesides, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said he expected at least one more powered flight test of the vehicle before the end of this year.

“We’re entering into the next phase of our test flight program,” he said. “The next phase of flight will entail longer burns and higher duration, and that’s exciting for the team.”

Not all of those flights, though, will involve flights that go higher and faster. “We’ll do a variety of different things as we expand the envelope and try to understand abort scenarios and other things,” he said. “We have a lot of work still to go, but we’re making good progress.”

You might recall that the previous test flight in July the suborbital vehicle fired its engine for 42 seconds and reached an altitude of 170,800 ft, which are both records for the program.

Roscosmos Continues Investigation into Aborted Soyuz Launch

Soyuz MS-10 launch Photo (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The video recorder and telemetry data of Soyuz-FG, which suffered an accident during the launch on Thursday, October 11, were delivered to RSC Energia for studying and forming conclusions. The results of the analysis will be transferred to the commission established to investigate the incident.

Roscosmos is in constant contact with NASA on the issue of sending an American cargo ship to the ISS in the event of such a need.

On Sunday, October 14, parts of all levels of Soyuz-FG, which crashed during launch on Thursday, October 11, will be delivered to the Samara enterprise of the RCC Progress center (manufacturer of launch vehicles of the Soyuz family).

At the beginning of the next week, the flight testing commission will begin work at RCC Progress, which will study fragments of the stages of an emergency launch vehicle to form a further conclusion.

Roscosmos plans to speed up the preparation of a new launch vehicle in order to decide as soon as possible on the schedule for further launches. The decision on the schedule will be made immediately after permission is given for the further operation of the launch vehicles of this family.

Editor’s Note: Investigators have zeroed in on the side boosters. Based on photos of the flight, it appears one of them failed to separate as planned and hit the booster in the middle.

Former NASA Astronaut & Armstrong Research Pilot Rick Searfoss Passes Away

Rick Searfoss

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Former NASA research pilot and astronaut Richard “Rick” Searfoss died Sept. 29 at his home in Bear Valley Springs, California. He was 62.

Searfoss, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, served as a research pilot in the flight crew branch at NASA Dryden (now Armstrong) Flight Research Center in California from July 2001 to February 2003, having brought with him over 5,000 hours of military flying and 939 hours in space.

He flew on three space flights, onboard space shuttles Columbia and Atlantis, logging 39 days in space. Searfoss was the pilot for his first two space missions, STS-58 and STS-76, landing both times at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Once at Dryden, medical staff was standing by for the astronauts as well as personnel who supported the NASA convoy team in preparing the shuttle for its return ferry flight to Florida.

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Luxembourg, Poland Sign MOU on Space Cooperation

LUXEMBOURG CITY (Luxembourg Government PR) — The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, represented by the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Economy, Étienne Schneider, and the Republic of Poland, represented by the Minister of Entrepreneurship and Technology, Jadwiga Emilewicz, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to start bilateral cooperation on space activities with particular focus on the exploration and utilization of space resources. The five-year MoU covers the exchange of information and expertise in the areas of space technologies, policy, law and regulation.

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Video: Cast, Crew Discuss First Man Movie About Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong

Video Caption: The cast and crew of Universal’s feature film First Man reflect on the story of Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 moon landing, one of NASA’s most notable figures and one of the agency’s crowning achievements. They also note their visits to NASA and working with the agency’s staff in the production of the film. NASA provided our historical expertise, footage and imagery, plus allowed for filming access at our facilities.

Film footage provided courtesy of Universal Pictures.

NASA Helps Bring Story of Historic Moon Landing, Neil Armstrong to Younger Generations

(Left) The crew of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, led by mission Commander Neil Armstrong, leave the Kennedy Space Center’s Manned Spacecraft Operations Building during the prelaunch countdown on July 16, 1969. Armstrong is followed by crewmates Michael Collins, command module pilot, and Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot. (Right) A still image from the 2018 Universal Pictures movie First Man, filmed at the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, depicts this scene with actor Ryan Gosling portraying Armstrong. (Credits: NASA/Universal Pictures)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — The first steps on the Moon – fueled by a national will to excel – marked a turning point for America and humanity as a whole. At the core of that historic moment, however, lay the story of one man whose strength, perseverance and personal conviction brought him to the moment his foot would leave the indelible and iconic imprint on the lunar surface.

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Update on the Hubble Space Telescope Safe Mode

Hubble Space Telescope (Credit: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA continues to work toward resuming science operations of the Hubble Space Telescope after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyroscope (gyro) on Friday, Oct. 5.

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Senate Confirms Morhard as NASA Deputy Administrator

The Senate has confirmed James Morhard as NASA deputy administrator on Friday. Morhard had been serving as the Senate deputy sergeant at arms.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine issued the following statement about the confirmation:

“Congratulations to Jim Morhard! He was confirmed as the 14th Deputy Administrator of NASA on Thursday, Oct. 11.

“He joins our amazing agency at a crucial time in history. NASA is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, and I look forward to working with him as we look towards NASA’s next 60 years. His legislative and managerial talents will serve NASA well as we accomplish stunning achievements.” 

Astronaut, Cosmonaut Safe After Abort During Launch to International Space Station

Expedition 57 Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, left, and Flight Engineer Nick Hague of NASA, right. embrace their families after landing at the Krayniy Airport, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (NASA PR) — American astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin are resting comfortably in the city of Baikonur, Kazakhstan, after an anomaly occurred shortly after their launch.

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NASA Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 7

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — On Oct. 11, 1968, NASA launched its first crewed Apollo mission, which paved the way for the moon landing less than a year later.

The Apollo 7 crew was commanded by Walter Schirra, with Command Module Pilot Donn Eisele, and Lunar Module Pilot Walter Cunningham. The mission consisted of an 11-day Earth-orbital test flight to test the Apollo command and service module. It was also the first time a crew flew on the Saturn IB rocket.

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