NASA Updates Planetary Protection Policies for Robotic and Human Missions to Earth’s Moon and Future Human Missions to Mars

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its panoramic camera to record this eastward horizon view on the 2,407th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Oct. 31, 2010). (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has released two NASA Interim Directives (NIDs) updating the agency’s requirements for robotic and human missions traveling to the Earth’s Moon, and human missions traveling to Mars.

The first, NID 8715.128, addresses the control of forward terrestrial biological contamination associated with all NASA and NASA-affiliated missions intended to land, orbit, or otherwise encounter the Moon.

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House Subcommittee Sticks a Fork in Trump’s 2024 Moon Landing Plan

Illustration of Artemis astronauts on the Moon. (Credits: NASA)

A House subcommittee has rejected the 12 percent increase in NASA’s budget that the Trump Administration says is necessary to send astronauts back to the surface of the moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis program.

The House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee approved a bill today that would keep the space agency’s budget flat at $22.6 billion. The Trump Administration has requested a 12 percent increase to $25.2 billion.

The subcommittee approved only $628.2 million of the $3.37 billion requested for the crucial Human Landing System needed to take astronauts to the surface.

In a statement, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tried to look on the bright side and said he would take the fight for Artemis to the Senate.

“I want to thank the House Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee for the bipartisan support they have show NASA’s Artemis program. The $628.2 million in funding for the human landing system (HLS) is an important first step in this year’s appropriations process. We still have more to do and I look forward to working with the Senate to ensure America has the resources to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024.”

The Republican-led Senate has been more supportive of Trump’s 2024 landing date. Democrats who control the House favor a return to the moon in 2028.

If the recent past is any guide, NASA will enter the 2021 fiscal year on Oct. 1 without new budget. Instead, the agency and the rest of the government will operate for months on a continuous resolution that keeps spending at FY 2020 levels.

NASA Names Headquarters After ‘Hidden Figure’ Mary W. Jackson

Mary Winston Jackson (1921–2005) successfully overcame the barriers of segregation and gender bias to become a professional aerospace engineer and leader in ensuring equal opportunities for future generations. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Wednesday the agency’s headquarters building in Washington, D.C., will be named after Mary W. Jackson, the first African American female engineer at NASA.

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NASA to Release RFI for Astronauts to Fly on New Shepard, SpaceShipTwo

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine floated this idea during the Next-generation Suborbital Researchers Conference back in March. They’re clearly moving forward with it.

Bridenstine has mentioned that NASA needed some sort of plan to certify the vehicles. It will be interesting to see what the space agency will require of Blue Origin’s New Shepard and Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo before conducting any astronaut training on the suborbital systems.

The vehicles can provide several minutes of continuous weightless as well as experience in rocket-powered acceleration and re-entry.

Astronauts train aboard aircraft flying parabolic arcs that provide about 25 seconds of microgravity at a time. NASA contracts for training with Zero Gravity Corporation, which uses a modified Boeing 727.

The Launch Is Approaching for NASA’s Next Mars Rover, Perseverance

In a clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, engineers observed the first driving test for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover on Dec. 17, 2019. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Red Planet’s surface has been visited by eight NASA spacecraft. The ninth will be the first that includes gathering Mars samples for future return to Earth. 

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover is just over a month from its July 20 targeted launch date. The rover’s astrobiology mission will seek signs of past microscopic life on Mars, explore the geology of the Jezero Crater landing site, and demonstrate key technologies to help prepare for future robotic and human exploration. And the rover will do all that while collecting the first samples of Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) for return to Earth by a set of future missions.

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NASA to Host Teleconference with New Human Exploration Leader

Kathryn Lueders

WASHIGNTON (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will host a media teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 18, to introduce Kathy Lueders, the newly selected associate administrator of the agency’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

Audio of the teleconference will stream live online at:

https://www.nasa.gov/live

Prior to her appointment as the head of NASA’s human spaceflight office, Lueders served as the program manager for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Since 2014, she has worked with private industry to develop, test and fly next-generation American human space transportation systems to low-Earth orbit, including to the International Space Station.

For information about NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/heo/index.html

Kathy Lueders Selected to Lead NASA’s Human Spaceflight Office

Kathryn Lueders

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Friday selected Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders to be the agency’s next associate administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate. Since 2014, Lueders has directed NASA’s efforts to send astronauts to space on private spacecraft, which culminated in the successful launch of Demo-2 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30.

“Kathy gives us the extraordinary experience and passion we need to continue to move forward with Artemis and our goal of landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024,” said Bridenstine. “She has a deep interest in developing commercial markets in space, dating back to her initial work on the space shuttle program. From Commercial Cargo and now Commercial Crew, she has safely and successfully helped push to expand our nation’s industrial base. Kathy’s the right person to extend the space economy to the lunar vicinity and achieve the ambitious goals we’ve been given.”

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NASA Selects Astrobotic to Fly Water-Hunting VIPER Rover to the Moon

NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is a mobile robot that will roam around the Moon’s south pole looking for water ice. The VIPER mission will give us surface-level detail of where the water is and how much is available for us to use. (Credit: NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded Astrobotic of Pittsburgh $199.5 million to deliver NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the Moon’s South Pole in late 2023.

The water-seeking mobile VIPER robot will help pave the way for astronaut missions to the lunar surface beginning in 2024 and will bring NASA a step closer to developing a sustainable, long-term presence on the Moon as part of the agency’s Artemis program.

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NASA Awards Northrop Grumman Artemis Contract for Gateway Crew Cabin

Artist’s concept of the Gateway power and propulsion and Habitation and Logistics Outpost, or HALO, in orbit around the Moon. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has finalized the contract for the initial crew module of the agency’s Gateway lunar orbiting outpost.

Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Virginia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Space, has been awarded $187 million to design the habitation and logistics outpost (HALO) for the Gateway, which is part of NASA’s Artemis program and will help the agency build a sustainable presence at the Moon. This award funds HALO’s design through its preliminary design review, expected by the end of 2020.

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NASA Updates Coverage for Crew Dragon Launch on Saturday

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken, wearing SpaceX spacesuits, are seen in the Tesla taking them to the launch pad for a dress rehearsal of their upcoming flight. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA will provide live coverage of prelaunch and launch activities for the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station.

NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 3:22 p.m. EDT Saturday, May 30, for the launch of the first commercially built and operated American rocket and spacecraft carrying astronauts to the space station. The first launch attempt, on May 27, was scrubbed due to unfavorable weather conditions.

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Kelly Clarkson to Sing National Anthem at Crew Dragon Launch

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken, wearing SpaceX spacesuits, are seen in the Tesla taking them to the launch pad for a dress rehearsal of their upcoming flight. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA will provide live coverage of prelaunch and launch activities for the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight on Wednesday, May 27, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station.

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NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Briefings, Events and Broadcasts

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken practice extraction from a Crew Dragon capsule. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA will provide coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 flight test with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station. The mission is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which is working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011.

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Discovery & Science Channels to Provide Live Coverage of Crew Dragon Launch

On Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20, SpaceX teams in Firing Room 4 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the company’s Mission Control in Hawthorne, California, along with NASA flight controllers in Mission Control Houston, executed a full simulation of launch and docking of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken (left) and Doug Hurley participating in SpaceX’s flight simulator. (Credits: SpaceX)

‘SPACE LAUNCH LIVE: AMERICA RETURNS TO SPACE,’ a Multiplatform Event, to Simulcast Live Coast to Coast on Wednesday, May 27, at 2 PM ET/11 AM PT on Discovery and Science Channel

All-Star Line-up of Celebrity Guests Include Global Superstar KATY PERRY, TV and Internet Personality Adam Savage, Former NASA Engineer and YouTube Phenom Mark Rober, Among Others

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Head of NASA Human Spaceflight Resigns on Eve of SpaceX Crew Dragon Flight

Douglas Loverro (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The head of NASA’s human spaceflight program has resigned three days before a flight readiness review (FRR) for the first human spaceflight from U.S. soil in nearly nine years.

Douglas Loverro, associate administrator for the human exploration and operations (HEO), resigned on Monday — nine days before a Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley and aboard is scheduled to be launched by a Falcon 9 rocket on May 27.

Loverro, who took on the job in December, was to have presided over a two-day review set to begin this Thursday on whether to go ahead with the crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Loverro would have made the final go/no decision.

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Roscosmos Official: U.S.-Russian Space Cooperation Deteriorating

Roscosmos boss Dmitry Rogozin meets with Russia’s boss of bosses, President Vladimir Putin. (Credit: Russian President’s Office)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin is apparently U.S. President Donald Trump’s favorite autocratic ruler, cooperation between the two nations on future space projects are breaking down, a high-ranking Roscosmos official said.

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