The Moon and Mercury May Have Thick Ice Deposits

Mercury (Credit: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Earth’s Moon and Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, may contain significantly more water ice than previously thought, according to a new analysis of data from NASA’s LRO and MESSENGER spacecraft.

The potential ice deposits are found in craters near the poles of both worlds. On the Moon, “We found shallow craters tend to be located in areas where surface ice was previously detected near the south pole of the Moon, and inferred this shallowing is most likely due to the presence of buried thick ice deposits,” said lead author Lior Rubanenko of the University of California, Los Angeles.

(more…)

NASA Mourns Loss of Human Spaceflight Pioneer Christopher Kraft

Chris Kraft was NASA’s first flight director and the inventor of the mission control. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., who died July 22, 2019, created the concept of NASA’s Mission Control and developed its organization, operational procedures and culture, then made it a critical element of the success of the nation’s human spaceflight programs.

“America has truly lost a national treasure today with the passing of one of NASA’s earliest pioneers – flight director Chris Kraft,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. “We send our deepest condolences to the Kraft family.

(more…)

Virgin Galactic Pilots Join 80.46-Kilometer (50-Mile) Club

Richard Branson with the pilots of SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic pilots Mark “Forger” Stucky and Frederick “C.J.” Sturckow, who were awarded civilian astronaut wings last week, are among 18 pilots who have flown suborbital flights.

The two pilots flew SpaceShipTwo Unity to an altitude of 51.4 miles (82.72 km) on Dec. 13, 2018. That accomplishment qualified them for civilian astronaut wings using an American definition that places the boundary of space at 50 miles (80.46 km).

(more…)











Electric Blue Thrusters Propelling BepiColombo to Mercury

Twin ion thrusters firing (Credit: QinetiQ)

PARIS (ESA PR) — In mid-December, twin discs will begin glowing blue on the underside of a minibus-sized spacecraft in deep space. At that moment Europe and Japan’s BepiColombo mission will have just come a crucial step closer to Mercury.

(more…)











BepiColombo Blasts Off to Explore the Mysteries of Mercury

BepiColombo liftoff (Credit: ESA-CNES-Arianespace)

KOUROU, French Guiana, 20 October 2018 (ESA PR) — The ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury blasted off on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou at 01:45:28 GMT on 20 October on its exciting mission to study the mysteries of the Solar System’s innermost planet.

Signals from the spacecraft, received at ESA’s control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, via the New Norcia ground tracking station at 02:21 GMT confirmed that the launch was successful.

(more…)











Video: An Overview of the BepiColumbo Mission to Mercury

Video Caption: BepiColombo is scheduled for launch at 01:45 GMT (03:45 CEST) on 20 October on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou.

Final assembly of the two orbiters and transfer module has taken place, ready for the spacecraft to be integrated into its Ariane 5 launcher.

BepiColombo is Europe’s first mission to Mercury, the smallest and least explored planet in the inner Solar System. It is a joint endeavour between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, and consists of two scientific orbiters: ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO).

The mission will study all aspects of Mercury, from the structure and dynamics of its magnetosphere and how it interacts with the solar wind, to its internal structure with its large iron core, and the origin of the planet’s magnetic field.











ESA to Launch BepiColombo Mission to Mercury on Saturday

The Mercury Planetary Orbiter (left) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, with a sunshade module at center. (Credit: ESA)

KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — Watch live as the ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury is launched on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

BepiColombo is the first European mission to Mercury, the smallest and least explored planet in the inner Solar System. It is the first Mercury mission to send two science orbiters to make complementary measurements of the planet’s dynamic environment at the same time.

A third module will transport the orbiters on the seven year cruise to Mercury, using a combination of solar electric propulsion and nine gravity assist flybys at Earth, Venus and Mercury.

Schedule
Saturday, October 20, 2018
(Times Subject to Change)

03:15 CEST [09:15 p.m. EDT on Friday] Start of live transmission
03:45 CEST [09:45 p.m. EDT on Friday] Liftoff, followed by confirmation of acquisition of signal, expected around 40 minutes after launch
04:30 CEST [10:30 p.m. EDT on Friday] End of live transmission











JAXA-ESA Joint Statement concerning the bilateral cooperation

ESA Director General Prof. Johann-Dietrich Woerner and JAXA President Naoki Okumura. (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — On March 3, 2018, on the occasion of the International Space Exploration Forum (ISEF2), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) held an Inter-Agency Meeting to discuss furthering their bilateral cooperation. In the meeting JAXA and ESA announced a joint statement concerning the results of the studies of the Joint Working Groups established last May and future collaboration between the two agencies.

(more…)











ESA Looks Ahead to Busy Year in Space

Video Caption: After a fruitful 2017 with many exciting launches and the end of some historic missions, ESA is ready for the year to come.

2018 will see the 10th anniversary of the International Space Station’s Columbus module and an ESA astronaut taking the helm of the ISS as commander.

There will be more launches of new Earth observation and exploration satellites and ESA will venture to the innermost planet in our Solar System.

2018 will also mark the completion of the first part of the Copernicus constellation observing the Earth and of the full Galileo constellation, Europe’s own satellite navigation system.











Some Rocket Launches to Watch in 2018

The world’s most powerful booster is set to make a flight test sometime in January. If all goes well, 27 first stage engines will power the new booster off Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The three first stage cores will peel off and land for later reuse while the second stage continues into space.

(more…)











Missions to Moon, Mars, Mercury & More Set for 2018

This artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

Updated with SpaceX’s Red Tesla launch.

An international fleet of spacecraft will be launched in 2018 to explore the Moon, Mars, Mercury and the Sun. Two sample-return spacecraft will enter orbit around asteroids while a third spacecraft will be launched to search for asteroids that contain water that can be mined.

NASA will also launch its next exoplanet hunting spacecraft in March. And the space agency will ring in 2019 with the first ever flyby of a Kuiper Belt object.

And, oh yes, Elon Musk is launching his car in the direction of Mars.
(more…)











A Niche in Time: First Flight

Richard Branson addresses the crowd before SpaceShipTwo’s glide flight. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Part 5 of 5

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The morning of Dec. 3, 2016, began like so many others in Mojave. The first rays of dawn gave way to a brilliant sunrise that revealed a cloudless, clear blue sky over California’s High Desert.

This was hardly newsworthy. For most of the year, Mojave doesn’t really have weather, just temperatures and wind speeds. It had been literally freezing overnight; the mercury was at a nippy 28º F (-2.2º C) at 4 a.m. As for Mojave’s famous winds – an enemy of roofs, trees and big rigs, but the lifeblood of thousands of wind turbines that cover the landscape west of town – there really weren’t any. It was basically a flat calm.

In other words, it was a perfect day to fly.

(more…)











A Niche in Time: “Lock the doors”

Debris is visible coming from the left wing of Columbia about two minutes before the shuttle broke up. The image was taken at Starfire Optical Range at Kirtland Air Force Base.

Part 3 of 5

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The space shuttle Columbia glowed brightly as it streaked across the predawn skies of the western United States on Feb 1, 2003. Decelerating from an orbital speed of 28,165 km/hr (17,500 miles/hr) at an altitude of 70,165 m (230,200 ft), the shuttle and its seven crew members were enveloped in super heated plasma as they descended deeper into the thickening atmosphere on their return from a 16-day science mission.

Three observers on the ground who were filming the fiery reentry suddenly noticed something odd. There was a sudden flash on the orbiter, and then bright objects streaked behind the ship and burned up.

“Look at the chunks coming off that,” one shouted. “What the heck is that?”

“I don’t know,” his friend replied.

(more…)











A Look at the History of Suborbital Spaceflight

Neil Armstrong with the X-15 on the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

With Richard Branson once again predicting that Virgin Galactic will fly SpaeShipTwo into space before the end of the year, it seems like a good time to take a look at the history of suborbital spaceflight.

The number of manned suborbital flights varies depending upon the definition you use. The internationally recognized boundary is 100 km (62.1 miles), which is also known as the Karman line. The U.S. Air Force awarded astronaut wings to any pilot who exceeded 80.5 km (50 miles).

(more…)











Charlie Bolden’s Statement on Passing of John Glenn

President Barack Obama presents former United States Marine Corps pilot, astronaut, and United States Senator John Glenn with a Medal of Freedom, Tuesday, May 29, 2012, during a ceremony at the White House in Washington. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
President Barack Obama presents former United States Marine Corps pilot, astronaut, and United States Senator John Glenn with a Medal of Freedom, Tuesday, May 29, 2012, during a ceremony at the White House in Washington. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the passing of Sen. John Glenn:

“Today, the first American to orbit the Earth, NASA astronaut and Ohio Senator John Glenn, passed away. We mourn this tremendous loss for our nation and the world. As one of NASA’s original Mercury 7 astronauts, Glenn’s riveting flight aboard Friendship 7 on Feb. 20, 1962, united our nation, launched America to the forefront of the space race, and secured for him a unique place in the annals of history.

“While that first orbit was the experience of a lifetime, Glenn, who also had flown combat missions in both World War II and the Korean War as a Marine aviator, continued to serve his country as a four-term Senator from Ohio, as a trusted statesman, and an educator. In 1998, at the age of 77, he became the oldest human to venture into space as a crew member on the Discovery space shuttle — once again advancing our understanding of living and working in space.

“He earned many honors for both his military and public service achievements. In 2012, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor the country can bestow, and he also received the Congressional Gold Medal.

“Glenn’s extraordinary courage, intellect, patriotism and humanity were the hallmarks of a life of greatness. His missions have helped make possible everything our space program has since achieved and the human missions to an asteroid and Mars that we are striving toward now.

“With all his accomplishments, he was always focused on the young people of today, who would soon lead the world. ‘The most important thing we can do is inspire young minds and advance the kind of science, math and technology education that will help youngsters take us to the next phase of space travel,’ he said. ‘To me, there is no greater calling … If I can inspire young people to dedicate themselves to the good of mankind, I’ve accomplished something.’

“Senator Glenn’s legacy is one of risk and accomplishment, of history created and duty to country carried out under great pressure with the whole world watching. The entire NASA Family will be forever grateful for his outstanding service, commitment and friendship. Personally, I shall miss him greatly. As a fellow Marine and aviator, he was a mentor, role model and, most importantly, a dear friend.  My prayers go out to his lovely and devoted wife, Annie, and the entire Glenn family at this time of their great loss.”

For more information about Glenn’s NASA career, and his agency biography, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/johnglenn