NASA Tipping Point Partnership with Blue Origin to Test Precision Lunar Landing Technologies

by Clare Skelly
NASA Headquarters

WASHINGTON — From the rim of Shackleton crater to permanently shadowed regions on the Moon, a NASA-developed sensor suite could allow robotic and crewed missions to land precisely on the lunar surface within an area about half the size of a football field.

Technologies to enable exact and soft landings on the Moon and other worlds will fly on Blue Origin’s next New Shepard suborbital rocket launch, currently targeted for 11:00 a.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 24. The company’s live launch webcast will start at 10:30 a.m. and air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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United Arab Emirates Astronauts to Train at NASA’s Johnson Space Center Under New Agreement

UAE astronauts Sultan AlNeyadi and Hazzaa AlMansoori. (Credits: Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA has signed a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to train UAE astronauts on International Space Station systems at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston later this year.

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NASA Technology Enables Precision Landing Without a Pilot

The New Shepard (NS) booster lands after this vehicle’s fifth flight during NS-11 May 2, 2019. (Credits: Blue Origin)

by Margo Pierce
NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate

Some of the most interesting places to study in our solar system are found in the most inhospitable environments – but landing on any planetary body is already a risky proposition. With NASA planning robotic and crewed missions to new locations on the Moon and Mars, avoiding landing on the steep slope of a crater or in a boulder field is critical to helping ensure a safe touch down for surface exploration of other worlds. In order to improve landing safety, NASA is developing and testing a suite of precise landing and hazard-avoidance technologies.

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NASA Selects Catherine Koerner as Orion Program Manager

Catherine Koerner (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Catherine Koerner as manager of the agency’s Orion Program. In this role, she will be responsible for the development and operations of NASA’s newest spacecraft that will carry astronauts on Artemis missions to the Moon and return them safely to Earth. Koerner begins her new position effective Tuesday, Sept. 8.

“I’m honored to be selected as the Orion Program Manager. Orion is a key element of the agency’s Artemis infrastructure, and I look forward to leading the team responsible for developing and building America’s deep space human spacecraft,” Koerner said. “Next year we’ll be launching the Artemis I test flight – a major milestone – and the first of the Artemis mission series on our way to putting the first woman and the next man on the Moon.”

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NASA Seeks Next Class of Flight Directors for Human Spaceflight Missions

Holly Ridings is at her Flight Director console in the space station flight control room in the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center on Nov. 17, 2008, for day four of the space shuttle Endeavour’s STS-126 mission. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA is looking for leaders for one of the best jobs on Earth for human spaceflight – including missions to the Moon – the position of flight director in mission control at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

NASA will accept applications for new flight directors Thursday, Sept. 3, through Thursday, Sept. 10. U.S. citizens can apply at:

http://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/577699400

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Wheelock Readies Astronauts for Moon Landing

NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Astronaut  Doug “Wheels” Wheelock spent his NASA career expanding knowledge of living and working in space. His new mission is working to determine the best way to train astronauts to return to the surface of the Moon.

Wheelock is a veteran test pilot and retired U.S. Army colonel who has accumulated 178 days in space and was a guest speaker at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California during a recent virtual Safety Day. During his NASA career he conducted six spacewalks, flew in Space Shuttle Discovery and the Russian Soyuz and served as International Space Station Expedition 25 commander.

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NASA Names Robyn Gatens Acting Director for International Space Station

Robyn Gatens (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, has named Robyn Gatens as acting director of the International Space Station at NASA Headquarters. The appointment was effective Aug. 25. Sam Scimemi, the former director, has assumed new responsibilities as a special assistant for the agency’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

“Robyn has demonstrated her leadership and strategic vision for the International Space Station and our efforts to enable a robust low-Earth orbit economy, and I am confident she will continue to do so as acting director,” said Lueders.

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Blue Origin-Led National Team  Delivers  Lunar Lander Engineering Mockup to  NASA

The National Team’s engineering mockup of the crew lander vehicle at NASA Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) iconic Building  9. (Credit: Blue Origin)

HOUSTON (Blue Origin PR) — Today, the Blue Origin-led Human Landing System (HLS) National Team – comprised of Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper – delivered an engineering mockup of a crew lander vehicle that could take American astronauts to the Moon. The lander is set up in the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility (SVMF), NASA Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) iconic Building 9.  

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Laser Beams Reflected Between Earth and Moon Boost Science

This photograph shows the laser-ranging facility at the Goddard Geophysical and Astronomical Observatory in Greenbelt, Md. The facility helps NASA keep track of orbiting satellites. Both beams shown, coming from two different lasers, are pointed at NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which is orbiting the Moon. (Credits: NASA)

by Lonnie Shekhtman
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — Dozens of times over the last decade NASA scientists have launched laser beams at a reflector the size of a paperback novel about 240,000 miles (385,000 kilometers) away from Earth. They announced today, in collaboration with their French colleagues, that they received signal back for the first time, an encouraging result that could enhance laser experiments used to study the physics of the universe.

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Sierra Nevada Advances Inflatable LIFE Habitat Development for NASA

Habitat rendering (Credit: SNC)

SPARKS, Nev., August 10, 2020 (Sierra Nevada PR) — Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security company owned by Eren and Fatih Ozmen, is continuing to advance its development of the company’s LIFE™ Habitat (Large Inflatable Fabric Environment) under Phase 3 of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP-2) Appendix A habitat program.

In Phase 3, NASA has asked companies to focus on habitat design concepts that could be used on the lunar surface or as a Mars transportation habitat to test at the Gateway.

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Lab Researchers, NASA Find Space Station’s Surface Microbial Profile Resembles Skin of its Crew Members

An astronaut dons gloves before starting to collect samples from an International Space Station environmental surface. (Credit: NASA)

LIVERMORE, Calif. (Lawrence Liivermore National Laboratory PR) — A study conducted by a team of national laboratory and NASA researchers has found that the environment of the International Space Station is affected by the microbial composition of the astronauts themselves.

The five-year research effort represents the first study to compare the space station’s environmental microbial profile (or microbiome) to an astronaut’s microbiome using metagenomic DNA sequencing techniques. 

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Johnson-Built Device to Help Mars Perseverance Rover Search for Signs of Life

As seen in this artist’s concept, the SHERLOC instrument is located on the end of the robotic arm of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Later this summer, NASA is launching the Mars Perseverance Rover to the Red Planet with the Mars 2020 Mission. The rover is loaded with equipment to search for signs that there once was life on Mars. One device, called the Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals (SHERLOC) instrument, will be used to detect chemicals on the Martian surface that are linked to the existence of life.

To keep the instrument working well, a team from the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) recently built a new calibration device for the rover to check SHERLOC’s function and properly tune it during the upcoming mission.

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Scientists Provide New Explanation for the Far Side of the Moon’s Strange Asymmetry

The composition of the Moon’s near side is oddly different from that of its far side, and scientists think they finally understand why. (Credits: NASA/NOAA)

TOKYO (Earth-Life Science Institute PR) — Earth’s Moon has a ‘near side’ that is perpetually Earth-facing and a ‘far side’, which always faces away from Earth. The composition of the Moon’s near side is oddly different from its far side, and scientists think they finally understand why.

The Earth-Moon system’s history remains mysterious. Scientists believe the two formed when a Mars-sized body collided with the proto-Earth. Earth ended up being the larger daughter of this collision and retained enough heat to become tectonically active. The Moon, being smaller, likely cooled down faster and geologically ‘froze’. The apparent early dynamism of the Moon challenges this idea.

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Virgin Galactic Signs Agreement with NASA for Private Orbital Spaceflight to Space Station

SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity makes first glide flight at Spaceport America in New Mexico. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Increases Commercial Participation in Human Spaceflight to ISS to Advance LEO Economy

(MOJAVE, California) – June 22, 2020 – Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“Virgin Galactic” or “the Company”), a vertically integrated aerospace company, announced today the signing of a Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Johnson Space Center to encourage commercial participation in orbital human spaceflight to the International Space Station (“ISS”) while enabling the development of a robust economy in Low Earth Orbit.

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Crew Dragon Duo Increases Science Tempo on Space Station

The Expedition 63 crew has expanded to five members with the arrival of the SpaceX Crew Dragon. (From left) Anatoly Ivanishin, Ivan Vagner, Chris Cassidy, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. (Credit: NASA TV)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — The saying “more hands make light work” is rarely more apt than when those hands are 250 miles up on the International Space Station, overseeing research to extend humanity’s reach into the solar system and offer new scientific breakthroughs on Earth.

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