NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Completes Final Tour of Asteroid Bennu

This image shows a top-down view of asteroid Bennu, with a portion of the asteroid’s equatorial ridge and northern hemisphere illuminated. It was taken by the PolyCam camera on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on March 4, 2021, from a distance of about 186 miles (300 km). The spacecraft’s cameras are pointed directly at Bennu’s north pole. Two large equatorial craters are visible on the asteroid’s edge (center and center left). The image was obtained during the mission’s Post-TAG Operations phase, as the spacecraft slowly approached Bennu in preparation for a final observational flyby on April 7. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

By Rani Gran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — NASA’s OSIRIS-REx completed its last flyover of Bennu around 6 a.m. EDT (4 a.m. MDT) April 7 and is now slowly drifting away from the asteroid; however, the mission team will have to wait a few more days to find out how the spacecraft changed the surface of Bennu when it grabbed a sample of the asteroid.

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NASA’s Europa Clipper Builds Hardware, Moves Toward Assembly

Europa Clipper in orbit around Europa. (Credit: NASA)

Jupiter’s moon Europa may have the potential to harbor life. The spacecraft will use multiple flybys of the moon to investigate the habitability of this ocean world.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Europa Clipper, NASA’s upcoming flagship mission to the outer solar system, has passed a significant milestone, completing its Critical Design Review. During the review, experts examined the detailed design of the spacecraft to ensure that it is ready to complete construction. The mission is now able to complete hardware fabrication and testing, and move toward the assembly and testing of the spacecraft and its payload of sophisticated science instruments.

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NASA’s InSight Detects Two Sizable Quakes on Mars

NASA’s InSight lander used a scoop on its robotic arm to begin trickling soil over the cable connecting its seismometer to the spacecraft on March 14, 2021, the 816th Martian day, or sol of the mission. Scientists hope insulating it from the wind will make it easier to detect marsquakes. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The magnitude 3.3 and 3.1 temblors originated in a region called Cerberus Fossae, further supporting the idea that this location is seismically active.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s InSight lander has detected two strong, clear quakes originating in a location of Mars called Cerberus Fossae – the same place where two strong quakes were seen earlier in the mission. The new quakes have magnitudes of 3.3 and 3.1; the previous quakes were magnitude 3.6 and 3.5. InSight has recorded over 500 quakes to date, but because of their clear signals, these are four of the best quake records for probing the interior of the planet.

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NASA OSIRIS-REx’s Final Asteroid Observation Run

This artist’s concept shows the planned flight path of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft during its final flyby of asteroid Bennu, which is scheduled for April 7. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

By Brittany Enos
University of Arizona

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is on the brink of discovering the extent of the mess it made on asteroid Bennu’s surface during last fall’s sample collection event. On Apr. 7, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will get one last close encounter with Bennu as it performs a final flyover to capture images of the asteroid’s surface. While performing the flyover, the spacecraft will observe Bennu from a distance of about 2.3 miles (3.7 km) – the closest it’s been since the Touch-and-Go Sample Collection event on Oct. 20, 2020.

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NASA Selects Nine Scientists to Join Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter Mission

A high-definition image of the Mars Australe lava plain on the Moon taken by Japan’s Kaguya lunar orbiter in November 2007. (Credits: JAXA/NHK)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected nine scientists to join the upcoming Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) mission. Set to launch in August 2022 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 and orbit the Moon for about a year, KPLO is the first space exploration mission of the Republic of Korea (ROK) that will travel beyond Earth orbit.

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NASA Names Robyn Gatens Director for International Space Station

Robyn Gatens (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA has named Robyn Gatens as director of the International Space Station for the agency following about seven months of her serving as acting director of the program. Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, made the official appointment, effective March 28.

“Robyn’s leadership, experience and strategic vision for the International Space Station have been clearly demonstrated as she’s worked closely with the station team as deputy and acting director,” said Lueders. “I’m confident she will continue our efforts of maximizing the space station for science, research and technology development, including enabling a robust low-Earth orbit economy.”

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NASA, Partners Test 3D Printed Rocket Pad Designed by Artemis Generation Students

Credit: NASA

BASTROP, Texas (NASA PR) — A team of students from colleges and universities across the United States – members of the Artemis Generation – tested a 3D printed launch and landing pad to see how it holds up to a hot rocket engine March 6 at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas. The students’ design concept – called the Lunar Plume Alleviation Device, or Lunar PAD – aims to solve problems caused by lunar dust kicked up during launches and landings.  

The students first proposed the new design for a competitive proposal writing workshop led by the Office of the Chief Technologist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and the L’SPACE Academy – the student collaboration project for NASA’s Lucy mission at Arizona State University in Tempe.

Credit: NASA

The team won funding to print and test a small-scale prototype with help from NASA’s Moon-to-Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction Technologies (MMPACT) project, Austin-based construction technologies startup ICON, and the Sounding Rocketry Team at Texas A&M University in College Station. 

Artemis is NASA’s robotic and human return to the Moon. Inspiring the next generation of explorers – the Artemis Generation – ensures America will continue to lead in space exploration and discovery. MMPACT is funded by NASA’s Game Changing Development Program.

Space Station Hardware Developers, Payload Support Teams Celebrate Two Decades of Success, Prepare for Third

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson conducts a science experiment in the Microgravity Science Glovebox during Expedition 51 in 2017. The glovebox is one of 15 space station science hardware facilities managed for the agency by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. (Credits: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Ask International Space Station facility engineers and payload operations teams at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, what makes them proudest as they look back on two decades of developing and testing science hardware and providing real-time support for experiments on orbit. Many will instinctively glance upward, as if the source of that pride might be passing overhead at that moment, 250 miles up.

Just as often though, they look to one another.

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NASA Awards Mars Ascent Propulsion System Contract for Sample Return

This illustration shows a concept of how the NASA Mars Ascent Vehicle, carrying tubes containing rock and soil samples, could be launched from the surface of Mars in one step of the Mars sample return mission. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded the Mars Ascent Propulsion System (MAPS) contract to Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation of Elkton, Maryland, to provide propulsion support and products for spaceflight missions at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Coupled with the successful touchdown of the Mars Perseverance rover, this award moves NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) one step closer to realizing Mars Sample Return (MSR), a highly ambitious planetary exploration program that will build upon decades of science, knowledge, and experience of Mars exploration.  

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Green Run Update: SLS Team Prepares Core Stage for Second Hot Fire Test

The core stage for the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket is seen in the B-2 Test Stand during a scheduled eight minute duration hot fire test, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The four RS-25 engines fired for a little more than one minute. The hot fire test is the final stage of the Green Run test series, a comprehensive assessment of the Space Launch System’s core stage prior to launching the Artemis I mission to the Moon. (Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz)

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss., February 12, 2021 (NASA PR) — The core stage Green Run test team has completed refurbishment activities and is preparing the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s core stage and its four RS-25 engines for a second hot fire test.

After the first SLS core stage hot fire test on Jan. 16 at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, the team put the stand and core stage in a configuration so that the stage and stand could be refurbished. This involved installing platforms on the test stand so that technicians could inspect, access, and perform procedures on the hardware.

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NASA’s First Mission to the Trojan Asteroids Installs its Final Scientific Instrument

Two engineers work on L’Ralph, the most complicated instrument that will fly on the Lucy mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. It is actually two instruments in one. The Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), will take visible light color images. The Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA), will collect infrared spectra. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/Barbara Lambert/Desiree Stover)

LITTLETON, Colo. (NASA PR) — With less than a year to launch, NASA’s Lucy mission’s third and final scientific instrument has been integrated onto the spacecraft.

The spacecraft, which will be the first to explore the Trojan asteroids — a population of small bodies that share an orbit with Jupiter — is in the final stages of the assembly process. Just five months ago, at the beginning of the Assembly, Testing and Launch operations (ATLO) process, the components of the Lucy spacecraft were being built all over the country. Today, a nearly assembled spacecraft sits in the high bay in Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado.

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Tricky Terrain: Helping to Assure a Safe Rover Landing

Mars 2020’s Perseverance rover is equipped with a lander vision system based on terrain-relative navigation, an advanced method of autonomously comparing real-time images to preloaded maps that determine the rover’s position relative to hazards in the landing area. Divert guidance algorithms and software can then direct the rover around those obstacles if needed. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

How two new technologies will help Perseverance, NASA’s most sophisticated rover yet, touch down onto the surface of Mars this month.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — After a nearly seven-month journey to Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover is slated to land at the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater Feb. 18, 2021, a rugged expanse chosen for its scientific research and sample collection possibilities.

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NASA Sets Week of Feb. 21 for Repeat of Green Run Test

The core stage for the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket is seen in the B-2 Test Stand during a scheduled eight minute duration hot fire test, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The four RS-25 engines fired for a little more than one minute. The hot fire test is the final stage of the Green Run test series, a comprehensive assessment of the Space Launch System’s core stage prior to launching the Artemis I mission to the Moon. (Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz)

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (NASA PR) — Media are invited to attend NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s  second Green Run hot fire – a test of the rocket’s core stage and all of its integrated systems before its flight on the Artemis I lunar mission. NASA is targeting the week of Feb. 21 for the test in the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The date for the test will be set following the test readiness review.

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Redwire Selected to Develop Deployable Systems for NASA’s Solar Cruiser Mission

The technology demonstration mission will expand agile sailcraft technology and scientific discovery

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., January 26, 2021 (Redwire PR) – Redwire, a new leader in mission critical space solutions and high reliability components for the next generation space economy, announced today that its subsidiary Roccor has been awarded a subcontract to support NASA’s Solar Cruiser technology demonstration mission funded through NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Roccor was selected by NASA to develop the deployable structure for a nearly 18,000 square foot (1,600 m2) solar sail that will allow solar scientists to view the sun from different perspectives—and stay in orbit longer—than before. 

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New NASA Challenge Offers Prizes for Sprouting Astronaut Food Systems

NASA and the Canadian Space Agency have coordinated to open the Deep Space Food Challenge, targeted at developing novel food system technologies for long-duration deep space missions. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Astronauts need hearty nutrients to maintain a healthy diet in space, but like any of us, they want their food to taste good, too! As NASA develops concepts for longer crewed missions to Mars and beyond, the agency will need innovative and sustainable food systems that check all the boxes.

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