Dragon Spacecraft Splashes Down with ISS Science

SpaceX’s Dragon resupply ship slowly approaches the orbiting lab as both spacecraft were orbiting 258 miles above the Mediterranean Sea Dec. 9, 2019. Filled with more than 4,000 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 2:50 p.m. (11:50 a.m. PDT), approximately 300 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, marking the end of the company’s 20th contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. The spacecraft returned more than 4,000 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo.

Some of the scientific investigations Dragon returned to Earth include:

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Bacteria in Rock Deep Under Sea Inspire New Search for Life on Mars

Aerobic bacteria live densely packed into tunnels of clay minerals found in this sample of solid rock, collected from 122 meters beneath the seafloor. Image B is 1,000 times greater magnification than Image A. The left-side photo in each image was taken using normal light and the right-side photo was taken using fluorescent light. The solid basalt rock is gray, the clay minerals are orange, and the bacterial cells are green spheres. (Credit: Suzuki et al. 2020, DOI: 10.1038/s42003-020-0860-1, CC BY 4.0)

Microbes live in tiny clay-filled cracks in solid rock millions of years old

TOKYO (University of Tokyo PR) — Newly discovered single-celled creatures living deep beneath the seafloor have given researchers clues about how they might find life on Mars. These bacteria were discovered living in tiny cracks inside volcanic rocks after researchers persisted over a decade of trial and error to find a new way to examine the rocks.

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NASA Commemorates 50th Anniversary of Apollo 13, ‘A Successful Failure’

The crew members of the Apollo 13 mission, step aboard the USS Iwo Jima, prime recovery ship for the mission, following splashdown and recovery operations in the South Pacific Ocean on April 19, 1970. Exiting the helicopter are (from left) astronauts Fred W. Haise Jr., lunar module pilot; James A. Lovell Jr., commander; and John L. Swigert Jr., command module pilot. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As NASA marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission – which has become known as “a successful failure” that saw the safe return of its crew in spite of a catastrophic explosion – the agency is sharing a variety of resources, recognizing the triumph of the mission control team and the astronauts, and looking at how those lessons learned can be applied to its lunar Artemis program.

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NASA Coverage Set for Chris Cassidy, Crewmates Flight to Space Station

Chris Cassidy

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — A trio of space travelers, including NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station on Thursday, April 9. NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live coverage of the crew’s launch and arrival at the orbiting laboratory.

Cassidy, and Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, are set to launch aboard the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:05 a.m. EDT (1:05 p.m. Kazakhstan time). The four-orbit, six-hour journey to the space station will be the third flight for Cassidy and Ivanishin and the first for Vagner.

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Boeing to Fly Additional Starliner Mission

Starliner OFT-1 capsule after landing at White Sands Missile Range. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Boeing has decided to fly a second uncrewed flight test as a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Although no new launch date has been set, NASA has accepted the proposal to fly the mission again and will work side-by-side with Boeing to resume flight tests to the International Space Station on the company’s CST-100 Starliner system.

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Findings & Recommendations on ISS National Laboratory

The International Space Station, backdropped by the blackness of space and the thin line of Earth’s atmosphere. (Credit: NASA)

International Space Station (ISS) Cooperative Agreement
Independent Review Team

Final Report to NASA
Delivered February 4, 2020

Full Report

Consolidated Findings and Recommendations

FINDINGS

Finding 1.1: The ISS National Laboratory (ISSNL) was created as a broad-based research facility, but NASA reduced ISS research in 2004-2005 to focus on human health and safety. Congress did not want to lose the broad research facility for activities in low Earth orbit (LEO) and the Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications (SLPSRA) Division of Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) did not exist at the time of the original legislation. Consequently, there is now a NASA division tasked with enabling research activities that potentially overlap with the ISSNL. Both SLPSRA and Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) perceive that they often operate in competition with one another for crew time, critical on-orbit facilities and “credit” for research results.

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Boeing to Refly Automated Starliner Flight Test

Starliner OFT-1 capsule after landing at White Sands Missile Range. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boeing will refly an automated mission of its Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year after the near catastrophic loss of one of the crew vehicle in December.

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NASA Shares Findings, Recommendations, and Response to Review of International Space Station National Lab

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — An external team appointed by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has completed its review of the operations and management of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, which the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) manages.

The Independent Review Team (IRT) delivered its report to the agency in February, and NASA is now publicly releasing the report in full as well as the agency’s response to its recommendations.

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NASA Science Keeps the Lights On

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Across NASA’s many missions, thousands of scientists, engineers, and other experts and professionals all over the country are doing what they do best, but now from home offices and via video conferencing. With most personnel supporting missions remotely to keep onsite staff at a minimal level in response to COVID-19, the Agency is moving ahead strongly with everything from space exploration to using our technology and innovation to help inform policy makers.  

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NASA Taps Workforce for Innovative Ideas for Coronavirus Response Efforts

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — For more than 60 years, NASA has overcome a range of unique challenges. Now, the agency is looking to leverage its expertise and capabilities to help the nation with the unprecedented challenge of coronavirus (COVID-19). To come up with new, innovative ideas for how NASA can best contribute to COVID-19 response efforts, the agency is tapping into the brainpower and creativity of its workforce.

On April 1, NASA launched an agencywide call for ideas on its internal crowdsourcing platform NASA @ WORK. The internal website fosters collaboration and provides NASA employees with an inventive way to share knowledge and solve challenges.

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NASA Ground, Marine Teams Integral to Moving SLS Rocket to Pad

NASA’s Ground Transportation team guides NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s completed core stage from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to the agency’s Pegasus barge on Jan. 8. NASA’s Marine Transportation team and Pegasus crew then shipped the rocket stage to NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, for the core stage Green Run test series. The 212-foot-tall core stage is currently undergoing Green Run testing. (Credits: NASA/Tyler Martin)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — As NASA prepares for the first launch of Artemis I, the first mission of the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft to the Moon, one team will be there every step of the way: the aptly nicknamed “SLS Move Team.”

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NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover Gets Its Wheels and Air Brakes

Wheels are installed on NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on March 30, 2020. Perseverance will liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in July 2020. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Final assembly and testing of NASA’s Perseverance rover continues at Kennedy Space Center in Florida as the July launch window approaches. In some of the last steps required prior to stacking the spacecraft components in the configuration they’ll be in atop the Atlas V rocket, the rover’s wheels and parachute have been installed.

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SpaceX Starship SN3 Collapses During Cryo Test

Video Caption: Starship SN3 collapsed during a cryogenic proof test designed to validate the vehicle ahead of a planned static fire and 150-meter hop. SpaceX will now have to instead focus on future Starship builds.

Footage via Mary (@BocaChicaGal) for NSF and edited by Jack Beyer (thejackbeyer)

Video Caption: Another very disappointing end to the week with SpaceX SN3 Starship Destroyed. Looks like the Liquid Oxygen Tank Crumpled. This is quite disappointing as we had huge hopes for the SN 3 because it looked just so much more robust. The welds were looking really beautiful.

The SN 4 is already being built so we can look forward to that which is going come up rapidly much quicker than most people would realize.

A huge thank you to Boca Chica girl with NASAspaceflight and also LabPadre links to both of those incredibly awesome channels below.

Editor’s Note: It’s disconcerting that work on this project is continuing during the coronavirus pandemic. I reviewed the video above that shows the stacking of the the Starship prototype that collapsed on the test stand this morning.

Credits: BocaChicaGal, NASASpaceflight.com & Marcus House

The above screenshot taken at 4:54 into the video shows employees working closely together without observing the six feet social distancing guidelines or wearing protective masks to guard against infecting each other with the deadlly COVID-19 virus.

Any one of these workers could have the virus for a week without showing any symptoms. During that time, an infected worker could unknowingly pass COVID-19 onto his co-workers. The result of that could be severe illness or death. Even young, seemingly healthy individuals have died when their respiratory systems collapsed.

SpaceX is legally exempt from closing its doors because it is classified as an essential business. That is due to the fact that Elon Musk’s company is a government contractor that performs vital, time critical work for NASA and the Department of Defense.

Starship, however, does not appear to be either vital or time critical. It’s a long-term development project that SpaceX is funding on its own. Neither NASA nor DOD is going to use Starship at any time in the near future. Their launch needs are satisfied by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy as well as the nation’s fleet of expendable boosters.

SpaceX’s goal of preserving humanity by making it a multi-planetary species is noble enough. It doesn’t need to place the humans making that possible at unnecessary risk in the midst of a deadly global pandemic.

NASA Outlines Lunar Surface Sustainability Concept

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — When NASA sends astronauts to the surface of the Moon in 2024, it will be the first time outside of watching historical footage most people witness humans walking on another planetary body. Building on these footsteps, future robotic and human explorers will put in place infrastructure for a long-term sustainable presence on the Moon.

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Former NASA Astronaut Bill Fisher on the Risks of Treating Coronavirus Victims

This is a really excellent thread by a doctor who could be happily retired but is risking his life to save others. It’s definitely worth a read.