Archive for the ‘Blue Origin’ Category
Down to Earth
Jack Garman, who worked a support console for Apollo guidance and navigation, passed away on September 20th, at 72 years old. Garman is best known as being instrumental in the calls to proceed with landing on Apollo 11 when some guidance computer program alarms showed up at just 3,000 feet above the surface. Here’s the raw audio from that part of the landing which is always worth listening to again. Great example of flight control in action.
Neil Degrasse Tyson’s podcast StarTalk had a special episode hosted by astronaut Mike Massimino with guest interviewees, flight directors Royce Renfrew and Emily Nelson. Check it out here!
Musician and singer Grace Potter collaborated with NASA on a music video for her song Look What We’ve Become. It was filmed completely at NASA’s Johnson Space Center! Check it out below.
One of the biggest national stories of the last week was Hurricane Matthew, which came close to dolling out a devastating blow to the East coast of Florida. Fortunately, the most dangerous winds stayed offshore as it passed the Kennedy Space Center, resulting in some damage but nothing too serious.
In the battle of the New Space giants, there were two big stories in recent weeks. First, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had his much anticipated presentation at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Mexico. the speech presented a high level framework of his plans to visit Mars. Most of the details were focused on the rocket design and less on how humans would survive and thrive on Mars. Below is the full length video, but Ars Technica had a good analysis if you don’t want to watch all of it. Another good take on it from Phil Plait here.
If you are interested in just the 4-minute animation from SpaceX showing their imagined Mars mission architecture, jump to the second video below.
The other big story was Blue Origin’s successful in-flight abort test of their New Shepard rocket (personally, I am not sure if they have a separate name for the capsule or if New Shepard refers to the whole system. It was a pretty exciting launch and test. Jump to 51 minutes in the webcast replay below to watch!
Lots of good news regarding the ISS flight manifest. The next Cygnus cargo freighter, launching from Virginia for the first time in 2 years on Orbital ATK’s redesigned Antares rocket, should fly next Thursday, the 13th.
The following week, the next crew should launch on their repaired Soyuz craft. That launch is scheduled for Wednesday, the 19th.
There were two rocket launches since my last post. First, an Indian GSLV rocket launched a slew of satellites into orbit, including some from Algeria, USA, Canada, and India. Second, an ESA Ariane 5 rocket launched two communications satellites to a geosynchronous orbit on the 5th.
Around the Solar System
Check out this “video” (really an animated gif made from stills) of the Curiosity rover drilling on Mars! The rover has just officially entered its next two-year mission extension.
— Jason Major (@JPMajor) September 19, 2016
NASA announced new findings from the Hubble Space Telescope that reinforce the conclusion that not only does Europa have a subsurface ocean of liquid water, but that the water regularly exits the moon in powerful plumes (which could be theoretically sampled by a visiting probe).
In even more exciting planetary science news, NASA announced new analysis of data from the MESSENGER spacecraft (which finished its Mercury orbital mission last year). By analyzing imagery from the last part of MESSENGER’s mission, when it was at a lower altitude, scientists have concluded that the surface shows signs of recent contraction, meaning that Mercury is tectonically active.
ESA’s Rosetta mission ended on September 30th with a controlled descent into comet 67P/Churyumov/Gerasimenko.
Here’s your busy June update!
Down to Earth
Blue Origin launched their reusable New Shepard rocket for the fourth time, with a hosted webcast this time. Here is a video of the flight:
A Saturn V first stage, meant to be used on the Apollo 19 flight, was moved to the Stennis Space Center’s visitor center for display, along Interstate 10 in Mississippi.
During a congressional hearing last week, the issue of astronaut post-mission health care was discussed.
This is not strictly space news, but the deep winter rescue mission from the South Pole is just as harrowing and difficult as spaceflight in some ways.
A team of astronauts are going on a multi-night spelunking trip this month as a spaceflight analog training mission.
The new 3D printer aboard ISS by Made In Space has printed its first functional tool.
The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo vessel was released from the ISS on June 14th and re-entered the atmosphere on June 22nd. In the meantime, NASA conducted the SAFFIRE in-flight fire experiment. Here’s some of the video they recorded:
Also returning to Earth this month, but in a more controlled fashion, was there astronauts aboard Soyuz TMA-19M: Tim Peake, Tim Kopra, and Yuri Malenchenko.
Here are all the orbital launches since my last post on June 6th:
- A Russian Proton rocket carrying a communications satellite (June 9).
- A ULA Delta IV rocket launch from Florida carrying a spy satellite (June 11).
- A Chinese launch of one of their navigation satellite (June 12).
- A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with two communications satellites (June 15).
- A European Ariane 5 rocket carrying two communication satellites (June 18).
- An Indian PSLV rocket carrying a slew of satellites including a flock of PlanetLabs Doves (June 22).
- A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying a US military communications satellite (June 24).
The SpaceX launch, as usual, was the most exciting, with another ASDS landing attempt. They missed the landing this time. Here are some pictures of the wreckage returning to port.
Around the Solar System
New analysis of Pluto has led to the hypothesis that the dwarf planet may have a subsurface ocean… really!
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) got a new shot of the rover Curiosity on the slopes of Mount Sharp.
You’ve got to love this trailer for Jupiter Orbit Insertion (JOI) of the Juno probe, coming up on July 4th.
Obviously the huge news this week is the successful launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the return to flight of the Dragon capsule and a successful landing on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS). See the “In Orbit” section for more details!
Down to Earth
Blue Origin achieved an impressive feat last week, flying the same suborbital New Shepard rocket for the third time since November.
Following a rocket anomaly in the launch of a Cygnus resupply craft last month the ULA Atlas V rocket is grounded.
Accomplished NASA astronaut, and current NASA science chief, John Grunsfeld, will be retiring.
Roscosmos is selling the perennially financially troubled venture Sea Launch.
There have been 4 orbital launches since my last blog update on March 27. Here they are in chronological order: China launched a single Beidou navigation satellite on March 29, Russia launched a Progress resupply craft from Baikonaur on March 31, China launched a microgravity science payload on April 6, and of course SpaceX launched a Dragon resupply capsule on April 8.
The flawless Falcon 9 ascent and capsule deploy was overshadowed by SpaceX achieving the impressive feat of recovering the rocket’s first stage on the ASDS, out in the Atlantic Ocean. This video says it all.
This delivery of cargo aboard Dragon will wrap up a very busy time period aboard ISS. Starting with the Soyuz undocking at the beginning of March, which brought Scott Kelly home and started Expedition 47, there have been 6 different visiting vehicle events, with Dragon being the third cargo resupply in 2 weeks.
One of the payloads aboard Dragon that everyone is excited about is the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM. Here is a simple infographic about BEAM (via Parabolic Arc).
Around the Solar System
Meanwhile, on Mars, NASA’s rovers are quietly doing science. Check out this panorama from Curiosity. On the other side of the planet, Opportunity has been exploring Marathon Valley and braving slopes above 30 degrees tilt in the name of science.
Down to Earth
Speaking of Mars, NASA’s delayed InSight lander has been granted a mission extension for a new launch date in 2018.
Two successful orbital launches this past week: a communications satellite launched by ESA from Korou and a navigation satellite launched by ISRO from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India.
Next week, on March 18, three ISS astronauts will launch aboard Soyuz TMA-20M from Kazakhstan to join Expedition 47. Here’s the NASA TV schedule for the launch. NASA astronaut Jeff Williams has been active on Twitter during flight preparations, posting short “video blogs” like this one:
— Jeff Williams (@Astro_Jeff) March 3, 2016
Meanwhile, Scott Kelly has been video blogging his return to Earth:
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) March 8, 2016
Be sure to always follow all of NASA’s astronauts on Twitter – but especially those in space – because they are always sharing something exciting!
Around the Solar System
NASA’s New Horizons probe has discovered “methane snow” on Pluto’s mountain peaks.
Honestly, at the beginning of 2015, I did not think the year could possibly be as interesting as 2014 when it came to the launch sector. I thought there was a possibility SpaceX would achieve some major milestones from its list of goals for the year – maybe recover a first stage, maybe launch a Falcon 9 Heavy, maybe double their flight rate – but probably only one or two of them. I never would have guessed that 2015 could have the same roller coaster ride of ups and downs of 2014, which had rocket launches, rocket explosions, and political tension. Surprisingly, not only did 2015 have me on the edge of my seat like 2014, it surprised me and almost everyone else with some crazy twists and turns.
Part II – Rockets
Let’s recap where we were at the end of 2014: SpaceX had just wrapped up a reasonably successful year with 6 flights and no failures, which was twice the number of flights they had in 2013. The debate over the RD-180 engine was still ongoing but had calmed down somewhat with a congressional budget provision for the US to start working on a homegrown replacement. In the meantime, ULA would be allowed to continue using RD-180s to a limited extent. The biggest event of course was the spectacular explosion of an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket on its way to the ISS. Really the story had all eyes on – and are we really surprised? – SpaceX. With Orbital Sciences grounded and ULA under heat for using imported Russian engines, SpaceX was here to save the day.
And SpaceX certainly got off to a roaring start in 2015. They launched the first rocket of the year, which certainly served to make a point, and from there on averaged one Falcon 9 launch per month through June. During two of those launches in January and April they thrilled everybody with their so close rocket landing attempts. I have to repost the videos again below because they are so awesome.
Close, but no cigar. This time. https://t.co/JowUE6a1D7
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 16, 2015
Meanwhile, while all that fun was going on, the US Air Force granted SpaceX certification for military payloads and SpaceX conducted a launchpad abort test with their Dragon V2 capsule. Things were looking pretty good for the (not so) New Space company. But then this happened during their CRS-7 launch to ISS, their 6th of the year:
Suddenly, things completely changed. Adding another layer to the story, a Russian Progress resupply flight to the ISS had also been lost in late May, after which some people had been saying “good thing we have a SpaceX flight coming up.” Not only was the future of SpaceX’s manifest and Falcon 9 rocket in question, there were serious questions about the logistics chain to the ISS. Three of the vital cargo rockets were grounded, with only the Japanese HTV unaffected.
Thankfully, one of the things the Russians are really good at is rebounding from launch failures, and they flew a successful Progress mission to ISS only a few days after the SpaceX explosion. Regardless, 3 of the last 8 unmanned flights to ISS had been lost, an unprecedented statistic.
Orbital ATK (the new name of Orbital Sciences after a merger early in the year) had already announced plans for their return to flight way back in January. Surprisingly, their strategy would be to purchase launch vehicles from their competitors to fly their Cygnus freighter while they worked on a redesign of the Antares first stage. The return to flight would be on a ULA Atlas 5 sometime late in the year. The good news for all involved is that that launch went off without a hitch (after some weather delays) in mid-December. The Cygnus freighter known as “SS Deke Slayton” is happily berthed to the ISS as I write this.
As for SpaceX, all plans for a Falcon Heavy launch, a rocket landing, or a new record flight rate, were taking backseat to the job of figuring out why their rocket had disintegrated on them. Second priority was getting a return to flight scheduled ASAP to pick up their deep manifest (which was already stacked pretty deep coming into 2015). It came out very quickly that the mishap was caused by the failure of a strut, or a structural beam, holding a high pressure helium tank in place. Unfortunately, just because you know the cause of a failure doesn’t mean you know how long it will take to sort out the problem and get back to regular launches. For the next few months it was unclear to the public outside SpaceX if they could even return to flight within the calendar year.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world kept launching rockets. ULA in particular had a pretty good year with 12 launches and no failures. Even though ULA’s Atlas and Delta rockets are extremely successful and don’t really need replacing, they responded to pressures both from the government (which was saying stop using Russian engines) and SpaceX (who is threatening to change the launch industry entirely with reusability) and revealed plans for their new Vulcan rocket. The Vulcan is an ambitious new project which will take at least 5 years to complete. It will use a new American built liquid stage engine and aim to save money by recovering those engines after every launch. Their plan is kind of crazy, as it involves a helicopter. Here it is graphically:
Then in November ULA made space news headlines by not bidding on a GPS satellite contract from the DoD, essentially ceding the launch to SpaceX. ULA listed a couple of reasons they felt that it was not really worth their time to bid, including the Congressional mandate against them to not buy any more RD-180s from Russia. ULA was basically saying, we don’t have enough engines. John McCain in particular was not amused. McCain, who is strongly against the import of Russian rocket engines, feels that ULA has more than enough RD-180 engines already in stock without buying new ones from Russia. They simply need to allocate less engines for commercial and NASA launches and more to DoD payloads. The move was basically a bluff from ULA to get people talking, and it has yet to be seen if it will work.
Which brings us to the tail end of the year, with two of the biggest surprises still left. While everyone was busy talking about SpaceX, Orbital ATK, and ULA, Blue Origin came out of nowhere with a pretty spectacular flight demonstration of their New Shepard rocket. The secret launch occurred in their West Texas facility, reaching the edge of space before the capsule safely came back to Earth under parachute and the first stage touched down vertically under power.
On the face of it, it appears Blue Origin had swooped in and accomplished the first real first stage recovery after a functional rocket launch, right from under SpaceX’s nose. In reality, the technical challenge involved with Blue Origin’s feat is somewhat different than what SpaceX had been trying to do, as the below graphic illustrates. Blue Origin’s launch – while impressive – was suborbital. Meanwhile, SpaceX had been trying to bring back a first stage from a rocket that was actually putting payloads into orbit, which requires much higher velocity.
Regardless, Blue Origin is clearly the quiet dark horse in this story. They almost stole the limelight this year, at least that’s the way it looked before SpaceX stole it back just 9 days before the end of the year. Less than 6 months after their failure, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 on December 22nd, placing a fleet of Orbcomm satellites into orbit and, to everyone’s amazement, successfully landing the first stage back at “Landing Zone 1″ at Cape Canaveral.
This made the mishap back in June look like small potatoes. SpaceX had just achieved one of those three big goals for the year. While there is still a lot of work for them to do to checkout the rocket and determine how much refurbishment would be needed for reflight, this was a major step towards their goal of reuse. Not only that, but being back on flight status puts them in a great posture going into 2016 ready to fly out a big part of their deep manifest. They also likely now have the focus and resources to get that first Falcon Heavy in the air this year.
2016 looks good for Orbital ATK too – with a second Cygnus flight on an Atlas 5 coming up quickly in March and then the maiden flight of their upgraded Antares rocket in May. Overall, the year ended on a high note for the launch industry, with many space fans pretty optimistic. Given how things were looking back in the summer, this year could have turned out quite differently. Losing a Progress cargo craft, which is the only source of fuel resupply and propulsive support for ISS, is always a big deal at NASA and it spins up contingency planning. Fortunately, we ended the year with not just Russia but everyone having returned to flight. Not only do we have a solid reliable supply chain re-established to ISS, lots to look forward to from SpaceX, and resumed orbital flights from Virginia, we are also getting tantalizingly close to the first test flights of the Dragon V2 and Boeing CST-100 manned spacecraft.
I had my heart in my throat for a bit this year, but ended up jumping up and down and cheering with everyone else on December 22nd. It was exciting and all, but after the last two years I’m ready for less drama, and more launches. Ad astra.
The last year was full of spacey goodness. Some things were expected – even long anticipated – like space probes Dawn and New Horizons arriving at their targets. Other things were a complete surprise, like the loss of SpaceX’s seventh commercial flight to ISS and the discovery of flowing water on the surface of Mars. All-in-all, there was a lot to follow and talk about. Thus, I am putting together one or more “year in review” blog posts to give my perspective on what has happened and what’s to come. In the meantime, you can enjoy other people’s thoughts of 2015 in spaceflight through the links I have gathered below. Happy new year!
As usual, I love to lean on the “year in spaceflight” pages on Wikipedia. The folks that put these together do a thorough job. If we look at the 2015 in spaceflight page, we see that the human race is maintaining our high flight rate, with 82 successful orbital launches out of 87 attempts. These numbers have been steadily growing for years. Here is the last decade’s successful launches numbers, starting with 2005: 52, 62, 63, 66, 73, 70, 78, 72, 77, 88, 82. As I wrote in last week’s Weekly Links post, Russia had the most launches with 26 and their Soyuz rocket is by far the most dominant, at 17 launches. However, their two failures this year make it hard to call Soyuz both the most dominant and most reliable. China launches 19 of their Long March family of rockets with no failures.
Using the “list of spaceflight records” we can see some changes in the list for total time in space. Most notably, Gennady Padalka spent 167 days on ISS during Expedition 43/44, his 5th spaceflight, to put him at the top spot for most spaceflown human ever. He has spent 879 days of his life in space. Also notable is Anton Shkaplerov, who returned to Earth during Expedition 43 and is at the 32 spot, Oleg Kononenko, who returned during Expedition 45 and holds the 13 spot with 533 days, and Yuri Malenchenko and Sergey Volkov who are currently in space and hold the 7 and 31 spots respectively.
The other notable record that was broken this year is “longest single flight by a woman” (which is on the list of spaceflight records page), broken this year by Samantha Cristoforetti, partly because her crew got stuck on ISS a little bit longer after the loss of a Progress resupply flight in May.
AmericaSpace, but on planetary science.
AmericaSpace’s compilation video of launches:
And here’s a series of four year in review posts from NASA Spaceflight:
Government Agency PR
NASA’s summary of 2015. With video below.
NASA’s top 15 images of Earth from ISS (if you are a real photography or geography nut, you will want to click “read more” on each picture).
Top Space Stories of 2015
Down to Earth
Former NASA mathematician Katharine Johnson was recently awarded the presidential medal of freedom. She is currently 97 years old.
Hungary is a new full member of the European Space Agency.
Virgin Galactic announced that they now plan to launch their LauncherOne rocket from a modified 747 instead of from the belly of the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft. WhiteKnightTwo will then be free to fly more dedicated flights of SpaceShipOne for paying tourist-o-nauts.
The Apollo Saturn V rockets that Jeff Bezos pulled up from the seafloor in the Atlantic are headed to museums. Some of them have already been delivered to the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
The first of 18 primary mirror segments for the James Webb Space Telescope was installed into the spacecraft last month.
Blue Origin had a suborbital flight of their New Shepard vehicle. The unmanned capsule landed back on Earth under parachute and the rocket itself landed under its own power on two legs. Here’s the video.
And here’s an awesome video of Blue Origin employees celebrating the flight. Almost as good as JPL celebrating a rover landing on Mars. Way to go guys!
Lots of rocket launches since my last post. Here’s a quick run down. I use the Wikipedia page 2015 in spaceflight as a general source (with other references):
Three launches by China of various reconnaissance or communications payloads.
Two launches by Russia, seemingly military in nature. However, the recent launch last night may have had a mishap and part of the payload did not make orbit.
And then Japan, ESA, and America round out the crowd with one more launch each. Japan launched a commercial telecommunications satellite, ESA launched the LISA Pathfinder gravity wave physics probe, and United Launch Alliance sent a Cygnus cargo spacecraft on the way to the ISS for Orbital ATK.
Meanwhile on the ISS, the crew has been posting awesome pictures in whatever free they have. Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui will be coming home this week, on December 11th. I will miss their Twitter posts! You really should be following them on Twitter yourself, but here are some of their best (it may look like a lot but this is really a small selection from just the last three weeks):
— 油井 亀美也 Kimiya.Yui (@Astro_Kimiya) November 16, 2015
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) November 17, 2015
Honolulu and Diamond Head Crater. I can hear the waves and feel the sun from here. pic.twitter.com/sZPioOgBmc
— Kjell Lindgren (@astro_kjell) November 17, 2015
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) November 19, 2015
— Kjell Lindgren (@astro_kjell) November 19, 2015
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) November 20, 2015
Northern CA Bay Area. I spent the summer of 1996 doing research at NASA Ames Research Center. Great memories! pic.twitter.com/PjAHfnsHzz
— Kjell Lindgren (@astro_kjell) November 21, 2015
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) November 24, 2015
Boats sheltering in an atoll. pic.twitter.com/546lttQR8s
— Kjell Lindgren (@astro_kjell) November 29, 2015
Pictures of west coast, east coast of U.S. or small villages in Canada at night. Which do you like? 米国西海岸、東海岸、カナダの村） pic.twitter.com/j4KnI2dTSb
— 油井 亀美也 Kimiya.Yui (@Astro_Kimiya) November 27, 2015
Полярное сияние, в середине сверкает Москва, а слева вверху – Санкт-Петербург. Снимок сделал Олег Кононенко. pic.twitter.com/0NWBbpLMAJ
— Sergey Volkov (@Volkov_ISS) November 29, 2015
— Kjell Lindgren (@astro_kjell) December 1, 2015
Beautiful dunes. Arrakis? pic.twitter.com/WAsQpWAJfX
— Kjell Lindgren (@astro_kjell) December 2, 2015
View from JEM window) 宇宙での最後の週末。きぼうの窓から、景色を楽しんでいます。オーロラが綺麗です。この星々をみて、星座が分かる人は凄いです！ヒントは、太陽電池パネルの上の２つの明るめの星。右はりょうけん座。 pic.twitter.com/2U6Ea4SVjF
— 油井 亀美也 Kimiya.Yui (@Astro_Kimiya) December 6, 2015
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) December 6, 2015
Around the Solar System
The Japanese probe Akatsuki has entered orbit around Venus, several years after it missed its original orbit insertion due ot a thruster failure. Way to go JAXA!
I am back from a little “fall break”. This post should catch you up on the big things that have happened since my last post in September.
Down to Earth
Estonia is now a full member of the European Space Agency.
A watch worn by Apollo 15 commander Dave Scott on the surface of the moon recently sold at auction for over one million US dollars. This is not one of the Omega Speedmasters which were given to all the crews (all of which are now owned by the Smithsonian). Instead this was a backup Scott wore when his Speedmaster broke.
An Israeli team called SpaceIL has secured a launch contract on a Falcon 9 rocket for their entry in the Google Lunar X Prize.
Blue Origin announced that it will center its launch operations at Cape Canaveral.
NASA dropped a large archive of photos from Project Apollo to Flickr.
It’s been a busy month of rocket launches. Since my last post on September 26th there have been nine successful launches to orbit: one by India, three by China, one by the European Space Agency, two by Russia, and two by America. Only one of those launches was in support of International Space Station operations: an unmanned Progress resupply mission from Russia. You can see a great list of all launches at “2015 in Spaceflight” on Wikipedia.
In addition to the launches, the Japanese HTV-5 cargo vehicle was successfully undocked and deorbited from the ISS during the last week of September.
Other happenings on the ISS included a debris avoidance maneuver on September 27th, some cubesat deploys, the Progress docking, Scott Kelly breaking the record for most days in space by an American, and some great imagery of Hurricane Patricia.
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) October 23, 2015
Around the Solar System
Science data from the New Horizons flyby of Pluto continue to come in, including this awesome picture showing the blue glow of the planetoids thin atmosphere.
NASA made a big announcement at the end of September about Mars research, revealing that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter had imaged evidence of water flowing (intermittently) on the surface of Mars. While previous NASA missions had confirmed that water is present and had flowed in streams and rivers in the ancient past, this is the first evidence of a modern water cycle. As usual, Emily Lakdawalla has excellent coverage.
NASA is posting daily images of the Earth from the DSCOVR satellite to an interactive website.
A rather large Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) at 500 meters across will buzz the Earth-Moon system on October 31st, but is not in danger of impacting our planet.
Down to Earth
Jeff Bezos’ rocket company Blue Origin announced they will be manufacturing and launching from Cape Canaveral at Launch Complex 36.
Check out this Kickstarter for a planetary exploration based board game called Xtronaut.
A new exhibit about the early Russian space program, with some awesome artifacts, has opened at the Science Museum of London.
Check out this unique scale model of our solar system in the Nevada desert (via Universe Today).
There were several rocket launches to orbit in the past week, all from Russia and China carrying communications or Earth-observing spacecraft. China launched three rockets of various sizes from their Long March series, ending with a maiden flight of the new Long March 6 rocket. Russia’s single launch was a Proton rocket lofting a communications satellites.
Up on the ISS, Mikhail Kornienko and Scott Kelly reached the halfway mark of their one-year stay on the ISS. One of the ways they celebrated was by watching an advance copy of the new movie The Martian.
— Kjell Lindgren (@astro_kjell) September 20, 2015
Some of the cast from The Martian visited the Johnson Space Center last week and got to talk to Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren aboard the ISS.
Speaking of “live from space”, there was a special event at the National Press Club last week with Mark Kelly, Terry Virts, and Scott Kelly.
Around the Solar System
You have to check out the latest batch of images of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft.
New analysis from the Cassini mission around Saturn has revealed that the liquid water under the ice on Enceladus may in fact be a global ocean, not just an isolated pocket or sea. This makes the prospect of a “life-hunting” mission to Enceladus all the more tantalizing.
Down to Earth
Ok, politics out of the way first. A committee in the US House of Representatives recently marked up a version of a budget bill for NASA that funds the agency at healthy levels but takes a bunch of money from Earth science and gives it to the manned exploration programs. Here is Administrator Charlie Bolden’s official statement on the bill.
Dr. Dava Newman, of MIT, has been confirmed by the US Senate as the new deputy NASA administrator.
SpaceX will conduct their first Pad Abort Test of the manned version of their Dragon capsule on Wednesday. Details of the test can be found here. The unmanned test will be streamed live on NASA TV. Here are some pictures of the Dragon on the pad waiting for the test.
Also, here is a new awesome picture from the failed droneship landing of the SpaceX Falcon 9 booster last month.
My favorite shot from the last rocket landing attempt on the droneship pic.twitter.com/8a403c7Fv1
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 3, 2015
Blue Origin tested their New Shepard vehicle on April 29. The launch got them very close to space, only a few miles short of the Karman Line. Here is a video they released of the test.
Mark Kelly will appear on Celebrity Jeopardy! later this month.
The Adler Planetarium in Chicago is currently running a special exhibit about Apollo 13.
SpaceX successfully launched their 5th flight of the year, launching a comm satellite for Turkmenistan on April 27th.
On April 28, a Soyuz rocket carrying an unmanned Progress resupply craft launched from Kazakhstan, headed for the ISS. Unfortunately, a problem occurred at or near separation from the upper stage and the vehicle spun out of control. Mission controllers in Russia were not able to recover the spacecraft and it is expected to crash back to Earth this week. NASA and its partners have a plan for continued logistical support of the space station without the Progress (SpaceX is launching another resupply very soon) and Russia is conducting an internal investigation.
Meanwhile, up on the ISS, the crew has some distractions to keep them from thinking about the logistical challenges. They have installed their brand new espresso machine (or ISSpresso) and also setup a new projector movie screen.
"Coffee: the finest organic suspension ever devised." Fresh espresso in the new Zero-G cup! To boldly brew… pic.twitter.com/Zw2CllJgzF
— Sam Cristoforetti (@AstroSamantha) May 3, 2015
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) May 4, 2015
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) April 25, 2015
Sam recorded a quick tour of her “hygiene corner” on the ISS.
Around the Solar System
NASA’s MESSENGER probe crashed into Mercury (deliberately) last week, after a successful 4 year orbital mission.
Check out these awesome new images of Pluto from the New Horizons probe… getting closer!
Because its Cool
You can always count on the Onion to make fun of NASA in the best way possible.