Category Archives: Space News

Chris Kraft, NASA’s first flight director, dies at 95

By Amanda Jackson, CNN

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NASA Mission Control founder Chris Kraft in the old Mission Control at Johnson Space Center in 2011.

Chris Kraft, NASA’s first flight director, died Monday, two days after the agency celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, according to NASA. He was 95.

“America has truly lost a national treasure today with the passing of one of NASA’s earliest pioneers — flight director Chris Kraft,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement. “We send our deepest condolences to the Kraft family. Chris was one of the core team members that helped our nation put humans in space and on the Moon, and his legacy is immeasurable.”

Read more from CNN…

New movie points to NASA errors in ‘The Challenger Disaster’

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The Challenger Disaster is the true story of the night before the Challenger explosion in 1986 when a hot headed engineer leads a desperate attempt to stop the launch and the subsequent cover up and whistle blowing. This is the 2nd film by Nathan VonMinden.

Now available on iTunes and Amazon.

Remembering the space shuttle Challenger

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The crew of Space Shuttle Challenger. Left to right are Sharon Christa McAuliffe; Gregory Jarvis; Judith A. Resnik; Francis R. (Dick) Scobee; Ronald E. McNair; Mike J. Smith; and Ellison S. Onizuka. (Image Credit: NASA)

 – It was 33 years ago this coming Monday that NASA’s space shuttle Challenger, carrying Christa McAuliffe, the nation’s first teacher-turned-astronaut, along with six other crew members, exploded just 73 seconds after liftoff.

But until now, nobody’s ever talked about a special prayer that was offered inside McAuliffe’s public school– a prayer that helped provide ballast to a bewildered and grieving faculty.

Against the backdrop of a brilliant blue sky on an unseasonably cold and icy Florida morning, the 25th shuttle mission had already endured three delays before finally launching at 11:38 A.M. on January 28, 1986.

Read more from FOX 4 News…

NASA Progresses Toward SpaceX Resupply Mission to Space Station

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The BEAM is lifted into SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft for transport to the ISS (Photo: SpaceX)

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), developed for NASA by Bigelow Aerospace, is lifted into SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft for transport to the International Space Station when the spacecraft launches at 4:43 p.m. Friday, April 8, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida

NASA provider SpaceX is scheduled to launch its eighth Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station on Friday, April 8. NASA Television coverage of the launch begins at 3:30 p.m. EDT.

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft is targeted to lift off on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket at 4:43 p.m. from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida, carrying science research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory in support of the Expedition 47 and 48 crews.

NASA TV also will air two briefings on Thursday, April 7. At 1 p.m., scientists and researchers will discuss some of the investigations to be delivered to the station, followed by a briefing by mission managers at 3:30 p.m. The briefings also will stream live on the agency’s website.

About 10 minutes after launch, Dragon will reach its preliminary orbit, deploy its solar arrays and begin a carefully choreographed series of thruster firings to reach the space station.

The spacecraft will arrive at the station Sunday, April 10, at which time NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Tim Peake will use the station’s robotic arm to capture the Dragon spacecraft. Ground commands will be sent from Houston to the station’s arm to install Dragon on the bottom side of the Harmony module for its stay at the space station. Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will begin at 5:30 a.m. on NASA TV, with installation set to begin at 9:30 a.m.

The following day, the crew will pressurize the space between the station and Dragon and open the hatch between the two spacecraft.

The Dragon spacecraft will deliver almost 7,000 pounds of supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital outpost and its crew. The cargo includes the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), which will be attached to the space station to test the use of an expandable space habitat in microgravity. Scheduled to return to Earth in May, the Dragon spacecraft will bring back biological samples from astronauts, including those collected during NASA’s one-year mission.

The new experiments arriving to the station will help investigators study muscle atrophy and bone loss in space, use microgravity to seek insight into the interactions of particle flows at the nanoscale level and use protein crystal growth in microgravity to help in the design of new drugs to fight disease.

Dragon is scheduled to return to Earth on May 11. About five-and-a-half hours after it leaves the station, it will splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.

Media at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will have the opportunity to participate in special tours and briefings on April 7 and 8, as well as view the launch. The deadline for media to apply for accreditation for this launch has passed. For more information about media accreditation, contact Jennifer Horner at 321-867-6598 or jennifer.p.horner@nasa.gov.

If the launch does not occur on Friday, April 8, the next launch opportunity is 4:20 p.m. Saturday, April 9, with NASA TV coverage starting at 3:15 p.m.

For an updated schedule of prelaunch briefings, events and NASA TV coverage, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/content/spacex-crs-8-briefings-and-events

For NASA TV downlink information, schedules and links to streaming video, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

Learn more about the SpaceX mission to the International Space Station at:

http://www.nasa.gov/spacex

 

Astronaut Scott Kelly to Retire from NASA in April

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Photo Courtesy of NASA

NASA astronaut and one-year crew member Scott Kelly will retire from the agency, effective April 1. Kelly joined the astronaut corps in 1996 and currently holds the American record for most time spent in space.

After retiring, Kelly will continue to participate in the ongoing research related to his one-year mission. He will provide periodic medical samples and support other testing in much the same way that his twin brother, former astronaut Mark Kelly, made himself available for NASA’s Twins Study during his brother’s mission.

“This year-in-space mission was a profound challenge for all involved, and it gave me a unique perspective and a lot of time to reflect on what my next step should be on our continued journey to help further our capabilities in space and on Earth,” Kelly said. “My career with the Navy and NASA gave me an incredible chance to showcase public service to which I am dedicated, and what we can accomplish on the big challenges of our day. I am humbled and excited by new opportunities for me to support and share the amazing work NASA is doing to help us travel farther into the solar system and work with the next generation of science and technology leaders.”

Kelly flew in space four times, beginning with space shuttle Discovery’s trip to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope on the STS-103 servicing mission in 1999. On his second mission, STS-118, he crossed the threshold of the International Space Station for the first time as commander of space shuttle Endeavour. He returned to the station for a six-month stay in 2010, commanding Expedition 26.

A veteran of spaceflight, Kelly accepted the opportunity to participate in NASA’s unprecedented yearlong space station mission, which aimed to expand the boundaries of space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit through the collection of critical data on how the human body responds to extended space missions. On this mission, Kelly eclipsed two American space records.

“Records are meant to be broken,” Kelly said. “I am looking forward to when these records in space are surpassed.”

Kelly broke the American record for most cumulative time in space during his one-year mission, accruing 520 days.

“Scott’s contributions to NASA are too many to name,” said Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “In his year aboard the space station, he took part in experiments that will have far-reaching effects, helping us pave the way to putting humans on Mars and benefiting life on Earth. His passion for this work has helped give hundreds of thousands of people a better understanding of what NASA does, thanks in part to the numerous photos and updates he shared from space. We appreciate his years of service and anticipate many benefits to come from them, thanks to the research he’s supporting.”

For Kelly’s biography, visit:

http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/kellysj.pdf

NASA Administrator Pays Tribute to Astronaut Scott Kelly

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Photo courtesy of NASA TV

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the retirement of astronaut Scott Kelly:

“When the first Americans set foot on Mars, they will be following in the footsteps of one of the finest astronauts in the history of the space program, my friend, Commander Scott Kelly.  After spending an American record 520 days in space – including his Year in Space – I can think of no one more deserving of some well-deserved rest and time on the same planet as his family and friends. 

“All of us in the NASA family — and indeed in the broader scientific community — are grateful that he was willing to sacrifice time with his loved ones, meals that don’t come in a bag, a cold beer, hot showers, cool autumn breezes, the sounds of birds chirping, the ability to lay his head on an actual pillow and so much more of the pleasures of life during his year of research and experimentation the International Space Station.

“We will never forget the 700 stunning images he posted to social media, the leadership he demonstrated as ISS Commander for the last six months and, most of all, the impact that all his missions and years of service will continue to have on our Journey to Mars.”

For more information about Kelly’s NASA career, and biography, visit:

http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/kellysj.pdf

First annual SpaceCom sparks partnerships and collaboration, securing position as largest commercial space event in world

PRESS RELEASE

SpaceCom mainHOUSTON – Results from the first annual SpaceCom (Space Commerce Conference and Expo) reveal a great desire and need to harness space technology for practical business application and innovation across multiple industries. More than 1,700 professionals representing the aerospace, financial, energy, medical, maritime, satellite communications and advanced manufacturing industries registered for the three-day event, which took place Nov. 17-19 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.

“SpaceCom surpassed expectations from attendees, sponsors and exhibitors with its cross-industry collaboration and exchanges,” said James Causey, executive director for SpaceCom. “The event also served as a catalyst for developing a sustainable, commercial space market that is not reliant on NASA as the sole customer. To that end, it was evident just walking the exposition floor that new industry relationships and partnerships were made around every corner.”

Satellite Applications Catapult CEO Stuart Martin commented in his November 18 keynote, “in the last 24 hours, SpaceCom has become the premier event for the commercial space industry.”

Highlights from SpaceCom 2015 include:

  • Attendees representing 37 states and 23 countries, with delegations from the United Kingdom and Italy
  • 100+ booths showcasing innovative and collaborative products and services
  • More than 50 media representatives from around the world
  • Taped address from Sen. Ted Cruz and two feeds from astronauts aboard the International Space Station
  • Keynotes from  NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides, Satellite Applications Catapult CEO Stuart Martin, Royal Dutch Shell CTO Yuri Sebregts, and author Chris Impey
  • Unique exposition floor with an opening reception, Innovation Theater, VIP Meet and Greets, NASA Modular Robotic Vehicle (MRV) and show floor tours
  • First-ever Commercial Spaceport Summit with representatives from 14 international spaceports

Causey continued, “2015 will be noted as a watershed year for a new era of space commerce. The enactment of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act and the successful launch and landing of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin New Shepard followed within days of our inaugural event”

Plans are set for SpaceCom 2016, which will take place Nov. 15-17 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Companies can reserve sponsorships and booth space by contacting spacecomsales@ntpshow.com. Registration will open in the spring of 2016. For more information about SpaceCom, visit www.spacecomexpo.com.

Clear Lake Alum Shoots for the Stars

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Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense

Many kids in the Clear Lake area dream of a future in outer space, but for 30 year-old Christin Mastracchio, that childhood dream may become a reality very soon.

A Clear Lake native and Clear Lake High School alumna, Mastracchio knew she wanted to shoot for the stars at a young age. When she was 17 years old, her father asked her what she would pay to do for a living instead of being paid.

“I knew I loved science, math and physics. I was a cheerleader and a gymnast and grew up in awe of the space program. We moved back to Clear Lake from California specifically for the school system,” Mastracchio said.

It seemed only natural to pursue a career in the space program.

“I had read so many astronaut biographies,” she said. “I found out there were several ways to get into the Astronaut Program.”

The summer before her senior year in high school, Mastracchio was accepted into the NASA Summer High School Apprenticeship Research Program (SHARP) and was also a Lunar Rendezvous Princess at the Clear Lake Lunar Rendezvous Festival, which is dedicated to providing community based support, including scholarships for higher education, youth development and educational programs, funding for the arts and historical preservation in the Bay Area Houston/NASA area.

After high school, Mastracchio took the military path, going into the Astronautical Engineering Program at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“My time at the Air Force Academy literally was rocket science,” Mastracchio said. “We had to control satellites that were launched into orbit. They spin, so we had to stop the spinning and make sure the cameras or antennas were pointed where they needed to be pointed,” she said.

She then pursued and received her Masters degree in the same major from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Mastracchio also got trained as a pilot, and currently flies B-52s during nuclear deterrent exercises out of Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. She was the first female B-52 pilot in the United States when she started. “That really got me motivated!” she said.

Her practice for Test Pilot School paid off, when, as of last week, she received her letter of acceptance. Mastracchio will begin her yearlong training at Edwards Air Force Base beginning in July 2016. “I was so excited and surprised,” she said. “They had me fly a T-38, a C-12 and an ASK-21 glider. I was familiar with the T-38 because that’s an astronaut-training plane, and a C-12 is a six-seater, two-engine plane. But I had never flown a glider before! It was strange to think of a plane with NO engines!”

Apparently, everything Mastracchio did to prepare paid off. But pursuing her dream of becoming an astronaut is not the only thing Mastracchio is doing.

She was featured in “Futures Magazine,” which is a military recruiting magazine for high school aged kids. She has also been a keynote speaker for the Society of Women Engineers.

“There’s this misconception about math,” Mastracchio said. “It’s actually a universal language. We’re getting better at encouraging girls in STEM subjects. If someone is having problems in math, I tell her to go back and relearn the last thing she felt comfortable with and go from there. Math builds on itself. A lot of times, it’s just a mental block.”

Mastracchio’s dream is, “17 years in the making. I want to encourage girls to get into STEM at a young age. Start out college with a technical major,” she said.

Whether or not Mastracchio becomes an astronaut is undetermined, but her accomplishments so far speak the most to her encouragement of future science, technology, engineering and math students.

Purchase of building at Ellington a key step in Houston Spaceport development plans

HCN NEWS SERVICES
Photo: Kar B. Hlava

Photo: Kar B. Hlava

An important step in the functional launch of the Houston Spaceport was taken on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, when Houston City Council members approved the $6.9 million purchase of an aerospace engineering building and land adjacent to Ellington Airport (EFD).

Using airport funds for the purchase, the 53,000 square foot building will house a shared use manufacturing and general office facility, and already has prospective tenants. The Houston Airport System (HAS) has received a letter of intent to lease from both Intuitive Machines and UK-based Catapult Satellite Applications, and expects to receive others in the near future.

HAS will modify the building and eventually have small and large companies housed on the same campus to encourage collaboration. The co-working space would conceivably include an incubation space for early-stage companies, more permanent offices for developing companies and even larger facilities for companies that need room to mass produce their products.

“This facility becomes the first dedicated infrastructure for the Houston Spaceport project,” said Arturo Machuca, the General Manager at Ellington Airport who successfully led the HAS effort to obtain a Launch Site License from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). “This building will allow us to solidify ongoing commercial relationships with established and emerging aerospace companies. The concept of developing an innovation district as part of the Houston Spaceport project is a key element in achieving the far-reaching goal of developing the aerospace industry into a successful commercial endeavor.”

Located on 4.30 acres of land that abuts the west side of EFD near existing Boeing Company offices and NASA’s Sonny Carter Training Facility, the Boeing Company currently occupies the Houston Product Service Center and plans to continue to use a portion in connection with its NASA contracts.

More details on the plans for the co-working space and incubator concept will be announced at the SpaceCom Conference in Houston this November.

NASA TV to host Perseid meteor shower program

PRESS RELEASE

Astronomer Fred Bruenjes recorded a series of many 30 second long exposures spanning about six hours on the night of Aug. 11 and early morning of Aug. 12, 2004 using a wide angle lens. Combining those frames, which captured meteor flashes, he produced this dramatic view of the Perseids of summer. There are 51 Perseid meteors in the composite image, including one seen nearly head-on. Credits: Fred Bruenjes

Astronomer Fred Bruenjes recorded a series of many 30 second long exposures spanning about six hours on the night of Aug. 11 and early morning of Aug. 12, 2004 using a wide angle lens. Combining those frames, which captured meteor flashes, he produced this dramatic view of the Perseids of summer. There are 51 Perseid meteors in the composite image, including one seen nearly head-on. Credits: Fred Bruenjes

Thanks to a new moon, this week’s Perseid meteor shower is expected to be one of the best in years, and NASA Television will bring viewers a front row seat.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. will broadcast a live program about this year’s Perseid meteor shower from 10 p.m. EDT Wednesday (Aug. 12) to 2 a.m. Thursday (Aug. 13). The event will highlight the science behind the Perseids, as well as NASA research related to meteors and comets. The program will air on NASA TV (http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html) and NASA’s UStream channel (http://www.ustream.tv/NASAHDTV).

The Perseids have been observed for at least 2,000 years and are associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 133 years. Every August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet’s orbital debris. This debris field — mostly created hundreds of years ago — consists of bits of ice and dust shed from the comet which burn up in Earth’s atmosphere to create one of the premier meteor showers of the year.

The best opportunity to see the Perseid meteor shower is during the dark, pre-dawn hours of Aug. 13. The Perseids streak across the sky from many directions, with theoretical rates as high as 100 per hour. The last time the Perseids peak coincided with a new moon was in 2007, making this one of the best potential viewings in years.

Special guests on the live NASA TV broadcast include meteor experts Bill Cooke, Danielle Moser and Rhiannon Blaauw, all of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, located at Marshall. They will provide on-air commentary, as well as answer questions online.

Also scheduled to join the broadcast are experts from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, the American Meteor Society and others.

Anyone can join in the conversation by tweeting questions to @NASA_Marshall on Twitter, using the hashtag #askNASA. Social media users may also post questions to Marshall’s Facebook page by replying to the Aug. 12 Perseid Q-and-A post.

Watch a NASA ScienceCast video on the 2015 Perseid meteor shower here: https://www.youtube.com/user/ScienceAtNASA.

For more information on NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/offices/meo/home/.

For the latest in “Watch the Sky” news, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/watchtheskies/.