Terry Virts is pictured working on cable-routing activities in support of the future International Docking Adapters (IDAs) during EVA-29 on 21 February 2015. This was the first spacewalk in the 50th anniversary year since Alexei Leonov’s pioneering EVA. Photo Credit: NASA
Less than a month ago, on 1 March 2015, U.S. astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Terry Virts concluded a spectacular series of three EVAs to prepare the International Space Station (ISS) for its most significant phase of expansion and relocation of hardware since the end of the shuttle era. They laid 340 feet (103 meters) of cables in support of the arrival of two International Docking Adapters (IDAs)—critical for NASA’s future Commercial Crew aspirations—as well as a further 400 feet (122 meters) of cables for the Common Communications for Visiting Vehicles (C2V2) architecture and prepared two berthing ports on the Tranquility node for use later in 2015. In concluding the last of these EVAs, Wilmore and Virts completed the 187th spacewalk performed by astronauts and cosmonauts from the United States, Russia, Canada, France, Japan, Germany, Sweden, and Italy since December 1998 to assemble and maintain the largest and most complex engineering achievement in human history. It is a mammoth effort which is expected to continue this year and throughout the station’s operational lifetime.
Continue reading Traversing the New Frontier: The First 50 Years of Spacewalking (Part 6)
Rosetta has made the first detection of molecular nitrogen at a comet. The results provide clues about the temperature environment in which Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko formed. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab; comet: ESA/Rosetta/NavCam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
Rosetta, humankind’s first spacecraft to orbit a comet, has now made the first detection of molecular nitrogen (N2) at a comet. Meanwhile, the European Space Agency (ESA) probe continues searching for signals from Philae, humankind’s first probe to land on the surface of a comet, named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
The discovery of molecular nitrogen “provides important clues about the temperature environment in which Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko formed,” says the science team.
Continue reading Rosetta Makes First Detection of Cometary Molecular Nitrogen, Seeks Signals From Philae Lander
A montage of Jupiter and its volcanic moon Io, as seen by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on its way to Pluto. The results of a new study indicate that the massive gas giant fundamentally altered the evolution of the early Solar System, by destroying any “Super-Earth”-type planets that may have formed, while opening the way for the formation of the inner terrestrial planets like Earth. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/GSFC
In the religious mythology of classical antiquity, the ancient Greek god Cronus (as well as his Roman counterpart, Saturn) was a member of the first generation of Titans who became the ruler of the Universe and the master of time by overthrowing his father, Uranus. While trying to avoid meeting the same fate by his children, Saturn later swallowed each one of them as they were born, only to be finally defeated by his son Jupiter, who eventually took his father’s place as the god of the sky and the ruler of gods and mortals alike. Akin to the father of his mythological namesake, a wandering Jupiter has probably wreaked a similar havoc early in the Solar System’s history, according to a new study, by throwing into the Sun several primordial “Super-Earth”-type planets that might have already formed, soon after the formation of the Sun. Yet, contrary to ancient myth, the gravity of the newly formed Saturn prevented the planetary king of the Solar System from meeting the same fate, by pulling the gas giant outward. Nevertheless, this inward-and-then-outward journey by Jupiter caused a wide planetary obliteration, which eventually allowed for the formation of a second generation of mass-depleted terrestrial planets, one of which was Earth.
Continue reading Jupiter Might Be Responsible for Our Unusual Solar System, Study Suggests
Story Musgrave works at the end of Endeavour’s mechanical arm during activities to service the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in December 1993. Photo Credit: NASA
Almost a quarter-century ago, in April 1991, the effort to build today’s International Space Station (ISS) got underway with a pair of spacewalks—one unplanned—outside the shuttle Atlantis. During STS-37, astronauts Jerry Ross and Jay Apt performed the first shuttle-based EVA of the post-Challenger era to manually deploy a balky antenna on the Gamma Ray Observatory (GRO) and to practice techniques and tools for what was then known as Space Station Freedom and which would eventually morph into today’s International Space Station (ISS). As described in the most recent article in this AmericaSpace series on 50 years of EVA accomplishments, it was a quirk of fate that Ross had embarked on the most recent shuttle-based spacewalk and even stranger, perhaps, that he would go on to put this work to exceptional use on the first ISS assembly mission in December 1998.
Continue reading Ready for Space Station Building: The First 50 Years of Spacewalking (Part 5)
Soyuz TMA-16M roars away from Site 1/5 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 1:42 a.m. local time Saturday, 28 March (3:42 p.m. EDT Friday, 27 March), carrying Russian cosmonauts Gennadi Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko and U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly to the International Space Station (ISS). Photo Credit: NASA
The first year-long expedition of the International Space Station (ISS) era is officially underway, following the spectacular launch of Russian cosmonauts Gennadi Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko, together with U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly, aboard Soyuz TMA-16M from Site 1/5 (the famed “Gagarin’s Start”) at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Launching on time into foggy skies at 1:42 a.m. local time Saturday, 28 March (3:42 p.m. EDT Friday, 27 March), the spacecraft and its powerful Soyuz-FG booster was delivered within nine minutes into low-Earth orbit, ahead of a now-standard six-hour and four-orbit “fast rendezvous” regime to dock at the station’s space-facing (or “zenith”) Poisk module at about 9:36 p.m. EDT. Padalka, Kornienko, and Kelly—who now boast 1,066 days of prior spaceflight experience—have now become the most flight-seasoned crew in history.
Continue reading One-Year Mission Underway With Rousing Soyuz TMA-16M Launch
The Asteroid Redirect Vehicle, part of NASA’s Asteroid Initiative concept, is shown traveling to lunar orbit using its solar electric propulsion system in this artist’s concept. Image credit: NASA
Asteroids are getting a lot of attention, today in particular, because asteroid 2014 YB35 will be coming within 0.03 Astronomical Units (AU) of Earth. There is no reason to be alarmed, as this is a natural occurrence within our Solar System, and NASA is hard at work discovering these Near Earth Objects, or NEOs. Since NASA launched its Asteroid Initiative three years ago, the agency has identified more than 12,000 asteroids, with about 96 percent measuring over 0.6 miles (1 km) in length. None of these objects pose a threat to our home planet; however, they do offer the chance to study these massive space rocks for future deep space missions and deflection techniques if one should threaten Earth. NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is currently under development with plans to send a robotic spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid for a rendezvous and capture mission. The agency originally had an ambitious plan to rendezvous with an asteroid, capture it, and bring it into lunar orbit for exploration by astronauts.
Continue reading NASA Goes With ‘Option B’ for Future Asteroid Redirect Mission
Curiosity investigates a beautiful outcrop of scientifically enticing dark and light mineral veins at ”Garden City” outcrop at the base of Mount Sharp at current location on Mars. This photo mosaic was stitched from Mastcam color camera raw images. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo
After about a two-week stand down to investigate the cause and consequences of a transient short circuit detected in the Curiosity rover’s arm-mounted drill mechanism, engineers determined it was safe to get the high-tech robot back in action and resume normal science and driving operations on the Red Planet.
And soon after the car-sized robot started rolling again across the alien Martian crater floor, she discovered a beautiful patch of mineral vein-filled rocks on her epic trek up from the foothills of a humongous mountain under investigation today, March 26, 2015, on Sol 937 of Martian surface operations. See our veiny photo mosaic above.
Continue reading Curiosity Back in Action, Discovers Beautiful Veins Heading up Martian Mountain
Scott Kelly participates in a Soyuz spacecraft training session, ahead of his scheduled 27/28 March launch with Gennadi Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko. Photo Credit: NASA
Twenty-four hours now remain before Soyuz TMA-16M is scheduled to rocket toward the International Space Station (ISS), carrying Russian cosmonauts Gennadi Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko and U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly to form the second half of Expedition 43 and rotate into the “core” of Expedition 44. However, as described in yesterday’s AmericaSpace article, this mission differs from the previous long-duration missions to the station, in that Kelly and Kornienko will spend almost an entire year in space, becoming the first spacefarers to do so aboard the ISS and the first humans to do so in the 21st century. As well as becoming the single most flight-experienced crew in history at the time of tomorrow’s launch—with 1,066 days of prior space time, between them—Padalka, Kornienko, and Kelly are set to break numerous national and empirical duration records during their lengthy mission.
Continue reading Ambitious One-Year Mission Counting Down to Friday Launch (Part 2)
View from Opportunity on Mars today!
Opportunity’s view on the day the NASA rover exceeded the distance of a marathon on the surface of Mars on March 24, 2015, Sol 3968. Rover stands at Spirit of Saint Louis crater near mountaintop at Marathon Valley overlook and Martian cliffs at Endeavour crater holding deposits of water altered clay minerals. This navcam camera photo mosaic was assembled from images taken on Sol 3968 (March 24, 2015) and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
NASA’s long-lived Opportunity rover completed her first Red Planet marathon this Tuesday, March 24, a distance running to 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometers) and marking another in a lengthy string of unfathomable achievements when she crossed the finish line with a time of roughly 11 years and two months.
Indeed it’s the first marathon run by an emissary from Earth on another planet!
Continue reading Opportunity Achieves Marathon Distance Feat at Majestic Mars Mountain Overlook
Rising into a gloomy ball of low-lying fog, the first Delta-IV of 2015 took flight at 2:36 p.m. EDT Wednesday, 25 March, delivering the ninth Global Positioning System (GPS) Block IIF satellite into orbit. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace
United Launch Alliance (ULA)—the Centennial, Colo.-based launch services operator of Atlas V, Delta IV and Delta II boosters, out of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.—has successfully delivered the ninth of an eventual series of 12 Global Positioning System (GPS) Block IIF satellites into a Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), at an altitude of 11,047 nautical miles (20,460 km). ULA lofted its storied Delta IV Medium+ (4,2) from the Cape’s Space Launch Complex (SLC)-37B at 2:36 p.m. EDT Wednesday, 25 March, precisely on the opening of an 18-minute “window”. With four missions now achieved in just three months, the company is in pole position to achieve its target of 13 launches by the end of 2015.
Continue reading Fourth ULA Launch in Three Months Boosts Latest GPS Block IIF to Medium Earth Orbit