'Sitting On A Controlled Explosion': 25 Years Since the Space Shuttle's Half-Century Mission

 

Endeavour roars aloft, 25 years ago, this week, for the Space Shuttle’s 50th flight. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Twenty-five years ago, this week, Space Shuttle Endeavour—the youngest member of NASA’s fleet of orbiter vehicles, built to replace the ill-fated Challenger—rocketed away from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, on a mission of many firsts. Her crew included the first Japanese citizen to fly aboard a U.S. spacecraft, the first married couple to fly together on the same space mission and the first African-American female astronaut. And despite its numerical designation of “STS-47”, Endeavour’s second flight was actually the 50th mission of the 30-year Space Shuttle Program (SSP).

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'The Last Hurrah': Cassini Prepares for Fiery End of Mission in One Week

One of the most surreal views of Saturn from Cassini, backlit by the Sun. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The end is nigh. Those really are not the words that scientists and fans of the Cassini mission at Saturn want to hear, but it’s true. After exploring Saturn and its moons since 2004, the Cassini spacecraft has now entered its final orbit around the ringed gas giant, and today will also make its last pass through the gap between Saturn and its rings. A week from now, Cassini will plunge into Saturn’s thick atmosphere, still recording data as long as it can, until it is crushed by the intense atmospheric pressure. Although the mission will be over, however, the incredible amount of science returned by Cassini will keep scientists busy for many years to come.

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BlackSky Awarded $16.4M Contract by Air Force Research Lab for New Geospatial Intelligence Brokering Platform

Spaceflight Industries today announced that BlackSky has been awarded a two-year $16.4 million cost-plus-prime contract with the Air Force Research Lab to develop and deliver a cloud-based geospatial intelligence broker platform. The brokering platform will provide on-demand analytics, collection, and information services from global data sources. Credit: Spaceflight Industries

Spaceflight Industries today announced that BlackSky has been awarded a two-year $16.4 million cost-plus-prime contract with the Air Force Research Lab to develop and deliver a cloud-based geospatial intelligence broker platform. The brokering platform will provide on-demand analytics, collection, and information services from global data sources.

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SpaceX Launches OTV-5, Lands Another Falcon as Hurricane Approaches

OTV-5 launch. Photo: SpaceX

This morning SpaceX launched the Air Force’s reusable X-37B ‘mini shuttle” Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) from KSC launch pad 39A, putting the vehicle on orbit and bringing the rocket’s first stage booster back to Earth for another successful landing on “Landing Zone 1” just a few miles south of the launch site, just minutes after liftoff.

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Whitson Sets Endurance, EVA Records for Women, Wraps Up Ten-Month Space Station Expedition

Wrapping up the third long-duration mission of her career, Peggy Whitson has now spent over 665 days of her life away from Planet Earth. Photo Credit: NASA

The world’s most experienced female space traveler is tonight enjoying her first full day back on Earth, after returning from a third trip to the International Space Station (ISS). Veteran astronaut Peggy Whitson—the first woman to fly as many as three long-duration space missions—wrapped up 288 days, 5 hours and 1 minute across her 9.5 months of service on the Expedition 50, 51 and 52 crews. She became the first woman to command a space station for a second time and secured the world record for the greatest number of spacewalking hours by a female. All told, across her three-flight career, Whitson has logged more than 1.8 years of her 57 years of life in space.

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Bresnik Becomes First Marine Corps Officer to Command Space Station

Five weeks into his second space mission, Randy Bresnik today became the first U.S. Marine Corps officer to command the International Space Station (ISS). Photo Credit: Randy Bresnik/NASA/Twitter

You might be forgiven for wondering why the Marine Corps Hymn was piped into the cabin of the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft on the launch pad at Baikonur as darkness fell on 28 July. Over the years, it has not been unusual for astronauts and cosmonauts, about to head into space from this desolate expanse of Kazakh steppe, to listen to their choice of music in the final moments of countdown. But on this occasion, the Hymn heralded something different, for Soyuz MS-05 crewman Randy “Komrade” Bresnik would become not only the first Marine to serve a long-duration increment aboard the International Space Station (ISS), but also the first branch member to command the sprawling orbital laboratory.

Earlier today (Friday, 1 September), Bresnik assumed command of the station, taking over from Expedition 52 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, who has led the ISS since early June. The Marine Corps Colonel, who turns 50 later this month, will command Expedition 53 until mid-December.

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A New Look at 'Ocean Worlds': James Webb Space Telescope Will Target Europa and Enceladus

An example of possible spectroscopy results from one of Europa’s water vapor plumes. Image Credit: NASA-GSFC/SVS/Hubble Space Telescope/Stefanie Milam/Geronimo Villanueva

NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be used to study two of the most fascinating moons in our Solar System  – Europa and Enceladus, also known as “ocean worlds” since both have global oceans of water beneath their outer icy surfaces. The new observations will help scientists learn more about conditions on these worlds and guide the development of future robotic missions.

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VIDEO: Dream Chaser Conducts 'Phase Two' Captive Carry Test #1

SNC’s Dream Chaser test article conducts a Captive Carry test attached to a Chinook helicopter Aug 30, 2017, kicking off its Phase Two flight test campaign. Photo Credit: SNC

The engineering test article for Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser ‘spaceplane’ took to the skies today (Aug 30, 2017) over NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, located at Edwards Air Force Base, CA, conducting a “Captive Carry” test while attached to a Columbia Helicopters Model 234-UT Chinook helicopter.

We are very pleased with results from the Captive Carry test, and everything we have seen points to a successful test with useful data for the next round of testing,” said Lee “Bru” Archambault, SNC’s director of flight operations for the Dream Chaser program.

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Launching in the Rain: The Delays and Ascent of Mission 51I

On the cusp of daybreak, Mission 51I spreads its wings on 27 August 1985, kicking off one of the most dramatic Shuttle flights in history. Photo Credit: NASA

Thirty-two years ago, today, Space Shuttle Discovery roared into the pre-dawn darkness from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), on an ambitious mission to deploy three communications satellites and retrieve and repair a fourth. Crewed by Commander Joe Engle, Pilot Dick Covey and Mission Specialists James “Ox” van Hoften, Mike Lounge and Bill Fisher, Mission 51I launched during a period of severe thunderstorms and rain in Florida; in fact, conditions were so severe that the astronauts—even in the “gung-ho” halcyon days, before Challenger—doubted that they would fly at all.

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Hotsprings in Gale Crater? Curiosity Rover Finds New Evidence for Ancient Hydrothermal Activity

Mineral veins below a cap rock ridge on the lower slopes of Mount Sharp in Gale crater. Curiosity found the highest levels of germanium in these veins, evidence for previous hydrothermal activity. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity rover has found even more evidence for a previously habitable environment in Gale crater on Mars, according to a new study just published. The findings point to a history of hydrothermal activity in the region, which combined with other evidence for a past lake in the crater, makes an even more compelling case for possible ancient life.

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