'Kind of Unique': Remembering Apollo's Deep-Space EVAs

Al Worden clambers across the exterior of Apollo 15’s service module during the first deep-space Extravehicular Activity (EVA), on this day in 1971. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

On this day in 1971, a fully-suited astronaut poked his helmeted head out of the side hatch of the Command and Service Module (CSM), named “Endeavour”, and into an environment unlike any other. Al Worden—one of three astronauts aboard Apollo 15, our fourth successful manned lunar landing mission—was tasked with retrieving film from cameras in the Scientific Instrument Bay (SIMBay) in the service module. To do that, the 39-year-old Worden had to clamber, hand-over-hand, across a distance of 30 feet (9 meters), and back again. And although the intricate feat of “spacewalking” had been performed several times by Worden’s day, up until 5 August 1971 all had been performed in low-Earth orbit or on the surface of the Moon. Worden remains one of only three humans to have made a “deep space walk” in the cislunar void between Earth and our nearest celestial neighbor.

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New Horizons Team Successfully Observes New Stellar Occultation of Ultima Thule

Paul Maley and Ted Blank, of the International Occultation Timing Association, observe the occultation of Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule on the morning of June 3, 2017, from the Karoo desert near Vosburg, South Africa. Photo Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Henry Throop

Astronomers have just completed another observation of New Horizons’ next flyby target, Ultima Thule (aka 2014 MU69), pass in front of a distant star (a stellar occultation), on Aug. 3-4, 2018. This is the third such occultation observed and the data gathered will help the mission team to prepare for the encounter, which is scheduled for Jan. 1, 2019.

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He Was On Vacation When NASA Called To Be A Dragon Rider For His First Space Flight

NASA Astronaut Victor Glover was on a cruise when NASA called to assign his first space mission, on the second flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the first fully operational long-duration Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

Yesterday, NASA – along with Commercial Crew partners Boeing and SpaceX – announced the long-awaited astronauts who will fly the first missions back to space from U.S. soil since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. Flying on Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, eight NASA astronauts (and one Boeing test pilot astronaut) will fly the initial orbital flight tests and first operational missions to the International Space Station, and Victor Glover, one of NASA’s “rookies”, got the call of a lifetime to fly his first space mission while he was on vacation.

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NASA Assigns First Crews For Boeing Starliner & SpaceX Crew Dragon Flights

NASA introduced to the world on Aug. 3, 2018, the first U.S. astronauts who will fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station – an endeavor that will return astronaut launches to U.S. soil for the first time since the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011. The agency assigned nine astronauts to crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. The astronauts are, from left to right: Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover. Credits: NASA

It has been almost eight years—2,880 days, to be exact—since the United States last named a team of astronauts to launch into space, aboard a U.S.-built spacecraft, and from U.S. soil. On 14 September 2010, veteran spacefarers Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim were assigned to what became the final flight of the shuttle program, STS-135 in July 2011. Since then, U.S. astronauts have relied solely on Russia to get to and from the International Space Station (ISS), and a cadre was named in July 2015 for Commercial Crew. Yet for eight years, no mission-specific assignments were made for U.S.-built spacecraft, with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.

All that changed at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas today.

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Good Test Fire Paves Way For First SpaceX 'Block 5' Reflight With 'Merah Putih' on Aug 7

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The first SpaceX Falcon 9 ‘Block 5’ to be re-flown conducted a successful static test fire at launch complex 40 on Cape Canaveral today, paving the way for launch with the ‘Merah Putih’ satellite on August 7. Photo Courtesy: Jacques Van OeneSpaceX completed a successful Static Fire Test today of an already flown Falcon 9 rocket, slated to be used early next week to launch Indonesia’s Telkom-4 “Merah Putih” communications satellite into geostationary orbit. The standard test took place at Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on Thursday, 2 August, and the upcoming mission will represent the first reuse of a ‘Block 5’ first stage.

Although still unconfirmed by SpaceX (after repeated emails inquiring), it is believed that the booster is designated “B1046”, used previously to launch Bangladesh’s first geostationary satellite, Bangabandhu-1, in May. It is expected too, that the first stage will execute an oceanic landing on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS)—nicknamed “Of Course I Still Love You”— in the Atlantic Ocean.

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NASA Updates Schedule for Starliner & Crew Dragon Orbital Flight Tests

Artist renderings of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner & SpaceX’s Crew Dragon in orbit. Image Credit: NASA

Tomorrow NASA will announce the astronauts who will fly the first space missions from U.S. soil since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2011, when America became solely dependent on Russia to fly our astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS), at a cost of over $80 million per seat. SpaceX and Boeing were each given a combined $6.8 billion contract to develop spacecraft to begin launching crews to the ISS for NASA in 2014, but development of those spacecraft – Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon – has faced numerous delays, and now that the finish line is near, NASA has updated the schedule again for when the space agency expects those vehicles to conduct their first orbital flight tests.

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Parker Solar Probe Moved to Launch Pad for Aug 11 Flight to 'Touch' the Sun

Parker Solar Probe, encapsulated with a 62.7-foot fairing, was transported to Launch Complex 37 overnight to meet its rocket, the U”A Delta IV Heavy, which will launch it to ‘touch’ the sun as soon as August 11 at 3:48 a.m. EDT. Photo Courtesy: Twitter @Fox35DerrolNail

Humanity’s first mission to ‘touch’ a star is rapidly approaching an opening launch attempt from Florida on August 11, and last night NASA’s Parker Solar Probe (PSP) was transported from its clean room processing facility to Space Launch Complex-37 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to meet the rocket which will launch it to the sun, the triple-barreled United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta-IV Heavy.

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'Limits to Inhibit': Remembering Challenger's Dramatic 51F Launch, On This Day in 1985

After one false start, Challenger roars into orbit on 29 July 1985, to begin the Spacelab-2 science mission. It would be one of the most dramatic near-misses in the 30-year shuttle program. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

More than three decades ago, one of the most complex Space Shuttle science missions ever undertaken hung—for the merest of seconds—on the knife’s edge between success and failure, some 67 miles (108 km) above Earth. Heading into orbit at more than 9,300 mph (15,000 km/h) on the afternoon of 29 July 1985, Challenger was in the process of launching seven astronauts and the Spacelab-2 payload of telescopes and astronomical instruments for seven days of round-the-clock science. Three weeks earlier, on 12 July, the Mission 51F crew of Commander Gordon Fullerton, Pilot Roy Bridges, Mission Specialists Karl Henize, Story Musgrave and Tony England and Payload Specialists Loren Acton and John-David Bartoe had endured a hairy on-the-pad engine shutdown, seconds before liftoff. Their second attempt to reach space would prove successful, but today stands as one of the most significant near-misses in the shuttle’s program’s 30-year lifetime.

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TESS Begins Hunt for Other Earths, Opening New Chapter in Exoplanet Research

Artist’s illustration of TESS is space. Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

The next big chapter in exoplanet research has begun – NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has started its science observations. This is exciting since TESS will be searching for rocky, Earth-like and potentially habitable planets orbiting nearby stars. TESS is a follow-up mission to the Kepler Space Telescope, which is now almost out of fuel. Kepler alone has discovered thousands of exoplanets, but most of those ones are more distant. TESS will look at planets closer to our Solar System, which could be studied more closely by other missions/telescopes.

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Iridium NEXT Nears Completion With Third 'Block 5' Falcon 9 Launch

The seventh batch of Iridium NEXT satellites take flight in cloudy conditions at Vandenberg at 4:39 a.m. PDT Wednesday, 25 July. Photo Credit: SpaceX

Beginning a continuous run of touchdowns on either oceanic vessels or ground-based landing pads, against many odds, SpaceX has successfully alighted a second Upgraded Falcon 9 core on the deck of an Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) in the span of just three days. Following Sunday’s pre-dawn flight of the heavyweight Telstar 19V mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., another booster departed Space Launch Complex (SLC)-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at 4:39 a.m. PDT Wednesday, 25 July, laden with ten Iridium NEXT global mobile communications satellites. With SpaceX’s stock of “Block 4” boosters now used up, a full transition to the uprated “Block 5″—a variant which will also carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in the near future—has occurred and all upcoming missions can expect to see first-stage recoveries. However, due to rough seas, an attempt to retrieve the two halves of the booster’s payload fairing, via the Mr. Steven vessel, was unsuccessful.

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