SpaceX Sends 19th Resupply to Space Station, Makes 20th Rocket Landing

SpaceX launching a reused Cargo Dragon on the CRS-19 mission to the ISS for NASA on 5 Dec, 2019. Photo: SpaceX

After a strangely quiet late summer and fall across Florida’s Space Coast—at least as far as launches are concerned—SpaceX ramped up the tempo earlier today (Thursday, 5 December) by staging its second Falcon 9 mission in less than three weeks. Hard on the heels of mid-November’s flight of 60 Starlink internet communications satellites, the Hawthorne, Calif.-headquartered company has successfully delivered the CRS-19 Dragon cargo ship towards the International Space Station (ISS).

Liftoff occurred on time at 12:29 p.m. EST, following a scrub on 4 Dec for unfavorable wind conditions, with Dragon scheduled to arrive at the orbital outpost early on Sunday, 8 Dec with 5,700 pounds of equipment, payloads and supplies for the incumbent Expedition 61 crew.



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First Data From NASA's Parker Solar Probe Reveals Sun in New, Surprising Ways

Artist’s concept of Parker Solar Probe during a close flyby of the Sun. Image Credit: Steve Gribben/NASA/JH-APL

Thanks to NASA’s Parker Solar Probe (PSP), scientists are now learning more about the Sun than ever possible before. The newest findings were announced this morning during a media teleconference.



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Calmer Winds Expected for Second SpaceX CRS-19 Launch Attempt Today, Watch Live

Falcon 9 and Cargo Dragon against the sunrise for launch attempt #2 with CRS-19 for NASA. Photo: SpaceX

UPDATE Dec 4: The first launch attempt was scrubbed due to unfavorable upper level winds. New launch attempt set for Dec 5 at 12:29pm EST



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'To Become More Diverse': Choosing the Apollo 13 Landing Site, 50 Years On (Part 1)

Apollo 13’s Latin motto of “Ex Luna, Scientia” (“From the Moon, Knowledge”) highlighted this mission as a voyage of exploration and scientific endeavor. Image Credit: NASA

Had the cruelty of fate not intervened, 14 sons of Earth—not 12—would have taken the sweeping descent down to the surface of the Moon and left their bootprints in primordial lunar soil. In April 1970, Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell, Command Module Pilot (CMP) Jack Swigert and Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) Fred Haise came within a hair’s breadth of disaster, some 240,000 miles (370,000 km) from home, when an explosion occurred in their Command and Service Module (CSM) Odyssey. Through an amazing combination of human spirit, ingenuity and heroism, both in space and on Earth (and against all odds), the three astronauts returned safely home.

If near-tragedy had not so radically altered Apollo 13, Lovell and Haise would have performed two Extravehicular Activities (EVAS) at a place on the Moon called Fra Mauro, the first hilly, upland site ever explored by humans. Fifty years ago this month, NASA formally announced the selection of Fra Mauro as the destination for the ill-fated flight.



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NASA’s Next Mars Rover Will Explore Ancient Lakeshore for Martian Fossils

Color-coded image of Jezero Crater and the landing site of Mars 2020 (in the ellipse). The delta is on the western side of the crater. Darker colors are lower elevation and lighter colors are higher. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

For the past few decades, rovers and landers on Mars have focused on finding out whether the planet was habitable for life in the distant past. Not since the Viking landers in the late 1970s/early 1980s has there been a direct search for evidence of life, until now.

NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 rover (as well as ESA’s ExoMars rover) will look for evidence of past microbial life when it lands on Feb. 18, 2021 in Jezero Crater. This crater once held a lake and river delta, and the sediments still there are a prime location to search for such evidence.



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Hills and Valleys: Remembering Apollo 12's Hair-Raising Ride to the Moon, 50 Years Ago (Part 2)

Alan Bean carries the panniers of the first Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) across the dusty terrain for installation. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifty years ago, this month, America triumphantly completed the second voyage with humans to the surface of the Moon. As outlined in last weekend’s AmericaSpace history article, the Apollo 12 crew of Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad, Command Module Pilot (CMP) Dick Gordon and Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) Al Bean enjoyed a far-from-nominal ascent to low-Earth orbit on 14 November 1969; watched by President Richard M. Nixon, their rapidly climbing Saturn V booster was twice struck by lightning, necessitating quick reactions from the crew and remarkable skill and heroism from Mission Control. At length, a potentially disastrous situation with the electrical system aboard Command and Service Module (CSM) Yankee Clipper stabilized and the second landing mission to the Moon was underway.



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Starliner Joins Rocket for Dec Launch on Uncrewed Orbital Flight Test

Boeing’s first CST-100 ‘Starliner’ crew capsule rolls out of the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 21, 2019. Photo: Jeff Seibert / AmericaSpace.com

Early Wednesday (Nov 21), Boeing rolled out their first CST-100 Starliner crew capsule for space, departing a former space shuttle processing hangar at Kennedy Space Center in the middle of the night for transport to neighboring Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where the spacecraft’s rocket was waiting.



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'SCE to Aux': Remembering Apollo 12's Hair-Raising Ride to the Moon, 50 Years Ago (Part 1)

In drizzle and with ominous thunderstorms and lightning in the area, Apollo 12 takes flight on 14 November 1969, 50 years ago this month. Photo Credit: NASA

Look up “1969” on Wikipedia and the image that appears time and again is related in some way, shape or form to Apollo 11, which saw astronauts Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins and Buzz Aldrin achieve humanity’s long-held dream to set foot on another world. Making landfall on the Moon—and Armstrong’s now-famous “one small step”—was only the first in a series of landing missions which would go on to see 12 men walk the dusty lunar surface, go cross-country on its undulating terrain, find some of the most ancient rocks in the Solar System and suffer indigestion from potassium-laced orange juice.

But only on Apollo 12, which flew 50 years ago this month, in November 1969, could astronauts declare that they had made up their own first words on the Moon; only on Apollo 12 could they truly say that they had used pictures of Playboy girls to guide them to their allotted tasks; and only on Apollo 12 would they return to lunar orbit and be instructed to float from one spacecraft to another, entirely in their birthday suits.



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SpaceX Test Fires Crew Dragon's Abort Engines, Paves Way to In-Flight Abort Test

SpaceX conducted a successful full-duration static fire test of Crew Dragon’s launch escape system again on Nov 13, 2019, and will now work with NASA to review the data & proceed towards their next major flight test milestone before putting astronauts onboard; an in-flight abort during a rocket launch itself, to validate Dragon’s launch escape capabilities. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX just hit another big milestone today on the road to launching astronauts for NASA starting next year, with a successful test fire campaign of their Crew Dragon’s maneuvering thrusters and abort engines at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The test comes nearly 7 months after an anomaly blew up a Crew Dragon during the original test firing of its abort engines back on April 20, which was traced to a leaky valve which allowed liquid oxidizer – nitrogen tetroxide (NTO) – to enter high-pressure helium tubes during ground processing.



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NASA Joins ESA's 'ARIEL' Mission to Study Atmospheres of Hot Exoplanets

Artist’s concept of the ARIEL spacecraft on its way to Lagrange Point 2 (L2). Image Credit: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/Europlanet-Science Office

Thousands of exoplanets have been discovered so far – just over 4,000 now actually – with thousands more expected to be found in the near future. But these worlds are very far away, so it is a difficult task to determine just what they are actually like. But now, NASA is contributing an instrument to a new European space mission that will be able to study the atmospheres of hundreds of these worlds.



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