'Nothing Absurd': Remembering America's Galileo Mission to Jupiter, 30 Years On (Part 1)

Mounted atop its Boeing-built Inertial Upper Stage (IUS), Galileo parts company from Space Shuttle Atlantis on the evening of 18 October 1989. Photo Credit: NASA

When the Galileo spacecraft drifted out of Space Shuttle Atlantis’ payload bay on the evening of 18 October 1989—30 years ago this week—to begin the first leg of its long voyage to Jupiter, the sight was a moving one for astronaut Shannon Lucid. As a Mission Specialist on STS-34, she was principally responsible for deploying one of the most important scientific payloads ever flown by the shuttle. Yet as Galileo and its attached Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) booster floated silently into the void, Lucid clearly saw the romance of adventure, manifested in the name Galileo in script letters and the initials of the space agency NASA in its now-defunct worm logo. In her mind, the two font types underscored the romance of adventure and exploration, juxtaposed against the engineering and scientific talent which brought Galileo from the drawing board to reality. Its journey to the launch pad had been a long and tortuous and its voyage to Jupiter would be longer and harder still.



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For All Womankind: Koch and Meir Complete Historic All-Female Spacewalk

Christina Koch (with red stripes) was making her fourth career Extravehicular Activity (EVA), whilst Jessica Meir became the 14th U.S. woman and the 15th woman in history—when one also counts Russia’s Svetlana Savitskaya—to perform a spacewalk. Photo Credit: NASA

Thirty-five years to the month since Kathy Sullivan carved her name in the annals of history by becoming America’s first female spacewalker, another record was set for the United States and the world earlier today (Friday, 18 October) when Expedition 61 astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir embarked on the world’s first all-woman Extravehicular Activity (EVA). The duo—with Koch making her fourth career EVA, serving as “EV1”, with red stripes on her space suit for identification, and first-timer spacewalker Meir as “EV2”, in a pure white suit—spent seven hours and 17 minutes outside the International Space Station (ISS) replacing a failed Battery Charge/Discharge Unit (BCDU) and tending to a number of get-ahead tasks. In addition to its obvious significance as the first-ever all-female EVA, today’s U.S. EVA-58 saw Koch jump in the rankings to become the world’s fourth most experienced woman spacewalker.



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NASA Makes Progress in Restoring InSight’s Malfunctioning Heat Probe

NASA’s InSight lander set its heat probe, called the Heat and Physical Properties Package (HP3) or “the mole,” on the Martian surface on Feb. 12, 2019. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DLR

NASA’s InSight mission on Mars has been incredibly successful so far, with new findings about magnetism in the crust, marsquakes and even possible evidence for a vast amount of subsurface water.



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Mission to Earth's Twisted Twin: Remembering the Magellan Voyage to Venus, 25 Years On

The volcano Maat Mons, as viewed by Magellan’s powerful Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). The ambitious mission to radar-map Venus came to an end 25 years ago, this month. Image Credit: NASA

Twenty-five years ago, this month, a tiny spacecraft ended a remarkable mission which successfully mapped over 90 percent of the surface of Venus and, in so doing, unmasked its cloud-obscured surface for the first time and revealed tantalizing truths about a planet so similar to Earth in size, yjet so different in virtually every other aspect. NASA’s Magellan mission—named for the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who first circumnavigated the globe in the early 16th century—had been launched aboard shuttle Atlantis in May 1989 and reached Venus 15 months later in August 1990. It went on to acquire unprecedented Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery of craters, volcanoes, flat plains, hills, ridges and other geological features on a world long described as Earth’s “evil twin”. So impressively comprehensive were Magellan’s results that they revealed more about Venus in four short years than had been achieved in centuries of ground-based observation.



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Artemis Updates

SLS Core Stage Pathfinder at Stennis B-2 Test Stand. Photo: NASA

This edition of Artemis Updates brings updates on the Artemis 1 SLS Core Stage, Orion, and Exploration funding. Construction of the Artemis 1 SLS Core Stage has been completed, 12 Orions were ordered by NASA, and the Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee gave NASA’s Exploration programs (SLS and Orion) large funding increases.



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Spacewalkers Begin Three-Week EVA Marathon to Replace Space Station Batteries

Today’s battery replacement task centered on the P-6 truss segment, circled. Photo Credit: NASA/Twitter

Veteran spacewalkers Christina Koch and Drew Morgan wrapped up a multi-hour session of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) yesterday to begin replacing old nickel-hydrogen batteries in the P-6 truss of the International Space Station (ISS) with upgraded lithium-ion units and associated adapter plates. The two astronauts—both of whom had completed one EVA apiece before—ventured outside the station’s Quest airlock for U.S. EVA-56 at 7:39 a.m. EDT Sunday, 6 October, to begin a series of five U.S. spacewalks over a three-week period to attend to the complicated P-6 battery changeout.



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'Down-the-Throat Geology': Remembering the Fall and Rise of STS-68, 25 Years On (Part 2)

Spectacular “down-the-throat” perspective of the Klyuchevskaya Sopka eruption in Kamchatka, which occurred during the STS-68 mission, 25 years ago. Photo Credit: NASA 

Twenty-five years ago, tonight, six astronauts spent their last night on Earth ahead of a scheduled liftoff early the following morning on a complex mission to radar-map the Home Planet in unprecedented detail. The second Space Radar Laboratory (SRL-2)—equipped with the powerful Shuttle Imaging Radar (SIR-C) and the X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (X-SAR)—was flying only a few months after SRL-1, in order to gather data and capture a glimpse of terrestrial change in the late spring and late summer of the year. And it would not be unrealistic to suppose that STS-68 Commander Mike Baker and his crew may have had a fluttering of nerves as they steeled themselves to rocket off the planet next day.



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NASA's InSight Lander 'Hears' Multiple Marsquakes and Other Odd Sounds

InSight imaged clouds moving overhead on April 25, 2019. The dome-covered seismometer, SEIS, is in the foreground. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

A few days ago, it was reported that NASA’s InSight lander had found evidence for an oddly pulsating magnetic field, a more magnetic crust than expected and – maybe – the existence of a global reservoir of subsurface water.



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'Engines in Post-Shutdown Standby': Remembering the Fall and Rise of STS-68, 25 Years On (Part 1)

The successful launch of STS-68, 25 years ago this week, came six weeks after one of the most harrowing launch aborts in Space Shuttle Program history. Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty-five years ago, this summer, America’s Space Shuttle Program sprang from a hearts-in-throats launch abort on the cusp of liftoff to triumphantly executing four flawless missions in as many months. In July 1994, Columbia and her STS-65 crew had set a new duration record for the fleet, after which three other missions would follow in the late summer and early fall, using powerful radar, lidar and other solar and atmospheric physics instrumentation to create a comprehensive picture of Earth’s surface and climate. Within days of STS-65’s return, shuttle Endeavour rolled out to Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, targeting an 18 August liftoff and the second Space Radar Laboratory (SRL-2). It was hoped that the STS-68 mission would repeat the observations from SRL-1 a few months earlier, to develop a comprehensive radar picture of Earth’s changeable surface.

But no one could have foreseen as Commander Mike Baker and his crew—Pilot Terry Wilcutt, Payload Commander Tom Jones and Mission Specialists Steve Smith, Dan Bursch and Jeff Wisoff—boarded the shuttle in the pre-dawn darkness that morning that they would fall victim to one of the most harrowing aborts in NASA history. To this day, theirs remains the closest to liftoff a shuttle crew ever reached, without actually breaking the shackles of Earth, igniting the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) and launching into space.



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NASA's InSight Lander on Mars Discovers Odd Magnetic Pulses and... Water?

Artist’s conception of the InSight lander as seen from above. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars is usually thought of as pretty much a dead world, geologically-speaking. But NASA’s InSight lander is finding that may not be exactly true. Some early results from InSight’s investigations of the planet’s interior have shown evidence for an oddly pulsating magnetic field, a more magnetic crust than expected and, maybe, the existence of a global reservoir of subsurface water.



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