Two NASA Contests for Students Grades 8-12

1. Drop Tower Challenge: Microgravity Expulsion from Water

Teams of grade 9-12 students are challenged to design and build objects that sink in water in normal gravity, but will be expelled as far as possible out of the water during free fall in NASA’s 2.2 Second Drop Tower. Proposals are due by November 10, 2017 and can be submitted any time before that deadline.

More information:

http://spaceflightsystems.grc.nasa.gov/education-outreach/expulsion/

2. CELERE: Capillary Effects on Liquids Exploratory Research Experiments

The design challenge is a joint educational program of NASA and Portland State University (PSU) enabling students to participate in microgravity research on capillary action related to that conducted on the International Space Station (ISS). Students create their own experiments using Computer-Aided Design (CAD). Experiment proposals, which each consist of a single CAD drawing and short entry form, are e-mailed to NASA. The test cells are then manufactured by PSU using the drawings and a computer-controlled laser cutter. The design challenge is for students in grades 8-12, who may participate as individuals or in teams of any size. Proposals must be submitted by March 1, 2018.

More information:

http://spaceflightsystems.grc.nasa.gov/education-outreach/celere/how-to-apply/

The Saturn System Through the Eyes of Cassini

saturn-system-cover-webNASA is offering a free e-book as the Cassini mission comes to a dramatic end with a fatal plunge into Saturn on Sept. 15, 2017.

Over a period of 13 years, Cassini has captured about 450,000 spectacular images within the Saturn system, providing new views of the “lord of the rings” and a plethora of iconic images. To honor the art and science of Cassini, this book was developed collaboratively by a team from NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD), NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI). While these images represent the tip of the iceberg—each telling a story about Saturn and its mysterious moons—NASA’s hope is that the mission will inspire future artists and explorers. The sheer beauty of these images is surpassed only by the science and discoveries they represent.

You can get the free e-book here:

National Space Society Congratulates Representative Jim Bridenstine on His Nomination to be NASA Administrator

BridenstineThe National Space Society (NSS) congratulates Representative Jim Bridenstine (R-OK-1) on his nomination to be the next NASA Administrator.

“NSS looks forward to working with Representative Bridenstine in his new role as the NASA Administrator,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President and Chair of the NSS Policy Committee. “Representative Bridenstine over his years in Congress worked with NSS to advance America’s space program. He has introduced the American Space Renaissance Act, which has been a powerful tool for advancing new ideas to improve America’s position in space.”

Representative Bridenstine brings to his new job both political and aeronautical experience. A three-term member of Congress, Bridenstine served as a naval aviator from 1998-2007, and in the naval reserve from 2010-2015, mainly flying the E-2C Hawkeye. Additionally, Bridenstine was the Executive Director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium. Bridenstine has degrees from Rice University (triple major in Economics, Psychology, and Business), and an MBA from Cornell.

“Representative Bridenstine is one of a growing group in Congress that fully appreciates the importance of space commerce and space resources to the human future,” said NSS Senior Vice President Bruce Pittman. “We look forward with great anticipation to working with Jim Bridenstine to lead America back to the Moon and to develop a thriving economy in space.”

Mark Hopkins, Chair of the NSS Executive Committee, added, “Some may be concerned that Representative Bridenstine is not an engineer or scientist. We should all recall that one of the greatest NASA administrators, Jim Webb, was a lawyer. America is lucky to have Jim Bridenstine as NASA Administrator.”

NASA at Saturn: Cassini’s Grand Finale

The final chapter in a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery, Cassini’s Grand Finale, ending September 15, is in many ways like a brand new mission. Twenty-two times, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will dive through the unexplored space between Saturn and its rings. What we learn from these ultra-close passes over the planet could be some of the most exciting revelations ever returned by the long-lived spacecraft. This animated video tells the story of Cassini’s final, daring assignment and looks back at what the mission has accomplished.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For more information about Cassini’s Grand Finale, please visit https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/grandfinale.

Become a NASA HERA Test Subject

NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) Test Subject Screening is recruiting volunteers for a long duration mission to simulate flight operations and confinement. Subjects will spend the mission in confined habitation in the Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) facility at JSC. Researchers will collect blood, urine, and saliva; study personal behaviors; and evaluate team cohesion, cognition, and communication.

HERA

This opportunity is for healthy, non-smoking volunteers ages 35 to 55 years old. Volunteers must pass a JSC physical and psychological assessment to qualify and fit the following requirements:

  • Take no medications
  • Have no dietary restrictions
  • Have a BMI of 29 or less
  • Be 74 inches or less in height
  • Have no history of sleepwalking
  • Possess highly technical skills and a Master of Science degree in science, technology, engineering, or math discipline, or equivalent years of experience.

Volunteers will be compensated. If interested in becoming a test subject, submit CV to jsc-hera@mail.nasa.gov or contact Test Subject Screening at 281-212-1492.

National Space Society Congratulates NASA, ULA, and Lockheed Martin on the Successful Launch of OSIRIS-REx

With the successful launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 411 on September 8 at 7:05 PM EST, 2016 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, NASA’s mission to travel to a near Earth asteroid and return a sample got underway. NSS congratulates the team who made this happen. OSIRIS-REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer.

“OSIRIS-REx has NSS members really excited,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Vice President. “The craft will provide a complete map of the chemistry and mineralogy of a carbon based asteroid. Such asteroids will be critical for both the economic development and settlement of space. The TAGSAM sample collection device may provide a foundation for the development of future asteroid mining robots. Dante Lauretta, the OSIRIS-REx principal investigator, and his team at the University of Arizona have put together a really impressive mission.”

The probe is the third in NASA’s “New Frontiers” program of medium-sized exploration missions, and cost about $800 million in addition to launch and operations costs. The Lockheed Martin built spacecraft will journey to Bennu, a Near-Earth asteroid, arriving in August 2018. After two years of study, an innovative sample collection device, TAGSAM, will use jets of nitrogen gas to assist in collecting a minimum of 60 grams of samples.

OSIRIS-REx
OSIRIS-REx will leave Bennu in March 2021, and arrive back at Earth two and a half years later. The sample return canister is targeted toward a parachute landing at the Utah Test and Training Range on September 24, 2023. Although the primary mission objective is to return to Earth a pristine sample of a carbon rich asteroid for analysis, other objectives focus on resource identification, planetary security, and regolith exploration. Other “New Frontiers” missions include Juno, which is currently orbiting Jupiter, and New Horizons, which flew past Pluto in July 2015 and is now heading toward another object in the Kuiper Belt, with an expected arrival in January 2019.

Additionally, OSIRIS-REx will measure the effect of sunlight on the orbit of the asteroid, allowing the risk of an asteroid hitting the Earth to be better understood. “NSS advocates increased U.S. spending on protecting Earth from passing asteroids and comets,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President. “OSIRIS-REx is a major step toward achieving the goals set forward in the NSS position paper on Planetary Defense.

Development of asteroid resources is fundamental to NSS’ vision of our future in space (see our Roadmap to Space Settlement Milestone 18 “Exploration, Utilization, and Settlement of Asteroids”) and yesterday’s events have brought that future materially closer.

The National Space Society Applauds Alan Stern Winning the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal

The National Space Society congratulates Dr. Alan Stern on winning the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal. This award is the highest honor that NASA can bestow. NSS has also awarded one of our highest honors to Dr. Stern, the NSS Wernher von Braun Award, which he received at our International Space Development Conference last May in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Dr. Stern was Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. “Leading New Horizons has been the greatest honor of my lifetime, but it’s important to recognize so many others who also contributed to the success of this mission,” said Stern. “I dedicate this award to the 2,500 men and women who worked so hard to build, launch, and fly New Horizons across the solar system to explore Pluto and its system of moons.”

Portrait of Dr. Alan Stern, associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and the Principal Investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto. Image courtesy NASA/Bill Ingalls.
Portrait of Dr. Alan Stern, associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and the Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. Image courtesy NASA/Bill Ingalls.

NASA Orders SpaceX Crew Mission to International Space Station

NASA took a significant step Friday toward expanding research opportunities aboard the International Space Station with its first mission order from Hawthorne, California based-company SpaceX to launch astronauts from U.S. soil.

SpaceX
Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida undergoes modifications by SpaceX to adapt it to the needs of the company’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, which are slated to lift off from the historic pad in the near future. A horizontal integration facility has been constructed near the perimeter of the pad where rockets will be processed for launch prior of rolling out to the top of the pad structure for liftoff. SpaceX anticipates using the launch pad for its Crew Dragon spacecraft for missions to the International Space Station in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Credits: SpaceX

This is the second in a series of four guaranteed orders NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts. The Boeing Company of Houston received its first crew mission order in May.

“It’s really exciting to see SpaceX and Boeing with hardware in flow for their first crew rotation missions,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “It is important to have at least two healthy and robust capabilities from U.S. companies to deliver crew and critical scientific experiments from American soil to the space station throughout its lifespan.”

Determination of which company will fly its mission to the station first will be made at a later time. The contracts call for orders to take place prior to certification to support the lead time necessary for missions in late 2017, provided the contractors meet readiness conditions.

Commercial crew missions to the space station, on the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, will restore America’s human spaceflight capabilities and increase the amount of time dedicated to scientific research aboard the orbiting laboratory.

SpaceX’s crew transportation system, including the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, has advanced through several development and certification phases. The company recently performed a critical design review, which demonstrated the transportation system has reached a sufficient level of design maturity to work toward fabrication, assembly, integration and test activities.

“The authority to proceed with Dragon’s first operational crew mission is a significant milestone in the Commercial Crew Program and a great source of pride for the entire SpaceX team,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX. “When Crew Dragon takes NASA astronauts to the space station in 2017, they will be riding in one of the safest, most reliable spacecraft ever flown. We’re honored to be developing this capability for NASA and our country.”

Commercial crew launches will reduce the cost, per seat, of transporting NASA astronauts to the space station compared to what the agency must pay the Russian Federal Space Agency for the same service. If, however, NASA does not receive the full requested funding for CCtCap contracts in fiscal year 2016 and beyond, the agency will be forced to delay future milestones for both U.S. companies and continue its sole reliance on Russia to transport American astronauts to the space station.

Orders under the CCtCap contracts are made two to three years prior to actual mission dates in order to provide time for each company to manufacture and assemble the launch vehicle and spacecraft. Each company also must successfully complete a certification process before NASA will give the final approval for flight. Each contract includes a minimum of two and a maximum potential of six missions.

A standard commercial crew mission to the station will carry up to four NASA or NASA-sponsored crew members and about 220 pounds of pressurized cargo. The spacecraft will remain at the station for up to 210 days, available as an emergency lifeboat during that time.

“Commercial crew launches are really important for helping us meet the demand for research on the space station because it allows us to increase the crew to seven,” said Julie Robinson, International Space Station chief scientist. “Over the long term, it also sets the foundation for scientific access to future commercial research platforms in low- Earth orbit.”

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manages the CCtCap contracts and is working with each company to ensure commercial transportation system designs and post-certification missions will meet the agency’s safety requirements. Activities that follow the award of missions include a series of mission-related reviews and approvals leading to launch. The program also will be involved in all operational phases of missions to ensure crew safety.

NASA is launching a 4K TV channel

NASA is partnering with Harmonic, a worldwide leader in video delivery infrastructure, to launch NASA TV UHD, the first ever non-commercial consumer ultra-high definition (UHD) channel in North America.

The channel will stream on the Internet, which will require at least 13 MBps access connectivity to receive the signal and enjoy the UHD experience. Harmonic currently is in discussions with pay TV operators to carry the channel on the satellite, cable and optical networks for consumer access. The new UHD channel is expected to launch on Nov. 1, following preliminary tests.

Using an end-to-end UHD video delivery system from Harmonic, NASA Television will have the capability to deliver linear 2160p60 video content, allowing viewers to enjoy footage on a wide range of television and internet-connected devices. The partnership is the result of a Space Act Agreement between Harmonic and the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

“Partnering with Harmonic gives NASA an outlet for its UHD content, which has four times the resolution of HD and is the next iteration of digital television,” said Robert Jacobs, deputy associate administrator for NASA’s Office of Communications at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

Leveraging the 8-megapixel resolution of UHD, the channel will showcase the breathtaking beauty and grandeur of space. NASA TV UHD video will be sourced from high-resolution images and video generated on the International Space Station and other current NASA missions, as well as re-mastered footage from historical missions.

“As NASA reaches new heights and reveals the unknown, the NASA TV UHD channel can bring that journey to life in every home. And as organizations at the forefront of innovation, together we are leading the adoption of this exciting technology,” said Peter Alexander, chief marketing officer at Harmonic. “As the leader in UHD development, Harmonic provides a complete solution for Ultra HD video production and delivery, enabling content and service providers to offer better video quality at a low total cost of ownership.”

Epic Video Takes Pluto-mania Viral

Video on NASA’s New Horizons Mission Gets a Million Views in a Week; This Extended Director’s Cut Version Dropped Today on YouTube

This extended version of a viral video detailing NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto, entitled “New Horizons [Extended Version]” was released today to the public via YouTube. A shorter version of the video had gone viral just two weeks prior, amassing over a million views in less than a week.

The video, commissioned by the non-profit National Space Society, highlights the historical significance of the New Horizons mission.

The fastest spacecraft ever created, New Horizons will speed past Pluto on July 14, 2015, 50 years to the day after humans first explored Mars with NASA’s Mariner 4 on July 14, 1965. The spacecraft will beam back high resolution imagery and invaluable scientific data of the dwarf planet’s surface for the first time in human history, thus bringing a dramatic culmination to 50 years of NASA’s initial efforts in planetary reconnaissance.

“This extended version of the video, New Horizons, is amazing, showing why we explore the planets, and what an incredible and historic accomplishment human beings have achieved in the past 50 years – from the first missions to Venus and Mars to New Horizons at Pluto – in that pursuit,” said Alan Stern, NSS member and Principal Investigator of the New Horizons mission.