NASA has named three students the winners of the Artemis Moon Pod Essay Contest for their creative visions of a pioneering journey to the Moon. Nearly 14,000 students entered the contest, each competing for the grand prize: a trip to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where they will witness the first launch of the Artemis era.

NASA invited students to envision themselves leading a crew, or “pod,” on a mission to the Moon’s South Pole, and capture these ideas in their essays. NASA and Future Engineers, an online platform for student challenges, launched the contest in September 2020 for K-12 students nationwide. The contest’s goal is to encourage the Artemis Generation – kids growing up during the era of NASA’s return to the Moon – to think ahead about the human and technological needs of a lunar expedition. What types of tools or technologies would they bring to the Moon? Who would they include in their “pod” of crewmembers? What would they leave behind for future lunar crews to use?

Grand-prize winning essays in the three, grade-level-based categories are:

  • Kindergarten through fourth grade category: Austin Pritts of Wolcott, Indiana.
  • Fifth through eighth grade category: Taia Saurer of Laguna Beach, California.
  • Ninth through 12th grade category: Amanda Gutierrez of Lincoln, Nebraska.

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Artemis I Core Stage Arrives at Kennedy

The final piece of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will send NASA’s Artemis I mission to the Moon has arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The SLS Program delivered the core stage rocket to the center’s Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf after completing a successful series of Green Run tests at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The 212-foot-tall core stage, which is the largest rocket stage NASA has ever built, completed its voyage aboard the agency’s Pegasus barge on April 27. After a 900-mile journey, teams aboard the barge, which was modified to support SLS’s weight and length, safely piloted the specialized self-sustaining vessel to the spaceport.

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Orion Makes a Big Splash for Artemis II

The Orion spacecraft structural test article was successfully drop tested April 6 in the hyrdro impact basin at NASA’s Langley Research Center’s Landing and Impact Research Facility in Hampton, Virginia. Data collected from 500 sensors during the drop will help researchers finalize computer models of extreme landing conditions prior to Artemis II. This was the second of four drops in this series of tests.

 

NASA Space Launch System Rocket Proceeding with Green Run Hot Fire

NASA is targeting the final test in the Green Run series, the hot fire, for as early as Jan.17. The hot fire is the culmination of the Green Run test series, an eight-part test campaign that gradually brings the core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) — the deep space rocket that will power the agency’s next-generation human Moon missions — to life for the first time.

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Shiny Orion Simulator Arrives at Johnson for Training

NASA Astronauts Stephanie Wilson, Jonny Kim, and Randy Bresnik take a look at the Orion spacecraft simulator that recently arrived at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The simulator provides the ability for astronauts, engineers, and flight controllers to train and practice for scenarios during Artemis missions to the Moon. The interior of the simulator is being outfitted with Orion’s display and control system and crew seats to mimic what astronaut will experience during liftoff to the lunar vicinity and on their way back home to Earth.

Kim and Wilson are among the 18 astronauts recently named to the Artemis Team of astronauts eligible to be selected for Artemis missions to the Moon. Bresnik is currently the assistant to the chief of the astronaut office for exploration. NASA is targeting 2023 for Artemis II, the first mission with crew, with the Orion Spacecraft set to launch atop the agency’s Space Launch System rocket. The mission will send astronauts around the Moon and return them back to Earth, a flight that will set the stage for the first woman and next man to step foot on the Moon in 2024.

Artemis I Orion Progress Update

During final assembly of the Orion spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, engineers identified an issue with a redundant channel on one of the spacecraft’s Power and Data Unit (PDU) communication cards. Orion has a total of eight PDUs, each of which has two cards with two redundant channels on each card that help provide communication between Orion’s flight computers to its components.

As a spacecraft designed to carry humans to deep space, Orion is built with significantly more redundancy to protect against failures than a robotic spacecraft. The PDU is still fully functional and will use its primary channel during the Artemis I mission, which is a non-crewed test flight.

During their troubleshooting, engineers evaluated the option to “use as is” with the high-degree of available redundancy or remove and replace the box. They determined that due to the limited accessibility to this particular box, the degree of intrusiveness to the overall spacecraft systems, and other factors, the risk of collateral damage outweighed the risk associated with the loss of one leg of redundancy in a highly redundant system.  Therefore, NASA has made the decision to proceed with vehicle processing.

NASA has confidence in the health of the overall power and data system, which has been through thousands of hours of powered operations and testing. Engineers will perform additional testing and continue to monitor the health of the spacecraft while Orion is powered on to provide continued confidence in the system.

NASA will proceed with spacecraft processing, and engineers are currently completing final closeout activities and will transfer the spacecraft in mid-January from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility to the Multi-Payload Processing Facility for fueling and preparation for integration with the Space Launch System rocket. The new timeline does not impact the launch schedule, and NASA remains on track for a launch in November 2021.

Check back at this blog for more updates as Orion prepares for its transition from assembly to launch operations.

NASA, UN Sign Memorandum of Understanding on Peaceful Uses of Space

NASA and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) pledging cooperation in areas of science and technology to support the peaceful use of outer space.

The MOU, signed Thursday, Dec. 17, brings together NASA’s wealth of publicly available Earth observation data and dynamic exploration opportunities with UNOOSA’s unique position as the only U.N. entity dedicated to outer space affairs.

Through this cooperation, UNOOSA and NASA will develop ways to leverage NASA’s Artemis program as part of UNOOSA’s Access to Space for All Initiative, which offers opportunities for international researchers and institutions to take part in this unprecedented journey of discovery.

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SLS Green Run Team Powers Up Core Stage for Wet Dress Rehearsal

NASA and Boeing engineers have powered up the Space Launch System rocket core stage to continue with the seventh test, wet dress rehearsal at the agency’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The NASA and Boeing team plan to fully load the stage’s liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks this week. This test demonstrates the ability to load the core stage with cryogenic propellant.

 

Following a partial loading of the tanks earlier this month, the team is now resuming the seventh of the eight tests in the Green Run series being completed with the Artemis I core stage. Upon completion of the wet dress rehearsal, the team will spend a few days analyzing data to determine if NASA is ready to proceed with the final Green Run test: the hot fire when all four engines will ignite simulating the countdown and launch of the Artemis I mission.

 

NASA will set a date for the hot fire after the wet dress rehearsal is complete. For an update at the conclusion of wet dress rehearsal, check back at this blog or visit the Green Run web site: https://www.nasa.gov/artemisprogram/greenrun

NASA, Canadian Space Agency Formalize Gateway Partnership for Artemis Program

NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) finalized an agreement between the United States and Canada to collaborate on the Gateway, an outpost orbiting the Moon that will provide vital support for a sustainable, long-term return of astronauts to the lunar surface as part of NASA’s Artemis program. This Gateway agreement further solidifies the broad effort by the United States to engage international partners in sustainable lunar exploration as part of the Artemis program and to demonstrate technologies needed for human missions to Mars.

Under this agreement, CSA will provide the Gateway’s external robotics system, including a next-generation robotic arm, known as Canadarm3. CSA also will provide robotic interfaces for Gateway modules, which will enable payload installation including that of the first two scientific instruments aboard the Gateway. The agreement also marks NASA’s commitment to provide two crew opportunities for Canadian astronauts on Artemis missions, one to the Gateway and one on Artemis II.

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NASA Administrator Signs Statement of Intent with Brazil on Artemis Cooperation

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and the Government of Brazil Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MCTI) Marcos Pontes signed a joint statement of intent during a virtual meeting on Dec. 14, 2020. The statement describes Brazil’s intention to be the first country in South America to sign the Artemis Accords. Brazil has expressed interest in potentially contributing a robotic lunar rover – in addition to conducting lunar science experiments and other investigations – as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

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