NASA Partners Punctuate Summer with Spacecraft Development Advances

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Spacecraft and rocket development is on pace this summer for NASA’s aerospace industry partners for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program as they progress through systems testing, review boards and quarterly sessions under their Space Act Agreements with the agency.

NASA engineers and specialists continue their review of the progress as the agency and partners move ahead with plans to develop the first American spacecraft designed to carry people into space since the space shuttle.

“Our partners are making great progress as they refine their systems for safe, reliable and cost-effective spaceflight,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “It is extremely impressive to hear and see the interchange between the company and NASA engineering teams as they delve into the very details of the systems that help assure the safety of passengers.”

Apollo 11@45: Liftoff to Inspiration

apollo11launchArguably, no single event did more to inspire people around the world than the first moon landing by the crew of Apollo 11. This includes numerous astronauts, NASA engineers, and contractors inspired to go through rigorous scientific and engineering academic tracts after sitting in the living room of their house as children watching the fuzzy black-and-white image of Neil Armstrong move down the ladder of the lunar module and take humanity’s first steps onto another world.

That mission lifted off from Kennedy Space Center 45 years ago this morning with the moon landing and first steps taken four days later. (You can watch NASA’s launch videos here)

Mike Good, a veteran astronaut who works with the Commercial Crew Program and whose missions include spacewalks to repair NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, put it this way when asked why he became an astronaut:

“I certainly remember as a little kid being influenced and inspired by the landing on the moon. I was 7 years old and watched it on a black-and-white TV in my living room. Like all the kids and everybody else, I thought that it was pretty cool. Then as I worked through school and got into college, I became interested in engineering. I made the decision to go into aerospace engineering in 1981, which was the first year that the space shuttle flew, so that definitely had an influence on me, too. I watched that and said, ‘You know, this is something that I’d like to be a part of.’ I didn’t necessarily think I was going to be an astronaut, but it was an industry that I wanted to be in. After college I went on to fly for the Air Force, and I was able to put the flying and engineering together, which are two things that I liked to do. After flying fighters for a while, I got to go through the Air Force’s test pilot school, which is really where you get to test new airplanes and weapons systems. From there, it was just kind of a natural progression to work toward the astronaut program. I put in a couple applications and finally got a call to come join.”

What Equipment Would Your Spacecraft Have?

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The Apollo astronauts took a rover with them to the moon so they could survey more of the lunar surface. The space shuttle used its robotic arm to perform numerous functions from operating experiments to grabbing satellites including the Hubble Space Telescope for repairs to maneuvering large modules into place during construction of the International Space Station. NASA’s next generation of human-carrying spacecraft are in development now. If it were up to you, what equipment would you include in the design and what would you use it for?

NASA Veteran Inspired by Destiny that ‘Lies Above Us’

Jon Cowart receives Silver SnoopyJon Cowart, an engineer with a pioneering spirit and more than three decades of human spaceflight experience, recently was honored by NASA’s Astronaut Corps. Learn more about Cowart and his Silver Snoopy award at http://go.nasa.gov/VD2zdS.

You also can check out the outspoken engineer’s 2012 TEDx event called “A Retrospective on the Future of Space Exploration.”

 

NASA’s Commercial Crew Partners Focus on Testing, Analysis to Advance Designs

Building interiorNASA’s aerospace industry partners are taking their designs and operational plans for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) through a series of comprehensive tests, evaluations and review boards this summer as they move through important milestones – all with an eye on launching people into orbit from American soil by 2017.

Read the details here.

Station Astronauts Show Off World Cup Skills

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The United States plays Germany today in the World Cup and the viewership will not be limited to the Earthbound. The crew of the International Space Station is expected to tune in for the match.

Reid Wiseman kidded his colleagues in orbit that the stronger U.S. team spirit aboard the space station is a sign the U.S. will be stronger on the field too. “I believe we will win. It’s two against one up here, so I think the U.S. chances are pretty good,” Wiseman said during an in-flight interview with ESPN on June 24.

Wiseman says the crew already was checking its busy schedule for Thursday to see how they can fit in watching the game during what will be afternoon time for them. Read about the friendly rivalry between American and German station crew members here.

 

Mars Strategy at Center of Exploration Plans

Working with private companies to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station is a part of NASA’s stepping stone approach to the human exploration of Mars. The space agency is also incorporating lessons learned from space station research into plans for deep space missions aboard the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft. Review the details of the agency’s exploration plan on the Human path to Mars mini poster.

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First Certification Phase for Crewed Commercial Spacecraft Completed

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its aerospace industry partners completed the first phase of certification agreements today. Under the contracts, The Boeing Company, Sierra Nevada Corporation Space Systems (SNC) and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) completed reviews detailing how each plans to meet NASA’s certification requirements to transport space station crew members to and from the orbiting laboratory. NASA awarded the contracts totaling $30 million in December 2012. Read details at http://go.nasa.gov/1kRkIgE

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Space Station Experiments Back on Earth

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The Biotube-MICRo experiment is prepared for launch inside Kennedy’s Space Station Processing Facility. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Three sets of completed science experiments from the International Space Station are back on Earth and headed to their principal investigators for further study. The three experiments studied biological aspects of long-duration spaceflight, something for which the space station is uniquely suited. Known as BRIC-18, Biotube-MICRo and APEX-02-2, the projects were carried to the station aboard the SpaceX-3 cargo resupply mission.

The astronauts on the station unloaded the payloads, conducted the research and repacked the spent experiments inside the capsule for safe return to Earth almost a month later.

Such research is vital for NASA’s plans to send astronauts into deep space to explore asteroids and Mars, missions that would last weeks, months and years. Enabling more of that research by providing more crew members and time to conduct it in space is one of the goals of the Commercial Crew Program which is partnering with aerospace industry to develop spacecraft to carry astronauts to low-Earth orbit.

For more details about the payloads and research detail, check out the in-depth feature at http://go.nasa.gov/1kkoxvc

Boeing Offers CST-100 Details

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Boeing continues to develop the CST-100 in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The spacecraft is designed to launch humans to low-Earth orbit and return them safely. The aerospace company says it is drawing from its experiences designing airliners for CST-100’s interior and other elements of the new spacecraft.