Since the beginning of the space age, finding the balance of control between human and machine has been a careful pursuit. Thanks to advances in technology and software, Commercial Crew spacecraft will be will be more automated than any that have come before. Learn more: http://go.nasa.gov/1Cw7Weq
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will set off in a Soyuz in March 2015 for a one-year expedition living aboard the International Space Station. The goal of their yearlong stay is to understand better how the human body reacts and adapts to the harsh environment of space.
When Kelly and Kornienko return to Earth in 2016, America will be about a year out from having two certified systems capable of transporting crews to and from the station – Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. These Commercial Crew vehicles will become part of the station’s fleet of human-rated systems. The vehicles will carry a fourth crew member to the station who can focus on collecting scientific data important to future human exploration of our solar system.
Both efforts offer a dawn of discovery in paving the way for journeys around the moon, an asteroid and ultimately Mars. The yearlong mission will prepare astronauts for such voyages in the future, and Commercial Crew will play its part so other machines can be developed for the demands of travel beyond low-Earth orbit.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program wants you to help draw out our future in space exploration! We’re going to put out a calendar for 2015 in a few weeks and it will be up to you to decide how it will look. The best thing is that it will be really easy, and you could see your work featured on the Commercial Crew Website! (*This contest is open to all children ages 4 to 16 regardless of NASA affiliation)
We have some rules for submitting your drawings, so you’ll have to print out a few forms then fill them out with your parent’s help, scan them to send them back to us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re also including a template for you to draw on, which will help us lay out the calendar.
We’re looking for the best drawings in 12 categories, so get out your art tools and let your imagination fly through space with us! One last thing: the deadline for submissions is Dec. 15 at noon Eastern. Now the fun stuff, the categories . . .
1. Spacecraft: NASA’s spacecraft of the past had thousands of nobs and dials. Today’s commercial crew spacecraft will use touch screens, 3D printed seats and engines, and will be lightweight, but tough enough to withstand meteorites. What would your spacecraft look like?
2. Launch Vehicle: The commercial crew rockets that will carry astronauts to the International Space Station will be smaller than NASA’s previous Saturn V and space shuttle systems. Their missions are different, so their capabilities are different. Think of it like riding your bike to see your next-door neighbor, instead of driving a semi-truck on a cross-country trek. Let’s see your best rocket drawing!
3. Spacesuits: An astronaut’s spacesuit is like his or her own personal spacecraft. Commercial crew spacesuits will keep astronauts safe by providing breathable air and a cool temperature. They also will enable constant communication with people monitoring their health here on the ground. Design your own spacesuit . . . let’s see your inner fashionista!
4. Spacecraft Interior: Every spacecraft’s interior has been unique and advanced for its time. Apollo was very different from the space shuttle, and both are very different from the commercial crew systems that astronauts will use to fly to the International Space Station. Today’s spacecraft could feature tablet-like technology, 3D printed seats, Wi-Fi and much more. What would you want inside your spacecraft?
5. Florida Space Coast Launches: The rumble . . . the glow . . . the excitement! Every time NASA has launched people off the surface of Earth and into space, it has been from Florida’s Space Coast. In the next couple years, we will see commercial crew engines glow orange and plumes of smoke as astronauts again launch to the International Space Station from Florida. In the 2030s, we will also see astronauts launching from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center as they begin their journey to Mars. Who do you plan to watch launches with? Family, friends, perhaps Florida’s abundant wildlife?
6. International Space Station: Look up! The International Space Station is orbiting about 250 miles above the surface of Earth, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. On board, astronauts conduct ground-breaking research that helps us here on Earth. They also are learning what it takes to live for long periods of time in space, which will help them on their journey to Mars. Commercial crew will help add an additional crew member to the station, essentially doubling the research potential of today. Show us your best rendition of the space station, remember it’s the size of a football field!
7. Research: Every day, astronauts perform research aboard the International Space Station, which is commercial crew’s ultimate destination. That research makes our lives better here on Earth, helps us understand more about our own planet and prepares us for longer missions to Mars. What kind of space research are you most interested in?
8. Lifeboat: Similar to lifeboats on a cruise ship, commercial crew spacecraft that will fly astronauts to the International Space Station are designed to safely and quickly evacuate the station’s crew in an emergency. How would you keep a crew safe in space?
9. Enabling Deep-Space Exploration: Commercial crew spacecraft will go to the International Space Station about 250 miles above Earth. But the solar system has hundreds of other interesting places, too! Future astronauts could use other spacecraft to explore asteroids that are close enough to Earth, or maybe even a comet. Where would you send a spacecraft
10. Encouraging NASA’s Journey to Mars: By encouraging private companies to provide human transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit – a region NASA’s been visiting since 1962 – America’s space agency will get the most research and experience out of the nation’s orbiting laboratory. Commercial crew allows NASA to expand its focus to build spacecraft and rockets for flights to Mars. Imagine yourself on the surface of Mars . . .
11. Landing: Spacecraft landings are quite impressive. After flying through space and re-entering the atmosphere at 17,500 miles per hour, spacecraft have to land smoothly to protect the astronauts and scientific research they carry. Commercial crew spacecraft designers are looking at options to land with parachutes and airbags, fly to a runway, similar to an airplane, or land using only rocket engines. Show us your most creative landing.
12. You Could Fly to Space: Remember when only astronauts could go to space? NASA won’t be the only customer for new commercial crew spacecraft. Companies will own and operate their crew transportation systems and be able to sell services to other customers . . . will you be one of them? What would you do in space?
And here’s all you need to get started: CCP-Planner-Artwork-Form_final
We’ve added two more collector cards to the Commercial Crew set! Blue Origin’s Space Vehicle and Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser join Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, along with the card for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. All the companies are working in partnership with NASA to develop their respective spacecraft and are in different stages of agreements.
The goal is to build and fly a new generation of spacecraft capable of carrying people to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station from America in the next three years. It’s a great challenge on many levels, but combining NASA’s know-how with the industrial prowess of American aerospace companies puts the opportunity to create a new business system within reach.
To download and print the cards, click on each of these links: Blue Origin Space Vehicle, Boeing CST-100, Commercial Crew Program, Sierra Nevada Corporation Dream Chaser and SpaceX Crew Dragon. For best results, use card stock and select auto-rotate and center and the two-sided option in your printer settings. If the two-sided option isn’t available, print page 1 and reload the paper before printing page 2.
- The Goal: CCtCap stands for Commercial Crew Transportation Capability. It is a contract for one or more American aerospace companies to complete development of a human space transportation system capable of carrying people into orbit, specifically to transport astronauts to the International Space Station and return them safely to Earth. To be certified to carry NASA astronauts, the systems must meet NASA safety standards. It’s the last step in a cycle of five separate spacecraft transportation development Space Act Agreements and certification contracts NASA began in 2010.
- How it’s Done: NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) will implement CCtCap in a similar manner used during each previous stage of the development process – as a public-private partnership. The industry partner is responsible for the development of its own spaceflight system, which it will own and operate. NASA’s expert team of engineers and spaceflight specialists are working with the companies and certifying the systems to ensure any new crew transportation system is safe and reliable for NASA astronauts. For previous human spaceflight systems including the space shuttle, NASA designed, owned, and operated the systems, and the agency was responsible for the overall development.
- Buying a Service: Once development is complete, NASA plans to buy a service – simply put, like getting a taxi ride to low-Earth orbit. Because the companies will own and operate the systems, they will be able to sell human space transportation services to other customers in addition to NASA, thereby reducing the costs.
- Innovation: This new process lets industry partners apply innovations and corporate expertise into their designs. NASA provides a top-level set of requirements the companies must meet, but how they meet those requirements is up to them. Each company thoroughly tests its materials and mechanisms to prove its design is sound, and NASA certifies that the systems meet the agency’s requirements.
- Commercial Investment: Industry partners are investing their own resources into the development, too. In this way, NASA and industry share the cost of development and both are invested in and committed to a successful outcome.
- Contract Terms: NASA’s contract, whether with one company or more, will include at least one crewed flight test per company to verify the integrated rocket and spacecraft system can launch, maneuver in orbit, and dock to the space station, as well as validate all its systems perform as expected. Once the test program has been successfully completed and the systems achieve NASA certification, the contractor/s also conduct at least two, and as many as six, crewed missions to the space station, effectively ending the nation’s reliance on foreign providers.
- Award: NASA has not specified a set number of awards under CCtCap. In late August or September, the agency will select the company or companies that will build an operational space transportation system. While the procurement process is ongoing, the agency cannot answer specific questions about the proposals received or the award decision-making process.
- Open Competition: CCtCap is an open competition using FAR-based procedures that will result in a firm fixed-price contract. Any U.S. company could have submitted a proposal for a CCtCap contract. It is not limited to companies that earned previous contracts. However, all companies that submitted proposals should have demonstrated a level of maturity equivalent to the first phase of NASA certification efforts during the agency’s Certification Products Contract (CPC)
- Safe Haven: The spacecraft must be able to serve as a lifeboat, able to safely and quickly evacuate the space station’s crew in an emergency. It also must demonstrate it can serve as a 24-hour safe haven during an emergency in space and be able to stay docked to the station for at least 210 days.
- Journey to Mars: By encouraging private companies to provide human transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit – a region NASA’s been visiting since 1962 – the nation’s space agency can focus on getting the most research and experience out of America’s investment in the International Space Station. NASA also can focus on building spacecraft and rockets for deep space missions, including flights to Mars in the 2030s.
Arguably, 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.”
Jon 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.”