Spot Our Destination

14232527844_94b801446f_oFolks in Central Florida will be able to see the International Space Station move overhead for three minutes Monday night beginning at 9:44 p.m EDT. Its maximum height will be 69 degrees and it will appear in the north-northwest and disappear at east-southeast. You can log on to http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/ to get email alerts and to check observation times for cities all over the world. The ISS, which is Commercial Crew Program’s ultimate destination, is a one-of-a-kind research laboratory and testbed for long-duration spaceflight technology.

Plants Harvested as Part of Station Experiment

veggie-lettuceScientists at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida harvested the leaves of red lettuce plants grown on Earth inside the International Space Station Environmental Simulator chamber at the Space Station Processing Facility. The plants were grown using the same kind of Veggie chamber that was deployed and is being operated on the station. Read some of the details here. The researchers on the ground also stuck closely to the same schedules procedures and operations that were followed by astronauts on the station so they could produce a reliable control group. Such research is crucial to NASA’s planning for deep-space missions by astronauts and the unique laboratory of the ISS is critical to achieving that research. The Commercial Crew Program is working with aerospace industry partners to begin operational flights by 2017 on privately built and operated spacecraft that will permit more crew members to work on the station and conduct research there.

World Cup Ball Gets NASA Aero Test Treatment

brazuca-lrgYou’ve seen models of CCP-partner spacecraft designs put through their aerodynamic paces in a wind tunnel already, but have you wondered what would happen if a soccer ball were treated to the same thing? For one thing, soccer balls and any spherical object don’t necessarily behave as some might expect. Smooth spheres fly very unpredictably, it turns out – something that surprised World Cup goalies in 2010 when the smooth-surfaced ball slipped through the air around their outstretched hands. In this video and feature from NASA’s Ames Research Center in California,  Rabi Mehta, chief of the Experimental Aero-Physics Branch there, describes what makes this year’s version different. For more about NASA and the World Cup, go to nasa.gov/worldcup.

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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SpaceX Unveils Dragon V2

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Photo credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis

The Dragon spacecraft, designed to carry people into Earth’s orbit, received a few upgrades as SpaceX refines its vehicle in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Today, SpaceX revealed these changes as it unveiled the Dragon V2 at the company’s Hawthorne, California, headquarters.

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Vehicle upgrades include solar arrays that will be affixed to the side of the spacecraft’s trunk instead of on fold-out wings and a new launch escape system that will allow crew members to escape an anomaly at any point during flight. The vehicle is intended to ferry seven astronauts, along with critical cargo and supplies.

2capsulesOther upgrades include larger windows, a larger hatch, and a redesigned outer mold line, which could make the trip more comfortable for passengers destined for  orbit.

SpaceX is one of NASA’s commercial partners working to develop a new generation of U.S. spacecraft and rockets capable of transporting humans to and from Earth’s orbit from American soil. Ultimately, NASA intends to use such commercial systems to fly U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

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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.