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.”

The Brains of the Countdown

Every mission into space, whether carrying a crew or lofting a satellite or probe, is overseen by a collection of specialists who make sure everything is A-OK with the rocket and spacecraft through liftoff, ascent and beyond. At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Launch Control Center was the space agency’s answer to the gargantuan demands of processing and testing the Saturn V rockets and Apollo spacecraft that would carry astronauts to the moon. The aerospace industry partners of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will use control centers based on the unique needs of their systems and the capabilities of today’s computers and automation. With the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11’s liftoff from Kennedy tomorrow, here’s a look at what went into designing, building and operating the LCC.

Throwback Thursday – A Flag Awaits

throwbackflagThis American flag was taken to the International Space Station in 2011 on STS-135, the final mission of the space shuttle. Flown on the first space shuttle mission in 1981, the flag is to be awarded to the first crew of astronauts to launch from U.S. soil to the orbiting laboratory. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with aerospace partners to make that flight happen by the end of 2017.

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.

 

Ant Experiment Sheds Light on Search Techniques

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Researchers dispatched a crew of ants to the International Space Station recently to study the methods the colony use to search and explore their surroundings. Scientists are studying whether the process the ants use can be translated into a mathematical algorithm that can aid robotics and computer programs on Earth. Read more here in an article about the ant-stronauts. You can also click here for specific notes about the experiment. Astronauts on the station including Rick Mastracchio, pictured, filmed the colony go about its work.