Columbia ‘Relaunch’ Aims to Inspire, Educate

Evelyn Husband Thompson, widow of STS-107 Commander Rick Husband, speaks to NASA civil service and contractor employees and guests in Kennedy Space Center’s Training Auditorium on April 12, 2019. Husband Thompson was one of the presenters for “Columbia: The Mission Continues,” an event organized by the Apollo Challenger Columbia Lessons Learned Program (ACCLLP).
Evelyn Husband Thompson, widow of STS-107 Commander Rick Husband, speaks to NASA civil service and contractor employees and guests in Kennedy Space Center’s Training Auditorium on April 12, 2019. Husband Thompson was one of the presenters for “Columbia: The Mission Continues,” an event organized by the Apollo Challenger Columbia Lessons Learned Program (ACCLLP). Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Veteran space reporter John Zarrella, left, moderates a “Lessons of Columbia” discussion with former space shuttle launch directors Mike Leinbach, center, and Bob Sieck in Kennedy Space Center’s Training Auditorium on April 12, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The space shuttle Columbia national tour launched at Kennedy Space Center on April 12, 2019, embarking on an educational journey that will take the program to all 10 NASA centers throughout the country.

Apollo Challenger Columbia Lessons Learned Program (ACCLLP) Manager Mike Ciannilli was the master of ceremonies for “Columbia: The Mission Continues,” an event that featured remarks from NASA senior managers and astronaut Shane Kimbrough, a “Lessons of Columbia” discussion with former space shuttle launch directors Bob Sieck and Mike Leinbach, multimedia presentations and a powerful speech by Evelyn Husband Thompson, widow of STS-107 Commander Rick Husband.

Kelvin Manning, Kennedy Space Center associate director, technical, delivers opening remarks for “Columbia: The Mission Continues." The event took place on the 38th anniversary of STS-1, the first orbital spaceflight of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.
Kelvin Manning, Kennedy Space Center associate director, technical, delivers opening remarks for “Columbia: The Mission Continues.” The event took place on the 38th anniversary of STS-1, the first orbital spaceflight of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The event was held on the 38th anniversary of STS-1, April 12, 1981, the first orbital spaceflight of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.

“We are returning Columbia back to flight on a new mission to inspire, educate and powerfully share the invaluable lessons learned from the past to help bring us successfully into the future,” said Kennedy Associate Director, Technical, Kelvin Manning, who delivered the opening remarks.

The tour includes an exhibit of nine Columbia artifacts, which are on display in the lobby of Kennedy’s old Headquarters building through April 23, and training from APPEL Knowledge Services. The exhibit, APPEL training and a centerwide event focusing on lessons learned all will be a part of the traveling program.

An edited version of the “Columbia: The Mission Continues” event will be released in the near future. To learn more about the space shuttle Columbia national tour, listen to Episode 7 of the podcast “Small Steps, Giant Leaps,” available on the following platforms:

Google Play: Small Steps, Giant Leaps on Google Play

NASA on the Air

In a surprising and touching turnout, tens of thousands of people around the world turned on their ham (or amateur) radios to participate in several “NASA on the Air” events held over the past year. “This was a beautiful thing,” said Kevin Zari, head of the amateur radio club at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Zari especially loved the event photos tweeted by people from different countries.

Radio clubs from 10 NASA centers and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, all supported the yearlong event. Ham radio operators tuned in from all 50 U.S. states and 56 countries across six continents to chat with NASA personnel. “There were times in our log where we had 20 contacts a minute – it was that quick. And there were other more relaxed times, where we were able to just sit and talk,” said Zari. “I don’t know how many times people said, ‘We thought NASA was gone. We thought NASA was dead.’ So we educated people around the world.”

The NASA on the Air event wrapped up with three special opportunities for people to use their radios to download images from the International Space Station. This was done in coordination with Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS), an international consortium of amateur radio organizations and space agencies. ARISS encourages young people to explore science, technology, engineering and math through the use of ham radios, and their program works to connect students worldwide with astronauts onboard the space station.

For the final three events, cosmonauts on the station transmitted several NASA on the Air images from space. Participants could compete to collect images and upload them to a website for credit. Over 34,600 uploads were received from 18,619 participants.

The reaction to NASA on the Air was so positive, NASA Radio Clubs plans to activate NASA on the Air for special anniversaries in 2019 and beyond (e.g. 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11). Follow @NASARadioClubs on Twitter or join the NASA on the Air (NOTA) group on Facebook for notifications of future activities.

Plant Experiment Veg-03 H Initiated on Space Station

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques began growing two new crops aboard the International Space Station on Saturday, March 9, 2019.
Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques initiated plant experiment Veg-03 H aboard the International Space Station on Saturday, March 9, 2019. This required Saint-Jacques to add water to “plant pillows,” which are space pots for plants that contain pre-packed seeds, granular media for the roots to grow into, controlled-release fertilizer, and a way for the on-orbit gardeners to water their plants in microgravity. The experiment should take 30 days to complete and will provide data on food safety for the new crops to compare to ground studies in order to establish a baseline.

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques began growing two new crops aboard the International Space Station on Saturday, March 9, 2019. The two crops, Wasabi Mustard Greens and Extra Dwarf Pak Choi, are part of experiment Veg-03 H. Saint-Jacques placed six “plant pillows” into the veggie growth chamber. This experiment is part of ongoing research on the space station and on Earth to identify fresh vegetables capable of providing astronauts food and nutrition during long-duration spaceflight, including future missions to the Moon or Mars.

Each pillow serves as a pot designed for space with pre-packed seeds, a substance for the roots to grow into, controlled-release fertilizer, and a way for the in-orbit gardeners to water their plants in microgravity.

High school and middle school students participating in the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s Growing beyond Earth Challenge identified Extra Dwarf Pak Choi as a potential candidate crop for space through classroom science experiments, along with Dragoon Lettuce, which NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor grew on the station last fall. Using science stations designed to mimic conditions on the space station gave students a chance to grow plants and record data that NASA was able to use. Those experiments culminated in the plant species which launched to the space station aboard the 15th SpaceX cargo resupply mission on June 29, 2018, along with three other plant species.

The experiment should take 30 days to complete and will provide data on food safety for the new crops to compare to ground studies in order to establish a baseline.

“I think the astronauts will be surprised to learn that the Extra Dwarf Pak Choi that they grow and eat has the same amount of Vitamin C by weight as does a fresh Florida orange,” said NASA scientist Matt Romeyn, “and the leaves don’t taste much different than other fresh leafy greens.”

‘Artists Inspire Astronauts’ Contest

Photo credit: NASA

NASA is holding an art contest to fill the hallowed halls of the Astronaut Crew Quarters at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This iconic hallway is where past Apollo and space shuttle astronauts took some of their last steps on Earth before heading to the Moon and the International Space Station.

Today, the crew quarters is being prepared for astronauts to once again launch from American soil to embark on historic missions — this year, commercial crew companies Boeing and SpaceX will conduct test flights of spacecraft designed to carry our nation’s astronauts to the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit. The astronauts who will travel to the Moon, lifting off in the Orion spacecraft aboard the Space Launch System (SLS), also will stay in the crew quarters prior to traveling farther into space than any other previous human space exploration.

These crews will walk down this same hallway before blasting off on their missions, and the winning art pieces will be here to inspire them.

NASA is looking for established artists who are U.S. citizens and at least 18 years old to show off their creative vision of what the future of human space travel and exploration looks like. Any style and 2D medium is fine, as long as you can send a digital copy for NASA to print and hang. Think you have what it takes? For rules and more information, click here: https://challenge.gov/a/buzz/challenge/998/ideas/top

You have until April 30 to submit your work.

In the words of Bob Ross, “Let’s get crazy.”

New Crops Planted Aboard the International Space Station

NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor photographed ‘Dragoon’ lettuce growing in a ‘plant pillow’ on Oct. 30. If all goes well, the lettuce will be ready to enjoy in time for Thanksgiving.

NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor planted two new crops in a special garden aboard the International Space Station on Thursday, Oct. 25. If all goes well, the ‘Red Russian’ kale and ‘Dragoon’ lettuce, will be ready to enjoy in time for Thanksgiving.

The lettuce seeds arrived at the station in “plant pillows,” which are needed because of the way water moves in microgravity. Auñón-Chancellor placed the plant pillows atop a root mat, which she primed with water. She installed them in the station’s Veggie plant growth system, and completed her sowing by adding water to the growth chamber’s reservoir.

These plants are part of experiment Veg-03 G – NASA has been successfully growing veggies aboard station since 2014. The latest experiment will provide astronauts with vitamins C, K and potassium, not to mention a welcome addition to their turkey day table 250 miles above Earth.

Parker Solar Probe Updates

Artist rendering of NASA's Parker Solar Probe observing the sun.
Artist rendering of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe observing the sun. Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to lift off atop a ULA Delta IV Heavy at 3:53 a.m. EDT, at the opening of a 65-minute window, on Saturday, Aug. 11. Live launch coverage begins at 3 a.m. on NASA TV and NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Launch Blog.

For the latest status, visit www.nasa.gov/parkersolarprobe.

Aeroshells Prepped for Vital Orion Launch Abort System Test

The third and final aeroshell, at left, for Orion's Launch Abort System (LAS) is in High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building on July 12, 2018, at Kennedy Space Center after its arrival from EMF Inc. on nearby Merritt Island.
The third and final aeroshell, at left, for Orion’s Launch Abort System (LAS) is in High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building on July 12, 2018, at Kennedy Space Center after its arrival from EMF Inc. on nearby Merritt Island.

The third and final aeroshell, at left, for Orion’s Launch Abort System (LAS) is in High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building on July 12, 2018, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after its arrival from EMF Inc. on nearby Merritt Island. In the photo above, technicians prepare the aeroshell to be lifted off of the flatbed truck and transferred to slats. All three aeroshells will be stacked and prepared for a full-stress test of the LAS, called Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test, scheduled for April 2019.

During the test, a booster will launch from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying a fully functional LAS and a 22,000-pound Orion test vehicle to an altitude of 31,000 feet and traveling at more than 1,000 miles per hour. The test will verify the LAS can steer the crew module and astronauts aboard to safety in the event of an issue with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket when the spacecraft is under the highest aerodynamic loads it will experience during a rapid climb into space.

NASA’s Orion is being prepared for its first integrated uncrewed flight atop the SLS on Exploration Mission-1.

Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux