A small group of undergraduate students from Langston University in Oklahoma soaked up an extraordinary experience during a tour of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Traveling with Byron Quinn, Ph.D., Langston’s director of the Science Research Institute, the students were making their first trip to Kennedy — and to the Sunshine State — on Wednesday, Sept. 18. The tour included stops at SwampWorks, Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) labs, the microgravity simulator in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, the Vehicle Assembly Building and the Visitor Complex. The students also met with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) leads at the Center for Space Education to explore internship possibilities.
“It was definitely eye-opening,” said Sherman Cravens, who attended with fellow Langston students Kashia Cha, Makyah Farris and Courtney Miller. “It’s very exciting to see the work they are doing here firsthand. And they’re reaching out to students and saying ‘you can do this work, too.’”
Kennedy’s Dr. Gioia Massa, the NASA Veggie project lead, along with Lashelle Spencer, research and development scientist, guided the students through SSPF areas featuring International Space Station environmental simulator chambers; Veggie; Greenwerks, which studies plant growth in space; and food production innovation.
Cha, whose family owns a wholesale produce business, was particularly interested in hydroponics, a method with which she has some experience.
“It’s exciting to see NASA using the same thing; it’s also very intriguing to see the differences in it as well,” Cha said. “I’m here to learn and to see. I loved it all — especially the hydroponics.”
Langston, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), is a NASA Office of STEM Engagement grantee under the Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO). Wednesday’s trip addressed a main focus of research being done at the university by Quinn and his students: to develop natural countermeasures — through extracts from plants — that will benefit astronauts’ immune systems.
“For the students to be able to learn from the scientists here … it’s so beneficial for their growth,” Quinn said. “NASA really pushes the bounds of science. It’s just amazing to have this opportunity.”
Emergency Location Markers (ELMs) have been installed on Kennedy Space Center federal property at Playalinda Beach, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and at both KARS Parks to provide the emergency phone number and geolocation information to Kennedy visitors or employees.
The ELMs are national standardized signs that display U.S. National Grid (USNG) coordinates and were installed as a result of an Innovation without Boundaries award by the Chief Technology Office in 2018. Fifty-nine ELMs and 25 information signs that explain the system were installed in areas where members of the public may have difficulty describing their location in an emergency.
Additionally, free web applications FindMeSAR.com and USNGAPP.org allow any user to determine their location anywhere via USNG, known as the “language of location.” These apps may be used routinely to geolocate infrastructure, such as hydrants or culverts, as another example.
Kennedy’s emergency personnel have been trained on USNG map-reading, geolocation, navigation and position reporting. Additionally, mutual-aid responder agencies surrounding the spaceport were advised of the Kennedy ELM program and were provided mapping tools to plot USNG coordinates easily.
Vice President Mike Pence will make multiple stops at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday, July 20 — 50 years from the day NASA’s Apollo 11 mission landed the first two humans on the Moon.
The vice president and second lady Karen Pence will arrive in Air Force Two at Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility. The next stop is Launch Complex 39A, the site of the historic Apollo 11 launch on July 16, 1969.
Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, will address invited guests, elected officials and NASA, Lockheed Martin and other industry leaders at Kennedy’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building (O&C). The vice president will recognize NASA’s history in honoring the Apollo 11 heroes, while examining NASA’s future plans, including the Artemis missions that are part of the agency’s Moon to Mars human space exploration efforts.
Tune in to NASA TV or the agency’s website at 1:05 p.m. to view Pence’s speech live from the O&C.
The Apollo 11 mission, which landed the first two humans on the Moon, remains one of mankind’s most impressive achievements. To honor that historic event on its 50th anniversary, several activities are taking place at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, including multiple shows on NASA TV and the agency’s website:
Tuesday, July 16: Astronaut Michael Collins, who served on that historic mission in July 1969, will start the day with a visit to the Astronaut Crew Quarters in Kennedy’s Neil Armstrong Operations & Checkout Building before participating in the day’s televised events.
From 9:15 to 10 a.m. EDT, Collins will speak with Kennedy Director Bob Cabana at Pad 39A, the site of the July 16, 1969, launch. Cabana was the commander of STS-88, the first International Space Station assembly mission, which celebrated its 20th anniversary on Dec. 10, 2018.
Friday, July 19: Tune in to a pair of special live broadcasts from Kennedy’s Apollo/Saturn V Center. The first, an Apollo 11 show titled “NASA’s Giant Leaps: Past and Future,” is from 1 to 3 p.m. EDT. It will honor the heroes of Apollo, and examine NASA’s future plans, including the Artemis missions that are part of the agency’s Moon and Mars human space exploration. That will be followed by a program titled “STEM Forward to the Moon” from 3 to 3:30 p.m. EDT, featuring kids across the nation participating in Moon landing simulations and other activities.
Remember to tune in to NASA TV and the agency’s website for the special Apollo 11 coverage.
With weather at 80 percent go for launch and everything proceeding as planned, optimism and enthusiasm were high at Monday morning’s Ascent Abort-2 flight test preview news conference at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“We are incredibly excited,” said Jenny Devolites, Ascent Abort-2 crew module manager and test conductor. “It’s such an honor to be a part of this activity and to have this opportunity.”
The Ascent Abort-2 flight test of the launch abort system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, featuring a test version of the crew module, will lift off from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Tuesday, July 2. The four-hour launch window opens at 7 a.m. EDT. NASA TV will broadcast launch activities, starting at 6:40 a.m. A postlaunch briefing is scheduled for approximately two hours after launch. Audio of this briefing will stream live on the agency’s website.
Orion will help pave the way for Artemis missions with astronauts to the Moon and then Mars.
“This test is extremely important,” said Mark Kirasich, Orion program manager. “Our Launch Abort System is a key safety feature of the spacecraft — it will protect the crew members who fly onboard Orion during the most challenging part of the mission, which is the ascent phase.”
Ascent Abort-2 will verify Orion’s abort system can pull the crew module away from an emergency during its ascent to space. The two main objectives: execute the abort by demonstrating it can be completed end to end, and collect key data. There are approximately 900 sensors — including temperature sensors, pressure sensors and microphones —located throughout the vehicle.
At liftoff, the booster will provide about 500,000 pounds of thrust. It will take 55 seconds to ascend to 31,000 feet, traveling more than 800 mph, at which point the abort will be initiated and the abort motor will ignite. Also igniting will be the attitude control motor, which provides steering.
Twenty-seven seconds after the abort, the jettison motor will ignite, pulling away the Launch Abort System from the crew module. The crew module will then free-fall and descend back to the ocean. As a backup communication system, 12 ejectable data recorders eject into the water in pairs. The highest altitude reached will be about 45,000 feet.
“It’s certainly a very exciting test for us tomorrow because it is so important,” NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik said. “The neat part is the next time this whole Launch Abort System flies, there will be crew underneath it in Artemis 2.”
NASA will host a preview news conference for the Ascent Abort-2 flight test of the launch abort system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft at 11:30 a.m. Monday, July 1, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The flight test will help pave the way for Artemis missions with astronauts to the Moon and then Mars.
The launch and preview news conference will air on NASA TV and the agency’s website. Participants include:
Mark Kirasich, Orion program manager
Jenny Devolites, Ascent Abort-2 test conductor
Randy Bresnik, NASA astronaut
The blog will feature highlights from the preview news conference.
The AA-2 flight test’s four-hour launch window opens at 7 a.m. EDT Tuesday, July 2. A test version of the crew module will launch from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. NASA TV coverage will begin at 6:40 a.m.
At an Orion Program Launch Readiness Review held June 28, the team preparing to launch Orion’s Ascent Abort-2 flight test gave a “go” to proceed to launch on Tuesday, July 2. Pending the outcome of a range readiness review to be held Monday, NASA is targeting the opening of a four-hour launch window at 7 a.m. EDT. Engineers will close out final operations at the launch pad over the weekend and on Monday to prepare for the test.
The Mobile Access Structure at Space Launch Complex 46 will be pulled back for the final time Tuesday morning before launch. Technicians had rolled it back earlier this week to perform end-to-end systems checkouts. The team also will temporarily pull it back on Monday to remove tape protecting sensors that will be used to collect data during the test.
NASA will hold an overview on the test at 11:30 a.m. Monday, which will air on NASA TV and the agency’s website.
Students from around the country convened with NASA scientists in Miami for the Student Research Symposium on April 27 as part of the Growing Beyond Earth program, a partnership between NASA and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.
Growing Beyond Earth is an educational outreach and citizen science program that reaches over 170 middle and high schools from Florida, Colorado and Puerto Rico. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center plant production scientists Gioia Massa and Trent Smith train teachers, who then receive plant growth chambers that mimic Veggie, the space garden residing on the International Space Station.
In the fall, students set up their plant growth chambers and conduct experiments designed by Fairchild in conjunction with Kennedy.
“Every year, it’s something different,” Massa explained. “Last year, they were looking at photoperiod, how plants respond to different durations of light. This year, they’re looking at the neighbor effect, how different plants influence each other by growing next to each other.”
Since the beginning of the program, students have tested approximately 130 plant varieties under different conditions. Some schools are in high humidity areas, like Puerto Rico, while others have low humidity, like Colorado. Sometimes students overwater their plants; other times they forget. Sometimes the power goes out over the weekend. Plants that do well across these different environments make good candidates for space.
Both middle and high schools participate in new crop testing. But after getting a good grasp on the system in the fall, high school students can take it a step further and design independent experiments in the spring. These projects were the focus of the Miami symposium; 34 high schools presented their independent research, plus 17 middle schools presented their work on new crop testing.
“We had the students testing some really creative things,” Massa said. One project looked at using nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the substrate. Another 3D printed different containers.
The students created scientific posters, just like a NASA scientist would for a conference, with sections for the abstract, introduction, materials, results, conclusion and references. Fairchild printed out the posters, and the students presented them. Then Massa and her colleagues judged them on their poster, the quality of their project and presentation, the significance to NASA and how well they understood it.
Twelve Kennedy employees supported the event, including Bryan Onate, chief of the Life Sciences and Utilization Division, and Josie Burnett, director of Exploration Research and Technology Programs, along with plant production scientists and interns. Massa, Smith and Ray Wheeler gave talks to the students about Veggie and plant space research.
Two days after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was installed on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station’s Harmony module on Monday, May 6, at 9:32 a.m. EDT.
The 17th contracted commercial resupply mission from SpaceX (CRS-17) delivered more than 5,500 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory. After Dragon spends approximately one month attached to the space station, the spacecraft will return to Earth with about 4,200 pounds of cargo and research.