Nesting Sea Turtles Depend on Dark Skies

Green turtles, which are on the endangered list, are among the two most common species found on the Space Coast. The other is the loggerhead, which is listed as threatened. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Green turtles, which are on the endangered list, are among the two most common species found on the Space Coast. The other is the loggerhead, which is listed as threatened.
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day are all things associated with May. As many Floridians know, the fifth month signifies another important occurrence: the start of sea turtle nesting and hatching season.

Sea turtles are prevalent along the Space Coast, and Kennedy Space Center is no exception. Experts estimate that more than 5,000 turtles nest each year on Kennedy’s protected beaches and on land near the center, on the Canaveral National Seashore. The two most common species found in this area are the green turtle, which is on the endangered list, and the loggerhead, which is listed as threatened.

People visiting, living or working near the beach, including spaceport employees, can take steps to help these fascinating reptiles during their six-month critical nesting and hatching period. Two words to keep in mind are: dark skies. Sea turtles — and their hatchlings — need them.

Females come up on the beach after dark to lay and bury their eggs. With the cooler temperatures, they are less likely to overheat while laying approximately 100-130 eggs. After 55-60 days, the hatchlings emerge from their nests — also at night.

When making their way back to the ocean, sea turtles use the light of the Moon and stars to navigate. Photo credit: NASA
When making their way back to the ocean, sea turtles use the light of the Moon and stars to navigate.
Photo credit: NASA

Sea turtles use the light of the Moon and stars to navigate. Artificial lighting from street lights, buildings and flashlights on the beach can disrupt their ability to find their way back to the water. Wrong turns can be perilous for both adults and hatchlings, which have limited energy to make it offshore.

So what can we do? Be aware of lights from nearby facilities or homes that can illuminate the beach. Turn off the lights, draw the shades and use LED or “turtle-friendly” lighting. Kennedy has been diligently working to improve its performance in following these external lighting guidelines every year.

Experts say one hatchling in a thousand will make it to the reproductive stage. Consequently, ensuring dark skies along the eastern seaboard of Florida is crucial to a sea turtle’s survival.

TESS Briefings and Events Scheduled for Sunday, April 15

Artist concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star.  Photo credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight
Artist concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star.
Photo credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA’s TESS satellite is scheduled to launch Monday, April 16, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, on an ambitious mission to search for planets outside our solar system. Tune in Sunday for a series of briefings and events broadcast live on NASA TV.

Catch the NASA Social Mission Overview at 11 a.m., a prelaunch news conference at 1 p.m. and a news conference focusing on the science of the mission beginning at 3 p.m. All times are Eastern. View the TESS Briefings and Events page for the full list of event participants.

Join us here or at NASA TV from 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday for live coverage from the countdown. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 is scheduled for 6:32 p.m.

Students Develop Robotic Code for Annual Swarmathon Challenge

At the 2017 competition, a Swarmie robot finds a "resource" cube marked with an AprilTag. In the Swarmathon competition, students were asked to develop computer code for the small robots, programming them to look for "resources" in the form of cubes with AprilTags. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
At the 2017 competition, a Swarmie robot finds a “resource” cube marked with an AprilTag. In the Swarmathon competition, students were asked to develop computer code for the small robots, programming them to look for “resources” in the form of cubes with AprilTags.
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) is gearing up for the third annual Swarmathon taking place April 17-19. Students from minority serving universities and community colleges from across the nation will participate in a robotic programming competition at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Their developments may lead to technology which will help astronauts find needed resources when exploring the Moon or Mars.

Students from 12 colleges participated in the spaceport’s first annual Swarmathon. Interest increased last year, with 20 teams joining in. In this year’s Swarmathon, 23 teams representing 24 universities and community colleges are developing software code to operate innovative robots called “Swarmies.”

Swarmies are small robotic vehicles measuring about 12 inches by 8 inches by 8 inches. Each Swarmie is equipped with sensors, a webcam, a GPS system and a Wi-Fi antenna. They operate autonomously and can be programmed to communicate and interact as a collective swarm.

The aspiring computer engineers will be challenged to develop search algorithms for robotic swarms. Algorithms are self-contained, step-by-step operations to perform calculation, data processing and automated reasoning. Swarmathon participation will improve students’ skills in robotics and computer science, and further advancing technology for future NASA space exploration missions.

Successful exploration of the Moon and Mars requires the location and retrieval of local resources on the surface of these locations beyond Earth. Technologies are needed to find and collect materials such as ice (convertible into liquid water, hydrogen fuel and oxygen to support human life) and rocks, minerals and construction materials to build human shelters.

NASA’s MUREP selected the University of New Mexico to manage the Swarmathon challenge in a joint effort with the agency. Through the MUREP program, NASA’s goal is to increase the number of NASA-focused science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, experiences that engage underrepresented groups in active education.

Lern more at: NASA Swarmathon

Successful Liftoff Begins SpaceX Dragon Mission to Space Station

The two-stage Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying the Dragon resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station.  Photo credit: NASA/Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray, Tim Powers, Tim Terry
The two-stage Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying the Dragon resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station.
Photo credit: NASA/Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray, Tim Powers and Tim Terry

A care package with more than 5,800 pounds of supplies from Earth is on its way to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. The company’s 14th commercial cargo mission to resupply the space station began at 4:30 p.m. EDT with liftoff aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The Dragon spacecraft now is in orbit with its solar arrays deployed and providing power.

With the countdown clock in the foreground, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launching a Dragon spacecraft with supplies for the International Space Station. Photo Credit: NASA/Dan Casper
With the countdown clock in the foreground, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launching a Dragon spacecraft with supplies for the International Space Station.
Photo Credit: NASA/Dan Casper

During a prelaunch news conference, Pete Hasbrook, NASA’s associate program scientist for International Space Station Program Science Office at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, praised the work of Commercial Resupply Services companies.

“The International Space Station is a world-class and multi- disciplinary laboratory in space,” he said. “Our commercial providers help in bringing our sciences forward and keep it going on space station and bringing benefits back to Earth.”

The Dragon spacecraft will deliver science, research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory. Read more about science experiments on board at:
https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacex/2018/04/02/whats-on-board-dragon-for-spacex-crs-14/

Project scientists Matthew Romeyn, left, and Dr. Ye Zhang place seeds in Veggie Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System (PONDS) units inside a laboratory at the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: NASA/Daniel Casper
Project scientists Matthew Romeyn, left, and Dr. Ye Zhang place seeds in Veggie Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System (PONDS) units inside a laboratory at the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Photo credit: NASA/Daniel Casper

Live NASA TV coverage of the rendezvous and capture will begin at 5:30 a.m. EDT on April 4 on http://www.nasa.gov/live

Expedition 55 Flight Engineers Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, backed up by NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, will supervise the operation of the Canadarm2 robotic arm for Dragon’s capture. After Dragon capture, ground commands will be sent from mission control in Houston for the station’s arm to rotate and install it on the bottom of the station’s Harmony module.

The Dragon spacecraft will spend approximately one month attached to the space station. Unberthing and release of the Dragon from the space station is targeted for May 2. About five hours after Dragon leaves the station, it will conduct its deorbit burn, which lasts up to 10 minutes. It takes about 30 minutes for Dragon to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.

For updates during the mission, visit: https://go.nasa.gov/2uJHKUl

This concludes today’s coverage of the SpaceX CRS-14 countdown and launch. Thanks for joining us.

Dragon Set to Deliver Supplies to International Space Station

SpaceX's Dragon cargo craft is seen during final approach to the International Space Station on Feb. 23, 2017. The commercial spacecraft carried about 5,500 pounds of experiments and supplies to the orbiting laboratory. Space station crew members used the station's robotic arm, Canadarm2, to capture Dragon. Photo credit: NASA
SpaceX’s Dragon cargo craft is seen during final approach to the International Space Station on Feb. 23, 2017. The commercial spacecraft carried about 5,500 pounds of experiments and supplies to the orbiting laboratory. Space station crew members used the station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2, to capture Dragon.
Photo credit: NASA

Next Commercial Resupply Services Mission: SpaceX CRS-14
Launch Time and Date: 4:30 p.m., Monday, April 2, 2018
Lift Off: Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida
Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9, 230 feet-tall
Spacecraft: Dragon, 20 feet high, 12 feet-in diameter
Payload: Dragon will deliver cargo and material to support science investigations aboard the International Space Station.
Return to Earth: After about one month attached to the space station, Dragon will return with results of earlier experiments, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.
Payloads on Board: https://go.nasa.gov/2Isu6rt

Atlas V Lift-off for GOES-S Mission

Atlas V Lift-off for GOES-S MissionA United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying the NOAA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, or GOES-S. Liftoff was at 5:02 p.m. EST. GOES-S is the second satellite in a series of next-generation weather satellites. It will launch to a geostationary position over the U.S. to provide images of storms and help predict weather forecasts, severe weather outlooks, watches, warnings, lightning conditions and longer-term forecasting. For more information as the mission continues, go to: www.nasa.gov/goes
Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

Vice President Pence Arrives at Kennedy to Host National Space Council Meeting

Vice President Mike Pence, accompanied by his wife, Karen, returned to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 20, this time to chair a meeting of the recently re-established National Space Council.

During his first Kennedy visit on July 6, 2017, Pence spoke to center employees and toured numerous facilities supporting ongoing work at the premier, multi-user spaceport. After his arrival today, Vice President Pence will tour facilities at both Kennedy and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. He also plans to participate in a commercial spaceflight federal reception.

The primary focus for the vice president’s trip will be the second meeting of the National Space Council set to take place in the high bay of the center’s Space Station Processing Facility. The event’s theme is “Moon, Mars and Worlds Beyond: Winning the Next Frontier” and is slated to include testimonials from leaders in the civil, commercial and national security sectors about the importance of the United States’ space enterprise.

The National Space Council’s role is to advise the president on America’s space policy and strategy, and review the nation’s long-range goals for space activities. The council includes leaders in government from both civil and military space programs.

The council’s historic roots go back to the earliest days of NASA when the agency was established in 1958. Through 1973 it was known as the National Aeronautics and Space Council. From 1989 to 1993 the group was the National Space Council, guiding NASA and helping achieve the agency’s ambitious milestones.

On June 30, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order re-establishing the National Space Council to streamline and coordinate national space policy.

The first meeting of the new National Space Council took place Oct. 5, 2017, at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Afterward, acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot praised the vice president for calling for renewed U.S. leadership in space with NASA helping lead and shape the way forward.

Photo credit: NASA/Stephanie Martin

Anniversary Event Marks Start of U.S. Space Exploration

During a ceremony at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space launch Complex 26, a historical marker is unveiled noting the launch of America's firs satellite, Explorer 1. From the left, Ray Sands, chairman of the Air Force Space and Missile Foundation, Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing commander and director of the Eastern Range and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. The Explorer 1 satellite was launched atop a Jupiter C rocket on Jan. 31, 1958. Photo credit: NASA/ Kim Shiflett
During a ceremony at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space launch Complex 26, a historical marker is unveiled noting the launch of America’s firs satellite, Explorer 1. From the left, Ray Sands, chairman of the Air Force Space and Missile Foundation; Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing commander and director of the Eastern Range; and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. The Explorer 1 satellite was launched atop a Jupiter C rocket on Jan. 31, 1958.
Photo credit: NASA/ Kim Shiflett

NASA and other government officials gathered at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 26 to mark the beginning of U.S. space exploration. From that location, on Jan. 31, 1958, a Jupiter C rocket lifted off with America’s first satellite — Explorer 1.

The launch site now is part of the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Museum, where the ceremony took place on the 60th anniversary of the event in which the United States was in a Cold War competition with the Soviet Union to orbit satellites.

Technicians and engineers monitor the countdown for the liftoff of Explorer 1 in the control room of the blockhouse at Space Launch Complex 26 at the Cape Canaveral Missile Annex (now Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.) Photo credit: NASA
Technicians and engineers monitor the countdown for the liftoff of Explorer 1 in the control room of the blockhouse at Space Launch Complex 26 at the Cape Canaveral Missile Annex (now Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.)
Photo credit: NASA

Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing commander and director of the Eastern Range, noted that America’s first satellite paved the way for more achievements in the years to come.

“The U.S. had finally entered the race to the Moon and beyond,” he said. “We are now leading the world. We have launched 3,568 rockets from the Eastern Range. With our partners at NASA, we are the busiest spaceport in the world.”

Also on hand was Dr. John Meisenheimer, launch weather officer for Explorer 1. Due to high upper-level winds on Jan. 29 and again on Jan. 30, he gave a “no-go” forecast.

“My calculation showed that the jet stream would come close to the Cape and cause extreme wind shears around 200 mph,” he said. “The (Jupiter C rocket’s) guidance system couldn’t handle it. On Jan. 31, there was a wave on the jet stream that would move it away and that gave us a window of opportunity to launch Explorer 1.”

According to Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, the years since Explorer 1 have brought many achievements.

The United States' first satellite, Explorer 1, is launched into orbit by a Jupiter C rocket at 10:48 p.m. on Jan. 31, 1958. Explorer 1 confirmed existence of high-radiation bands above the Earth's atmosphere. Photo credit: NASA
The United States’ first satellite, Explorer 1, is launched into orbit by a Jupiter C rocket at 10:48 p.m. on Jan. 31, 1958. Explorer 1 confirmed existence of high-radiation bands above the Earth’s atmosphere.
Photo credit: NASA

“Continuing the legacy of scientific exploration that began 60 years ago, our Launch Services Program this year marks its 20th anniversary,” he said. “LSP has been responsible for some of NASA’s most memorable scientific missions, including the Curiosity rover to Mars, Cassini to Saturn, Juno to Jupiter and New Horizons to Pluto.”

Following the successful launch of Explorer 1, the satellite’s cosmic ray detector discovered radiation belts around Earth held in place by the planet’s magnetic field. The belts later were named for Dr. James Van Allen, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Iowa. As the principal investigator, he developed the instruments for the Explorer 1 satellite.

Since opening to the public in 1966, the Air Force Space and Missile Museum has introduced millions of visitors to the history of rocketry and spaceflight. Inside the blockhouse, much of the instrumentation remains as it was in the 1950s when America was taking its first steps into space.

For more historical photographs and pictures of the Jan. 31, 2018, event, check out the Explorer 1 60th Anniversary Flickr album.

Fallen Astronauts Honored on Day of Remembrance

During the 2018 Day of Remembrance at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, from left, State Sen. Thad Altman, president and CEO of the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, Therrin Protze, chief operating officer of Delaware North, and Center Director Bob Cabana place a wreath at the Space Mirror Memorial.
During the 2018 Day of Remembrance at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, from left, State Sen. Thad Altman, president and CEO of the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, Therrin Protze, chief operating officer of Delaware North, and Center Director Bob Cabana place a wreath at the Space Mirror Memorial. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

 

Each year Kennedy Space Center employees and guests join others throughout NASA to honor the contributions of astronauts who have perished in the conquest of space. The Day of Remembrance activities pay tribute to astronauts who acknowledged space is an unforgiving environment, but believed exploration is worth the risk.

In a message to NASA employees, Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot spoke of the meaning to the observance.

“The Day of Remembrance is a stark reminder that exploration can be a painfully unforgiving endeavor,” he said. “The task ahead for us will be no less challenging. I believe we best honor these brave explorers by continuing this exploration journey – with a stiffened resolve from the past buoyed by the spirit and passion of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

NASA astronauts Elliot See and Charles Bassett were selected to fly the Gemini IX mission in 1966.
NASA astronauts Elliot See and Charles Bassett were selected to fly the Gemini IX mission in 1966.
Photo credit: NASA

This year’s observance at the Florida spaceport was hosted by the Astronauts Memorial Foundation (AMF) with activities including a Jan. 25 ceremony at Kennedy’s visitor complex.

During Kennedy’s ceremony, Center Director Bob Cabana and AMF Board Chair Eileen Collins, both former space shuttle commanders, spoke emphasizing that flight safety must continue to be a paramount concern.

On March 23, 1965, NASA astronaut Clifton Williams monitors the Gemini III flight from the Mission Control Center in at the Manned Spacecraft Center (now Johnson Space Center).Houston. While Gemini III was controlled by the Mission Control Center at Cape Kennedy (now Cape Canaveral) Air Force Station, future missions would be controlled at the new space center in Texas.
NASA astronaut Clifton Williams monitors the Gemini III flight.
Photo credit: NASA

Sally Kneuven, daughter of NASA astronaut Elliot See, and Karen Stevenson, daughter of astronaut Charles Bassett, each spoke of their fathers who had been selected to fly the Gemini IX mission in 1966. Both See and Bassett were killed on Feb. 28, 1966, when their T-38 jet crashed into a McDonnell Aircraft building in St. Louis. They were attempting to land at nearby Lambert Field airport during inclement weather which caused poor visibility.

Also speaking was Beth Williams, who recalled her husband, NASA astronaut Clifton Williams. Following training at the Kennedy Space Center, he was lost when his T-38 went down near Tallahassee, Florida, on Oct. 5, 1967.

U.S. Air Force astronaut Mike Adams was an X-15 pilot who was among those selected to fly aboard the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, a military program involving a small, single-use space station.
U.S. Air Force astronaut Mike Adams was an X-15 pilot.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Brent Adams told of his father, U.S. Air Force astronaut Mike Adams. On Nov. 15, 1967, Mike Adams was making his seventh flight piloting the X-15 experimental rocket-powered aircraft. He flew the X-15 to an altitude of 50.4 miles, surpassing the threshold of space. But during flight there was a problem with the X-15’s control system causing the aircraft to crash north

During the Day of Remembrance event a musical tribute was presented by Tal Ramon, son of STS-107 payload specialist Ilan Ramon, a pilot in the Israeli Air Force. Ilan Ramon and his Columbia crew mates were lost when the space shuttle broke apart during re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003. Tal Ramon played two selections from his latest record, “Dmut,” a Hebrew word for character, and “Victoria.”

Wreath Honors Gemini, Apollo, Space Shuttle Astronaut John Young

In memory of NASA astronaut John Young, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana placed a memorial wreath at the Heroes and Legends exhibit at the center’s visitor complex. The brief ceremony took place on the afternoon of Jan. 11, 2018. Young died Jan. 5, 2018, at the age of 87 in Houston. He was the only astronaut to fly in NASA’s Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs.

Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle astronaut John Young in a portrait taken in 2002. Photo credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz
Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle astronaut John Young in a portrait taken in 2002.
Photo credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz

“NASA and the world have lost a pioneer,” acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement. “Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier.”

Cabana also praised Young for his constant focus on flight safety.

“He tried bringing attention to technical problems so they could be dealt with,” Cabana said. “Safety was foremost in his mind. He knew we are in a very risky business, but he also knew the importance of paying attention to detail and always doing things right.”

Apollo 16 commander John Young leaps from the lunar surface as he salutes the United States flag at the Descartes landing site during the mission's first moon walk. The Lunar Module is on the left and the Lunar Roving Vehicle is parked in front. Photo credit: NASA/Charlie Duke
Apollo 16 commander John Young leaps from the lunar surface as he salutes the United States flag at the Descartes landing site during the mission’s first moon walk. The lunar module is on the left and the lunar roving vehicle is parked in front.
Photo credit: NASA/Charlie Duke

Young served as pilot on Gemini III, command pilot on Gemini 10, command module pilot for Apollo 10 and commander of the Apollo 16 moon landing mission.

Young was selected to command the first flight of the Space Shuttle Program, STS-1. He later was commander of STS-9, the first shuttle mission to carry the European Space Agency’s Spacelab module. During STS-9, Young became the first person to fly in space a sixth time.

Among his many awards and honors, Young was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on March 19, 1993.

“John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation’s first great achievements in space,” Lightfoot said. “But, not content with that, his hands-on contributions continued long after the last of his six spaceflights.”

Photo credit: NASA/ Frank Michaux