Mars Rover to Help Visitor Complex Kick off New Mars Exhibit

Mars Rover Concept VehicleIt looks like something out of this world, but that’s exactly where it would work. A futuristic Mars rover concept vehicle was recently unveiled at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex with a goal of inspiration and education as NASA continues developing plans for its journey to the Red Planet.

The visitor complex kicked off its “Summer of Mars” promotion with a June 5 ceremony which included former astronaut Scott Kelly. During his appearance, Kelly shared some of his experiences during a one-year stay aboard the International Space Station from March 27, 2015 to Feb. 3, 2016.

According to Rebecca Shireman, assistant manager of public relations for the Kennedy visitor complex, the “Summer of Mars” program will provide a survey of NASA’s studies of the Red Planet.

“It’s an all-encompassing effort to review the history of our efforts to explore Mars and look ahead to what is being planned,” she said. “We hope this will encourage young people to want to learn more about being a part of the effort to go to Mars.”

NASA’s next robotic Mars rover is set to land on the Red Planet in 2020. The Mars 2020 rover will search for signs of past microbial life and collect core samples for a potentially future return to Earth.

The builders of the scientifically-themed Mars rover concept vehicle, Parker Brothers Concepts of Port Canaveral, Florida, incorporated input into its design from NASA subject matter experts. Construction of the Mars rover was commissioned by the Kennedy visitor complex without use of taxpayer dollars.

The rover operates on an electric motor, powered by solar panels and a 700-volt battery. The rover separates in the middle with the front area designed for scouting and equipped with a radio and navigation provided by the Global Positioning System. The back section serves as a laboratory which can disconnect for autonomous research. While this exact rover is not expected to operate on Mars, one or more of its elements could make its way into a rover astronauts will drive on the Red Planet.

Following several weeks on display at Kennedy’s visitor complex, the Mars rover concept vehicle will be displayed at several locations. From July through August, it will be displayed at several locations during a tour along the East Coast.

Shireman explained that the Mars rover concept vehicle will return to the visitor complex to be part of the new Astronaut Training Experience attraction opening in the fall of this year.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Kennedy celebrates Earth Day 2017

Earth Day 2017 Activites at KSC
Approximately 500 Kennedy Space Center employees attended the 2017 Earth Day event at the Operations and Support Building II on April 20. One of 40 exhibitors shared information on how the biogas digester system converts any organic waste into clean cooking gas and high-quality liquid fertilizer for gardens.
Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The theme for the 48th Earth Day could have been “making space for nature” as NASA’s Kennedy Space Center hosted about 40 exhibitors who shared information on renewable energy, electric cars and Florida-friendly landscaping.

The event kicked off at the Operations and Support Building II on April 20, then moved to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on April 21, allowing employees and visitors to learn and benefit from an array of sources.

“Kennedy Space Center is dedicated to being really good stewards of the planet,” said Jeanne Ryba of Kennedy’s Environmental Management Branch. “Everyone seemed to enjoy and appreciate the caliber of vendors.”

The celebration was designed to spread awareness of innovations that can contribute to sustainable living at work and at home.

Among the vendors was HomeBiogas who showed a biogas digester system that could convert any organic waste into clean cooking gas and high-quality liquid fertilizer.

“We are trying to get everyone to think more futuristically,” said Rhiannon Roberts, the Internship Coordinator for the Patel College of Global Sustainability. “We eventually are shooting for galactic sustainability because that is where the future is at.”

There also were natural conservation specialists showing ways to protect wildlife and Florida waters. Many employees took home plants that will help the environment.

Also included were representatives of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Canaveral National Seashore, Brevard Zoo and General Motors. Other vendors shared information on Florida’s expanded biking and hiking trails. Representatives from the Brevard Zoo showed the zoo’s efforts to achieve sustainability, including a recycling program, enhanced sustainability signage within the zoo and assisting with special events to minimize waste.

Earth Day in the United States, first celebrated April 22, 1970, is held nationally each April to promote environmental awareness and appreciation. For more than four decades, NASA has been using the vantage point of space to increase the understanding of Earth and safeguard the future while improving lives.

“We like to think every day is Earth Day at Kennedy Space Center,” Ryba said.

Volunteers Clean Kennedy Space Center’s Beach

About 50 participants led by NASA Kennedy Space Center's Employee Resource Groups picked up about 20 bags of trash and other large debris along the center's shoreline before turtle-nesting season as a community service. Sea turtle-nesting season begins in about one month. Unlike what might be found along a public beach, all of the debris that litters Kennedy’s restricted beaches washes ashore after being discarded at sea. Of the 72 miles of beach that form the eastern boundary of Brevard County, Florida, about six of those miles line Kennedy.
About 50 participants led by NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Employee Resource Groups picked up about 20 bags of trash and other large debris along the center’s shoreline before turtle-nesting season as a community service. Sea turtle-nesting season begins in about one month. Unlike what might be found along a public beach, all of the debris that litters Kennedy’s restricted beaches washes ashore after being discarded at sea. Of the 72 miles of beach that form the eastern boundary of Brevard County, Florida, about six of those miles line Kennedy.
Photo credit: Bill White

About 50 employees picked up 20 bags of trash and large debris along the shoreline of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center during a beach cleanup in preparation of the upcoming sea turtle-nesting season.

Led by the center’s Employee Resource Groups, the participants met at the Beach House, worked about an hour and covered approximately two miles in their efforts. Of the 72 miles of beach that form the eastern boundary of Brevard County, about six of those miles line Kennedy.

Unlike what might be found along a public beach, all of the debris that litters Kennedy’s restricted beaches washes ashore after being discarded at sea. So before the group started, Kennedy’s Hazardous Materials team swept the beach to take care of any dangerous/suspicious items. They also stayed with the group through the entire cleanup on ATVs and responded quickly to potentially dangerous items the group found.

Along with cleaning the beach, the group’s team-building effort included attracting a diverse group of Kennedy workers to come together and make a positive impact on Kennedy. With sea turtle-nesting season beginning in about a month, the group deemed the timing ideal. The beach looked completely transformed after the cleanup, said some of those taking part in the effort.

With Kennedy’s shoreline being part of the top nesting area in the Western Hemisphere for loggerhead sea turtles, wildlife agencies consider it important to remove trash and debris along the coast whenever possible.

“We’re hoping those sea turtles can have a safer nesting season with the newly clean beach,” said Pri Thakrar, an engineer at Kennedy. “It was a beautiful day and we got a lot of positive feedback from the participants.”

Thakrar, along with engineer and co-organizer Megan Yohpe, hope to make this a regular event.

Kennedy ‘Swarmed’ as Students Develop Computer Code to Support Exploration

Swarmathon 2017

Students from colleges and universities from across the nation recently participated in a robotic programming competition at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Their research may lead to technology which will help astronauts find needed resources when exploring the moon or Mars.

In the spaceport’s second annual Swarmathon competition, aspiring engineers from 20 teams representing 22 minority serving universities and community colleges were invited to develop software code to operate innovative robots called “Swarmies.” The event took place April 18-20, 2017, at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

In her welcoming remarks, Kennedy’s deputy center director, Janet Petro, pointed out to the students that their endeavors to develop robotic software code are more than an academic exercise.

“All of the work that you have done – designing, coding, testing – will soon be put to the ultimate test,” she said. “You should be extremely proud of your accomplishments. You have shown tenacity, problem-solving, teamwork and innovation – all qualities that NASA highly values.”

A team from Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) in Albuquerque, New Mexico won this year’s Swarmathon capturing a $5,000 cash prize.

The small, four-wheeled Swarmie robots were designed through a collaboration between Kennedy’s Swamp Works laboratory and the University of New Mexico. It is a technology that could revolutionize space exploration by more effectively and efficiently locating hidden resources while astronauts explore distant destinations.

Computer scientists are developing Swarmies to focus not so much on the hardware, but the software. The Swarmathon is designed to help students improve their skills in robotics and computer science, as well as integrating software with hardware. What makes these robots noteworthy is the coding each carries in its silicon brain that makes them search for water, minerals and elements that could be refined into useful resources such as building materials or rocket fuel.

NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (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.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Engineers Tickled Pink to Help Kennedy Robotics Team

The robotics group known as the "Pink Team."
Comprised of students from Cocoa Beach, Rockledge, Viera and Space Coast high schools, the robotics group known as the “Pink Team,” its mentors and support personnel celebrated a successful season near the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on April 5. The Pink Team fared well in the two regionals it competed in this year in West Palm Beach, Florida, and the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
Photo credit: Charles Babir

A robotics team that did not exist six months ago stormed back into competition this spring after a new group of engineering mentors at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida opted to work with high school students to build intricate machines capable of performing by remote control some of the same functions NASA asks its own robots to perform.

Called the “Pink Team,” the Kennedy-sponsored group competes in the FIRST events, short for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” Two of the three team mentors retired last year leaving the group devoid of the mentorship necessary to compete.

So the Kennedy Engineering Directorate stepped up with 10 or so mentors eager to help.

The team was led by engineers Greg Clements and Andrew Bradley. Those involved celebrated the successful season April 5 at a facility near the Shuttle Landing Facility.

“It took a lot of teamwork, skill, communication, and a whole lot of brain power to get where we are,” said Bradley, a control systems engineer at Kennedy and Pink Team mentor since its inception 20 years ago. “It was great to see our engineering group step up and help make this happen.”

The team kicked off the season in January. They had six weeks to prepare for a pair of regionals, the first in West Palm Beach, Florida, and the second at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. With teams from Google, Microsoft, General Motors and representatives from each of the space centers, the competition was extraordinary.

The Pink Team faired very well in both competitions.

“Despite this being a rebuilding season, we couldn’t have been more proud of our group of students,” Clements said. “And it looks like nearly everyone is coming back for next year, so we have high expectations.”

Comprised of students from Cocoa Beach, Rockledge, Viera and Space Coast high schools, Kennedy’s house robotics team chose the phoenix mascot as a sign of rising from the ashes, Clements said.

And of course, the phoenix was pink.

Radiological Control Center Renamed Honoring Randy Scott

Radiological Control Center (RADCC) Renaming Ceremony
Dr. David Tipton, left, chief of Aerospace Medicine and Occupational Health at the Kennedy Space Center, presents Myrna Scott, widow of Randy Scott, with a replica of the emblem noting that the spaceport’s Radiological Control Center has been named in honor of her husband who died last year.
Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

A ceremony in the NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Radiological Control Center honored the extensive contributions of Randy Scott, during which the facility was named in his honor. A professional health physicist of more than 40 years, Scott served as the Florida spaceport’s Radiation Protection Officer for 14 years until his death June 17, 2016.

During the March 31, 2017, ceremony, Director of Spaceport Integration and Services Nancy Bray spoke of Scott’s efforts to establish the Radiological Control Center.

“Randy had a vision, and he knew what it would take to make this a first-class spaceport and support the radiological mission,” she said. “This room serves a dual purpose. When we are not using it for a major radiological mission, it’s available to our emergency operations team.”

Bray then joined Dr. David Tipton, chief of Aerospace Medicine and Occupational Health, and Myrna Scott, Randy Scott’s widow, in cutting a ribbon dedicating the Randall E. Scott Radiological Control Center.

Scott is best known for his contingency planning efforts supporting planetary missions that included a plutonium-powered radioisotope thermalelectric generator (RTG). Spacecraft such as New Horizons, launched to Pluto on Jan. 19, 2006, and the Mars Science Laboratory with the Curiosity lander, lifting off on Nov. 26, 2011, take so long to travel so far from the sun that batteries and solar panels are impractical. Electrical power is provided by an RTG which produces electricity from heat generated by the natural decay of plutonium.

Located in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout building, the Randall E. Scott Radiological Control Center is staffed by technical and radiological experts from NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing and the state of Florida. The group performs data collection and assessment functions supporting launch site and field data collection activities.

Scott was awarded NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal in 2012 for coordinating multiple federal agencies’ radiological contingency preparedness and the Interagency Nuclear Safety Review Panel prior to launch of the Mars Science Laboratory.

Successful Deployment of the Integrated Health Management Architecture in Firing Room 1

Successful AGSM IHM Deployment
Engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center were recognized recently for creating and deploying the IHM Architecture. The deployed IHM Architecture is one of the main elements in the Advanced Ground Systems Maintenance (AGSM) project, formulated to provide Health Management capabilities to Ground Systems to reduce O&M costs and increase systems’ availability.
Photo credit: NASA

Engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center were recognized recently for creating and deploying the Integrated Health Management (IHM) Architecture — hardware, software and network components — that will be instrumental in accessing the health of ground support equipment, predicting breakdowns, isolating components that have failed, and recommending corrections if failures occur. The deployed IHM Architecture is one of the main elements in the Advanced Ground Systems Maintenance (AGSM) project, formulated to provide health management capabilities to ground systems to reduce operations and maintenance costs, and increase systems’ availability.

Operating in Firing Room 1 of the Launch Control Center, the IHM Architecture will oversee the hardware at the launch pad for NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft. When specific ground systems are incorporated in the IHM Architecture, it will be capable of collecting the information from the Spaceport Command and Control System (SCCS) and advising launch controllers of its status.

Taken together, the system is meant to reduce the likelihood of surprises during the countdown and launch activities of the massive SLS vehicle and Orion spacecraft as they prepare to conduct missions beyond Earth orbit.

The work was led by Kennedy’s Engineering Directorate and has been turned over to the teams of NASA and contractor engineers that will use and maintain it during operations.

Progress in Central Campus Construction Adding Modern Facilities

Central Campus Construction progress at Kennedy Space Center.

Now that NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is a premier, multi-user spaceport, ongoing construction is adding new, ultra-modern facilities. A key element of the Central Campus makeover is a new, seven-story, 200,000-square-foot headquarters building that has taken shape in the heart of the spaceport.

The project is taking place in several phases. Phase 1 includes construction and outfitting of a shared services and office building to function as the first half of the new headquarters.

The headquarters building’s glass facade, as seen from NASA Causeway, is complete. The exterior skin of the building also is nearly finished. The remainder of the glass components are being installed on each floor. Construction of interior walls and utilities on most floors is well underway.

The construction approach will provide a campus-like setting with several buildings surrounding a pedestrian-friendly outdoor courtyard. The concept, similar to what is used by many educational institutions, provides close proximity and access to several buildings. It also promotes the use of pedestrian walkways instead of vehicle traffic used today because of the distances between buildings.

Construction of the headquarters building is targeted for completion in November 2017 and employees are expected to be able to move in soon after.

Additionally, Central Campus phase 1 construction includes a separate facility to operate as a consolidated Kennedy Data Center which opened in October 2015. This 16,500-square-foot building operates year-round, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Kennedy’s current headquarters and the Central Instrumentation Facility are among the oldest at the spaceport, more than 50 years of service since they were built in the mid-1960s. The overarching central campus construction will consolidate several buildings and administrative spaces in what is known as the space center’s Industrial Area.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

ULA Atlas V Arrives for Next Orbital ATK Space Station Resupply Mission

OA-7 Atlas V Booster arrives at the Army Wharf, is offloaded and transfered to the ASOC.

NASA recently took another step in preparations for Orbital ATK’s seventh commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster arrived at the Army Outpost wharf at Port Canaveral, Florida, near the Kennedy Space Center.

The Atlas V rocket was assembled at the ULA plant in Decatur, Alabama, about 20 miles southwest of Huntsville. After completion, the Atlas V was shipped aboard the Mariner cargo ship down the Tennessee River and Tombigbee Waterway, a canal, through the Gulf of Mexico to Port Canaveral.

From the port, the booster was transported to the hangar at the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center, located south of Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Atlas V will undergo final testing in that facility. When processing is complete, the Atlas V booster will be moved to the Vertical Integration Facility for stacking approximately .3 miles from SLC-41.

Scheduled for launch at approximately 10:56 p.m. on March 19, 2017, the Atlas V rocket will boost an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo spacecraft loaded with thousands of pounds of supplies and equipment for the crew aboard the space station. Additionally, scientific experiments will be aboard for research by the crew on the station to improve life on Earth and drive progress toward future space flight.

Photo credit: United Launch Alliance


Kennedy Space Center’s NASA Day of Remembrance to be Observed Jan. 26


NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will pay tribute to the crews of Apollo 1, the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other agency colleagues, during Kennedy’s NASA Day of Remembrance on Thursday, Jan. 26. The ceremony, which will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 1 tragedy, is scheduled for 10 a.m. EST at the Astronauts Memorial Foundation hall at the Kennedy visitor complex.

The first Apollo crew, Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, perished when a flash fire broke out in their spacecraft on Jan. 27, 1967.

Speakers are scheduled to include NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, Sheryl Chaffee, daughter of Roger Chaffee, as well as Apollo astronauts Mike Collins and Charlie Duke.

A wreath laying will follow the ceremony on site at the Space Mirror Memorial.

The observance is hosted by the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, paying tribute to those who acknowledged exploration of space is an unforgiving environment but believed it worth the risk.

Photo credit: NASA/Tim Jacobs

The Day of Remembrance ceremony will be carried live on NASA Television at: