Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins Returns to Launch Complex 39A

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana talks with Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins during his visit to Launch Complex 39A, site of the launch of the Apollo 11 launch to the Moon.

Fifty years ago this week, the world watched and celebrated as the crew of Apollo 11 made history. Commander Neil Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin became the first two people to set foot on the Moon as Command Module Pilot Michael Collins orbited above the lunar surface.

On July 16, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch, astronaut Michael Collins, right, visited Kennedy Space Center and toured Launch Complex 39A, the site of the launch, with Kennedy Center Director Bob Cabana. During his visit to the Florida spaceport, Collins discussed the moments leading up to launch at 9:32 a.m. on July 16, 1969, and what it was like to be part of the first crew to land on the Moon.

Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Kennedy Kicks Off 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11

The crewmen of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission leave the Kennedy Space Center's Manned Spacecraft Operations Building (MSOB) during the prelaunch countdown on July 16, 1969.
The crewmen of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission leave the Kennedy Space Center’s Manned Spacecraft Operations Building (MSOB) during the prelaunch countdown. Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, ride the special transport van over to Launch Complex 39A where their spacecraft awaited them. Liftoff was at 9:32 a.m. EDT July 16, 1969. Photo credit: NASA

Today, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida kicks off the celebration of Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary with a visit from former astronaut Michael Collins, command module pilot of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. Collins will start the day with a visit to the Astronaut Crew Quarters in Kennedy’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building.

Following this, he will speak with Kennedy Center Director Bob Cabana at Pad 39A, the location for the Apollo 11 launch on this day fifty years ago that landed the first two men on the Moon. Beginning at 9:15 a.m., tune in to NASA TV or the agency’s website to watch the conversation live.

Follow along the blog for updates on Apollo 11 coverage. Here’s a look at what’s to come:

  • Friday, July 19: Tune in to NASA TV or the agency’s website for live coverage of a special Apollo 11 show, “NASA’s Giant Leaps: Past and Future,” from 1 to 3 p.m. The show will salute the heroes of Apollo and highlight the agency’s future space exploration plans.
  • Friday, July 19: Immediately following “NASA’s Giant Leaps: Past and Future,” stay tuned for “STEM Forward to the Moon,” which will feature kids participating in Moon landing simulations and activity demonstrations at museums across the nation from 3 to 3:30 p.m.

Kennedy Buzzing with Activity During Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Week

Apollo 11 liftoff
Kennedy Space Center will host multiple programs as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Apollo 11 mission. Photo credit: NASA

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:

Apollo 11 patchTuesday, 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.

SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon to Deliver New Space Station Docking Adapter for Commercial Crew Spacecraft

The International Docking Adapter 3, a critical component for future crewed missions to the International Space Station, is carefully packed away in the unpressurized "trunk" section of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at the SpaceX facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 19.
The International Docking Adapter 3, a critical component for future crewed missions to the International Space Station, is carefully packed away in the unpressurized “trunk” section of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at the SpaceX facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 19. Photo credit: NASA/Isaac Watson

A new International Docking Adapter, called IDA-3, is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station this July aboard SpaceX’s 18th cargo resupply mission to the microgravity laboratory. When installed on the space station, the one-of-a-kind outpost will have two common ports enabling expanded opportunities for visiting vehicles, including new spacecraft designed to carry humans for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The docking adapters are the physical connections spacecraft like Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and future, yet-to-be designed international spacecraft will use to autonomously attach to station. The adapters are important because the plans are readily available for spacecraft builders and standardize a host of docking requirements.

The International Docking Adapter 3, a critical component for future crewed missions to the International Space Station, is carefully packed away in the unpressurized "trunk" section of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at the SpaceX facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 19.
The International Docking Adapter 3, a critical component for future crewed missions to the International Space Station, is carefully packed away in the unpressurized “trunk” section of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at the SpaceX facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 19. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Currently stowed in the trunk of SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft, the IDA-3 was assembled at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and comprises of a number of sensors that spacecraft will communicate with and connect to through use of onboard computers and navigation systems.  Docking requires no crew assistance and can be completed much more quickly than the berthing process often used for cargo spacecraft today, which may involve astronauts aboard the station manually capturing spacecraft using a robotic arm then maneuvering the craft to attach to a common hatch mechanism.

IDA-3 is one of the primary payloads on the SpaceX resupply mission and is identical to the International Docking Adapter-2, IDA-2, installed in the summer of 2016. IDA-2 was used by SpaceX during the company’s first uncrewed flight test, called Demo-1, for commercial crew. Both docking adapters were built by Boeing.

Once at the space station, flight controllers will use the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to remove the IDA-3 from Dragon’s trunk and place it over a Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA-3) on the station’s Harmony module, or Node 2. Later this summer, two Expedition 60 crew members will perform a spacewalk to permanently install the IDA-3 to PMA-3.

The SpaceX CRS-18 mission is scheduled to launch at 7:35 p.m. EDT on Sunday, July 21, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. After its arrival, the Dragon cargo spacecraft will remain at the space station for about a month.

Teams Honored in NASA’s 2019 Robotic Mining Competition

NASA InsigniaMore than 300 undergraduate and graduate students, from 45 universities and colleges throughout the U.S., competed in NASA’s 2019 Virtual Robotic Mining Competition. Participating teams submitted a systems engineering paper, reported on their STEM Outreach in their communities, and provided a virtual slide presentation and robot demonstration.

The RMC 2019 Winners:

Slide Presentations & Demonstrations
1st Place – The University of Alabama
2nd Place – The University of Akron
3rd Place – University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Systems Engineering Paper Award
1st Place – The University of Alabama
2nd Place – New York University – Tandon School of Engineering
3rd Place – Case Western Reserve University

Outreach Report
1st Place – The University of Akron
2nd Place – The University of Alabama
3rd Place – The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence
The University of Alabama

The competition is a NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate project designed to encourage and retain students in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM fields. NASA directly benefits from the competition by encouraging the development of innovative autonomous coding and robotic excavation concepts. These unique or clever solutions may be applied to a device and/or payload on an In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) mission. This has the potential to significantly contribute to our Nation’s space vision and exploration operations.

NASA is implementing the President’s Space Policy Directive-1 to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system.” NASA is charged to get American astronauts to the Moon in the next five years with a landing on the lunar South Pole. Our goal now is to return to the Moon to stay, in a sustainable way. NASA will continue to “use all means necessary” to ensure mission success in moving us forward to the Moon and ensure the next man and the first woman on the Moon are American. Our nation will need a future workforce that has the skills for developing autonomous robotic mining on the Moon, Mars and other off-world locations. We will benefit by being leaders in a new resource-based space economy that will inspire and train the next generation workforce which will add to the overall economic strength of the USA.

For more information on the RMC, associated activities and social media, visit https://www.nasa.gov/offices/education/centers/kennedy/technology/nasarmc.html.

Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test a Success

A fully functional Launch Abort System (LAS), with a test version of Orion attached, launches on NASA’s Ascent Abort-2 atop a Northrop Grumman-provided booster on July 2, 2019, at 7 a.m. EDT, from Launch Pad 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
A fully functional Launch Abort System (LAS), with a test version of Orion attached, launches on NASA’s Ascent Abort-2 atop a Northrop Grumman-provided booster on July 2, 2019, at 7 a.m. EDT, from Launch Pad 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Kevin O’Connell

NASA successfully demonstrated the Orion spacecraft’s launch abort system can outrun a speeding rocket and pull astronauts to safety during an emergency during launch. During the approximately three-minute test, called Ascent Abort-2, a test version of the Orion crew module launched at 7 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a modified Peacekeeper missile procured through the U.S. Air Force and built by Northrop Grumman.

The Orion test spacecraft traveled to an altitude of about six miles, at which point it experienced high-stress aerodynamic conditions expected during ascent. The abort sequence triggered and, within milliseconds, the abort motor fired to pull the crew module away from the rocket. Its attitude control motor flipped the capsule end-over-end to properly orient it, and then the jettison motor fired, releasing the crew module for splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

A team is collecting the 12 data recorders that were ejected during the test capsule’s descent. Analysis of the information will provide insight into the abort system’s performance.

A postlaunch briefing will be held approximately two hours after launch reviewing initial insights from the test data. Audio of this briefing will stream live on the agency’s website.

The test is another milestone in the agency’s preparation for Artemis missions to the Moon that will lead to astronaut missions to Mars.

Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test Scheduled to Launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station this Morning

Ascent Abort-2 will verify Orion’s abort system can pull the crew module away from an emergency during its ascent to space. Photo credit: NASA
Ascent Abort-2 will verify Orion’s abort system can pull the crew module away from an emergency during its ascent to space. Photo credit: NASA TV

The Ascent Abort-2 flight test of the launch abort system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, featuring a test version of the crew module, is scheduled to lift off this morning from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Follow on the AA-2 Launch Blog.

The four-hour launch window opens at 7 a.m. EDT. NASA TV will broadcast launch activities, starting at 6:40 a.m. Updates also can be found on this blog. 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.

NASA Gearing up for July 2 Morning Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test

Prelaunch news conference for the Ascent Abort-2 flight test
From left, Derrol Nail, NASA Communications, moderates a prelaunch news conference on July 1, 2019, for the agency’s Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test, with Jenny Devolites, AA-2 Crew Module manager; Mark Kirasich, Orion Program manager; and Randy Bresnik, NASA astronaut, at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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.”

Preview News Conference for Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test Today at 11:30 a.m. EDT

AA-2 mission patchNASA 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.

Managers Give “Go” to Proceed to Launch at Readiness Review

A test version of NASA’s Orion crew module is ready for rollback at Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. During a Launch Readiness Review on 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.
A test version of NASA’s Orion crew module is ready for rollback at Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. During a Launch Readiness Review on 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. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
The Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test of the Launch Abort System (LAS) for NASA’s Orion spacecraft will prove the LAS can pull crew to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency at ascent speeds.
The Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test of the Launch Abort System (LAS) for NASA’s Orion spacecraft will prove the LAS can pull crew to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency at ascent speeds. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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.