InSight Live Launch Coverage on NASA TV, May 5, 6:30 a.m. EDT (3:30 a.m. PDT) Watch the InSight live launch coverage on NASA TV at: www.nasa.gov/nasalive.
NASA’s next mission to Mars – the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport spacecraft (InSight) – is scheduled to launch as early as Saturday, May 5, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. InSight’s liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 is targeted for 7:05 a.m. EDT (4:05 a.m. PDT) at the opening of a two-hour launch window, making it also the first interplanetary mission to take off from the West Coast.
This is the third mission in the robust schedule for NASA’s Launch Services Program this year, launching six missions in just six months, with six different rocket configurations, from six launch sites.
Students in Florida asked questions of NASA scientists on the ground and astronauts on the International Space Station to learn more about how the agency is pioneering the cultivation of plants in space to supplement astronaut diets with fresh, nutritious food. These students have directly bolstered researchers’ knowledge in the field of space plant science by participating in the Growing Beyond Earth part of The Fairchild Challenge, which has promoted education focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by engaging students to test more than 100 varieties of edible plants during the past three years for their potential viability on the space station.
Astronauts on the orbiting laboratory use the Vegetable Production System, known as Veggie, to study plants. These experiments also have a practical side. Not only do the plants augment the astronauts’ diet with fresh food, according to astronauts, tending the crops is a source of enjoyment and a little piece of home for the crew.
Hundreds of high school students from eight schools in central Florida came to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex where NASA treated them to a presentation by Gioia Massa, a life sciences project scientist at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center, and Trent Smith, Veggie project manager, along with university students who are interns at NASA also working on growing plants for space. The high school students then had the opportunity to ask the team questions, which covered topics as diverse as using Martian soil for growing plants, to the viability of growing trees in space.
As he answered questions, Smith said working with 150 schools nationwide through The Fairchild Challenge was a tremendous benefit to NASA. Students have identified several strong candidate crops including extra dwarf pak choi and dragoon lettuce, which are undergoing final testing to determine if they are suitable for space.
“I hope to send them up in a resupply spacecraft very soon, giving astronauts new selections to grow and eat in space,” Smith said.
Massa told the crowd that The Fairchild Challenge participants had not only evaluated other promising plant varieties including Shungiku, an edible Chrysanthemum, but they had also tested horticultural techniques like cut-and-come-again which is a repetitive harvest that can increase overall food yield. She said the entire program was “a wonderful collaboration” between NASA and students.
Attention then shifted to South Florida as hundreds of Miami students who had participated in the Growing Beyond Earth portion of the Fairchild Challenge visited the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden for a live downlink with crew members aboard the space station.
Students including Ashton Santos from Colonial High School in Orlando expressed excitement for being able to come to the visitor complex and learning directly from the people behind the science. “This experience was really valuable to me, and it really piqued my interest about agriculture in space,” Santos said. “I hope that I can find out more, and maybe I can be one of the interns there,” he added.
Camile Mason, another Colonial High School student, had the opportunity to ask the Veggie team a question and said the visit was an exciting experience. “It was very insightful,” Mason said. “It was very interesting learning about how scientists developed and changed the way we can look at agriculture even here on Earth, and how we can study and mimic conditions out in space, here.”
NASA’s next Mars lander is one significant step closer to beginning its journey. Secured inside its payload fairing, the agency’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) spacecraft was transported from the Astrotech facility to Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The payload fairing was hoisted up inside the Vertical Integration Facility and attached to the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Liftoff is scheduled for May 5, 2018.
InSight will be the first mission to look deep beneath the Martian surface. It will study the planet’s interior by measuring its heat output and listening for marsquakes. InSight will use the seismic waves generated by marsquakes to develop a map of the Red Planet’s deep interior. The resulting insight into Mars’ formation will provide a better understanding of how other rocky planets, including Earth, were created.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the InSight mission for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by its Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The spacecraft, including cruise stage and lander, was built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver. Several European partners, including France’s space agency, the Centre National d’Étude Spatiales, and the German Aerospace Center, are supporting the mission. United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colorado, is providing the Atlas V launch service. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at its Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management.
Sustainability innovations took center stage during Kennedy Space Center’s annual Earth Day celebration April 17 and 18.
The two-day event was held at two spaceport locations – one day at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the next at the center’s Space Station Processing Facility – offering up plenty of opportunities for guests and employees alike to learn more about new, Earth-friendly technologies we can use to improve our own lives at work and at home.
“Our Earth Day celebration is one of several means to educate and encourage the workforce to make environmentally sound decisions,” said Dan Clark, NASA Kennedy’s Sustainability Team lead. “Doing so reduces mission risk, saves money, and makes for a healthier place to live and work. For these reasons, both the White House and NASA HQ are supportive of center participation in outreach activities like this.”
The event featured an expo highlighted by 50 exhibitors who were ready to share their expertise on a wide range of topics, including electric vehicles, sustainable lighting, renewable energy, Florida-friendly landscaping tips, Florida’s biking trails and more.
Kennedy’s sustainability programs and initiatives improve green practices that have an environmental impact or benefit on center. These sustainability efforts help preserve, enhance and strengthen Kennedy’s ability to carry out its missions.
NASA will have a new tool in the search for habitable planets.
The agency’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite was delivered to space this evening aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Launch occurred right on time at 6:51 p.m. EDT following an uneventful countdown highlighted by excellent weather and healthy hardware.
“Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying TESS, a planet-hunting spacecraft that will search for new worlds beyond our solar system,” NASA Launch Commentator Josh Finch said as the rocket thundered away from the launch complex.
TESS will be the first space-based, all-sky surveyor to search for exoplanets – planets outside of our own solar system. However, the spacecraft isn’t looking for just any planets. It’s specifically searching for those that are Earth-like, and close enough to our own celestial neighborhood that scientists can study them further.
“We are thrilled TESS is on its way to help us discover worlds we have yet to imagine, worlds that could possibly be habitable, or harbor life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
How will it find these planets? Like the Kepler mission before it, TESS will use the transit method – that is, it will stare intently at the stars in a given section of the sky, watching for the telltale flicker of a passing (transiting) planet. (Learn more about TESS and the transit method on the TESS Overview.) Kepler, which launched in 2009, focused on one portion of the sky and sought to find Earth-like planets. TESS, on the other hand, will look for stars 30 to 100 times brighter than those observed by Kepler. It also will scan a far larger area.
But first, TESS had to get off the ground. After liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket performed well, sending the spacecraft on its way to orbit. At 7:53 p.m., the twin solar arrays that will power the spacecraft successfully deployed.
“Wow, are we excited. We just had a perfect countdown and perfect launch of the TESS mission,” said Tim Dunn of NASA’s Launch Services Program. “The Falcon 9 continues to demonstrate what a reliable vehicle it has become,” Dunn said.
Over the course of several weeks, TESS will use six thruster burns to travel in a series of progressively elongated orbits to reach the Moon, which will provide a gravitational assist so that TESS can transfer into its 13.7-day final science orbit around Earth. After approximately 60 days of check-out and instrument testing, the spacecraft will begin its work.
TESS is the next step in the search for planets outside of our solar system. The mission will find exoplanets that periodically block part of the light from their host stars, events called transits. TESS will survey the nearest and brightest stars for two years to search for transiting exoplanets.
Launch teams are standing down today to conduct additional Guidance Navigation and Control analysis, and teams are now working towards a targeted launch of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) on Wednesday, April 18. The TESS spacecraft is in excellent health, and remains ready for launch. TESS will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
In just a few hours, a NASA spacecraft is expected to launch on a mission to search the skies for the nearest terrestrial planets outside our solar system. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, is scheduled to lift off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 6:32 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Follow NASA’s TESS Blog beginning at 6 p.m. for frequent updates from the countdown.
The planned liftoff of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, remains scheduled for 6:32 p.m. EDT Monday from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing continue to predict an 80 percent chance of favorable weather for liftoff.
Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing continue to predict an 80 percent chance of favorable weather for liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Launch is scheduled for April 16 at 6:32 p.m. EDT on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. On launch day, the primary weather concern are strong winds.