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NASA

NASA’s Juno Provides High-Definition Views of Europa’s Icy Shell

NASA - Breaking News - Wed, 05/15/2024 - 1:46pm
Jupiter’s moon Europa was captured by the JunoCam instrument aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft during the mission’s close flyby on Sept. 29, 2022. The images show the fractures, ridges, and bands that crisscross the moon’s surface.Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS. Image processing: Björn Jónsson (CC BY 3.0)

Imagery from the solar-powered spacecraft shows some intriguing features on the ice-encased Jovian moon.

Images from the JunoCam visible-light camera aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft supports the theory that the icy crust at the north and south poles of Jupiter’s moon Europa is not where it used to be. Another high-resolution picture of the icy moon, by the spacecraft’s Stellar Reference Unit (SRU), reveals signs of possible plume activity and an area of ice shell disruption where brine may have recently bubbled to the surface.

The JunoCam results recently appeared in the Planetary Science Journal and the SRU results in the journal JGR Planets.

On Sept. 29, 2022, Juno made its closest flyby of Europa, coming within 220 miles (355 kilometers) of the moon’s frozen surface. The four pictures taken by JunoCam and one by the SRU are the first high-resolution images of Europa since Galileo’s last flyby in 2000.

True Polar Wander

Juno’s ground track over Europa allowed imaging near the moon’s equator. When analyzing the data, the JunoCam team found that along with the expected ice blocks, walls, scarps, ridges, and troughs, the camera also captured irregularly distributed steep-walled depressions 12 to 31 miles (20 to 50 kilometers) wide. They resemble large ovoid pits previously found in imagery from other locations of Europa.

This black-and-white image of Europa’s surface was taken by the Stellar Reference Unit (SRU) aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft during the Sept. 29, 2022, flyby. The chaos feature nicknamed “the Platypus” is seen in the lower right corner.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI This annotated image of Europa’s surface from Juno’s SRU shows the location of a double ridge running east-west (blue box) with possible plume stains and the chaos feature the team calls “the Platypus” (orange box). These features hint at current surface activity and the presence of subsurface liquid water on the icy Jovian moon.

A giant ocean is thought to reside below Europa’s icy exterior, and these surface features have been associated with “true polar wander,” a theory that Europa’s outer ice shell is essentially free-floating and moves.

“True polar wander occurs if Europa’s icy shell is decoupled from its rocky interior, resulting in high stress levels on the shell, which lead to predictable fracture patterns,” said Candy Hansen, a Juno co-investigator who leads planning for JunoCam at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. “This is the first time that these fracture patterns have been mapped in the southern hemisphere, suggesting that true polar wander’s effect on Europa’s surface geology is more extensive than previously identified.”

The high-resolution JunoCam imagery has also been used to reclassify a formerly prominent surface feature from the Europa map.

“Crater Gwern is no more,” said Hansen. “What was once thought to be a 13-mile-wide impact crater — one of Europa’s few documented impact craters — Gwern was revealed in JunoCam data to be a set of intersecting ridges that created an oval shadow.”

The Platypus

Although all five Europa images from Juno are high-resolution, the image from the spacecraft’s black-and-white SRU offers the most detail. Designed to detect dim stars for navigation purposes, the SRU is sensitive to low light. To avoid over-illumination in the image, the team used the camera to snap the nightside of Europa while it was lit only by sunlight scattered off Jupiter (a phenomenon called “Jupiter-shine”).

This innovative approach to imaging allowed complex surface features to stand out, revealing intricate networks of cross-cutting ridges and dark stains from potential plumes of water vapor. One intriguing feature, which covers an area 23 miles by 42 miles (37 kilometers by 67 kilometers), was nicknamed by the team “the Platypus” because of its shape.

Characterized by chaotic terrain with hummocks, prominent ridges, and dark reddish-brown material, the Platypus is the youngest feature in its neighborhood. Its northern “torso” and southern “bill” — connected by a fractured “neck” formation — interrupt the surrounding terrain with a lumpy matrix material containing numerous ice blocks that are 0.6 to 4.3 miles (1 to 7 kilometers) wide. Ridge formations collapse into the feature at the edges of the Platypus.

For the Juno team, these formations support the idea that Europa’s ice shell may give way in locations where pockets of briny water from the subsurface ocean are present beneath the surface.

About 31 miles (50 kilometers) north of the Platypus is a set of double ridges flanked by dark stains similar to features found elsewhere on Europa that scientists have hypothesized to be cryovolcanic plume deposits.

“These features hint at present-day surface activity and the presence of subsurface liquid water on Europa,” said Heidi Becker, lead co-investigator for the SRU at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which also manages the mission. “The SRU’s image is a high-quality baseline for specific places NASA’s Europa Clipper mission and ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) Juice missions can target to search for signs of change and brine.”

Europa Clipper’s focus is on Europa — including investigating whether the icy moon could have conditions suitable for life. It is scheduled to launch on the fall of 2024 and arrive at Jupiter in 2030. Juice (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) launched on April 14, 2023. The ESA mission will reach Jupiter in July 2031 to study many targets (Jupiter’s three large icy moons, as well as fiery Io and smaller moons, along with the planet’s atmosphere, magnetosphere, and rings) with a special focus on Ganymede.

Juno executed its 61st close flyby of Jupiter on May 12. Its 62nd flyby of the gas giant, scheduled for June 13, includes an Io flyby at an altitude of about 18,200 miles (29,300 kilometers).

More About the Mission

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Italian Space Agency (ASI) funded the Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built and operates the spacecraft.

More information about Juno is available at:

https://www.nasa.gov/juno

News Media Contacts

DC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-393-9011
agle@jpl.nasa.gov

Karen Fox / Charles Blue
NASA Headquarters, Washington
301-286-6284 / 202-802-5345
karen.c.fox@nasa.gov / charles.e.blue@nasa.gov

Deb Schmid
Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio
210-522-2254
dschmid@swri.org

2024-066

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Categories: NASA

Discovery Alert: An Earth-sized World and Its Ultra-cool Star

NASA - Breaking News - Wed, 05/15/2024 - 12:32pm

4 min read

Discovery Alert: An Earth-sized World and Its Ultra-cool Star An artist’s concept of the exoplanet SPECULOOS-3 b orbiting its red dwarf star. The planet is as big around as Earth, while its star is slightly bigger than Jupiter – but much more massive.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Our galaxy is a jewel box of red stars. More than 70% of the stars in the Milky Way are M dwarfs, also known as red dwarfs. These stars are cool and dim compared with our Sun, but they often blast orbiting exoplanets with high-energy radiation, especially early in their lives. And those ‘‘lives’’ last a long time. Stars like our Sun burn for about 10 billion years before turning into hungry red giants devouring any planets too nearby. M dwarfs keep burning for 100 billion years or more, perhaps offering a foothold for life, and an even longer window for life to develop.

An international team using robotic telescopes around the world recently spotted an Earth-sized planet orbiting an ultra-cool red dwarf, the dimmest and longest-lived of stars. When the universe grows cold and dark, these will be the last stars burning.

The Discovery

The exoplanet SPECULOOS-3 b is about 55 light-years from Earth (really close when you consider the cosmic scale!) and nearly the same size. A year there, one orbit around the star, takes about 17 hours. The days and nights, though, may never end: The planet is thought to be tidally locked, so the same side, known as the dayside, always faces the star, like the Moon to Earth. The nightside would be locked in never-ending darkness.  

The Details

In our corner of the galaxy, ultra-cool dwarf stars are ubiquitous. They are so faint that their planetary population is largely unexplored. The SPECULOOS (Search for Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars) project, led by Michael Gillon at the University of Liège, Belgium, was designed to change that. Ultra-cool dwarf stars are scattered across the sky, so you need to observe them one by one, for weeks, to get a good chance to detect transiting planets. For that, you need a dedicated network of professional telescopes. This is the concept of SPECULOOS.

‘‘We designed SPECULOOS specifically to explore nearby ultra-cool dwarf stars in search of rocky planets,’’ Gillon said. ‘‘With the SPECULOOS prototype and the crucial help of the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope, we discovered the famous TRAPPIST-1 system. That was an excellent start!’’

Gillon is the lead author of the paper announcing the planet’s discovery, published May 15, 2024, in Nature Astronomy. The project is a true international endeavor, with partnership with the Universities of Cambridge, Birmingham, Bern, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and ETH Zürich.

The SPECULOOS-3 star is thousands of degrees cooler than our Sun with an average temperature of about 4,760 F (2,627 C), but it pummels its planet with radiation, meaning there’s likely no atmosphere. 

Seeing the star, let alone the planet, is a feat in itself. “Though this particular red dwarf is more than a thousand times dimmer than the Sun, its planet orbits much, much closer than the Earth, heating up the planetary surface,” said co-author Catherine Clark, a postdoctoral researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. 

Fun facts

  • While the planet is as big around as Earth, its star is just a tad bigger than Jupiter – but much more massive.
  • The planet receives almost 16 times more energy per second than Earth receives from the Sun.
  • Did you catch the cookie connection? The planet-finding program SPECULOOS shares its name with the spiced shortbread. Both hail from Belgium. Sweet! 

The Next Steps

SPECULOOS-3 b is an excellent candidate for followup observations by the James Webb Space Telescope. Not only might we learn about the potential for an atmosphere and about the surface mineralogy, but it might also help us understand the stellar neighborhood and our place in it.

‘‘We’re making great strides in our study of planets orbiting other stars. We have now reached the stage where we can detect and study Earth-sized exoplanets in detail. The next step will be to determine whether any of them are habitable, or even inhabited,’’ said Steve B. Howell, one of the planet’s discoverers at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.

This story was written by the late Kristen Walbolt, who managed both exoplanets.nasa.gov and @NASAExoplanets social accounts, growing the latter from a following of 126,000 to over 1.9 million in just five years. This Discovery Alert and the associated illustration are among the final pieces of Kristen’s work for NASA Exoplanets.

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NASA’s X-59 Passes Milestone Toward Safe First Flight

NASA - Breaking News - Wed, 05/15/2024 - 11:48am

4 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater) NASA’s X-59 quiet supersonic research aircraft sits on the ramp at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, California during sunrise, shortly after completion of painting. With its unique design, including a 38-foot-long nose, the X-59 was built to demonstrate the ability to fly supersonic, or faster than the speed of sound, while reducing the typically loud sonic boom produced by aircraft at such speeds to a quieter sonic “thump”. The X-59 is the centerpiece of NASA’s Quesst mission, which seeks to solve one of the major barriers to supersonic flight over land, currently banned in the United States, by making sonic booms quieter. NASA/Steve Freeman

NASA has taken the next step toward verifying the airworthiness for its quiet supersonic X-59 aircraft with the completion of a milestone review that will allow it to progress toward flight.

A Flight Readiness Review board composed of independent experts from across NASA has completed a study of the X-59 project team’s approach to safety for the public and staff during ground and flight testing. The review board looked in detail at the project team’s analysis of potential hazards, focusing on safety and risk identification.

Flight Readiness Review is the first step in the flight approval process. The board’s work will provide the X-59 team with insights and recommendations toward systems checkouts on the ground and first flight.

“It’s not a pass-fail,” said Cathy Bahm, NASA’s Low Boom Flight Demonstrator project manager. “We’ll be getting actions from the board and will work with them to resolve those and work toward the Airworthiness and Flight Safety Review.”

NASA and prime contractor Lockheed Martin Skunk Works are developing the X-59 to reduce the sound of a sonic boom to a quieter “thump.” The aircraft is at the center of NASA’s Quesst mission, which will use it to gather data that could revolutionize air travel, potentially paving the way for a new generation of commercial aircraft that can travel faster than the speed of sound. Commercial supersonic flight over land has been banned for more than 50 years because of the noise of sonic booms.

“The Flight Readiness Review focused on specific aspects of the X-59 team’s work on the aircraft, but also served as an overview and update on the entire project,” said Jay Brandon, chief engineer for the Low Boom Flight Demonstrator project.

 “It gave us the opportunity to stop working for a minute and gather what we’ve done so we could tell our story, not just to the board, but to the whole project team,” Brandon said.

With the Flight Readiness Review complete, the upcoming Airworthiness and Flight Safety Review will be the next safety milestone. The Airworthiness and Flight Safety Review board includes senior leaders from several NASA centers and Skunk Works. It will review findings from the Flight Readiness Review, as well as the project team’s response to those filings. The board will send a recommendation to NASA Armstrong’s center director, who signs the airworthiness certificate.

Finally, the team will provide a technical brief to another review board based on test objectives, how the tests are being carried out, the risks involved, and the risk-mitigation actions the team has taken. The X-59 team would have to address any issues raised in the brief before the board, led by NASA Armstrong chief engineer Cynthia J. “CJ” Bixby, will sign a flight request.

“It’s really an exciting time on the project,” Bahm said. “It’s not an easy road, but there’s a finite set of activities that are in front of us.”

NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy speaks on stage immediately following the unveiling of the agency’s X-59 quiet supersonic research aircraft at a January 12, 2024 event at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, California. The X-59 is the centerpiece of NASA’s Quesst mission, which seeks to solve one of the major barriers to supersonic flight over land, currently banned in the United States, by making sonic booms quieter.NASA/Steve Freeman The Path Forward

There are significant steps to be completed before flights can begin. The X-59 team is preparing for upcoming major ground tests focused on systems integration engine runs, and electromagnetic interference.

The X-59 aircraft is a bold, new design, but many of its components are from well-established aircraft, including landing gear from an Air Force F-16 fighter, a cockpit canopy from a NASA T-38 trainer, and a control stick from an Air Force F-117 stealth fighter are among those parts.

“None of these systems have ever worked and played together before,” said Brad Neal, chairman for the X-59 Airworthiness and Flight Safety Review board. “It’s a brand-new thing that we are developing, even though they’re components that have been on different legacy aircraft. As we get into integration testing here, it’s going to be a great opportunity to learn.’’

Share Details Last Updated May 15, 2024 EditorDede DiniusLocationArmstrong Flight Research Center Related Terms Explore More 4 min read NASA Teammates Recall Favorite Memories Aboard Flying Laboratory Article 1 day ago 5 min read Meet NASA Women Behind World’s Largest Flying Laboratory Article 2 days ago 3 min read NASA Licenses 3D-Printable Superalloy to Benefit US Economy Article 6 days ago Keep Exploring Discover More Topics From NASA

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Categories: NASA

Good Night, Moon

NASA Image of the Day - Wed, 05/15/2024 - 10:23am
An illuminated waning gibbous moon contrasts the deep black of space as the International Space Station soared 270 miles over the Southern Ocean.
Categories: Astronomy, NASA

Good Night, Moon

NASA - Breaking News - Wed, 05/15/2024 - 10:22am
An illuminated waning gibbous moon contrasts the deep black of space as the International Space Station soared 270 miles over the Southern Ocean.NASA

The waning gibbous moon stands out against the dark backdrop of space in this April 26, 2024, image from the International Space Station. Waning gibbous is one of eight moon phases, occurring after the full moon. The Sun always illuminates half of the Moon while the other half remains dark, but how much we can see of that illuminated half changes as the Moon travels through its orbit. As the Moon begins its journey back toward the Sun, the lighted side appears to shrink, but the Moon’s orbit is simply carrying it out of view from our perspective.

See NASA’s interactive map for observing the Moon—from Earth—every day of the year.

Image Credit: NASA

Categories: NASA

Hubble Views the Dawn of a Sun-like Star 

NASA - Breaking News - Wed, 05/15/2024 - 9:55am

2 min read

Hubble Views the Dawn of a Sun-like Star  This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image captures a triple-star star system. NASA, ESA, G. Duchene (Universite de Grenoble I); Image Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)
Download this image

Looking like a glittering cosmic geode, a trio of dazzling stars blaze from the hollowed-out cavity of a reflection nebula in this new image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. The triple-star system is made up of the variable star HP Tau, HP Tau G2, and HP Tau G3. HP Tau is known as a T Tauri star, a type of young variable star that hasn’t begun nuclear fusion yet but is beginning to evolve into a hydrogen-fueled star similar to our Sun. T Tauri stars tend to be younger than 10 million years old ― in comparison, our Sun is around 4.6 billion years old ― and are often found still swaddled in the clouds of dust and gas from which they formed.

As with all variable stars, HP Tau’s brightness changes over time. T Tauri stars are known to have both periodic and random fluctuations in brightness. The random variations may be due to the chaotic nature of a developing young star, such as instabilities in the accretion disk of dust and gas around the star, material from that disk falling onto the star and being consumed, and flares on the star’s surface. The periodic changes may be due to giant sunspots rotating in and out of view.

The box in the ground-based image reveals the location of Hubble’s view within the wider context of this triple-star system. NASA, ESA, G. Duchene (Universite de Grenoble I); Image Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America); Inset: KPNO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage/NSF’s NOIRLab)

Curving around the stars, a cloud of gas and dust shines with their reflected light. Reflection nebulae do not emit visible light of their own, but shine as the light from nearby stars bounces off the gas and dust, like fog illuminated by the glow of a car’s headlights.

HP Tau is located approximately 550 light-years away in the constellation Taurus. Hubble studied HP Tau as part of an investigation into protoplanetary disks, the disks of material around stars that coalesce into planets over millions of years.

Media Contact:

Claire Andreoli
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight CenterGreenbelt, MD
claire.andreoli@nasa.gov

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Space Physics and Space Weather Scientist Dr. Yihua (Eva) Zheng

NASA - Breaking News - Wed, 05/15/2024 - 9:55am

“I grew up in China. In China, everybody talks about what they want to be [when they grow up]. Many want to grow up to be a scientist or engineer. So I aspired to be a scientist from an early age.


“… For the girls or women in science — or in any profession or job — opportunities are more abundant than they were previously. Sometimes you need to take bold steps. Just a little push, and then you will get there. I initially started as a foreign national, so not a lot of opportunities existed for a foreign national, and some of them [required a] green card or citizenship. I think it’s hard, but still, there is a path forward. I think it’s important to work hard and be optimistic, and you will find something.”

—Dr. Yihua (Eva) Zheng, Space Physics and Space Weather Scientist, Heliophysics Science Division, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Image Credit: NASA/Thalia Patrinos
Interviewer: NASA/Thalia Patrinos

Check out some of our other Faces of NASA. 

Categories: NASA

Binoculars: A Great First Telescope

NASA - Breaking News - Wed, 05/15/2024 - 6:00am

3 min read

Binoculars: A Great First Telescope A pair of good binoculars can show craters on the Moon around 6 miles (10 km) across and larger. How large is that? It would take you about two hours to hike across a similar-sized crater on Earth. The “Can You See the Flag On the Moon?” handout showcases the levels of detail that different instruments can typically observe on the Moon. Jay Tanner

Do you want to peer deeper into the night sky? Are you feeling the urge to buy a telescope? There are so many options for budding astronomers that choosing one can be overwhelming. A first telescope should be easy to use and provide good quality views while being affordable. As it turns out, those requirements make the first telescope of choice for many stargazers something unexpected: a good pair of binoculars!

Binoculars are an excellent first instrument because they are generally easy to use and more versatile than most telescopes. Binoculars can be used for activities like stargazing and birdwatching and work great in the field at a star party, along the hiking trail, and anywhere else where you can see the sky. Binoculars also travel well, since they easily fit into carry-on luggage – a difficult feat for most telescopes! A good pair of binoculars, ranging in specifications from 7×35 to 10×50, will give you great views of the Moon, large open star clusters like the Pleiades (M45), and, from dark skies, larger bright galaxies like the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and large nebulae like the Orion Nebula (M42). While you likely won’t be able to see Saturn’s rings, as you practice your observing skills you may be able to spot Jupiter’s moons, along with some globular clusters and fainter nebulae from dark sites, too.

The two most popular types of binocular designs are shown here: roof-prism binoculars (left) and porro-prism binoculars (right). Roof prisms tend to be more compact, lighter, and a bit more portable, while porro-prisms tend to be heavier but often offer wider views and greater magnification. What should you choose? Many birders and frequent fliers often choose roof-prism models for their portability. Many observers who prefer to observe fainter deep-sky objects or who use a tripod with their observing choose larger porro-prism designs. There is no right answer, so if you can, try out both designs and see which works better for you. Astronomical Society of the Pacific

What do the numbers on those binocular specs actually mean? The first number is the magnification, while the second number is the size in millimeters (mm) of the lenses. So, a 7×35 pair of binoculars means that they will magnify 7 times using lenses 35 mm in diameter. It can be tempting to get the biggest binoculars you can find but try not to get anything much more powerful than a 10×50 pair at first. Larger binoculars with more power often have narrower fields of vision and are heavier; while technically more powerful, they are also more difficult to hold steadily in your hands and “jiggle” quite a bit unless you buy much more expensive binoculars with image stabilization or mount them to a tripod.

Would it surprise you that amazing views of some astronomical objects can be found not just from giant telescopes, but also from seemingly humble binoculars? Binoculars are able to show a much larger field of view of the sky compared to most telescopes. For example, most telescopes are unable to keep the entirety of the Pleiades or Andromeda Galaxy entirely inside the view of most eyepieces. Binoculars are also a great investment for more advanced observing, as later on they are useful for tracking down objects to then observe in more detail with a telescope.

If you are able to do so, real-world advice and experience is still the best for something you will be spending a lot of time with! Going to an in-person star party hosted by a local astronomy club is a great way to get familiar with telescopes and binoculars of all kinds – just ask permission before taking a closer look! You can find clubs and star parties near you on the Night Sky Network’s Clubs & Events page at bit.ly/nsnclubsandevents and inspire your binocular stargazing sessions with NASA’s latest discoveries!

Originally posted by Dave Prosper: November 2022

Last Updated by Kat Troche: April 2024

Categories: NASA

The Galaxy, the Jet, and a Famous Black Hole

APOD - Wed, 05/15/2024 - 12:00am

The Galaxy, the Jet, and a Famous Black Hole


Categories: Astronomy, NASA

<p><a href="https://apod.nasa.gov/apod

APOD - Wed, 05/15/2024 - 12:00am

What would it look like to circle a black hole?


Categories: Astronomy, NASA

Eleasa Kim: Pioneering CLDP Payload Operations and Cultural Integration

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/14/2024 - 3:20pm

Eleasa Kim, stationed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, leads the Commercial Low Earth Orbit Development Program (CLDP) payload operations at Johnson Space Center, with 18 years of mission support under her belt. Her roles have included biomedical engineer flight controller, payload safety engineer for Artemis I, planning and analysis branch operations discipline lead, and glovebox integration engineer, with each enriching her understanding of engineering, safety, and leadership. 

Kim is currently working to ensure a smooth transition to commercial space operations for the science being conducted in microgravity for the benefit of humanity. 

Eleasa Kim tests eye imaging hardware for the astronauts to use aboard the International Space Station.

Kim evaluates plans and documentation for commercial space stations, prepares materials for research operations, and devises strategies to enhance partner success and sustain the low Earth orbit economy. “I love the trust and support we are provided to brainstorm and offer recommendations for transitioning space station operations to commercial platforms,” she said.  

As the lead of the Human Exploration and Development Office’s (HEDO) Unity Team at Marshall, Kim is championing a culture of safety and inclusivity while leading a group of 15 people that represent every office and branch within HEDO. Kim and her team are tackling complex topics to enhance organizational culture. “We are promoting inclusion of everyone and more education and communication on topics that are not easy to talk about,” she said. 

NASA’s Human Exploration and Development Office (HEDO) 2024 Unity Team at their kickoff meeting. From left: Sheena Hawthorne, Eleasa Kim, Glenn Medina, Johnathan Carlson, Jennifer Christopher, Jenni Deylius, Carol Reynolds, Brooke Thornton, Sherresa Lockett, April Hargrave, Phillippia Simmons, DeAnna Whitehead, Tishawn Webb, Stacey Kelley, Ginger Flores, Wendy Cruit, and Luke Bingaman.

“A large part of my identity is recognizing that people come first,” said Kim. “I take the opportunities to connect with and meet people where they are. I try to figure out how I can add value.” 

Although it is tough for her to pick her favorite project or program she has worked on at NASA, one of her most cherished experiences was during her tenure as an International Space Station biomedical engineer, where she completed a parabolic flight to test vital crew health support hardware. “My favorite part was learning what it meant to have a family at work that I trusted and could count on,” she said.  

Eleasa Kim performs inverted CPR in a zero-gravity parabolic flight.

In her other previous roles, she most enjoyed learning about science experiments as a payloads planner and playing a critical role in their success. As a payload safety engineer for Artemis I, she loved being able to deep dive into complex and specific problems and learn about safety risk and probability. As the planning and analysis branch operations discipline lead at Marshall, Kim says she loved learning about analyzing performance metrics, reporting, and providing leadership to multiple teams. 

Kim emphasizes the importance of staying curious and adaptable, recognizing that each role and team presents unique cultural and technical challenges. She says, “When faced with a challenge, I can overcome a lot more than I think by asking myself, ‘How can I do this?’”  

Eleasa Kim served as the International Space Station lead biomedical engineer for Space Shuttle mission STS-119. Credit: NASA/Devin Boldt

She has supported real-time mission operations, pre-mission planning, safety, engineering, and project management roles. “It takes time to get oriented each time I move into a team,” she said. “While challenging, it is also very exciting and motivating for me because I’m passionate about knowing people and learning new things.” 

Kim believes that NASA is actively driving change, emphasizing the importance of consistent communication from every individual. This approach, reminiscent of “boots on the ground,” is reshaping the agency’s culture from its foundation. “We can and are changing the culture from the bottom up, and NASA is providing the enabling function of management support,” she said. “We need to provide safe spaces for people to be vulnerable and help ensure everyone feels safe to contribute.”  

Eleasa Kim during a ski trip with her two children.

Kim’s cultural heritage is rooted in South Korea, where her parents originated before emigrating to the United States. Raised in America, she has a profound appreciation for Korean culture, especially its cuisine, and enjoys cooking traditional meals and sharing them with friends and colleagues. 

Kim says she is most proud of being a mother of two kind, beautiful, sharp, strong-willed, and passionate girls. 

She hopes to pass on to the next generation the inspiration to do great things for all of humanity, as did those who came before us. “I am excited to see what commercial and international growth will bring in the next decade.” 

Categories: NASA

Mission Manager Update: VIPER Rover Approved to Move into Environmental Testing!

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/14/2024 - 1:55pm
Engineers test the VIPER rover’s wheel movement and rotation in a clean room at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.NASA/Helen Arase Vargas

While NASA’s VIPER team has been focused on building the flight rover that will go to the South Pole of the Moon, the team has also been making preparations for environmental testing of the rover. 

In April, the VIPER team passed a System Test Readiness Review, exploring the readiness of the facilities, procedures, and staff to move into stress-testing the VIPER rover.

These environmental tests are important because they force our rover to experience the conditions it will see during launch, landing, and in the thermal environment of operating at the lunar South Pole. Specifically, acoustic testing will simulate the harsh, vibrational “rock concert” experience of launch, while thermal-vacuum testing will expose VIPER to the hottest and coldest temperatures it will see during the mission, all while operating in the vacuum of space. It’s a tough business, but we have to make sure we’re up for it.

Thanks to this team for the hard efforts to get to this important phase in mission readiness!

Go VIPER!

– Dan Andrews, VIPER Project Manager

Categories: NASA

Sols 4184-4185: Look Near! Look Far!

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/14/2024 - 1:50pm

3 min read

Sols 4184-4185: Look Near! Look Far! This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 4183 (2024-05-13 02:30:29 UTC). NASA/JPL-Caltech

Earth planning date: Monday, May 13, 2024

Today I’ve chosen to show off a spectacular image of ‘Texoli butte,’ but I’m rather biased in my assessment of its beauty because I am currently part of the team studying it. What continues to marvel me is Curiosity’s incredible suite of instruments that can not only help us to assess the rocks around us, but can be used to see very high detail of rocks hundreds of meters away – like Texoli butte – and today we took advantage of those superpowers!

ChemCam is looking far away for us over the next 2 sols, starting with a long-distance RMI of Texoli butte. On the second sol, we are looking at a structure further up Gediz Vallis channel that we won’t be driving up to named ‘Milestone Peak.’ The long-distance observations are really useful in ensuring we can see everything we need to, even if we don’t drive super close. We then take a glimpse between the buttes of Gediz Vallis and above the sulfate-bearing unit we are currently driving in to the yardang unit for the final long-distance RMI of this plan. We can also use Curiosity’s super vision to look at the atmosphere! Over the next 2 sols, Mastcam will measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere in a tau measurement, and Navcam will take a suprahorizon movie as well as being on the lookout for dust devils.

As well as really far away, Curiosity is a specialist at looking and taking measurements of rocks right in front of us. Curiosity will be taking APXS measurements and MAHLI observations on two nearby rocks named ‘Tenaya Lake’ and ‘Buck Lake.’ On the same rock as Buck Lake, ChemCam will be taking a LIBS measurement on a target named ‘Illilouette Falls,’ and another rock a little further away called ‘Redwood Canyon,’ as well as a passive observation on a dark-toned rock named ‘Cox Col.’ Mastcam will document these observations, as well as looking back at the south side of Pinnacle Ridge we have just driven around. In total, Mastcam will spend 1 hour documenting the rocks here at the Gediz Vallis Ridge, including a 15×3 mosaic during an early morning wake-up call at 07:30 to take advantage of the morning light on Mars.

The science team did a wonderful job today documenting all things near and far in this beautiful workspace. As the Keeper of the Plan for the Geology and Mineralogy theme group today, I really enjoyed helping to make this plan a reality, and I can’t wait to see all the fantastic images and data we get back from Mars.

Written by Emma Harris, Graduate Student at Natural History Museum

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May 14, 2024

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NASA Tests Technology, Practices Artemis Moonwalks in Arizona Desert

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/14/2024 - 1:26pm
NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Andre Douglas push a tool cart loaded with lunar tools through the San Francisco Volcanic Field north of Flagstaff, Arizona, as they practice moonwalking operations for Artemis III. NASA/Josh Valcarcel

To prepare for exploring the Moon during NASA’s Artemis campaign, the agency is conducting a week-long field test in the lunar-like landscape of San Francisco Volcanic Field near Flagstaff, Arizona to practice moonwalk scenarios.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Andre Douglas are serving as the crewmembers and wearing mockup spacesuit systems as they traverse through the desert, completing a variety of technology demonstrations, hardware checkouts and Artemis science-related operations. 

During the test, two integrated teams will work together as they practice end-to-end lunar operations. The field team consists of astronauts, NASA engineers, and field experts in the Arizona desert conducting the simulated moonwalks, while a team of flight controllers and scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston monitor and guide their activities.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins observes a geology sample she collected during a simulated moonwalk. NASA/Josh Valcarcel

“Field tests play a critical role in helping us test all of the systems, hardware, and technology we’ll need to conduct successful lunar operations during Artemis missions,” said Barbara Janoiko, director for the field test at Johnson. “Our engineering and science teams have worked together seamlessly to ensure we are prepared every step of the way for when astronauts step foot on the Moon again.”   

The test consists of four simulated moonwalks that follow operations planned for Artemis III and beyond, as well as six advanced technology runs. During the advanced runs, teams will demonstrate technology that may be used for future Artemis missions, such as display and navigation data stream capabilities in the form of a heads-up display using augmented reality or lighting beacons that could help guide crew back to the lander. 

Ahead of the field test, the science team at Johnson that was competitively selected and tasked with developing the science objectives for the field test, followed a planning process designed for Artemis missions. Their preparation included generating geologic maps, a list of science questions, and prioritized moonwalk locations for both the primary and back-up “landing sites” for the test. 

“During Artemis III, the astronauts will be our science operators on the lunar surface with an entire science team supporting them from here on Earth,” said Cherie Achilles, science officer for the test at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This simulation gives us an opportunity to practice conducting geology from afar in real time.” 

NASA astronaut Andre Douglas collects soil samples during the first in a series of four simulated moonwalks in Arizona. NASA/Josh Valcarcel

The test will evaluate gaps and challenges associated with lunar South Pole operations, including data collection and communications between the flight control team and science team in Houston for rapid decision-making protocols. 

At the conclusion of each simulated moonwalk, the science team, flight control team, crewmembers, and field experts will come together to discuss and record lessons learned. NASA will take these lessons and apply them to operations for NASA’s Artemis missions, commercial vendor development, and other technology development. 

This field test is the fifth in the series conducted by the Joint Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility Test Team led out of Johnson. This test expands on previous field tests the team has performed and is the highest fidelity Artemis moonwalk mission simulation to date. 

NASA uses field tests to simulate missions to prepare for deep space destinations. The Arizona desert has been a training ground for lunar exploration since the Apollo era because of the many similarities to the lunar terrain, including craters, faults and volcanic features. 

Through Artemis, NASA will land the first woman, the first person of color, and its first international partner astronaut on the Moon, paving the way for long-term lunar exploration and serving as a steppingstone for astronaut missions to Mars. 

Learn more about NASA’s Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility Program:

https://www.nasa.gov/extravehicular-activity-and-human-surface-mobility/

Categories: NASA

How ‘Glowing’ Plants Could Help Scientists Predict Flash Drought

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/14/2024 - 12:55pm

5 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater) In a field in western Kentucky, a machine sprays cover crops to prepare for planting season. NASA scientists are looking to space-based tools to help forecast fast, stealthy droughts responsible for severe agricultural losses in recent years.U.S. Department of Agriculture/Justin Pius

An unusual boost in plant productivity can foreshadow severe soil water loss. NASA satellites are following the clues.

Flaring up rapidly and with little warning, the drought that gripped much of the United States in the summer of 2012 was one of the most extensive the country had seen since the yearslong Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The “flash drought,” stoked by extreme heat that baked the moisture from soil and plants, led to widespread crop failure and economic losses costing more than $30 billion.

While archetypal droughts may develop over seasons, flash droughts are marked by rapid drying. They can take hold within weeks and are tough to predict. In a recent study, a team led by scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California was able to detect signs of flash droughts up to three months before onset. In the future, such advance notice could aid mitigation efforts.

How did they do it? By following the glow.

A Signal Seen From Space

During photosynthesis, when a plant absorbs sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into food, its chlorophyll will “leak” some unused photons. This faint glow is called solar-induced fluorescence, or SIF. The stronger the fluorescence, the more carbon dioxide a plant is taking from the atmosphere to power its growth.

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Growing plants emit a form of light detectable by NASA satellites orbiting hundreds of miles above Earth. Parts of North America appear to glimmer in this visualization, depicting an average year. Gray indicates regions with little or no fluorescence; red, pink, and white indicate high fluorescence.NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

While the glow is invisible to the naked eye, it can be detected by instruments aboard satellites such as NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Obsevatory-2 (OCO-2). Launched in 2014, OCO-2 has observed the U.S. Midwest aglow during the growing season.

The researchers compared years of fluorescence data to an inventory of flash droughts that struck the U.S. between May and July from 2015 to 2020. They found a domino effect: In the weeks and months leading up to a flash drought, vegetation initially thrived as conditions turned warm and dry. The flourishing plants emitted an unusually strong fluorescence signal for the time of year.

But by gradually drawing down the water supply in the soil, the plants created a risk. When extreme temperatures hit, the already low moisture levels plummeted, and flash drought developed within days.

The team correlated the fluorescence measurements with moisture data from NASA’s SMAP satellite. Short for Soil Moisture Active Passive, SMAP tracks changes in soil water by measuring the intensity of natural microwave emissions from Earth’s surface.

The scientists found that the unusual fluorescence pattern correlated extremely well with soil moisture losses in the six to 12 weeks before a flash drought. A consistent pattern emerged across diverse landscapes, from the temperate forests of the Eastern U.S. to the Great Plains and Western shrublands.

For this reason, plant fluorescence “shows promise as a reliable early warning indicator of flash drought with enough lead time to take action,” said Nicholas Parazoo, an Earth scientist at JPL and lead author of the recent study.

Jordan Gerth, a scientist with the National Weather Service Office of Observations who was not involved in the study, said he was pleased to see work on flash droughts, given our changing climate. He noted that agriculture benefits from predictability whenever possible.

While early warning can’t eliminate the impacts of flash droughts, Gerth said, “farmers and ranchers with advanced operations can better use water for irrigation to reduce crop impacts, avoid planting crops that are likely to fail, or plant a different type of crop to achieve the most ideal yield if they have weeks to months of lead time.”

Tracking Carbon Emissions

In addition to trying to predict flash droughts, the scientists wanted to understand how these impact carbon emissions.

By converting carbon dioxide into food during photosynthesis, plants and trees are carbon “sinks,” absorbing more CO2 from the atmosphere than they release. Many kinds of ecosystems, including farmlands, play a role in the carbon cycle — the constant exchange of carbon atoms between the land, atmosphere, and ocean.

The scientists used carbon dioxide measurements from the OCO-2 satellite, along with advanced computer models, to track carbon uptake by vegetation before and after flash droughts. Heat-stressed plants absorb less CO2 from the atmosphere, so the researchers expected to find more free carbon. What they found instead was a balancing act.  

Warm temperatures prior to the onset of flash drought tempted plants to increase their carbon uptake compared to normal conditions. This anomalous uptake was, on average, sufficient to fully offset decreases in carbon uptake due to the hot conditions that ensued. The surprising finding could help improve carbon cycle model predictions.

Celebrating its 10th year in orbit this summer, the OCO-2 satellite maps natural and human-made carbon dioxide concentrations and vegetation fluorescence using three camera-like spectrometers tuned to detect the unique light signature of CO2. They measure the gas indirectly by tracking how much reflected sunlight it absorbs in a given column of air.

The OCO-2 project and SMAP are managed by JPL. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. To read more about them, go to:

https://ocov2.jpl.nasa.gov/

and

https://smap.jpl.nasa.gov

News Media Contacts

Jane J. Lee / Andrew Wang
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-0307 / 626-379-6874
jane.j.lee@jpl.nasa.gov / andrew.wang@jpl.nasa.gov

Written by Sally Younger

2024-065

Share Details Last Updated May 14, 2024 Related Terms Explore More 4 min read NASA Teammates Recall Favorite Memories Aboard Flying Laboratory Article 1 day ago 5 min read Meet NASA Women Behind World’s Largest Flying Laboratory Article 2 days ago 6 min read International SWOT Mission Can Improve Flood Prediction Article 1 week ago Keep Exploring Discover Related Topics

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NASA’s DC-8 to Fly Low Altitude Over Pocatello, Idaho, for Final Flight

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/14/2024 - 12:00pm

2 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater) NASA’s DC-8 aircraft.NASA

NASA’s DC-8 aircraft will fly at low altitude over Pocatello, Idaho, and surrounding areas during its final flight from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, to Idaho State University.

After 37 years of successful airborne science missions, the DC-8 aircraft is retiring at Idaho State University, where it will be used to train future aircraft technicians by providing hands-on experience at the college’s Aircraft Maintenance Technology Program.  

Residents in the areas below will see and hear the aircraft as it flies to its new and final home.

Where: Pocatello, Idaho (and surrounding areas).

When: Wednesday, May 15, between 2:00-2:30 PM.

Additional details: All flyovers are conducted at a safe altitude without harm to public, wildlife, or infrastructure. Jet aircraft are loud and those with sensitivity to loud noises should be aware of the flyover window.

To follow along real-time with the DC-8’s flight path, visit https://airbornescience.nasa.gov/tracker/#!/status/list, or:

  • Go to www.FlightAware.com , or download the app.
  • Type the aircraft tail number in the search bar: N817NA.
  • Follow the aircraft in real time!

Learn more:

-end-

For more information, contact:

Erica Heim
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, California
650-499-9053
erica.heim@nasa.gov

Explore More 4 min read Eleasa Kim: Pioneering CLDP Payload Operations and Cultural Integration Article 32 mins ago 1 min read Mission Manager Update: VIPER Rover Approved to Move into Environmental Testing! Article 2 hours ago 3 min read Sols 4184-4185: Look Near! Look Far!

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NASA’s DC-8 to Fly Low Altitude Over San Jose, California, for Final Flight

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/14/2024 - 12:00pm

2 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater) NASA’s DC-8 aircraft.NASA

NASA’s DC-8 aircraft will fly at low altitude over San Jose and surrounding areas during its final flight from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, to Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho.

After 37 years of successful airborne science missions, the DC-8 aircraft is retiring at Idaho State University, where it will be used to train future aircraft technicians by providing hands-on experience at the college’s Aircraft Maintenance Technology Program.  

Residents in the areas below will see and hear the aircraft as it flies to its new and final home.

Where: San Jose, Mountain View, California (and surrounding areas).

When: Wednesday, May 15, between 11:00-11:30 AM.

Additional details: All flyovers are conducted at a safe altitude without harm to public, wildlife, or infrastructure. Jet aircraft are loud and those with sensitivity to loud noises should be aware of the flyover window.

To follow along real-time with the DC-8’s flight path, visit https://airbornescience.nasa.gov/tracker/#!/status/list, or:

  • Go to www.FlightAware.com , or download the app.
  • Type the aircraft tail number in the search bar: N817NA.
  • Follow the aircraft in real time!

Learn more:

-end-

For more information, contact:

Erica Heim
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, California
650-499-9053
erica.heim@nasa.gov

Explore More 4 min read Eleasa Kim: Pioneering CLDP Payload Operations and Cultural Integration Article 32 mins ago 1 min read Mission Manager Update: VIPER Rover Approved to Move into Environmental Testing! Article 2 hours ago 3 min read Sols 4184-4185: Look Near! Look Far!

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NASA’s DC-8 to Fly Low Altitude Over Palmdale, California, for Final Flight

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/14/2024 - 11:54am

2 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater) NASA’s DC-8 aircraft.NASA

NASA’s DC-8 aircraft will fly at low altitude over Palmdale, California, and surrounding areas during its final flight from NASA’s Armstrong’s Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, to Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho.

After 37 years of successful airborne science missions, the DC-8 aircraft is retiring at Idaho State University, where it will be used to train future aircraft technicians by providing hands-on experience at the college’s Aircraft Maintenance Technology Program.  

Residents in the areas below will see and hear the aircraft as it flies to its new and final home.

Where: Palmdale, California; Edwards, California (and surrounding areas).

When: Wednesday, May 15, between 10:00-10:30 AM.

Additional details: All flyovers are conducted at a safe altitude without harm to public, wildlife, or infrastructure. Jet aircraft are loud and those with sensitivity to loud noises should be aware of the flyover window.

To follow along real-time with the DC-8’s flight path, visit:
https://airbornescience.nasa.gov/tracker/#!/status/list , or:

  • Go to www.FlightAware.com or download the app.
  • Type the aircraft tail number in the search bar: N817NA.
  • Follow the aircraft in real time!

Learn more:

-end-

For more information, contact:

Erica Heim
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, California
650-499-9053
erica.heim@nasa.gov

Explore More 4 min read Eleasa Kim: Pioneering CLDP Payload Operations and Cultural Integration Article 32 mins ago 1 min read Mission Manager Update: VIPER Rover Approved to Move into Environmental Testing! Article 2 hours ago 3 min read Sols 4184-4185: Look Near! Look Far!

Earth planning date: Monday, May 13, 2024 Today I’ve chosen to show off a spectacular image…

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NASA Teammates Recall Favorite Memories Aboard Flying Laboratory

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/14/2024 - 11:00am

4 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater) The NASA DC-8 aircraft lifts off on a flight from U.S. Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, at sunset. The DC-8 is based at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703, which is located on Plant 42.NASA/Carla Thomas

After flying more than three decades and 158 science campaigns, just one flight remains. NASA’s DC-8 Airborne Science Laboratory will make its final flight May 15 to Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho, where it will be used to train future aircraft technicians by providing real-world experience in the college’s Aircraft Maintenance Technology Program.

Before that final flight, current and past DC-8 team members joined together on May 2 at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center’s Building 703 in Palmdale, California, to celebrate the people, the aircraft and the missions that resulted in incredible contributions to Earth science disciplines. “The DC-8 flew missions all over the world,” said Michael Thomson, chief of the Science Projects Branch at NASA Armstrong. “The work we did on that aircraft will make a difference to future generations in improved weather forecasting, monitoring glacial ice thickness, air quality, and improving our ability to predict the development of hurricanes from tropical storms.”

NASA Armstrong primarily kept the DC-8 testbed ready for flying science missions and the preparations to get the aircraft where it was needed for the scientists to do their work. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley managed the science.

Members of the DC-8 program team tour an empty aircraft and recall past missions. Usually the DC-8 has between 15 and 30 instrument racks installed for a given science mission. The aircraft was spacious by comparison on May 2, 2024, when NASA personnel, friends, and family gathered at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703 in Palmdale, California to celebrate the DC-8 staff, aircraft, and science campaigns. Conversing here are DC-8 aircraft deputy manager Kirsten Boogaard, left, with NASA Armstrong pilot Carrie Worth, Mike Zimmerman, and NASA Armstrong public affairs specialist for airborne science, Erica Heim.NASA/Steve Freeman

“I really found it rewarding working on the DC-8 project and I will miss the team,” said Brian Hobbs, NASA Armstrong DC-8 manager. “It is a high-performing team. We have had some folks with the DC-8 project for a long time who have a lot of corporate knowledge. The comradery and the can-do attitude are impressive.”

Sometimes heroics were needed to save the day, Hobbs said. “During the recent Airborne and Satellite Investigation of Asian Air Quality, or ASIA-AQ, mission, we had an engine failure. The logistics and procurement teams acted quickly to get the engine shipped and the crew was able to get it the engine replaced, tested and ready to go. That could have been the end of the campaign, but our team made it happen.”

The DC-8 team’s ability to make missions happen is something Hal Maring, NASA Earth Science Division scientist, experienced. “The DC-8 has flown scientists on a lot of missions to look at atmospheric composition, for which the most important applications are air quality. The DC-8 enabled NASA scientists to develop a better understanding of air quality; what makes it good, or what makes it bad.”

Retired NASA mission manager Chris Jennison and Randy Albertson, right, who retired in 2019 as NASA’s Airborne Science Program deputy director, stand in front of the DC-8 aircraft at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703 in Palmdale, California. On May 2, 2024, NASA personnel, friends, and family celebrated the DC-8 staff, aircraft, and science campaigns.NASA/Steve Freeman

Some DC-8 missions are more intense, like flying through hurricanes, said Chris Jennison, a retired DC-8 mission manager who served in that role for 30 years. “I don’t miss stark terror,” he said. “The thing about flying hurricanes is that it’s not intuitively obvious where the dangerous places are.”

Despite flying the environmental challenges of missions, the features of the NASA DC-8 and the talent of its aircrew made flying a great experience, said Bill Brockett, a retired NASA DC-8 pilot who flew the aircraft for 28 years. “I always felt this airplane was tailor made for the kinds of work that NASA wanted to do with it,” he said. “There is no other big airplane that I am aware of that has the failsafe redundancy that this airplane has. I felt very safe if we were flying around storms and there was turbulence.”

Brockett recalled his 2009 flight to Antarctica as his most exciting. “The science instrumentation required that we fly from 500 feet to 1,000 feet altitude. It required total focus for the 6 or 7 hours at low altitude to successfully complete a mission. The scenery was spectacular, and every mission was immensely satisfying to me. We were low enough that we occasionally got glimpses of seals lounging on the ice! I also enjoyed having a personal audience with people who were at the top of their field and were doing cutting-edge research. I was fascinated by that and helping them to go where they wanted to go.”

Rocky Radcliff, Kevin Hall, and Herman “Chico” Rijfkogel stand in front of NASA’s DC-8 aircraft at the agency’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703 in Palmdale, California. On May 2, 2024, NASA personnel, friends, and family celebrated the DC-8 staff, aircraft, and science campaigns.NASA/Steve Freeman

Randy Albertson, who retired as NASA’s Airborne Science deputy director in 2019, agreed that his favorite part of DC-8 missions was the scientists’ enthusiasm. “Some of these people had been working for years trying to get their experiment out there and prove a hypothesis they are working on. The energy they brought in was like recharging one’s batteries. They loved talking about the science. It was never routine because we were frequently doing different missions.”

Albertson was a key figure in the DC-8 program from the late 1980s until his retirement. He recognizes the Operation IceBridge missions was his biggest contribution because when a satellite failed to monitor the state of the ice caps, the mission enabled scientists to complete the largest airborne survey of Earth’s polar ice.

Although its last flight will not be a scientific one, the body of knowledge and research that the DC-8 helped facilitate will continue to inspire scientists for generations to come.

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The DC-8 aircraft returned to NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703 in Palmdale, California, on April 1, 2024 after completing its final science mission supporting the Airborne and Satellite Investigation of Asian Air Quality (ASIA-AQ). The aircraft and crew were welcomed back with a celebratory water salute by the U.S. Air Force Plant 42 Fire Department, and congratulated by NASA peers.NASA/Quincy Eggert Share Details Last Updated May 14, 2024 EditorDede DiniusContactJay Levinejay.levine-1@nasa.govLocationArmstrong Flight Research Center Related Terms Explore More 4 min read NASA Tests Technology, Practices Artemis Moonwalks in Arizona Desert Article 2 hours ago 5 min read How ‘Glowing’ Plants Could Help Scientists Predict Flash Drought Article 3 hours ago 10 min read What Is… Earth’s Atmosphere? Article 20 hours ago Keep Exploring Discover More Topics From NASA

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NASA Names Deputy Station Manager, Operations Integration Manager

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/14/2024 - 10:18am
NASA has selected Dina Contella, left, as the International Space Station Program deputy manager, based at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Contella succeeds Dana Weigel, who became the space station program manager in April. NASA has also selected Bill Spetch, right, as the space station operations integration manager, a role most recently held by Contella. Credits: NASA

NASA selected Dina Contella as the deputy program manager and Bill Spetch as the operations integration manager for the agency’s International Space Station Program, effective Sunday, June 2.

“Dina’s depth of experience with the complex and dynamic aspects of the space station mission will be instrumental for leading through future challenges,” said Dana Weigel, program manager for NASA’s International Space Station Program. “Bill’s extensive experience with space station hardware and transportation systems uniquely position him for the leadership role as the operations integration manager.” 

Contella succeeds Weigel, who became space station program manager in April, and the two will share overall management of the International Space Station, including development, integration, and operations, as well as its cargo and commercial missions. Spetch will oversee day-to-day operations, maintenance, and research aboard the orbiting laboratory, taking over the position held by Contella.

Contella has more than 30 years of experience in various roles supporting the International Space Station, Artemis, and the space shuttle. For the past two-and-a-half years, she was the operations and integration manager, responsible for leading real-time aspects of the program, including chairing the International Space Station mission management team. Contella led about 40 dynamic station operations each year, managing day-to-day space station technical risk decisions and programmatic mission integration among the orbiting laboratory’s five international partner agencies.

Prior to her work in the space station program, Contella held technical and management positions of increasing responsibility, including Gateway program mission integration and utilization manager, Advanced Exploration Systems lead for utilization and logistics across multiple Moon-to-Mars programs, and lead for an industry study to enhance NASA’s understanding of commercialization of low Earth orbit. Before these positions, she served as a NASA flight director, the spacewalk operations group lead, a spacewalk liaison stationed in Russia, a spacewalk flight control officer for space shuttle and space station missions, and a space shuttle navigation and computer instructor.

Contella, from Austin, Texas, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Texas A&M University, College Station.

Spetch has 27 years of experience supporting the space station throughout his career. He most recently was the office manager responsible for the health and integrity of the space station, including sustaining, sparing, and integrating commercial elements onto station and providing real-time engineering support. Before that, he was station transportation integration office manager, acting space station mission integration and operations manager, space station transportation integration office deputy manager, and station Vehicle Integrated Performance Environments and Resources (VIPER) team manager.

The Maple Grove, Minnesota native graduated from the University of Minnesota Minneapolis with a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics.

Learn more information about the International Space Station at:

https://www.nasa.gov/station

-end-

Categories: NASA