"I never think about the future. It comes soon enough."

— Albert Einstein


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APOD - Mon, 05/13/2024 - 8:00pm

What happens when a black hole devours a star?

Categories: Astronomy, NASA

Aurora over Idaho

NASA Image of the Day - Mon, 05/13/2024 - 5:33pm
The aurora turns the sky near Malad City, Idaho, red, purple, and green in this 8-second exposure taken on May 11, 2024.
Categories: Astronomy, NASA

Aurora over Idaho

NASA - Breaking News - Mon, 05/13/2024 - 5:20pm
NASA/Bill Dunford

The aurora paints the sky near Malad City, Idaho, red, purple, and green in this May 11, 2024, image. This aurora was sparked by multiple eruptions of solar material—called coronal mass ejections—colliding with Earth’s magnetic field. This interaction with Earth’s magnetic field can spark a geomagnetic storm and send particles from space rocketing down magnetic field lines toward Earth, where they excite molecules in our planet’s upper atmosphere, releasing light and creating auroras.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Dunford

Categories: NASA

Meet NASA Women Behind World’s Largest Flying Laboratory

NASA - Breaking News - Mon, 05/13/2024 - 4:30pm

5 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)

NASA’s DC-8 aircraft – the world’s largest flying science laboratory – began its science missions in 1987 and since then, has flown in service of the science community over places like Antarctica, Greenland, and Thailand. Aircraft like the DC-8 have enabled scientists to ask questions about life on Earth and explore them in a way that only NASA’s Airborne Science program can make happen. After 37 years, the DC-8 will retire to Idaho State University, where it will serve as an educational tool for students. 

As the DC-8 approaches its retirement, we highlight five of the women who have made the aircraft and program a success.    

 Kirsten Boogaard, Nicki Reid, Carrie Worth, Erin Waggoner, and WendyBereda of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, are building the legacy of women who are helping pave the way for the next generation.

Kirsten Boogaard, Deputy Project Manager for the DC-8 aircraft, leads and manages project planning, integration and resources for airborne science missions since 2020.NASA/Ken Ulbrich Kirsten Boogaard Deputy Project Manager

Kirsten Boogaard wears many hats for the DC-8 program, including deputy project manager, mission manager, and assistant mission director.    

Since 2020, she has served as the deputy project manager on the DC-8 Airborne Science laboratory, leading and managing project planning, integration, and resources.  She is one of three women qualified in the mission director role for the flying laboratory. 

“I am really proud of what I accomplish at work,” Boogaard said. “And I am most proud of being able to work full-time and support numerous deployments while having a child.”

Nickelle Reid Operations Engineer   

As operations engineer, Nicki Reid authorizes the airworthiness for the aircraft by ensuring that the science instruments added onboard sustain the aircraft’s safety. She also serves as the mission director, where she manages communications with the cabin and cockpit crews.    

“It takes a lot of practice to get used to hearing all the different conversations and weeding out what’s important, staying focused, and staying on top of all the action that’s happening,” Reid said.     

For a science mission project, that focus is essential to maintaining efficient communication between scientists and pilots.  Reid has been honing that skill since she started as an intern at NASA Armstrong.

Airborne science missions are not for the faint of heart! Pilot Carrie Worth and Operations Engineer Nicki Reid are all smiles after landing from a successful science flight.Photo courtesy of Carrie Worth Carrie Worth Pilot    

Carrie Worth is part of a team uniquely qualified to fly the DC-8. Her journey to her career as a pilot began as a child.

“When I was a little kid, I saw Patty Wagstaff perform aeronautical stunts at the airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin,” Carrie Worth, NASA DC-8 pilot, said. “I decided then and there that I wanted to be a pilot.”     

Before joining NASA, Worth served 21 years in the U.S. Air Force as a special operations and search and rescue pilot, and then worked as a 747 pilot for United Parcel Service in Anchorage, Alaska. As a woman working in a male-majority industry, Worth is grateful for the supportive work environment at NASA and the DC-8 program.    

“I feel incredibly lucky for the support I have and have had from my male peers,” she said. “I have seen a significant improvement in the [aviation] culture, but there’s still work to be done.”

Branch Chief of the Research Aerodynamics and Propulsion Branch, Erin Waggoner is all smiles onboard the DC-8 during an airborne science mission deployment.Photo courtesy of Erin Waggoner Erin Waggoner Research Aerodynamics and Propulsion Branch Chief   

In 2011, Erin Wagonner joined the Research Aerodynamics and Propulsion Branch at NASA Armstrong to support sonic boom research. Today, she is the branch chief.   

“I’m thankful for all the mentorship I’ve received throughout my career,” Waggoner said. “Everyone from the maintenance crew to the researchers are very welcoming, willing to share their expertise, and mission-focused.”   

Waggoner’s experience with the DC-8 program inspired her to recognize the value of a team spirit in a successful project.    

“I’ve learned a lot about team dynamics from my time on the DC-8, like how to integrate new members into an existing team,” Waggoner said. “I love being able to encourage young women interested in NASA and aviation, and learning from the women who blazed the trails ahead of me.”

Keeping things running: Wendy Bereda finds a moment to smile with Operations Engineer Nicki Reid on a maintenance day for the DC-8. She has served the DC-8 program for 25 years.Photo courtesy of Wendy Bereda Wendy Bereda Site Supervisor  

Wendy Bereda started working on the DC-8 aircraft in 1999, first as a logistics clerk, later as a project support supply tech. She is now the site supervisor for the maintenance contract at NASA Armstrong. 

“Through the years, I’ve received different accolades, but the one that meant the most to me was given to me by Headquarters for my administrative excellence in finding parts and keeping the DC-8 flying.”     

As a science-driven platform, the DC-8 project is composed of a team driven to provide the best customer service.    

“Our team has so much love for the DC-8,” Bereda said. “We live and breathe to make things happen.  This is why I’m proud to have been a big part of the DC-8 life at Armstrong.” 

Experts like the women above enrich NASA’s legacy of innovation and exploration, and make programs like the DC-8 a success.

Share Details Last Updated May 13, 2024 EditorDede DiniusContactErica HeimLocationArmstrong Flight Research Center Related Terms Explore More 8 min read Hubble Celebrates the 15th Anniversary of Servicing Mission 4

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Tech Today: A NASA-Inspired Bike Helmet with Aerodynamics of a Jet  

NASA - Breaking News - Mon, 05/13/2024 - 4:03pm

2 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater) Jim Gentes wearing the Jiro Prolight bicycle helmet.Credit: Jiro

Before the U.S. Cycling Federation adopted a requirement for all bike racers to wear helmets in 1986, most people rode without one. The only helmet options at the time drew rider complaints for being too hot and heavy. But, with a bit inspiration from a NASA aircraft wing design used during World War II, more than 20,000 competitive biker racers would soon have a lighter-weight option to protect their heads. 

Jim Gentes, an industrial designer, and bicycling enthusiast developing an aerodynamic bike helmet, saw the new rule as an opportunity. He started Giro Sport Design Inc., now based in Irvine, California, to provide bike racers a speed and safety advantage. Then came the Giro Prolight, a lightweight racing helmet that was cool and aerodynamic, drawing upon a NASA-developed aircraft wing technology.

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), NASA’s predecessor, developed the NACA 6-series airfoil during World War II to reduce drag in fighter aircraft. Raymond Hicks, an aerodynamicist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, helped Gentes adapt that wing design to improve airflow over the helmet, reducing drag. Compared with bareheaded racing, wind tunnel tests confirmed that the reduced drag could save one second in a little over half a mile.

To keep it lightweight, the Prolight used expanded polystyrene foam with a removable Lycra cover. Vents in the front and rear of the helmet let air flow through, using the vacuum created by the rear vents to pull air into the helmet. The vent design also smoothed airflow, reducing turbulence and drag.

In 1986, Gentes added a foam model called the Aerohead. The Hammerhead, a Prolight with a thin shell, came next, followed by the newer, streamlined Aerohead. When Gentes’ friend Greg LeMond won the 1989 Tour de France wearing the Aerohead, worldwide acclaim followed. 

Giro has changed hands several times since the 1980s and today, the brand continues to offer bike helmets and other sporting equipment and apparel. 

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NASA to Discuss New Polar Climate Mission During Media Teleconference

NASA - Breaking News - Mon, 05/13/2024 - 3:14pm
The PREFIRE mission will launch the first of two CubeSats – depicted in this artist’s concept orbiting Earth – into space on Wednesday, May 22, 2024, to study how much heat the planet absorbs and emits from its polar regions. These measurements will inform climate and ice models.Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA is hosting a media call at 3 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, May 15, to discuss the agency’s PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment) mission, which aims to improve life on Earth by studying heat loss from Earth’s polar regions and provide information on our changing climate.

The first of two shoebox-sized satellites is targeted to launch aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket no earlier than Wednesday, May 22. The launch date for the second satellite will be announced shortly after the launch of the first satellite.

Earth absorbs a lot of energy from the Sun at the tropics. Weather and ocean currents move that heat energy toward the poles, where the heat radiates upward into space. Much of that heat is in far-infrared wavelengths and has never been systematically measured. The data from PREFIRE will address this knowledge gap for the benefit of all by improving predictions of climate change and sea level rise.

The audio-only teleconference streamed live on the agency’s website.

Participants include:

  • Karen St. Germain, director, Earth Science Division, NASA Headquarters in Washington
  • Mary White, project manager, PREFIRE, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Southern California
  • Tristan L’Ecuyer, principal investigator, PREFIRE, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Peter Beck, CEO and founder, Rocket Lab

To participate by telephone, media must RSVP no later than two hours before the start of the call, to Elizabeth Vlock at: elizabeth.a.vlock@nasa.gov.

For more information about NASA’s PREFIRE mission, visit:



Karen Fox / Elizabeth Vlock
Headquarters, Washington
karen.c.fox@nasa.gov / elizabeth.a.vlock@nasa.gov

Jane 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

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Station Science 101 | Research in Microgravity: Higher, Faster, Longer

NASA - Breaking News - Mon, 05/13/2024 - 3:05pm
5 Min Read Station Science 101 | Research in Microgravity: Higher, Faster, Longer NASA astronaut Megan McArthur services donor cells inside the Kibo laboratory module’s Life Science Glovebox for the Celestial Immunity study. Credits: NASA

The International Space Station provides unique features that enable innovative research, including microgravity, exposure to space, a unique orbit, and hands-on operation by crew members.


The space station provides consistent, long-term access to microgravity. Eliminating the effects of Earth’s gravity on experiments is a game-changer across many disciplines, including research on living things and physical and chemical processes. For example, without gravity hot air does not rise, so flames become spherical and behave differently. Removing the forces of surface tension and capillary movement allows scientists to examine fluid behavior more closely.

A flame created in microgravity during the SoFIE-GEL experiment.NASA A Unique Orbit

The speed, pattern, and altitude of the space station’s orbit provide unique advantages. Traveling at 17,500 miles per hour, it circles the planet every 90 minutes, passing over a majority of Earth’s landmass and population centers in daylight and darkness. Its 250-mile-high altitude is low enough for detailed observation of features, atmospheric phenomena, and natural disasters from different angles and with varying lighting conditions. At the same time, the station is high enough to study how space radiation affects material durability and how organisms adapt and examine phenomena such as neutron stars and blackholes. The spacecraft also places observing instruments outside Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field, which can interfere with observations from the ground.

Instruments on the outside of the space station.NASA Crewed Laboratory

Other satellites in orbit contain scientific experiments and conduct Earth observations, but the space station also has crew members aboard to manage and maintain scientific activities. Human operators can respond to and assess events in real time, swap out experiment samples, troubleshoot, and observe results first-hand. Crew members also pack experiment samples and send them back to the ground for detailed analysis.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei uses a microscope to capture images for an engineered tissue study.NASA Twenty Years and Counting

Thanks to the space station’s longevity, experiments can continue for months or even years. Scientists can design follow-up studies based on previous results, and every expedition offers the chance to expand the number of subjects for human research.

One area of long-term human research is on changes in vision, first observed when astronauts began spending months at a time in space. Scientists wondered whether fluids shifting from the lower to the upper body in microgravity caused increased pressure inside the head that changed eye shape. The Fluid Shifts investigation began in 2015 and continued to measure the extent of fluid shifts in multiple astronauts through 2020.1

Whether the original study is long or short, it can take years for research to go from the lab into practical applications. Many steps are involved, some of them lengthy. First, researchers must come up with a question and a possible answer, or hypothesis. For example, Fluid Shifts questioned what was causing vision changes and a possible answer was increased fluid pressure in the head. Scientists must then design an experiment to test the hypothesis, determining what data to collect and how to do so.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague collects intraocular pressure from NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan for the Fluid Shifts study.NASA

Getting research onto the space station in the first place takes time, too. NASA reviews proposals for scientific merit and relevance to the agency’s goals. Selected investigations are assigned to a mission, typically months in the future. NASA works with investigators to meet their science requirements, obtain approvals, schedule crew training, develop flight procedures, launch hardware and supplies, and collect any preflight data needed. Once the study launches, in-flight data collection begins. When scientists complete their data collection, they need time to analyze the data and determine what it means. This may take a year or more.

Scientists then write a paper about the results – which can take many months – and submit it to a scientific journal. Journals send the paper to other experts in the same field, a process known as peer review. According to one analysis, this review takes an average of 100 days.2 The editors may request additional analysis and revisions based on this review before publishing.

Adding Subjects Adds Time

Aspects of research on the space station can add more time to the process. Generally, the more test subjects, the better – from 100 to 1,000 subjects for statistically significant results for clinical research. But the space station typically only houses about six people at a time.

Lighting Effects shows how the need for more subjects adds time to a study. This investigation examined whether adjusting the intensity and color of lighting inside the station could help improve crew circadian rhythms, sleep, and cognitive performance. To collect data from enough crew members, the study ran from 2016 until 2020.

Other lengthy studies about how humans adapt to life in space include research on loss of heart muscle and a suite of long-term studies on nutrition, including producing fresh food in space.

NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins works on an investigation testing equipment for growing high-protein food on the space station.NASA

For physical science studies, investigators can send batches of samples to the space station and collect data more quickly, but results can create a need for additional research. Burning and Suppression of Solids (BASS) examined the characteristics of a wide variety of fuel samples from 2011 to 2013, and BASS-II continued that work through 2017. The Saffire series of fire safety demonstrations began in 2016 and wrapped up in 2024. Researchers have answered many burning (pun intended) questions, but still have much to learn about preventing, detecting, and extinguishing fires in space.

A sample of a composite cotton and fiberglass fabric burns during the Saffire-IV experiment.NASA

The timeline for scientific results can run long, especially in microgravity. But those results can be well worth the wait.

Melissa Gaskill
International Space Station Research Communications Team
Johnson Space Center

Search this database of scientific experiments to learn more about those mentioned above.


1 Macias BR, Liu JHK, Grande-Gutierrez N, Hargens AR. Intraocular and intracranial pressures during head-down tilt with lower body negative pressure. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2015; 86(1):3–7.  https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/asma/amhp/2015/00000086/00000001/art00004;jsessionid=31bonpcj2e8tj.x-ic-live-01

2 Powell K. Does it take too long to publish research? Nature 530, pages148–151 (2016). https://www.nature.com/articles/530148a

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NASA’s Juno Mission Spots Jupiter’s Tiny Moon Amalthea

NASA - Breaking News - Mon, 05/13/2024 - 1:37pm

NASA’s Juno mission captured these views of Jupiter during its 59th close flyby of the giant planet on March 7, 2024. They provide a good look at Jupiter’s colorful belts and swirling storms, including the Great Red Spot. Close examination reveals something more: two glimpses of the tiny moon Amalthea (see Figure B below).

Figure B NASA’s Juno mission captured these views of Jupiter during its 59th close flyby of the giant planet on March 7, 2024. They provide a good look at Jupiter’s colorful belts and swirling storms, including the Great Red Spot. Close examination reveals something more: two glimpses of the tiny moon Amalthea.Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS. Image processing by Gerald Eichstädt

With a radius of just 52 miles (84 kilometers), Amalthea has a potato-like shape, lacking the mass to pull itself into a sphere. In 2000, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft revealed some surface features, including impact craters, hills, and valleys. Amalthea circles Jupiter inside Io’s orbit, which is the innermost of the planet’s four largest moons, taking 0.498 Earth days to complete one orbit.

Amalthea is the reddest object in the solar system, and observations indicate it gives out more heat than it receives from the Sun. This may be because, as it orbits within Jupiter’s powerful magnetic field, electric currents are induced in the moon’s core. Alternatively, the heat could be from tidal stresses caused by Jupiter’s gravity.

At the time that the first of these two images was taken, the Juno spacecraft was about 165,000 miles (265,000 kilometers) above Jupiter’s cloud tops, at a latitude of about 5 degrees north of the equator.

Citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt made these images using raw data from the JunoCam instrument, applying processing techniques to enhance the clarity of the images.

JunoCam’s raw images are available for the public to peruse and process into image products at https://missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam/processing. More information about NASA citizen science can be found at https://science.nasa.gov/citizenscience and https://www.nasa.gov/solve/opportunities/citizenscience.

More information about Juno is at https://www.nasa.gov/juno and https://missionjuno.swri.edu. For more about this finding and other science results, see https://www.missionjuno.swri.edu/science-findings.

Image credit:
Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS
Image processing by Gerald Eichstädt

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NASA Names First Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer

NASA - Breaking News - Mon, 05/13/2024 - 12:36pm
Credit: NASA

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson on Monday named David Salvagnini as the agency’s new chief artificial intelligence (AI) officer, effective immediately. The role is an expansion of Salvagnini’s current role as chief data officer.

A wide variety of AI tools are used by NASA to benefit humanity from supporting missions and research projects across the agency, analyzing data to reveal trends and patterns, and developing systems capable of supporting spacecraft and aircraft autonomously. 

“Artificial intelligence has been safely used at NASA for decades, and as this technology expands, it can accelerate the pace of discovery,” said Nelson. “It’s important that we remain at the forefront of advancement and responsible use. In this new role, David will lead NASA’s efforts to guide our agency’s responsible use of AI in the cosmos and on Earth to benefit all humanity.”  

This appointment is in accordance with President Biden’s Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence. Salvagnini now is responsible for aligning the strategic vision and planning for AI usage across NASA. He serves as a champion for AI innovation, supporting the development and risk management of tools, platforms, and training. 

In his expanded capacity, Salvagnini will continue NASA’s collaboration with other government agencies, academic institutions, industry partners, and other experts to ensure the agency is on the cutting edge of AI technology.

Salvagnini joined NASA in June 2023 after more than 20 years working in technology leadership in the intelligence community. Prior to his role at NASA, he served the Office of the Director of National Intelligence as director of the architecture and integration group and chief architect. 

Salvagnini also worked in a variety of roles leading enterprise level IT research and development, engineering, and operations advancing data, IT, and artificial intelligence programs. David served in the Air Force for 21 years, retiring in May 2005 as a communications and computer systems officer.

NASA continues developing recommendations on leveraging emerging AI technology to best serve our goals and missions, from sifting through Earth science imagery to identifying areas of interest, to searching for data on planets outside our solar system from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, scheduling communications from the Perseverance Mars rover through the Deep Space Network, and more.

Prior to Salvagnini’s appointment, the agency’s Chief Scientist Kate Calvin served as NASA’s acting responsible AI official.

Learn more about artificial intelligence at NASA at:



Faith McKie / Jennifer Dooren
Headquarters, Washington
faith.d.mckie@nasa.gov / jennifer.m.dooren@nasa.gov

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Johnson Celebrates AA and NHPI Heritage Month: Meet Hemanth Koralla

NASA - Breaking News - Mon, 05/13/2024 - 11:07am

Hemanth Koralla was working as a software developer for General Motors when he received a LinkedIn message inviting him to apply for a NASA contract position with Jacobs Technology. While unexpected, Koralla seized the opportunity. “You can’t say no to NASA!”

Koralla has spent the last two years helping to develop the Vehicle System Manager (VSM) for Gateway, NASA’s lunar space station. The VSM is vehicle-level software that will allow the station’s different components to communicate with each other and enable both human-directed and autonomous operations. Much of Koralla’s work involves designing prototypes for software that can build Gateway’s autonomous capabilities. He is also part of a design support team that works to “unblock problems” for the VSM team and provide help wherever it is needed.

Hemanth Koralla addresses the audience at Johnson Space Center’s Asians Succeeding in Innovation and Aerospace (ASIA) Employee Resource Group (ERG) Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) Heritage Month festival in 2023.NASA/Josh Valcarcel

Reflecting on his favorite NASA experiences to date, Koralla declared the community at NASA’s Johnson Space Center to be “much more exciting” than in his previous positions, citing his opportunity to don Cosmo’s inflatable mascot suit for an Artemis I launch event as one example. “I just love how these emails go out asking, who wants to be a part of this? I said, yes, I’m going to do that, and then I just showed up and got to be Cosmo and take pictures with people. I didn’t expect to do that, and it was a really fun experience,” he said.

Koralla has also enjoyed helping to organize the Engineering Directorate’s annual employee picnics, in part because they have allowed him to meet colleagues from across the entire organization. His involvement in the planning created other opportunities, as well. “As a thank you, they invited us to the OSIRIS-REx sample reveal,” he said. “It’s those moments that you step back and realize, wow, we’re working on something really cool here.”

Koralla got active in the ASIA Employee Resource Group (ERG) shortly after arriving at Johnson in 2022, when the chair asked him to join as a cohort member and to help lead the group’s social activities. He was elected as the ERG’s recording secretary for 2023. In that role, Koralla continued to play an important part in the group’s events – including its AA and NHPI Heritage Month festival. He was particularly inspired by NASA astronaut Jonny Kim, whom he got to introduce as the festival’s emcee, and the performers who helped celebrate diversity at Johnson.

Hemanth Koralla (third from left) poses with ASIA ERG board members and NASA astronaut Jonny Kim during the group’s AA and NHPI Heritage Month festival. NASA/Josh Valcarcel

Koralla observed that the festival and other ASIA ERG events help spread cultural awareness, noting, as an example, that he did not know Nowruz was a holiday until the ERG organized a related celebration. An Iftar dinner, the fast-breaking evening meal of Muslims in Ramadan, was another opportunity to engage with Johnson team members. “There’s such a big community at NASA that this opens the door for them to meet each other as well,” he said.

Meeting diverse Johnson colleagues and building connections through the ERG has given Koralla a better picture of NASA’s full scope of work.

Outside of the ERG, Koralla tries to support diversity and inclusion by making sure everyone’s voice is heard. “We do these deep dives where we try to work out a design for something in six to eight weeks. I definitely notice that people who are earlier in their career have a tougher time speaking up, which I can relate to because I’ve been in that situation. In those moments I try to say, let’s see what everyone in the room is thinking.”

He appreciates being part of a team that values the sharing of experiences and cultures, as well. “We have created a nice open space where we can talk openly about a lot of things and ask questions without any fear of judgment,” he said, noting that he and his teammates have many conversations about their respective cultures.

Koralla also points to the uniting power of food. “We had a Thanksgiving lunch last year, and most team members brought in typical Thanksgiving food. I didn’t grow up with that American tradition, so I brought in some Indian food instead,” he said. “It was a nice cultural sharing moment. Everyone bonds over food.”

Categories: NASA

15 Years Ago: STS-125, the Final Hubble Servicing Mission

NASA - Breaking News - Mon, 05/13/2024 - 8:03am

 “Trying to do stellar observations from Earth is like trying to do birdwatching from the bottom of a lake.” James B. Odom, Hubble Program Manager 1983-1990.

The fifth and final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, placed in orbit in 1990, took place during the STS-125 mission in May 2009. During the 13-day flight, the seven-member crew rendezvoused with and captured Hubble, conducted five complex spacewalks to service and upgrade the telescope, and redeployed it, giving it greater capabilities than ever before to help scientists unlock the secrets of the universe. The telescope continues to operate, far exceeding the five-year life extension expected from the servicing mission. Joined in space by the James Webb Space Telescope in 2021, the two instruments together can image the skies across a broad range of the electromagnetic spectrum to provide scientists with the tools to gain unprecedented insights into the universe and its formation.

Left: Schematic showing the Hubble Space Telescope’s major components. Middle: Workers inspect the Hubble Space Telescope’s 94-inch diameter primary mirror prior to assembly. Right: Astronauts release the Hubble Space Telescope in April 1990 during the STS-31 mission.

The discovery after the Hubble Space Telescope’s launch in 1990 that its primary mirror suffered from a flaw called spherical aberration disappointed scientists who could not obtain the sharp images they had expected. But thanks to the Hubble’s built-in feature of on-orbit servicing, NASA devised a plan to correct the telescope’s optics during the first planned repair mission in 1993. Three additional servicing missions in 1997, 1999, and 2002, upgraded the telescope’s capabilities. As the shuttle’s retirement in 2011 approached, NASA decided the benefits of extending Hubble’s life outweighed the risks posed by one final servicing mission. To execute the final Hubble Servicing Mission, NASA assigned Commander Scott D. Altman, Pilot Gregory C. Johnson, and Mission Specialists Michael T. Good, K. Megan McArthur, John M. Grunsfeld, Michael J. Massimino, and Andrew J. Feustel. Altman, Grunsfeld, and Massimino had traveled together to Hubble before on the previous servicing mission, STS-109, in 2002, and Grunsfeld had serviced Hubble on an earlier mission, STS-103, three years before that. For Johnson, Good, McArthur, and Feustel, STS-125 marked their first trip into space.

Left: The STS-125 crew of Michael J. Massimino, left, Michael T. Good, Gregory C. Johnson, Scott D. Altman, K. Megan McArthur, John M. Grunsfeld, and Andrew J. Feustel. Middle: The STS-125 crew patch. Right: The STS-400 crew of Christopher J. Ferguson, upper left, Eric A. Boe, R. Shane Kimbrough, and Stephen G. Bowen.

In January 2004, in the wake of the Columbia accident NASA Administrator Sean C. O’Keefe canceled the fifth and final Hubble Servicing Mission. O’Keefe believed the mission too risky, citing the lack of a safe haven and rescue capability in case the shuttle suffered damage similar to Columbia’s. In October 2006, his successor Administrator Michael D. Griffin reversed the decision, reinstating the mission targeting launch in May 2008. Delays in development caused the target launch date to slip to October. Griffin approved the flight with the constraint that another shuttle, in this case Endeavour, would stand ready to launch in the very unlikely event Atlantis’ crew needed rescuing. Griffin believed that the risk reduction that the rescue mission presented justified the additional science gained from extending Hubble’s on orbit lifetime. NASA designated the standby mission STS-400 and initially assigned NASA astronauts Dominic L. Gorie, Gregory H. Johnson, Robert L. Behnken, and Michael J. Foreman, the flight deck crew from the recently flown STS-123, to train for the launch-on-need rescue. After STS-126, NASA replaced them with that mission’s flight deck crew of Christopher J. Ferguson, Eric A. Boe, R. Shane Kimbrough, and Stephen G. Bowen.

Left: In the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, workers lift Atlantis to mate it to its External Tank and Solid Rocket Boosters. Middle: Shuttles on two pads for the first launch attempt, Atlantis on Pad 39A, left, and Endeavour on Pad 39B. Right: Atlantis rolls back into the VAB.

Although Griffin’s approval cleared the biggest hurdle to flying the final Hubble servicing mission, actually getting it off the ground faced additional challenges. At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, Atlantis rolled out to Launch Pad 39A on Sept. 4, 2008, and Endeavour rolled out to Launch Pad 39B on Sept. 18, marking the first time since 2001 that shuttles occupied both pads. The Hubble servicing payload arrived at Pad 39A on Sept. 22, and workers installed it into Atlantis’ payload bay three days later. The seven astronauts arrived at KSC on Sept. 21 to participate in the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, a dress rehearsal for the launch planned for Oct. 14. Fate intervened when on Sept. 27, the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling (SIC&DH) Unit aboard Hubble failed. Two days later, NASA decided to delay the servicing mission to February 2009 to include replacement of the failed unit as part of the servicing. This resulted in Atlantis rolling back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on Oct. 20. Endeavour rolled around from Pad B to Pad A three days later and launched on the STS-126 mission on Nov. 14.

Left: The payload canister, left, arrives at Launch Pad 39A, where Atlantis awaits for the second launch attempt. Middle left: The Hubble Servicing Mission payloads installed in Atlantis’ payload bay. Middle right: Once again, shuttles on two pads, Atlantis on 39A, left, and Endeavour on 39B. Right: The STS-125 crew arrives at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for launch.

Although ground controllers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, put Hubble back in service by Oct. 30, NASA announced that the hardware to replace the failed SIC&DH unit could not meet a February launch, delaying the servicing mission to May. This required the destacking of Atlantis from its External Tank (ET) and Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) – they would be used to fly Discovery on STS-119 in March – and returning it to the Orbiter Processing Facility for maintenance. On March 23, Atlantis returned to the VAB for stacking with a new ET and SRBs, and rolled out to Pad 39A eight days later. On April 20, Endeavour took up its position on Pad 39B, and once again shuttles occupied both pads. The Flight Readiness Review on April 30 cleared Atlantis to begin its Hubble Servicing Mission on May 11. The seven-member crew arrived on May 8 to begin final preparations for the flight.

Left: With space shuttle Endeavour in the foreground, space shuttle Atlantis takes off to begin the STS-125 fifth and final Hubble Servicing Mission. Middle: STS-125 Commander Scott D. Altman maneuvers Atlantis close to Hubble. Right: Hubble during the rendezvous maneuvers.

Left: STS-125 astronaut K. Megan McArthur at the controls of the Remote Manipulator System (RMS), preparing to grapple Hubble. Middle: McArthur has grappled Hubble with the RMS. Right: Hubble secured in Atlantis’ payload bay.

Following a smooth countdown, space shuttle Atlantis and its seven-member crew lifted off on time from Launch Pad 39A on May 11, 2009, at 2:01 p.m. EDT. Following a smooth ride to orbit, the astronauts began orbital operations by opening the payload bay doors, deploying the Ku-band antenna, and performed a survey of the payload bay using cameras on the Remote Manipulator System (RMS), or robotic arm. They also removed their bulky Launch and Entry Suits (LESs). The astronauts spent much of their second day in space conducting a thorough inspection of the orbiter thermal protection system, using the RMS and the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS), to ensure it didn’t suffer any damage during launch. They prepared the Flight Support System (FSS), used to berth Hubble following its capture, and began checking out the tools they would use during the upcoming spacewalks. On Flight Day 3, Altman and Johnson performed rendezvous maneuvers to bring Atlantis to within 35 feet of Hubble. McArthur grappled the telescope with the RMS and berthed it on the FSS.

First spacewalk. Left: Andrew J. Feustel carries the Wide Field and Planetary Camera-2 (WFPC-2) that he and John M. Grunsfeld removed from Hubble. Middle: Grunsfeld floats next to Hubble, with a large opening where he and Feustel removed WFPC-2 and later installed the Wide Field Camera-3 (WFC-3). Right: Grunsfeld, bottom, and Feustel remove the WFC-3 from its stowage location.

Grunsfeld and Feustel conducted the first spacewalk of the mission on May 10, the flight’s fourth day. McArthur operated the RMS, as she did on all five spacewalks, using it to maneuver one of the spacewalkers perched on the Manipulator Foot Restraint at the end of the arm. After gathering their tools, Grunsfeld and Feustel completed the first major task by removing the Wide Field and Planetary Camera-2, installed during STS-61, the first servicing mission in 1993. After stowing the old camera in the payload bay, they replaced it with the Wide Field Camera-3, allowing Hubble to take large-scale, clear, and detailed images over a wider range of colors than the old instrument. Grunsfeld and Feustel then replaced the SIC&DH unit, the item that failed in September 2008, delaying the servicing mission by seven months. The final task of the first spacewalk involved installing the Soft-Capture Mechanism that included a Low Impact Docking System to allow future spacecraft to dock with to service the telescope or to deorbit it at the end of its useful life. Grunsfeld and Feustel spent seven hours and 20 minutes outside.

Second spacewalk. Left: Michael J. Massimino, bottom, and Michael T. Good prepare to open the panel to begin replacing the gyroscope Rate Sensor Units (RSUs). Middle: Massimino assists Good in replacing the telescope’s three RSUs. Right: Good replacing one of Hubble’s batteries.

The team of Massimino and Good performed the second spacewalk, on Flight Day 5. Their primary task involved removing and replacing Hubble’s three gyroscope Rate Sensing Units (RSUs). Each RSU contained two gyroscopes to allow the telescope to properly orient itself. After initial problems installing one of the units, Massimino and Good installed a spare unit, accomplishing the major task of the spacewalk. They next replaced one of the telescope’s batteries before ending the spacewalk after seven hours and 56 minutes.

Third spacewalk. Left: Andrew J. Feustel, left, and John M. Grunsfeld remove the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR) instrument. Middle: Feustel carries COSTAR to its stowage location. Right: Feustel, left, and Grunsfeld repair the Advanced Camera for Surveys.

Grunsfeld and Feustel ventured outside again for the mission’s third spacewalk on May 16. Their first task involved removing the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR), installed during the first servicing mission to correct the mirror’s spherical aberration. Grunsfeld and Feustel easily removed COSTAR, stowing it in the payload bay, and replaced it with the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph instrument. Running about one hour ahead of the timeline, they moved on to the repair of the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), an instrument that failed in 2007 but not designed for in-orbit repair. Using tools specially designed for the tasks, Grunsfeld and Feustel removed an access panel, replaced the camera’s four circuit boards, and installed a new power supply. They ended their second spacewalk after six hours and 36 minutes.

Fourth spacewalk. Left: Michael T. Good, left, and Michael J. Massimino repair Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS). Middle: Good, left, and Massimino continue repairs of STIS. Right: Massimino, outside, says Hi to K. Megan McArthur.

For the mission’s fourth spacewalk, Massimino and Good ventured out again on May 17. They spent much of the excursion working on the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), an instrument that failed in 2004 due to a power failure. Like the ACS, designers had not intended STIS for in-orbit repair, posing a challenge to the astronauts as the fix required the removal of more than 100 screws. In addition to that time-consuming challenge, Massimino could not remove one of the handrails, causing him to use brute force to remove it. They completed the repair of the STIS although the tasks took much longer than planned, resulting in a spacewalk lasting eight hours and two minutes.

Fifth spacewalk. Left: Andrew J. Feustel, left, and John M. Grunsfeld replace a Fine Guidance Sensor. Middle: Grunsfeld at the end of the Remote Manipulator System. Right: Grunsfeld, left, and Feustel prepare to enter the airlock to conclude the final Hubble servicing spacewalk.

On Flight Day 8, Grunsfeld and Feustel exited the airlock for their third and the mission’s fifth and final spacewalk. They replaced a second battery and removed and replaced a Fine Guidance Sensor. Working about one hour ahead of the timeline, they had time to remove three degraded thermal blankets, replacing them with three new ones, before ending the final Hubble servicing spacewalk after seven hours and two minutes. That brought the total spacewalking time for the mission to 36 hours 56 minutes.

Left: Astronaut K. Megan McArthur grapples the Hubble Space Telescope. Middle left: McArthur lifts the telescope off its cradle prior to release. Middle right: Hubble begins its departure from Atlantis. Right: Hubble at a greater distance.

On May 19, with five consecutive days of complex and arduous spacewalks behind them, the astronauts turned their focus on releasing the newly refurbished space telescope. Using the RMS, McArthur grappled Hubble and lifted it off its FSS and out of the payload bay. As Atlantis flew over Africa, McArthur released the telescope and Altman called down to Houston, “Hubble has been released, it’s safely back on its journey of exploration.” Firing the orbiter’s thrusters, Johnson nudged Atlantis away from Hubble as it sailed over the crew compartment. After a separation burn, the astronauts watched as the telescope drifted away. They turned their attention to completing the late inspection of the shuttle’s heat shield, finding it undamaged.

Left: Inflight photo of the STS-125 crew. Middle: The STS-125 crew provides testimony via television to a Congressional committee. Right: Commander Scott D. Altman, left, assists Pilot Gregory C. Johnson during a computer-based landing simulation.

The next day, their 10th in space, the astronauts had most of the day off, having accomplished their mission to refurbish the Hubble Space Telescope. They took the traditional in-orbit crew photographs, held a press conference with reporters around the world, spoke with the Expedition 19 crew aboard the space station, and took a congratulatory call from President Barack H. Obama. After reviewing the late inspection imagery, Mission Control formally cleared Atlantis for entry and landing, planned for two days later, although meteorologists kept a wary eye on the weather forecast for Florida, advising the astronauts to conserve power in case they needed to stay in orbit a little longer. The following day, in preparation for landing, Altman, Johnson, and McArthur tested Atlantis’ auxiliary power units, reaction control system thrusters, and flight control surfaces, and the entire crew began stowing items no longer needed in the cabin. Altman and Johnson practiced landing the shuttle using a laptop based simulator. For the first time in history, the entire crew testified before a congressional committee. Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, and Senator C. William “Bill” Nelson of Florida spoke with the crew about the importance of spaceflight in general and the repair of Hubble in particular. The STS-125 astronauts held another news conference, primarily with domestic media. Based on the results of the late inspection that showed no damage to Atlantis’ heat shield, Mission Control officially released Endeavour from its standby role as a rescue vehicle, allowing workers to begin preparing it for its next mission, STS-127.

Left: The San Francisco and Monterey area in California. Middle: The western half of the Houston metropolitan area. Right: The Cape Canaveral area in Florida.

Weather in Florida did not cooperate with the STS-125 astronauts on May 22, their 12th and planned landing day. Mission Control passed on both landing opportunities at KSC, advising the crew to stay in orbit one more day, and called up Edwards Air Force Base as a backup site for the next day, providing six landing opportunities, three at each site. On Flight Day 13, Mission Control passed on all the opportunities, but with a strong desire to bring Atlantis home to KSC, extended the mission one more day, hoping for better weather in Florida. The astronauts meanwhile added to their already rich store of photographs of planet Earth.

Left: Atlantis lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Middle: The STS-125 crew poses in front of Atlantis at Edwards after their successful mission. Right: Atlantis atop its Shuttle Carrier Aircraft during its return to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

With two opportunities at each landing site on May 24, Mission Control concluded Florida’s dynamic weather as unsuitable and elected to bring Atlantis home to California. The astronauts donned their LESs and prepared for the return to Earth. They closed the payload bay doors and fired Atlantis’ OMS engines to bring them out of orbit. Just before landing, Johnson lowered the craft’s landing gear and Altman guided Atlantis to a smooth touchdown on concrete runway 22, concluding a flight of 12 days, 21 hours, 37 minutes. They circled the Earth 197 times. It marked the last landing at Edwards for Atlantis.

Timeline of the Hubble Space Telescope’s instruments and their replacements during servicing missions.

The STS-125 crew’s work left the Hubble Space Telescope in its best condition ever, carrying a suite of instruments far more advanced than its original complement. As it continues to operate, Hubble far exceeded the five-year extension their servicing mission expected to provide. The repairs and upgrades to the Hubble Space Telescope enabled it to continue operating until the James Webb Space Telescope joined it in space in 2021. The two telescopes together give astronomers the ability to study the universe from the ultraviolet through visible light and into the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. During the five servicing missions between 1993 and 2009, 16 spacewalking astronauts conducted 23 spacewalks totaling more than 165 hours, or just under 7 days, to make repairs and improvements to the telescope’s capabilities. To summarize the discoveries made by scientists using data from the Hubble Space Telescope reaches well beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that during its more than 30 years of operation, information and images returned by Hubble continue to revolutionize astronomy, literally causing scientists to rewrite textbooks, and have dramatically altered how the public views the wonders of the universe. On the technical side, the launch of Hubble and the servicing missions to maintain and upgrade its capabilities have proven conclusively the value of maintainability of space-based scientific platforms. Although the now-retired space shuttle provided a unique platform to service Hubble, astronauts during STS-125 attached a soft capture mechanism, holding out the possibility of future servicing missions by other vehicles.

Watch the STS-125 crew narrate a video of their Hubble servicing mission.

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This is how the Sun disappeared from the daytime sky last month.

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NASA Invites Media to Expedition 70 Crew Visit at Marshall

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 05/10/2024 - 4:55pm

4 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)  Four Expedition 70 crew members pose for a fun portrait inside their crew quarters aboard the International Space Station’s Harmony module. Clockwise from bottom are, NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli; ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Andreas Mogensen; JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Satoshi Furukawa; and NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara.NASA

NASA will host four astronauts at 10 a.m. CDT Tuesday, May 14, for a media opportunity at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Andreas Mogensen, and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Satoshi Furukawa served as part of Expedition 70 and will discuss their recent mission to the International Space Station.

Media are invited to attend this event and participate in a news conference to speak with the astronauts about their experiments aboard the microgravity laboratory and other mission highlights.

Media interested in participating must confirm their attendance by 12 p.m., on Monday, May 13, with Joel Wallace in Marshall’s Office of Communications at joel.w.wallace@nasa.gov or 256-786-0117.

Media must report by 9 a.m., Tuesday, May 14 to the Redstone Arsenal Joint Visitor Control Center Gate 9 parking lot, located at the Interstate 565 interchange at Research Park Boulevard. The event will take place in the NASA Marshall Activities Building 4316. Vehicles are subject to a security search at the gate, so please allow extra time. All members of media and drivers will need photo identification. Drivers will need proof of insurance, if requested.

The Expedition 70 mission to the space station began Sept. 27, 2023, and ended April 5. During their mission, the Expedition 70 crew marked the 25th anniversary of space station operations in December 2023.

As part of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-7, Moghbeli, Mogensen, and Furukawa traveled 84,434,094 miles during their mission, spent 197 days aboard the space station, and completed 3,184 orbits around Earth. The Crew-7 mission was the first spaceflight for Moghbeli. Mogensen has logged 209 days in space over his two flights, and Furukawa has logged 366 days in space over his two flights.

NASA astronaut and Expedition 70 Flight Engineer Jasmin Moghbeli uses DNA analysis to identify bacteria extracted from water samples collected aboard the International Space Station. Known as BioMole, the study is demonstrating the ability to monitor the spacecraft’s microbial environment without sending samples back to Earth for analysis.NASA

Throughout their mission, the Crew-7 members contributed to a host of science and maintenance activities and technology demonstrations. Moghbeli conducted one spacewalk, joined by O’Hara, replacing one of the 12 trundle bearing assemblies on the port solar alpha rotary joint, which allows the arrays to track the Sun and generate electricity to power the station. Crew-7 returned to Earth in March.

O’Hara completed 204 days in space, 3,264 orbits of the Earth, and 86.5 million miles during her first spaceflight. She witnessed the arrival of eight visiting spacecraft and the departure of seven visiting spacecraft, including both crewed and cargo missions. O’Hara also completed one spacewalk totaling six hours, 42 minutes.

While aboard the orbiting lab, O’Hara conducted dozens of science and technology activities to benefit future exploration in space and life back on Earth. O’Hara is among the first astronauts to participate in the Complement of Integrated Protocols for Human Exploration Research Program, an investigation that studies the psychological and physiological changes humans experience during spaceflight. Collecting data from astronauts on missions of different durations supports the development of ways to protect crew health on long-duration missions to the Moon and future missions to Mars. O’Hara returned to Earth in April aboard the Roscosmos Soyuz spacecraft.

The International Space Station remains the springboard to NASA’s next leap in space exploration, including future missions to the Moon and, eventually, Mars. The agency’s Huntsville Operations Support Center, or HOSC, at Marshall provides engineering and mission operations support for the space station, Commercial Crew Program, and other missions. Within the HOSC, the commercial crew support team provides engineering and safety and mission assurance expertise for launch vehicles, spacecraft propulsion, and integrated vehicle performance. The HOSC’s Payload Operations Integration Center, which operates, plans, and coordinates science experiments aboard the space station 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, supported Expedition 70, managing communications between the International Space Station crew and researchers worldwide.

For more information on the Expedition 70 crew, visit:

Expedition 70

Joel Wallace
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Share Details Last Updated May 10, 2024 EditorBeth RidgewayLocationMarshall Space Flight Center Related Terms Explore More 20 min read The Marshall Star for May 8, 2024 Article 5 days ago 4 min read Hi-C Rocket Experiment Achieves Never-Before-Seen Look at Solar Flares Article 2 weeks ago 23 min read The Marshall Star for May 1, 2024 Article 2 weeks ago Keep Exploring Discover Related Topics


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Sols 4182-4183: We Reached the South Side of Pinnacle Ridge… What’s Next?

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 05/10/2024 - 4:43pm

3 min read

Sols 4182-4183: We Reached the South Side of Pinnacle Ridge… What’s Next? This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 4180 (2024-05-10 03:55:37 UTC). NASA/JPL-Caltech

Earth planning date: Friday, May 10, 2024

We planned quite a drive on Wednesday, with lots of twists and turns over very bumpy terrain, so the team was delighted to learn everything completed as planned when we received our downlink at ~4 am Pacific Time this morning! The successful drive means Curiosity is now parked on the south side of Pinnacle Ridge, the final area of upper Gediz Vallis ridge that we planned to investigate before we cross Gediz Vallis channel. We visited the north side of Pinnacle Ridge last week and collected all sorts of data that tell us a lot about the composition and textures of the rocks that form the ridge.  

We had a big decision to make this morning: Now that we can see the south side of Pinnacle Ridge is traversable, should we drive onto it to get additional contact science data on the Gediz Vallis ridge rocks, or should we continue to drive along Gediz Vallis channel towards our planned channel crossing spot? Driving onto Pinnacle Ridge at this location could give us an opportunity to learn more about the materials that make up the ridge and the role of water in this area, but it could also take several sols and not tell us much more than what we already learned from our investigation on the north face of Pinnacle Ridge.  

My role today was Long Term Planner, which meant I had to lead the team’s discussion to talk through the pros and cons of this decision, and (ideally) help the group come to a consensus. We talked a lot about how the rocks we could see from our current location compared with the rocks we already investigated on the north side, and ultimately the ~25 scientists who were on the tactical operations planning group today came to a consensus decision that we’d rather move on then spend more time here.

So today we’re going to collect lots of Mastcam observations and then continue to make our way up and along the channel, heading ~23 meters to the southwest.  Before driving away we’ll also take the opportunity to do some contact science on the rocks at our feet, doing a DRT followed by APXS and MAHLI observations on the target named “Boyden Cave,”  APXS and MAHLI observations on a nearby (dusty) target named “Royal Arches,” and finally a MAHLI only target of a cool nearby rock named “Quarry Peak.”  We’ll also collect two ChemCam LIBS observations of “Otter Lake,” a target very close to Royal Arches, and another nearby rock named “Nevada Falls.”  A suite of environmental monitoring observations will round out the plan.  

I really love operations days like today. We came in this morning with a completely new Martian vista to admire, and then we had to work together as a team to make a quick decision about what to do next.  I think the pace of this decision making, the ability to talk through tough choices with a group of really smart, passionate people, and the realization that these decisions are guiding the course of a one-ton vehicle on an entirely different planet is one of the coolest ways to spend a morning.

Written by Abigail Fraeman, Planetary Geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory



Last Updated

May 10, 2024

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NASA Awards Expand Research Capabilities at Institutions Nationwide

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 05/10/2024 - 4:34pm
A photo of a team of researchers from the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras while working to discover a more efficient water recycling system for use on space missions. The team is comprised of doctoral students Liz Santiago-Martoral, on the left, and Alondra Rodriguez-Rolon, and their mentor Professor Eduardo Nicolau. One of their experiments can be seen on the countertop to the left of the group.Credits: NASA

NASA is awarding approximately $45 million to 21 higher-education institutions to help build capacity for research. The awards were made possible through the Minority University Research and Education Project Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO) and Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) grants, which are funded by the agency’s Office of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Engagement.

“NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project Institutional Research Opportunity and Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research awards help institutions raise their technological bar,” said Torry Johnson, deputy associate administrator of STEM Engagement Programs at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “When institutions enhance their capabilities and infrastructure, they become more competitive in their research, which opens doors to valuable experience and opportunities.”

Minority University Research and Education Project Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO) Awards

Seven minority-serving institutions will receive approximately $5 million each over a five-year period of performance for projects that span a variety of research topics. The institutions and their proposed projects are:

  • Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage – Alaska Pacific University Microplastics Research and Education Center
  • California State University in Fullerton – SpaceIgnite Center for Advanced Research-Education in Combustion
  • City University of New York, Hunter College in New York – NASA-Hunter College Center for Advanced Energy Storage for Space
  • Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee – Integrative Space Additive Manufacturing: Opportunities for Workforce-Development in NASA Related Materials Research and Education
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark – AI Powered Solar Eruption Center of Excellence in Research and Education
  • University of Houston in Houston – NASA MIRO Inflatable Deployable Environment and Adaptive Space Systems Center
  • University of Illinois in Chicago – Center for In-Space Manufacturing: Recycling and Regolith Processing

NASA’s MIRO award was established to strengthen and develop research capacity and infrastructure of minority serving institutions in areas of strategic importance and value to NASA missions and national priorities.

Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Award

NASA establishes partnerships with government, higher education, and industry to create lasting improvements in research infrastructure and capacity for specific states or regions, while enhancing its national research and development competitiveness. The program is directed at those jurisdictions that have traditionally not participated in competitive aerospace and aerospace-related research activities.

NASA will award 14 institutions up to $750,000 each over the course of a three-year period of performance. The awarded institutions and their projects are:

  • University of Mississippi in University – Development of a Lagrangian Stability Analysis Framework for High-Speed Boundary Layers
  • University of Alabama in Huntsville – Testing the functionality and performance of a large area detector for STROBE-X
  • Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge – Colloidal Assembly: Understanding the Electric Field Driven Assembly of Colloids and its Applications (Science Mission Directorate)
  • West Virginia University in Morgantown – Science Mission Directorate: Bringing Gravitational-Wave Astronomy into the Space Age: Next-Generation Waveform Modeling of Black-Hole Binary Coalescences for Laser Intererometer Space Antenna Data Analysis
  • University of Puerto Rico in San Juan – NASA EPSCoR: Space Technology Mission Directorate/Jet Propulsion Laboratory: Advancing High-Energy, Cycle-Stable Sulfur-Based Batteries for NASA Space Missions: An Integrated Framework of Density Functional Theory, Machine Learning, and Materials Innovation
  • Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada – NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California: Prospecting and Pre-Colonization of the Moon and Mars using Autonomous Robots with Human-In-The-Loop
  • Oklahoma State University in Stillwater – A.7.4.2 Biosignature Detection of Solar System Ocean Worlds using Science-Guided Machine Learning
  • Iowa State University in Ames – Johnson Space Center, Ames Research Center: Non-GPS Navigation System Using Dual Star/Planetary Cameras for Lunar and Deep-Space CubeSat Missions
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks in Fairbanks – NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland: The Alaska – Venus analog: synthesizing seismic ground motion and wind noise in extreme environments
  • University of the Virgin Islands in Charlotte Amalie – University of the Virgin Islands Etelman Observatory in the Era of Time Domain and MultiMessenger Astronomy: Preparing for a New Era of Science Productivity
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu – Cubesats for Climate Change Detection of Transient Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • University of Idaho in Moscow – Science Mission Directorate and Goddard Space Flight Center: Improving Global Dryland Streamflow Modeling by Better Characterizing Vegetation Use of Deep-Water Resources Using NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment/Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On, SWOT, and Land Information System
  • University of Arkansas in Little Rock – AR- III-Nitride Ultraviolet Laser Diodes for Harsh Environments, Space Based Communications, and Remote Sensing (Space Technology Mission Directorate)
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City – Science Mission Directorate: High Spatial-Temporal Resolution Soil Moisture Retrieval using Deep Learning Fusion of Multimodal Satellite Datastreams

Both awards were made through NASA’s Office of STEM engagement solicitations. They promote STEM literacy to enhance and sustain the capability of institutions to perform NASA-related research and education, which directly supports the agency’s mission directorates.

For more information about NASA STEM, visit:



Gerelle Dodson
Headquarters, Washington

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That's Refreshing

NASA Image of the Day - Fri, 05/10/2024 - 2:47pm
An American Flamingo takes a sip of water in the Indian River at Haulover Canal on Merritt Island on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The American Flamingos are more common in Mexico and Cuba but the winds from Hurricane Idalia relocated them to Florida in September 2023. Kennedy Space Center in Florida shares a border with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge where more than 310 species of birds inhabit the refuge.
Categories: Astronomy, NASA

That’s Refreshing

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 05/10/2024 - 2:15pm
NASA/Kim Shiflett

An American flamingo takes a moment to drink water in the Indian River at Haulover Canal on Merritt Island on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. American Flamingos are more common in Mexico and Cuba but the winds from Hurricane Idalia relocated them to Florida in September 2023.

The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is northwest of Kennedy Space Center in Florida; Merritt Island’s strategic location along the Atlantic Flyway provides a resting and feeding place for thousands of wading birds, shorebirds, and songbirds. The wildlife refuge is a habitat for more than 310 species of birds, 25 mammals, 117 fishes and 65 amphibians and reptiles.

Image Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Categories: NASA

NASA Invites Media to Annual Lunabotics Competition

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 05/10/2024 - 1:03pm
From left to right, Cielo Torres, Jacob Liorca, Thomas Jaycard, and Gavin Fitzgerald work on a robotic rover inside the University of Central Florida’s robotics lab ahead of the 2024 Lunabotics Challenge. University of Central Florida/Antoine Hart

NASA’s 2024 Lunabotics Challenge offers more than 40 college teams from across the country the chance to design, build, and operate their own lunar robots, with the top 10 teams advancing to the final demonstrations phase. Media are invited to attend the finals on May 16-17 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

The teams’ autonomous rovers must be capable of building a berm structure from lunar regolith to protect critical Artemis infrastructure on the Moon. Such berms could defend against blast and ejecta during lunar landings and launches, shade cryogenic propellant tank farms, shield a nuclear power plant from space radiation, and provide other uses.

“The task of robotically building berm structures will be important for preparation and support of crewed lunar missions,” said Kurt Leucht, NASA software developer and In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) researcher, as well as longtime Lunabotics commentator. “These competing teams are not only building critical engineering skills that will assist their future careers, they are literally helping NASA prepare for our future Artemis missions to the Moon.”

Coverage of Lunabotics will include live streaming of the first round and final round throughout the duration of the competition.

Reporters interested in attending the Lunabotics finals must contact Isabel Kennedy at isabel.kennedy@nasa.gov.

The first round of the challenge takes place May 12-14 in the Exolith Lab at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Those wishing to attend the first round of the challenge should contact Margot Winick at margot.winick@ucf.edu.

Coordinated by NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement, Lunabotics has taken place annually since 2010. As one of NASA’s Artemis Student Challenges, the competition is designed to engage and retain students in STEM fields by expanding opportunities for student research and design in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math.

For more competition information, visit:


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Derrol Nail
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Categories: NASA

NASA’s New Mobile Launcher Stacks Up for Future Artemis Missions 

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 05/10/2024 - 12:59pm

The foundation is set at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for launching crewed missions aboard the agency’s larger and more powerful SLS (Space Launch System) Block 1B rocket in support of Artemis IV and future missions. On May 9, 2024, teams with NASA’s EGS (Exploration Ground Systems) Program and contractor Bechtel National Inc. transferred the primary base structure of the mobile launcher 2 to its permanent mount mechanisms using the spaceport’s beast-mode transporter – the crawler.  

On Thursday, May 9, 2024, teams with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program and primary contractor, Bechtel National, Inc., continue moving the base structure of mobile launcher 2 to a permanent mount structure where assembly will be completed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The 355-foot-tall mobile launcher 2 with a two-story base and a tower will be used to assemble and process the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket and Orion spacecraft in the Vehicle Assembly Building on NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions to the Moon beginning with Artemis IV.Photo credit: NASA/Madison Tuttle

“Seeing mobile launcher 2 take shape has been incredible,” said Shawn Quinn, program manager for NASA’s EGS Program. “Anytime we can see the manifestation of our work into physical hardware means a lot to the EGS team. It is also inspiring for the future of Artemis, with each bolt and truss put in place signifying the next phase of humanity’s return to the Moon.” 

Why is the “Jack & Set” process necessary?

Teams at Bechtel fabricated temporary pedestals 8 feet off the ground, facilitating a much more efficient and safer initial steel build process by sitting lower to the ground. These extremely large steel truss subassemblies, some weighing over 100,000 pounds each, sat on temporary bases. Once the entire 2.6 million-pound skeleton of the base was fully torqued and welded, teams used a specialized heavy-duty jacking system to raise the base to allow sufficient space for the spaceport’s crawler to be situated underneath the structure ahead of repositioning. 

Four self-propelled modular transporters were driven underneath the sides of the steel assembly and then lowered the base onto eight surrounding jacks. Once secured, teams removed the transporters and used jacks to raise the base 18 feet to allow for crawler access underneath the structure. The crawler was then positioned under the new base skeleton, raised the structure a few inches higher, and repositioned it about 200 feet to the six permanent pedestals, called mount mechanisms, completing the “jack and set” operation.  

“The jack & set milestone is a huge accomplishment for the NASA and Bechtel team,” said Darrell Foster, ground systems integration manager for NASA’s EGS Program.  “It represents the hard work of hundreds of people – not only in the field putting the pieces together, but engineers and analysts who custom designed this structure, subcontracting buyers and delivery managers who drove the process to get the materials to the site, and the several offsite fabrication shops across the country.”  

With NASA’s iconic Vehicle Assembly Building in the background, teams with the agency’s Exploration Ground Systems Program and primary contractor, Bechtel National, Inc. continue construction on the base of the platform for the new mobile launcher at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. Once completed and able to be carried atop the crawler-transporter, the 355-foot-tall mobile launcher 2 will be used during assembly, processing, and launch of the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket and Orion spacecraft on NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions to the Moon beginning with Artemis IV.Photo credit: Isaac Watson

Now poised atop the new launch mount mechanisms at its park site near the spaceport’s Vehicle Assembly Building, teams will begin installing critical piping and electrical equipment inside the base. The mobile launcher will remain at the park site throughout the build and commissioning phases of the project. 

The mobile launcher serves as the primary interface between the ground launch systems, SLS rocket, and Orion spacecraft that will launch the SLS Block 1B rocket, with its enhanced upper stage, to the Moon, allowing the agency to send astronauts and heavier cargo into lunar orbit than its predecessor, SLS Block 1. With Artemis, NASA will land the first woman, first person of color, and its first international partner astronaut on the lunar surface and establish long-term exploration for scientific discovery and to prepare for human missions to Mars.  

Categories: NASA