NEW FROM NASA

See the latest NASA news and media releases at:

Latest News Releases: https://www.nasa.gov/news/releases/latest/index.html

Media Contact Info: https://www.nasa.gov/news/media/info/index.html

JPL News: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news

Boeing Starliner Launch: “Two NASA astronauts lifted off from Cape Canaveral SFS on June 5 for a shakedown cruise of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, which is intended to provide NASA with a second means of crew transport to the International Space Station (ISS), as well as position Boeing to establish a new commercial business flying passengers to and from low Earth orbit.

“After a trouble-free countdown, the astronauts lifted off at 10:52 a.m. EDT aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41, marking the first crewed launch from the U.S. military’s side of the Cape Canaveral/Kennedy Space Center spaceport since Apollo 7 in 1968.”

For more info on the launch from Aviation Week, see here: https://aviationweek.com/aerospace/commercial-space/astronauts-begin-flight-test-boeings-long-awaited-commercial-spacecraft.

Hubble Space Telescope News: Alas, gyroscope woes are forcing NASA to change how the venerable space telescope is aimed. HST, like many satellites, uses a set of three gyroscopes to orient it in Space in the desired direction. In HST’s case, the gyros have to be robust and spin quickly to maneuver the massive telescope, putting stress on the gyro’s bearings, etc. HST was designed so that Shuttle astronauts could service it easily, including routinely replacing the gyros. They did so five separate times, all successful. A full set of six new ones, three active and three in reserve, were installed during the final Shuttle mission to HST, STS-125 in 2009. Since then, three have failed outright (all exceeded their design lifetimes), two are showing signs of wear, and the sixth has recently become non-operational. NASA can still point the HST in the desired direction, and can do so with only one operational gyro, although that would slow down the pace of possible observations. NASA has decided to take the two remaining gyros, put one in stand-by mode, and operate HST with only one gyro for as long as possible. Thirty-four years and counting – what a success story already! For more info, see: https://skyandtelescope.org/astronomy-news/hubble-pauses-science-operations-for-transition-to-one-gyro-mode and https://phys.org/news/2024-06-hardworking-hubble.html.

Swarming for Success: NASA is experimenting with the use of swarms of small satellites that work as an autonomous team. The first effort, called “Starling,” has been in LEO for ten months, successfully demonstrating the cube-sat team concept. Such “(a)n autonomous network of spacecraft could self-navigate, manage scientific experiments, and execute maneuvers to respond to environmental changes without the burden of significant communications delays between the swarm and Earth.“ For more on Starling, see: https://www.nasa.gov/mission/starling. The idea of using a number of spacecraft working autonomously in union, is not limited to LEO, it also is due for testing on the Moon:

CADRE of Mini-robots Moon-Bound:Cooperative Autonomous Distributed Robotic Exploration is technology demonstration project involving a number of small robots to be landed on the Moon, where they will explore the landing area collectively, without direct guidance from Earth. The robots will take images of the surface, map the area in which they are collectively operating, and utilize ground-penetrating radar to explore the lunar subsurface. “The goal is to show that a group of robotic spacecraft can work together to accomplish tasks and record data as a team without explicit commands from mission controllers on Earth. If the project succeeds, future missions could include teams of robots spreading out to take simultaneous, distributed scientific measurements, potentially in support of astronauts.” For more information, see: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/nasas-network-of-small-moon-bound-rovers-is-ready-to-roll.

NOT Your Typical NASA Launch: Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket was used to launch NASA’s latest Earth-observation satellite last Saturday, from Rocket Lab’s facility in New Zealand. The Electron carried two shoebox-sized CubeSats comprising the PREFIRE mission (Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment), designed to measure how much heat is radiated into Space from the Earth’s polar regions, an important factor in climate and climate change. The planned result will lead to an improved “prediction of sea ice loss, ice sheet melt, and sea level rise, creating a better understanding of how our planet’s system will change in the coming years — crucial information to farmers tracking changes in weather and water, fishing fleets working in changing seas, and coastal communities building resilience.” For more on this important, yet economical, mission, see: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/nasa-launches-small-climate-satellite-to-study-earths-poles and https://science.nasa.gov/mission/prefire.

No Surprise Here! NASA Earns “Best Place to Work in Government for the 12th Straight Year! The Partnership for Public Service has been compiling Federal employees’ viewpoints regarding Agency leadership, work/life balance, and other job factors since 2003, and I am NOT surprised that NASA has won AGAIN. For more on PPS and their evaluation, see here.

Heliophysics Big Year: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate comprises four divisions: Astrophysics, Heliophysics, Planetary Science, and Earth Science. From time to time, a division will institute a year or so long outreach effort. When I was at HQ, the emphasis was on the “Year of the Solar System.” Now, we are in the middle of an 18-month “Heliophysics Big Year.” The 2024 total Solar eclipse was one of the big events of the Big Year, and the ongoing data from the Parker Solar Probe, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, and other assets make for good engagement material. [Didja know that there are 27 spacecraft in 20 missions in Space right now observing the Sun? Not all of them are NASA’s, but that’s still a lot!]

NASA has posted much information about heliophysics, including the eclipse and a number of citizen science projects, here: https://science.nasa.gov/sun/helio-big-year.

Did you know that NASA has an entire Scientific Visualization Studio at the Goddard Space Flight Center? The data they make relatable is really terrific, check it out at: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov.

Preparing for Space: Space is hostile to people and equipment alike. Have you ever wondered about how NASA makes sure its spacecraft can survive and operate successful in interplanetary Space and on other planets? NASA recently streamed one of the JPL von Kármán Lecture Series entitled “Shake & Bake: How Spacecraft are Tested to Handle the Harsh Environment of Space.” The featured lecturers are Brad Kinter, a Group Supervisor in JPL’s Environmental Thermal Testing unit at JPL and Pete Landry, Systems Integration and Test Engineer at JPL. The lecture is now available on YouTube at: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/jpl-and-the-community/lecture-series/the-von-karman-lecture-series-2024/may-2024-shake-bake-how-spacecraft-are-tested-to-handle-the-harsh-environment-of-space.

Theodore von Kármán was an aerodynamics expert who came to the USA in 1930, fleeing rising tide of Nazism. He was a member of the National Academy of Science and one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The lecture series named for him, routinely offers a number of interesting Space-related lectures, “Shake and Bake,” being one of the most recent. For more information on von Kármán, see: https://www.nasonline.org/publications/biographical-memoirs/memoir-pdfs/von-karman-theodore.pdf; for more on the lecture series, see: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/jpl-and-the-community/lecture-series.

Two Outstanding NASA Leaders Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom! President Biden presented our Nation’s highest civilian honor to Dr. Ellen Ochoa, whose 30-year career with NASA included service as the first Hispanic woman astronaut (STS-56, STS-66, STS-96, and STS-110), as director of Flight Crew Operations, and the director of the Johnson Space Center. Also receiving the Medal of Freedom was Dr. Jana Rigby, the James Webb Space Telescope Operations Project Scientist. Pages of A+StW are replete with the amazing results of this wonderful scientific instrument! For more information about these extraordinary (even by NASA standards) women, see: https://www.nasa.gov/news-release/former-nasa-center-director-scientist-to-receive-presidential-medals. Congratulations to both!

NASA’s Six New Innovative Tech Concepts have been selected for additional development funding by the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program. NIAC is one of the reasons NASA can seem to do the impossible for the benefit of us all. The ideas sound like science fiction: a Space telescope that uses a fluid shaped by ionic liquids as its mirror; a pulsed plasma rocket that could significantly reduce Earth-Mars travel time; an orbital radio telescope comprising thousands of SmallSats; an advanced Radioisotope Thermal Generator; a lunar maglev railway system; and a solar sail with quantum dot sensors for exploration of the outer Solar System. What an exciting time to be alive!

Europa Clipper Spacecraft Message: NASA has placed plaques aboard various Spacecraft in the past, including those on both Pioneers and both Voyagers. The plaque for the upcoming Europa Clipper was rolled out last week. It’s made of tantalum (to help protect internal electronics from Jupiter’s intense radiation field) and carries messages, both written and audio, and the names of more than 2.8 million people. It also has an engraved portrait of the late Ronald Greeley of Arizona State University, who was a big advocate of a mission to Europa. He was also the dissertation advisor for Bob Pappalardo, the Europa Clipper’s Principal Investigator (and mine’s, too!). For more info about the Europa Clipper mission, see here; for more about the Plaque, see here. For more about Ron Greeley, see here and here. But wait, there’s …

More About Europa: Europa lies in the middle of a belt filled with charged particles, think the Van Allen Belts at Earth on steroids. Europa has an icy surface, and the intense rain of ions dissociate the water ice on the surface into hydrogen and oxygen. Almost all of the former and much of the latter are then lost to Space, but some of the oxygen might reach the ocean beneath the ice, affecting potential biological development there. For more information, see: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/nasas-juno-mission-measures-oxygen-production-at-europa.

Three NASA White Papers: On February 23, NASA released three position papers on Space data ethics, ensuring food safety, and enhancing Earth observation capabilities. See them at: https://www.nasa.gov/general/white-papers.

NASA’s New Website! “NASA has switched its primary World Wide Web addresses to a beta version of the new NASA.gov and science.nasa.gov websites, continuing the long-term development and consolidation of its public web presence. The new sites will offer visitors an improved, intuitive web design and elevated user experience.

The ongoing work on the agency’s upgraded website is the first step to a broad new digital experience from NASA, which will include a new on-demand streaming service called NASA + and an updated NASA app. This enhanced digital presence will allow the space agency to share science, research, exploration, and innovation with the world through cohesive platforms, encouraging users to spend more time experiencing the universe through the eyes of NASA.

This new site will be the foundation of a one-stop-shop for the agency’s missions and research, climate data, Artemis updates and more. The new, topic-driven experience will ensure easier, integrated access to NASA information currently found across the agency’s many websites.”

Check it out everyone, the new site: https://www.nasa.gov, is really useful!

But Wait, There’s More! The new website has a page from which you can stay up-to-date on NASA’s latest content. The pieces are short, but contain all the salient information you are looking for. It’s also your portal to all of NASA news, events, and social media offering. You owe it to yourself to check it out, and share it with others you know. See: https://www.nasa.gov/news/all-news.

Blogs, Blogs, Blogs: NASA produces a number of blogs on a regular basis, covering topics from Artemis to “Watch the Skies!” Check them all out at: https://blogs.nasa.gov!

Introducing NASA On-Demand Streaming Service: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrlDv-ts2f0&ab_channel=NASA!

As only NASA can.