Sunday, May 9, 2021

Video of the Day: Elon Musk's Best Skit on SNL Last Night!

Dogecoin investors apparently wished that Elon Musk and the crypto's canine mascot appeared together on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE yesterday, like they do in this meme aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule!

"So there are still heroes in this world."

As many of you are aware, SpaceX founder Elon Musk made his debut as host on Saturday Night Live yesterday. Overall, I think he did a commendable job (he's a billionaire rocket scientist, not a professionally-trained thespian, after all)...though I'm sure investors of the popular cryptocurrency Dogecoin wished that the adorable Shiba Inu who's the mascot of this crypto appeared with Elon on screen last night! But this blog entry is about the best sketch from yesterday's episode—which had Musk portraying himself in a SpaceX-inspired skit about a colony on Mars. Much props to Pete Davidson and SNL co-host Miley Cyrus for adding to the hilarity that is The Astronaut!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Blue Origin Is Set to Launch Its First Astronaut Crew on Apollo 11's Landing Anniversary...

A video screenshot of a mannequin aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule during flight NS-15...on April 14, 2021.
Blue Origin

Bid For the Very First Seat on New Shepard (News Release - May 5)

On July 20th, New Shepard will fly its first astronaut crew to space. We are offering one seat on this first flight to the winning bidder of Blue Origin’s online auction. Starting today, anyone can place an opening bid by going to BlueOrigin.com.

Here are the three phases of the auction:

1. May 5-19: Sealed online bidding – you can bid any amount you want on the auction website (no bids are visible)

2. May 19: Unsealed online bidding – bidding becomes visible and participants must exceed the highest bid to continue in the auction

3. June 12: Live auction – the bidding concludes with a live online auction

The winning bid amount will be donated to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future, to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM and help invent the future of life in space.

On this day 60 years ago, Alan Shepard made history by becoming the first American to fly to space. In the decades since, fewer than 600 astronauts have been to space above the Kármán Line to see the borderless Earth and the thin limb of our atmosphere. They all say this experience changes them.

We named our launch vehicle after Alan Shepard to honor his historic flight. New Shepard has flown 15 successful consecutive missions to space and back above the Kármán Line through a meticulous and incremental flight program to test its multiple redundant safety systems. Now, it’s time for astronauts to climb onboard.

This seat will change how you see the world.

- Gradatim Ferociter

Source: Blue Origin

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Blue Origin's Audrey Powers simulates astronaut ingress aboard the New Shepard capsule for flight NS-15...on April 14, 2021.
Blue Origin

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

SpaceX Update: Starship SN15 Nails Its Landing on a Historic Day...

Launching aboard a Mercury-Redstone 3 rocket carrying his Freedom 7 capsule, NASA astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American to fly into space...on May 5, 1961.
NASA

Exactly 60 years after NASA astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American to fly into space thanks to his Mercury-Redstone 3 rocket and Freedom 7 capsule, SpaceX made history of its own when it successfully managed to land its Starship Serial No. 15 (SN15) rocket at the company's launch facility in Starbase, Texas...following a flawless 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) hop above the coastline. Unlike the flight of SN10 two months earlier, however, SN15 managed to stay intact long after touchdown—with the vehicle successfully purging its remaining cryogenic fuel and being safed post-landing over the next few hours.

After a successful flight to an altitude of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), Starship SN15 triumphantly sits on its landing pad at SpaceX's launch facility in Starbase, Texas...on May 5, 2021.
SpaceX

With SN15's flawless test flight now in the history books, it remains to be seen if it will fly again, or if it will take its spot near Starhopper at Starbase as currently the only Starship prototypes to survive their aerial demonstrations. Up next is SN16...and if the flight of this vehicle is successful, then that will only prove that NASA made the right choice in selecting Starship as the Human Landing System (HLS) which will take Artemis astronauts to the Moon's surface as soon as 2024 (even though the HLS contract has been put on hold thanks to protests recently filed by fellow HLS contenders Blue Origin and Dynetics against NASA). Once gain, well-done, SN15!






Monday, May 3, 2021

With an Apollo 16 Moon Rock on Display Nearby, the New Head of NASA Has Officially Been Sworn In...

After being sworn in as the new NASA Administrator in Washington, D.C., Bill Nelson takes a group photo with his family, Vice President Kamala Harris, former NASA Administrators Charles Bolden and Jim Bridenstine (who attended the ceremony virtually through a video conference), and NASA Deputy Administrator nominee Pam Melroy...on May 3, 2021.
NASA / Aubrey Gemignani

Vice President Harris Swears in NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson (Press Release)

Sen. Bill Nelson took office as the 14th administrator of NASA Monday, after he was given the oath of office by Vice President Kamala Harris during a ceremony at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington.

In his new role at NASA, Nelson will lead the nation’s space program as it carries out critical missions, including landing the first woman and first person of color on the Moon with the Artemis program, expanding climate change research, fostering innovation and enhancing the U.S. economy and STEM workforce.

“It’s an honor to be sworn in by Vice President Harris to serve as NASA administrator, and I look forward to a continued, strong relationship with her as chair of the National Space Council,” Nelson said after the ceremony. “I want to thank Steve Jurczyk for his leadership as Acting Administrator over the past few months, helping to carry out the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities and ensure the success of NASA’s goals and missions. You’ve seen the incredible accomplishments at NASA over the past 100 or so days – the proof is in the pudding.”

As part of the swearing-in ceremony, Vice President Harris and Nelson were joined via video conference by Jim Bridenstine, who preceded Nelson as administrator, and in-person by Charles F. Bolden, who served as administrator from 2009 to 2017. Nelson’s family and Pam Melroy, nominee for NASA deputy administrator, were guests at the ceremony.

“I was glad to be joined today by my rock, my wife, Grace, my children, deputy administrator nominee Col. Pam Melroy, and former NASA Administrators Charlie Bolden and Jim Bridenstine, whose standing with me symbolizes the continuity of purpose and bipartisanship,” Nelson said. “It’s an incredible time for the aerospace sector, and I’m excited to lead NASA’s workforce into an exciting future!”

“Congratulations, Mr. Administrator, for all the work you’ve done and all you’ve dedicated to our country,” Vice President Harris said. “I couldn’t agree more that this has to be about our nation and what is best for our nation, unencumbered by partisan politics, but based on what we know is the right thing to do.”

The U.S. Senate confirmed Nelson to serve as the NASA administrator April 29.

Nelson has an extensive history of working with NASA and has been integral to the agency’s current successes. Prior to his nomination, he was a member-at-large on NASA’s advisory council. From 2001 to 2019, Nelson represented Florida in the U.S. Senate, where he served as ranking member of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and led its Subcommittee on Science and Space.

Previously, Nelson represented Florida’s 9th and 11th districts in the U.S. House of Representatives. While chair of the House space subcommittee, Nelson flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia as a payload specialist on the STS-61C mission in 1986, where he conducted 12 medical experiments including the first American stress test in space and a cancer research experiment sponsored by university researchers. The mission also included Bolden, as pilot.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Sunday, May 2, 2021

SpaceX Update: Crew Dragon Resilience Is Back on Earth...

Crew Dragon Resilience re-enters Earth's atmosphere above the Gulf of Mexico...on May 2, 2011.
Photo by BigBoatDriver - Twitter.com

Crew-1 Astronauts Safely Splash Down After Space Station Mission (Press Release)

Four astronauts splashed down safely in the Gulf of Mexico Sunday, completing NASA’s first commercial crew, long-duration mission aboard the International Space Station. The return comes nearly six months after the crew members arrived at the microgravity laboratory and also marks the longest-duration mission of a crewed American spacecraft to date.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, carrying NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi, returned to Earth in a parachute-assisted splashdown at 2:56 a.m. EDT off the coast of Panama City, Florida. Crews aboard SpaceX recovery vessels successfully recovered the spacecraft and astronauts. After returning to shore, the astronauts will fly back to Houston.

“Welcome home Victor, Michael, Shannon, and Soichi, and congratulations to the teams at NASA and SpaceX who worked so hard to ensure their safe and successful splashdown,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, who was confirmed by the Senate to serve as NASA Administrator on April 29. “We’ve accomplished another incredible spaceflight for America and our commercial and international partners. Safe, reliable transportation to the International Space Station is exactly the vision that NASA had when the agency embarked on the commercial crew program.”

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission launched Nov. 15, 2020, on a Falcon 9 rocket from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The astronauts named the spacecraft Resilience, in honor of their families, colleagues, and fellow citizens and highlighting the dedication displayed by the teams involved with the mission and demonstrating that there is no limit to what humans can achieve when they work together. Crew Dragon Resilience docked to the Harmony module’s forward port of the space station Nov. 16, nearly 27 hours after liftoff.

Overall, Hopkins, Glover, Walker, and Noguchi traveled 71,242,199 statute miles during their 168 days in orbit (with 167 days aboard the space station), completing 2,688 orbits around Earth. With splashdown, the crew also broke the American crewed spacecraft mission duration record of 84 days, 1 hour, 15 minutes, set by the final Skylab crew in February 1974.

Crew-1 also is the first night splashdown of a U.S. crewed spacecraft since Apollo 8’s predawn return in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 27, 1968, with NASA astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders.

Throughout their mission, the Crew-1 astronauts contributed to scientific investigations and technology demonstrations, in addition to spacewalks and public engagement events, while aboard the orbiting laboratory. From studying protein crystal development to advance new drug discoveries, to demonstrating robotic assistant technologies, their work advances exploration of the universe while bringing benefits back to Earth.

They also grew crops in both the Advanced Plant Habitat and Veggie plant growth facilities, and conducted tests of a new method for producing semiconductor crystals. The astronauts contributed hundreds of pictures of Earth as part of the Crew Earth Observation investigation, one of the longest-running investigations aboard the space station, which contributes to tracking of natural disasters and changes to our home planet. The crew also tested a new tape dispenser, designed and produced by students as part of the High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH), during the mission.

In early 2021, the Crew-1 astronauts had significant roles to play in five spacewalks outside the orbiting laboratory. Glover completed his first four spacewalks, including three alongside Hopkins, whose total number of spacewalks is now five. Noguchi joined NASA’s Kate Rubins on the fourth spacewalk of each of their careers. During the spacewalks, the astronauts connected cables on the recently installed Bartolomeo science platform, prepared the station for upcoming solar array upgrades, serviced the station’s cooling system, and completed other station maintenance tasks.

On April 5, all four Crew-1 astronauts boarded Resilience for a port relocation maneuver, moving their spacecraft from the forward-facing port to the space-facing port on the Harmony module. The move allowed for the forward-facing port to receive four Crew-2 astronauts upon their arrival to the station April 24. Later this year, SpaceX’s 22nd Commercial Resupply Services mission is scheduled to dock at the newly vacant zenith port, bringing with it the first pair of new solar arrays.

The Crew-1 flight is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which has worked with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil to the space station.

The second splashdown of the Commercial Crew Program comes just over one week after the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission, the second long-duration mission. The Crew-2 astronauts launched April 23 and will live and work aboard the station until their return to Earth in about six months.

Resilience will return to SpaceX’s Dragon Lair in Florida for inspection and processing. There, teams will examine the spacecraft’s data and performance throughout the flight. The next NASA and SpaceX crewed mission is Crew-3, currently targeted for launch no earlier than Oct. 23. Crew-2 astronauts are scheduled to return to Earth Oct. 31, about a week after welcoming their Crew-3 colleagues to the orbiting outpost.

The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station. This has already been proven to provide additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration, including helping us prepare for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

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As seen from Tampa, Florida, Crew Dragon Resilience re-enters Earth's atmosphere above the Gulf of Mexico...on May 2, 2011.
Photo by Kyle Montgomery - Twitter.com

With the Crew-1 astronauts waiting patiently onboard, Resilience is about to be placed onto the deck of SpaceX's GO Navigator recovery ship in the Gulf of Mexico...on May 2, 2011.
NASA / Bill Ingalls

The Crew-1 astronauts take one last group photo aboard Resilience before disembarking from their capsule for the return trip back to Houston, Texas...on May 2, 2011.
NASA / Bill Ingalls

Saturday, May 1, 2021

The National Space Council Has a New Leader...

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks with NASA astronaut and Crew-1 member Victor Glover aboard the International Space Station...on February 24, 2021.
NASA

Sen. Bill Nelson Statement on National Space Council (Press Release)

The following is a statement from Sen. Bill Nelson, who the U.S. Senate confirmed as the 14th NASA administrator on April 29, regarding the announcement Saturday that Vice President Kamala Harris will chair the National Space Council:

“The Vice President is the perfect person to lead the federal government’s space policy, which is increasingly complex, with many nations in space.

“Vice President Lyndon Johnson was the first chair of the National Space Council when America initially ventured beyond Earth. Now, Vice President Harris will coordinate our nation’s efforts to ensure America continues to lead in space. It is an exciting time for our space program.”

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Friday, April 30, 2021

The Next Leader of NASA Has Been Confirmed by the U.S. Senate...

Bill Nelson unveils the design of the Space Launch System on September 14, 2011.
Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call via AP Images

Statements on Bill Nelson’s Senate Confirmation as NASA Administrator (Press Release - April 29)

The following are statements from Sen. Bill Nelson and acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk on Thursday’s U.S. Senate confirmation of Nelson as the 14th administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration:

“I am honored by the President’s nomination and the Senate vote,” Nelson said. “I will try to merit that trust. Onward and upward!”

“I’m happy to welcome Bill to the NASA family,”
said Jurczyk. “It’s been an amazing year for NASA and our commercial and international partners, and I look forward to working with Bill and the Biden-Harris Administration to build on the incredible momentum we’ve built so far. It has been an honor to serve as acting administrator, but it’s the NASA workforce that makes the agency one-of-a-kind. Thank you for all you do to advance NASA’s critical missions.”

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Thursday, April 29, 2021

Photos of the Day: The SLS Core Stage Booster Is Ready to Begin Launch Preps at KSC!

The Space Launch System's (SLS) core stage booster for Artemis 1 is transported into the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on April 29, 2021.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Artemis I Core Stage Transported to Its New Home (News Release)

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) core stage for the Artemis I mission arrived on April 27, 2021, at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The core stage arrived aboard the Pegasus barge from NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39 turn basin wharf.

The core stage is shown being transported into the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building on a self-propelled module transporter on April 29, 2021. Teams from the center’s Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs will perform checkouts ahead of integrating the massive rocket stage with the twin solid rocket boosters, Orion spacecraft, and additional flight hardware ahead of the Artemis I launch.

Artemis I will be the first integrated test of SLS and Orion and will pave the way for landing the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface. It will be a proving ground for deep space exploration, leading the agency’s efforts under the Artemis program for a sustainable presence on the Moon and preparing for human missions to Mars.

Source: NASA.Gov

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The SLS core stage booster for Artemis 1 is removed from the Pegasus barge prior to being transported to the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on April 29, 2021.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

The SLS core stage booster for Artemis 1 is removed from the Pegasus barge prior to being transported to the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on April 29, 2021.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

The SLS core stage booster for Artemis 1 is transported to the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on April 29, 2021.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

An aerial view of the SLS core stage booster for Artemis 1 being transported to the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on April 29, 2021.
NASA / Frank Michaux

An aerial view of the SLS core stage booster for Artemis 1 being transported to the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on April 29, 2021.
NASA / Jamie Peer and Mike Downs

An aerial view of the SLS core stage booster for Artemis 1 being transported into the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on April 29, 2021.
NASA / Frank Michaux

The SLS core stage booster for Artemis 1 is transported into the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on April 29, 2021.
NASA / Ben Smegelsky

The SLS core stage booster for Artemis 1 is transported into the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on April 29, 2021.
NASA / Ben Smegelsky

The SLS core stage booster for Artemis 1 now sits inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on April 29, 2021.
NASA / Ben Smegelsky

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The White House Remembers an Apollo 11 Hero...

Columbia command module pilot Michael Collins takes a break from his Apollo 11 mission training at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on June 19, 1969.
AP Photo / File

Statement of President Joe Biden on the Passing of Michael Collins (Press Release)

Michael Collins lived a life of service to our country. From his time in the Air Force, to his career with NASA, to his service at the State Department, to his leadership of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum; Michael Collins both wrote and helped tell the story of our nation’s remarkable accomplishments in space.

Many remember him as the astronaut who was by himself, orbiting the Moon as Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong walked on the lunar surface. He may not have received equal glory, but he was an equal partner, reminding our nation about the importance of collaboration in service of great goals. From his vantage point high above the Earth, he reminded us of the fragility of our own planet, and called on us to care for it like the treasure it is.

Although, in his life of accomplishment, he earned many titles and achieved the rank of general, he demanded that everyone call him, simply, Mike.

Our prayers are with General Collins’ family. Godspeed, Mike.

Source: WhiteHouse.gov

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A snapshot of the Eagle lunar module's ascent stage--with fellow Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin onboard--taken by Michael Collins in the Columbia command module as he was about to reunite with his crew members in lunar orbit...on July 21, 1969.
NASA - Michael Collins

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Photo of the Day: The SLS Core Stage Booster Has Arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida!

With the Space Launch System's core stage booster for Artemis 1 onboard, NASA's Pegagus barge docks at Kennedy Space Center's turn basin wharf...on April 27, 2021.
NASA

Several hours ago, NASA's Pegasus barge carrying the Space Launch System's (SLS) core stage booster for Artemis 1 arrived at Kennedy Space Center's turn basin wharf...following a 900-mile sea voyage from Stennis Space Center in Mississippi that began last week. With Pegasus now parked hundreds of meters from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)—where SLS will be stacked over the coming months for its maiden flight (currently scheduled for as early as November 4)—crews will wait till this Thursday, April 29, to unload the booster from the barge and transport it to the VAB. The first big milestone after that should take place around May 11; when the core stage is mated to its twin solid rocket boosters (which have been assembled for flight since early March) atop the mobile launcher. Stay tuned.