NASA News for The Two Weeks Ending April 15, 2022
- Reflecting on a record-setting spaceflight …
- An update on prelaunch activities for Artemis I …
- And launching the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station … a few of the stories to tell you about – This Week at NASA!
- Testing our mega Moon rocket and ground systems …
- Preparing the James Webb Space Telescope for science …
- And testing an instrument for future X-59 research … a few of the stories to tell you about – This Week at NASA!
Vande Hei Reflects on Record-Setting Spaceflight
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is safely back on Earth following his record-setting 355-day mission aboard the International Space Station – the longest single spaceflight in history by an American astronaut. Our Johnson Space Center hosted a virtual news conference on April 5, during which Vande Hei reflected on his mission.
“It was not about any record for me at all. It (was) just the opportunity to work with a really good sense of purpose in a job where we get to help out all of humanity. The number of days was not that important to me, and I think that helped me react to whether it was going to – to be comfortable with it being either a shorter mission or a longer mission, like it turned out to be.”—Mark Vande Hei, NASA Astronaut
Data from Vande Hei’s mission will help us prepare for the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body, as we continue our plans to return astronauts to the Moon under the Artemis program, in preparation for eventual human missions to Mars.
Artemis I Wet Dress Rehearsal Update
As of April 5, teams at our Kennedy Space Center were preparing for the next attempt at the Artemis I wet dress rehearsal test with our Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, pending range availability and restoration of propellants and gases during the test. Engineers did accomplish several test objectives during two previous test runs that will help prepare teams and the integrated systems for launch. This wet dress rehearsal marks the first use of new systems at Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39B and is the last major test before the uncrewed Artemis I launch.
First Private Astronaut Mission to the Space Station
On April 8, the crew of Axiom Mission 1 or Ax-1, the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station, lifted off aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft from our Kennedy Space Center. During the 10-day mission, the Ax-1 crew will spend eight days on the space station, conducting scientific research, outreach, and commercial activities. The mission represents both a culmination of NASA’s efforts to foster a commercial market in low-Earth orbit and a beginning of a new era of space exploration that enables more people to fly on more kinds of missions.
Final Hot-Fire Test of Orion’s Launch Abort System Motor
Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin engineers recently conducted a final hot-fire test in Promontory, Utah of the abort motor built for the launch abort system on NASA’s Orion spacecraft, qualifying the system for missions with crew beginning with Artemis II. In the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent, the launch abort system is designed to safely lift Orion and its crew away from the launch vehicle.
NASA at 37th Space Symposium
NASA was well represented at the Space Foundation’s 37th Space Symposium, April 5-7 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Our Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy gave a speech highlighting our Moon to Mars strategy. There was also a panel discussion about our Artemis program working with industry partners to help build the space economy. Meanwhile, the team for our OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission received the 2022 John L. “Jack” Swigert, Jr., Award for Space Exploration in recognition of the mission’s extraordinary accomplishments in space exploration, and discoveries made at asteroid Bennu.
Testing Our Mega Moon Rocket and Ground Systems
From April 12-14, NASA conducted a modified wet dress rehearsal for the agency’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft on Launch Pad 39B at our Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of the uncrewed Artemis I Moon mission. The multi-day wet dress rehearsal focused on loading fuel into the rocket’s core stage tanks, refining countdown procedures, and validating critical models and software interfaces. In addition to the two recent test runs for wet dress rehearsal, this modified test allowed teams to practice operations critical to launch success ahead of the Artemis I mission.
Continuing to Cool the James Webb Space Telescope
On April 7, the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) aboard the James Webb Space Telescope reached a cooling milestone as it prepares for science this summer. With the assistance of a cryocooler, the instrument reached its final operating temperature of less than 7 kelvins (minus 447 degrees Fahrenheit), that’s just a few degrees above the lowest temperature matter can reach. Webb’s four science instruments, including MIRI, initially cooled off in the shade of the tennis-court-size sunshield, but making the final temperature drop is essential for the observatory’s only mid-infrared instrument that will play a key role in understanding the origins of stars and planets.
Shock-Sensing Flight Instrument for Future X-59 Research
NASA conducted a series of flight tests at our Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, to evaluate improvements made to a shock-sensing probe designed to measure the unique shock waves that our quiet supersonic X-59 aircraft will generate during flight. The probe was mounted on the nose of a NASA F-15 research aircraft to measure shock waves from a NASA F-18, using flight techniques that will test the X-59’s shockwaves during the future acoustic validation phase of quiet supersonic flight.
Hubble Space Telescope Confirms Size of Massive Comet
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has determined the size of the largest icy comet nucleus ever seen by astronomers. The estimated diameter of behemoth comet C/2014 UN271 is approximately 80 miles across, making it larger than the state of Rhode Island! Using a series of five Hubble images taken of the comet in January 2022 combined with a computer model of the surrounding dusty coma, scientists revealed a massive, but measurable, starlike nucleus that is about 50 times larger than what’s found at the heart of most known comets.
Lucy Spacecraft Obtains New Calibration Images
On Feb. 14, NASA’s Lucy spacecraft obtained a series of calibration images with its four visible-light cameras. While the first test images were taken shortly after launch, the February tests were much more extensive. Using its Instrument Pointing Platform, Lucy pointed at 11 different star fields to test camera performance and sensitivity, as well as the spacecraft’s ability to point accurately in different directions. Lucy, which launched in October 2021, is the first space mission set to explore a diverse population of small bodies known as the Trojan asteroids.
That’s what’s up this week @NASA … For more on these and other stories, follow us on the web at nasa.gov/twan.