Tag Archives: NASA

NASA’s 20-Year-Old Astronaut Hiring Procedures Still Work Today

By Nate Regier – PCM (Process Communication Model) conceptualizes personality as comprising of six types, all of which exist within each of us and are arranged like the floors of a condominium, with our core or “base” type at the bottom, moving up through each floor to the least-accessed trait at the top, or attic.

Each floor has unique attributes, including a perceptual frame of reference, character strengths, communication and environmental preferences, motivational needs and highly predictable distress behaviors. more> http://tinyurl.com/nm4ruy6

How a bunch of government space geeks at NASA won the internet

By Adam Epstein – How exactly NASA stumbled upon perhaps the greatest social-media strategy of our time is a story of both blind luck and shrewd management. And the NASA social behemoth wasn’t always a behemoth.

The year is 2008. Newspapers are folding left and right. Science reporting is a dying profession.

Veronica McGregor, the head of communications at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, needs to figure out how to get as many people as possible to notice that man is placing a large piece of machinery on an alien world after a 422-million-mile journey through space.

The masters of this social-media universe are John Yembrick and his deputy, Jason Townsend. Both are veterans of other government agencies. more> http://tinyurl.com/opsamjy

The Long, Strange Trip to Pluto, and How NASA Nearly Missed It

By Kenneth Chang – The flyby of Pluto last week by NASA‘s New Horizons spacecraft is rightly celebrated as a triumph of human ingenuity, the capstone of a mission that unfolded nearly flawlessly.

Yet it almost did not happen, which would have left Pluto as just a hazy dot of light.

New Horizons overcame skeptical NASA officials, repeated threats to its funding, laboratory troubles that constricted the amount of plutonium available to power the spacecraft and an unforgiving deadline set by the clockwork of the planets.

Though none of the obstacles packed the drama of space-exploration crises like the Apollo 13 mission, their number and magnitude seemed unbelievable. more> http://tinyurl.com/pnwyfje

NASA Memory Lane (48)

April 13, 1970.

Mission Control, Houston, April 13, 1970

NASA – Apollo 13, NASA’s third crewed mission to the moon, launched on April 11, 1970. Two days later, on April 13, while the mission was en route to the moon, a fault in the electrical system of one of the Service Module’s oxygen tanks produced an explosion that caused both oxygen tanks to fail and also led to a loss of electrical power.

The Command Module remained functional on its own batteries and oxygen tank, but these were usable only during the last hours of the mission. The crew shut down the Command Module and used the Lunar Module as a “lifeboat” during the return trip to Earth. Despite great hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, and a shortage of potable water, the crew returned to Earth, and the mission was termed a “successful failure.”

This photograph of the Mission Operations Control Room in the Mission Control Center at the Manned Spacecraft Center (now Johnson Space Center), Houston, was taken on April 13, 1970, during the fourth television transmission from the Apollo 13 mission. Eugene F. Kranz (foreground, back to camera), one of four Apollo 13 flight directors, views the large screen at front as astronaut Fred W. Haise Jr., Lunar Module pilot, is seen on the screen.

More: The Flight of Apollo 13

Views from the Solar System (254)

Layers and Dark Dunes on the Surface of Mars

NASA – This image of a circular depression on the surface of Mars was acquired on Jan. 5, 2015 by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since March 2006 and completed its 40,000th orbit around Mars on Feb. 7, 2015.

The target of this observation is a circular depression in a dark-toned unit associated with a field of cones to the northeast. At the scale of an image taken by MRO’s Context Camera, which provides wide area views to provide context for high-resolution analysis, the depression appears to expose layers especially on the sides or walls, which are overlain by dark sands presumably associated with the dark-toned unit. The HiRISE camera’s resolution, which is far higher than that of the Context Camera and its larger footprint, can help identify possible layers.

HiRISE is one of six instruments on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

More information and image products

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Caption: HiRISE Science Team

NASA Memory Lane (47)

April 9, 1959.

The Mercury Astronauts

NASA – On April 9, 1959, NASA’s first administrator, Dr. Keith Glennan, announced the names of the agency’s first group of astronauts at a news conference in Washington, D.C. Now known as the “Original Seven,” they included three Naval aviators, M. Scott Carpenter, Walter M. Schirra Jr., and Alan B. Shepard Jr.; three Air Force pilots, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom, and Donald K. (Deke) Slayton; along with Marine Corps aviator John H. Glenn Jr.

This group photo of the original Mercury astronauts was taken in June 1963 at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), now Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas. The astronauts are, left-to-right: Cooper, Schirra, Shepard, Grissom, Glenn, Slayton and Carpenter.

Project Mercury became NASA’s first major undertaking. The objectives of the program were to place a human-rated spacecraft into orbit around Earth, observe the astronaut’s performance in such conditions and safely recover the astronaut and the spacecraft. The Mercury flights proved that humans could live and work in space, and paved the way for the Gemini and Apollo programs as well as for all further human spaceflight.

NASA technology (113)

Pushing the Boundaries of Propelling Deep Space Missions

NASA – Engineers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center are advancing the propulsion system that will propel the first ever mission to redirect an asteroid for astronauts to explore in the 2020s. NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission will test a number of new capabilities, like advanced Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP), needed for future astronaut expeditions into deep space, including to Mars.

The Hall thruster is part of an SEP system that uses 10 times less propellant than equivalent chemical rockets. In a recent test, engineers from Glenn and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, using a Glenn vacuum chamber to simulate the space environment, successfully tested a new, higher power Hall thruster design, which is more efficient and has longer life. “We proved that this thruster can process three times the power of previous designs and increase efficiency by 50 percent,” said Dan Herman, Electric Propulsion Subsystem lead.

Hall thrusters trap electrons in a magnetic field and use them to ionize the onboard propellant. The magnetic field also generates an electric field that accelerates the charged ions creating an exhaust plume of plasma that pushes the spacecraft forward. This method delivers cost-effective, safe and highly efficient in-space propulsion for long duration missions. In addition to propelling an asteroid mission, this new thruster could be used to send large amounts of cargo, habitats and other architectures in support of human missions to Mars.

Image Credit: NASA
Michelle M. Murphy (Wyle Information Systems, LLC)

Galactic Views (156)


Hubble Views a Galaxy on Edge

NASA – This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows an edge-on view of the spiral galaxy NGC 5023. Due to its orientation we cannot appreciate its spiral arms, but we can admire the elegant profile of its disk. The galaxy lies over 30 million light-years away from us.

NGC 5023 is part of the M51 group of galaxies. The brightest galaxy in this group is Messier 51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, which has been captured by Hubble many times. NGC 5023 is less fond of the limelight and seems rather unsociable in comparison — it is relatively isolated from the other galaxies in the group.

Astronomers are particularly interested in the vertical structure of disks like these. By analyzing the structure above and below the central plane of the galaxy they can make progress in understanding galaxy evolution. Astronomers are able to analyze the distribution of different types of stars within the galaxy and their properties, in particular how well evolved they are on the Hertzsprung–Russell Diagram — a scatter graph of stars that shows their evolution.

NGC 5023 is one of six edge-on spiral galaxies observed as part of a study using Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. They study this vertical distribution and find a trend which suggests that heating of the disc plays an important role in producing the stars seen away from the plane of the galaxy.

In fact, NGC 5023 is pretty popular when it comes to astronomers, despite its unsociable behavior. The galaxy is also one of 14 disk galaxies that are part of the GHOSTS survey — a survey which uses Hubble data to study galaxy halos, outer disks and star clusters. It is the largest study to date of star populations in the outskirts of disk galaxies.

The incredible sharp sight of Hubble has allowed scientist to count more than 30,000 individual bright stars in this image. This is only a small fraction of the several billion stars that this galaxy contains, but the others are too faint to detect individually even with Hubble.

European Space Agency

Credit: ESA/NASA

Space Launch System (32)

Astronaut Spacesuit Testing for Orion Spacecraft

NASA – Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston are testing the spacesuit astronauts will wear in the agency’s Orion spacecraft on trips to deep space. On March 17, members of the Johnson team participated in a Vacuum Pressure Integrated Suit Test to verify enhancements to the suit will meet test and design standards for the Orion spacecraft.  During this test, the suit is connected to life support systems and then air is removed from Johnson’s 11-foot thermal vacuum chamber to evaluate the performance of the suits in conditions similar to a spacecraft. The suit, known as the Modified Advanced Crew Escape Suit, is a closed-loop version of the launch and entry suits worn by space shuttle astronauts. The suit will contain all the necessary functions to support life and is being designed to enable spacewalks and sustain the crew in the unlikely event the spacecraft loses pressure.

This is the first in a series of four tests with people in the suits to evaluate the performance of the spacesuit systems in an environment similar to a spacecraft. Learn more about where the suits are tested or track all of the latest news at www.nasa.gov/orion.

Image Credit: NASA/ Bill Stafford 

Views from the Solar System (253)

Mars ‘Marathon Valley’ Overlook

NASA – This view from NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows part of “Marathon Valley,” a destination on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, as seen from an overlook north of the valley.

The scene spans from east, at left, to southeast. It combines four pointings of the rover’s panoramic camera (Pancam) on March 13, 2015, during the 3,958th Martian day, or sol, of Opportunity’s work on Mars.

The rover team selected Marathon Valley as a science destination because observations of this location using the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter yielded evidence of clay minerals, a clue to ancient wet environments. By the time Opportunity explores Marathon Valley, the rover will have exceeded a total driving distance equivalent to an Olympic marathon. Opportunity has been exploring the Meridiani Planum region of Mars since January 2004.

This version of the image is presented in approximate true color by combining exposures taken through three of the Pancam’s color filters at each of the four camera pointings, using filters centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near-infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet).

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.