All posts by JD Taylor

NASA Television to Air Launch of Next Record-Breaking U.S. Astronaut

March 10, 2016
NASA Television to Air Launch of Next Record-Breaking U.S. Astronaut

Expedition 47 crew members NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, and cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexei Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos pose for a photograph before their Soyuz qualification exams Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.

Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls

On a second American record-breaking mission for 2016, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station at 5:26 p.m. EDT Friday, March 18, with cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka of the Russian space agency Roscosmos from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. NASA Television launch coverage will begin at 4:30 p.m.

During his six-month mission, Williams will become the new American record holder for cumulative days in space — 534 — surpassing Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly, who wrapped up his one-year mission on March 1. Williams will take command of the station on June 4 for Expedition 48. This will be his third space station expedition — another record.

The three will travel in a Soyuz spacecraft, rendezvousing with the space station six hours after launch. They’ll dock to the station’s Poisk module at 11:12 p.m. NASA TV coverage of docking will begin at 10:30 p.m.

The hatches between the Soyuz and station will be opened less than two hours later at about 12:55 a.m. Saturday, March 19, when the newly arrived crew members will be greeted by Expedition 47 Commander Tim Kopra of NASA and Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos and Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency). NASA TV coverage of the hatch opening will begin at 12:30 a.m.

Together, the Expedition 47 crew members will continue the several hundred experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science currently underway and scheduled to take place aboard humanity’s only orbiting laboratory. Williams, Ovchinin and Skripochka are scheduled to spend six months on the station, returning to Earth in early September 2016.

For the full schedule of prelaunch, launch and docking coverage, visit:

Follow the space station crew members on Instagram and Twitter at:



NASA news releases are written and distributed by NASA and reprinted here by USA in Space to allow easy access to the content and to provide an archive of the information.

NASA Selects Instruments to Study Air Pollution, Tropical

March 10, 2016
RELEASE 16-025
NASA Selects Instruments to Study Air Pollution, Tropical Cyclones

The Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) investigation, 12 CubeSats about a foot long each, will study the development of tropical cyclones by taking measurements of temperature, precipitation and cloud properties as often as every 21 minutes.

Credits: MIT Lincoln Laboratory

NASA has selected two proposals for new Earth science investigations that will put new instruments in low-Earth orbit to track harmful particulate air pollutants and study the development of tropical cyclones.

Observations of small atmospheric aerosols from the Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) will be combined with health information to determine the toxicity of different particulate matter types in airborne pollutants over the world’s major cities. David Diner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, is the principal investigator.

The Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) investigation will develop and launch a constellation of CubeSats to study the development of tropical cyclones through rapid-revisit sampling. William Blackwell of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington is the principal investigator.

The instruments were competitively selected from 14 proposals submitted to NASA’s Earth Venture Instrument-3 program. Earth Venture investigations are small, targeted science investigations that complement NASA’s larger missions. The National Research Council recommended in 2007 that NASA undertake this type of regularly solicited, quick-turnaround project.

“We are excited to make selections that expand the use of CubeSats for Earth sciences and that make measurements and perform analyses that will have direct societal benefit,” said Geoffrey Yoder, deputy associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “These innovative Earth Venture Instruments will join and expand our growing suite of NASA Earth-observing sensors.”

MAIA uses a twin-camera instrument that will make radiometric and polarimetric measurements needed to characterize the sizes, compositions, and quantities of particulate matter in air pollution. As part of the MAIA investigation, researchers will combine MAIA measurements with population health records to better understand the connections between aerosol pollutants and health problems such as adverse birth outcomes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and premature deaths.

The MAIA team has extensive experience in polarimetry, air pollution, and human health. Diner has led numerous polarimetry observations from sub-orbital platforms throughout his career. The team includes partnerships with NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, as well as several universities, federal research organizations and international partners.

TROPICS will consist of 12 CubeSats, each about one foot long and weighing just 8.5 pounds, that use scanning microwave radiometers to measure temperature, humidity, precipitation and cloud properties. The CubeSats will be launched into three separate orbital planes to enable the overall constellation to monitor changes in tropical cyclones as frequently as every 21 minutes.

The TROPICS team has previous experience developing CubeSats and analyzing satellite measurements of storms, and includes partnerships with NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia, Goddard, several universities and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The two investigations were selected from NASA’s third Earth Venture Instrument competition. The first Earth Venture Instrument investigation, selected in 2012, the Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) mission, will be the first space-based sensor to monitor major chemical air pollutants across North American hourly during daytime. It will share a ride on a commercial satellite as a hosted payload and orbit about 22,000 miles above the equator.

The second set of investigations selected in 2014 were the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) and ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS). These instruments will measure changes in global vegetation from the International Space Station, illuminating how forests and ecosystems are affected by changes in climate and land use.

Earth Venture missions are managed by NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder program located at Langley for the Science Mission Directorate. The missions in this program provide an innovative approach to address Earth science research with periodic windows of opportunity to accommodate new scientific priorities. For more information, visit:

NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives, and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities, visit:


NASA news releases are written and distributed by NASA and reprinted here by USA in Space to allow easy access to the content and to provide an archive of the information.

NASA Announces Winning Concepts to Further its Journey to Mars

March 09, 2016
RELEASE 16-028
NASA Announces Winning Concepts to Further its Journey to Mars

NASA has announced the winners of two challenges to create new concepts for construction and human habitation on future space exploration missions, including the agency’s journey to Mars.

The Space Suit Textile Testing and In-Situ Materials Challenges, managed for NASA by NineSigma, launched in October 2015 under the umbrella of the NASA Tournament Lab, yielded innovative concepts for spacesuit testing and in-situ building materials use for habitat construction.

“These two challenges offered the opportunity to think about two basic needs of exploration – protective suits and building materials – in a new way,” said Steve Rader, deputy manager of NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI). “Our journey to Mars will require innovations in design and technology; opening our process up to the public gives us more creative paths to follow.”

The Space Suit Textile Testing Challenge offered three prizes of $5,000 for winning ideas on how to test the outer protective layer of spacesuit material for performance in different kinds of planetary environments, such as like Mars or large asteroids.

Winners for the Space Suit Textile Testing Challenge are:

  • Evaluating Space Suit Textile Abrasion in Planetary Environments — Ahilan Anantha Krishnan
  • Cylindrical Abrasion Method — Himel Barua, Thomas L. Collins, Riniah Foor, Evan Hess, Joey Stavale, Christopher Daniels, Heather Oravec, Janice Mather and M.J. Braun
  • Point-of-Failure Based System Using High Velocity Abrasives — John Holler

The In-Situ Challenge sought solutions using surface materials like regolith — crushed basalt rock — for Earth and space fabrication and construction applications and offered a first-place prize of $10,000 and two second-place prizes of $2,500 for top submissions.

Using native materials for construction is tremendously beneficial for space exploration because in-situ regolith utilization (ISRU) reduces the need for materials to be shipped from Earth, along with the expense and resources this requires. ISRU could potentially save the agency more than $100,000 per kilogram to launch, making space pioneering more cost-effective and feasible.

The winners for the In Situ Challenge are:

  • 1st place: Planetary Fabrication of Complex Metallic/Ceramic Objects with In-Situ Resources — Behrokh Khoshnevis
  • 2nd place: Cold Spray Technology Applied to Building and Repair — David Espinosa and David Orlebeke
  • 2nd place: Simultaneous Exhaust-Enabled Ore Reduction, Separation and Processing — Patrick Donovan

“We are proud to have connected NASA with innovators that have immediately viable technical solutions in a variety of disciplines to accelerate NASA’s goals,” said NineSigma CEO, Andy Zynga. We are also pleased to have created opportunities for winners of these challenges to collaborate with NASA in shaping the future of space exploration.”

CoECI was established with support from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to assist NASA and other federal agencies in using new tools – such as challenges – to solve tough, mission-critical problems. The center launches challenges under the umbrella of the NASA Tournament Lab and offers a variety of open innovation platforms that engage the crowdsourcing community in challenges to create the most innovative, efficient and optimal solutions for specific, real-world challenges.

For more information on NASA challenges, visit:


NASA news releases are written and distributed by NASA and reprinted here by USA in Space to allow easy access to the content and to provide an archive of the information.

NASA Targets May 2018 Launch of Mars InSight Mission

16-026March 09, 2016
RELEASE 16-026
NASA Targets May 2018 Launch of Mars InSight Mission


NASA has set a new launch opportunity, beginning May 5, 2018, for the InSight mission to Mars. This artist’s concept depicts the InSight lander on Mars after the lander’s robotic arm has deployed a seismometer and a heat probe directly onto the ground. InSight is the first mission dedicated to investigating the deep interior of Mars. The findings will advance understanding of how all rocky planets, including Earth, formed and evolved.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission to study the deep interior of Mars is targeting a new launch window that begins May 5, 2018, with a Mars landing scheduled for Nov. 26, 2018.

InSight’s primary goal is to help us understand how rocky planets – including Earth – formed and evolved. The spacecraft had been on track to launch this month until a vacuum leak in its prime science instrument prompted NASA in December to suspend preparations for launch.

InSight project managers recently briefed officials at NASA and France’s space agency, Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), on a path forward; the proposed plan to redesign the science instrument was accepted in support of a 2018 launch.

“The science goals of InSight are compelling, and the NASA and CNES plans to overcome the technical challenges are sound,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The quest to understand the interior of Mars has been a longstanding goal of planetary scientists for decades. We’re excited to be back on the path for a launch, now in 2018.”

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, will redesign, build and conduct qualifications of the new vacuum enclosure for the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), the component that failed in December. CNES will lead instrument level integration and test activities, allowing the InSight Project to take advantage of each organization’s proven strengths. The two agencies have worked closely together to establish a project schedule that accommodates these plans, and scheduled interim reviews over the next six months to assess technical progress and continued feasibility.

The cost of the two-year delay is being assessed. An estimate is expected in August, once arrangements with the launch vehicle provider have been made.

The seismometer instrument’s main sensors need to operate within a vacuum chamber to provide the exquisite sensitivity needed for measuring ground movements as small as half the radius of a hydrogen atom. The rework of the seismometer’s vacuum container will result in a finished, thoroughly tested instrument in 2017 that will maintain a high degree of vacuum around the sensors through rigors of launch, landing, deployment and a two-year prime mission on the surface of Mars.

The InSight mission draws upon a strong international partnership led by Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of JPL. The lander’s Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package is provided by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). This probe will hammer itself to a depth of about 16 feet (five meters) into the ground beside the lander.

SEIS was built with the participation of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, with support from the Swiss Space Office and the European Space Agency PRODEX program; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, supported by DLR; Imperial College, supported by the United Kingdom Space Agency; and JPL.

“The shared and renewed commitment to this mission continues our collaboration to find clues in the heart of Mars about the early evolution of our solar system,” said Marc Pircher, director of CNES’s Toulouse Space Centre.

The mission’s international science team includes researchers from Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The InSight spacecraft, including cruise stage and lander, was built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver. It was delivered to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, in December 2015 in preparation for launch, and returned to Lockheed Martin’s Colorado facility last month for storage until spacecraft preparations resume in 2017.

NASA is on an ambitious journey to Mars that includes sending humans to the Red Planet, and that work remains on track. Robotic spacecraft are leading the way for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, with the upcoming Mars 2020 rover being designed and built, the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers exploring the Martian surface, the Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft currently orbiting the planet, along with the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) orbiter, which is helping scientists understand what happened to the Martian atmosphere.

NASA and CNES also are participating in ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) Mars Express mission currently operating at Mars. NASA is participating on ESA’s 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions, including providing telecommunication radios for ESA’s 2016 orbiter and a critical element of a key astrobiology instrument on the 2018 ExoMars rover.

For addition information about the mission, visit:

More information about NASA’s journey to Mars is available online at:


NASA news releases are written and distributed by NASA and reprinted here by USA in Space to allow easy access to the content and to provide an archive of the information.

NASA Begins Work to Build a Quieter Supersonic Passenger Jet

February 29, 2016
RELEASE 16-022
NASA Begins Work to Build a Quieter Supersonic Passenger Jet

This is an artist’s concept of a possible Low Boom Flight Demonstration Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) X-plane design. The award of a preliminary design contract is the first step towards the possible return of supersonic passenger travel – but this time quieter and more affordable.

Credits: Lockheed Martin

The return of supersonic passenger air travel is one step closer to reality with NASA’s award of a contract for the preliminary design of a “low boom” flight demonstration aircraft. This is the first in a series of ‘X-planes’ in NASA’s New Aviation Horizons initiative, introduced in the agency’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced the award at an event Monday at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia.

“NASA is working hard to make flight greener, safer and quieter – all while developing aircraft that travel faster, and building an aviation system that operates more efficiently,” said Bolden. “To that end, it’s worth noting that it’s been almost 70 years since Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 as part of our predecessor agency’s high speed research. Now we’re continuing that supersonic X-plane legacy with this preliminary design award for a quieter supersonic jet with an aim toward passenger flight.”

NASA selected a team led by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Palmdale, California, to complete a preliminary design for Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST). The work will be conducted under a task order against the Basic and Applied Aerospace Research and Technology (BAART) contract at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

After conducting feasibility studies and working to better understand acceptable sound levels across the country, NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology Project asked industry teams to submit design concepts for a piloted test aircraft that can fly at supersonic speeds, creating a supersonic “heartbeat” — a soft thump rather than the disruptive boom currently associated with supersonic flight.

“Developing, building and flight testing a quiet supersonic X-plane is the next logical step in our path to enabling the industry’s decision to open supersonic travel for the flying public,” said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission.

Lockheed Martin will receive about $20 million over 17 months for QueSST preliminary design work. The Lockheed Martin team includes subcontractors GE Aviation of Cincinnati and Tri Models Inc. of Huntington Beach, California.

The company will develop baseline aircraft requirements and a preliminary aircraft design, with specifications, and provide supporting documentation for concept formulation and planning. This documentation would be used to prepare for the detailed design, building and testing of the QueSST jet. Performance of this preliminary design also must undergo analytical and wind tunnel validation.

In addition to design and building, this Low Boom Flight Demonstration (LBFD) phase of the project also will include validation of community response to the new, quieter supersonic design. The detailed design and building of the QueSST aircraft, conducted under the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s Integrated Aviation Systems Program, will fall under a future contract competition.

NASA’s 10-year New Aviation Horizons initiative has the ambitious goals of reducing fuel use, emissions and noise through innovations in aircraft design that departs from the conventional tube-and-wing aircraft shape.

The New Aviation Horizons X-planes will typically be about half-scale of a production aircraft and likely are to be piloted. Design-and-build will take several years with aircraft starting their flight campaign around 2020, depending on funding.

For more information about NASA’s aeronautics research, visit:


NASA news releases are written and distributed by NASA and USA in Space reprinted here to allow all access to it and to provide an archive of the information.

NASA, UN Announce Final Winner of #whyspacematters Photo Competition

February 23, 2016
RELEASE 16-021
NASA, UN Announce Final Winner of #whyspacematters Photo Competition

Each month, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly will announce the winning photo of the #whyspacematters competition by posting it to his Instagram account @StationCDRKelly.

Credits: UNOOSA

As astronaut Scott Kelly’s one-year mission aboard the International Space Station draws to a close, NASA and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) are announcing the final winner of a global photography competition highlighting how the vantage point of space helps us better understand our home planet and provide benefits to humanity.

NASA and UNOOSA invited the public to submit photos depicting why space matters to us all in our daily lives as a way to highlight the application of space-based science and technologies. In response, hundreds of participants from around the world posted pictures on Instagram using the hashtag #whyspacematters.

Kelly, who is scheduled to depart the space station and return to Earth on March 1, announced winning photos each month by posting them from his Instagram account @StationCDRKelly.

“Of course, I think space matters in a multitude of ways, but it’s been inspiring to see this proof that you don’t have to be an astronaut to recognize that,” Kelly said. “Space technology and research is impacting the lives of people around the world. Over the past year, I’ve been able to play a personal role in some of that research, and by speaking up about why it’s important, everyone who participated has played a part of their own.”

The winning photos for each month, from June 2015 to January, ranged from a striking Earth-bound, long-exposure image of the night sky in December to a view of solar panels on a roof in Mexico in September, to a photo of a female Nigerian firefighter using a NASA-developed breathing apparatus in June.

To view all of the winning photos, and read the associated stories from the #whyspacematters competition, visit:

Kelly and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko have spent nearly a year in space to improve our understanding of the medical, psychological and biomedical challenges faced by astronauts during long-duration spaceflight, an important step in research into the effects of long-term space habitation as part of NASA’s Journey to Mars.

“It was an honor to have Scott Kelly share his experience in space with the United Nations. This campaign helped to promote the use of space science and technologies in such areas as disaster risk reduction, tracking the effects of climate change and in the equality of access to education and telemedicine,” said UNOOSA Director Simonetta Di Pippo.

Scientists worldwide use NASA data to tackle some of the biggest questions about how our planet is changing now and how Earth could change in the future. From rising sea levels to the changing availability of freshwater, NASA enables studies that unravel the complexities of our planet from the highest reaches of Earth’s atmosphere to its core.

The International Space Station is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that enables us to demonstrate new technologies and make research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. It has been continuously occupied since November 2000 and, since then, has been visited by more than 200 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft. The space station remains the springboard to NASA’s next giant leap in exploration, including future missions to an asteroid and Mars.

For more information about the International Space Station and its crews and research, visit:


NASA news releases are written and distributed by NASA and USA in Space reprinted here to allow all access to it and to provide an archive of the information.

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly Talks One-Year Mission in Final In-Space News Conference

February 22, 2016
NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly Talks One-Year Mission in Final In-Space News Conference

Scott Kelly

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly inside the cupola of the International Space Station, a special module that provides a 360-degree viewing of the Earth and the station. Kelly will return to Earth on March 1, marking completion of a 340-day mission in space.

Credits: NASA

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s final news conference from orbit will air live on NASA Television at 12:05 p.m. EST Thursday, Feb. 25.

The 30-minute news conference will take place less than a week before Kelly returns to Earth from the International Space Station, marking the completion of a 340-day mission. Media may ask questions from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston or Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as well as by phone.

To attend the briefing at Johnson, media must request credentials from the Johnson newsroom at 281-481-5111 no later than 9 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25. To ask questions by phone, media must call the Johnson newsroom no later than 11:45 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25. Accreditation for international media is closed for this event.

All media accreditation requests for Kennedy must be submitted by 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 24 online at:

All media representatives must present two forms of unexpired legal, government identification to access Kennedy. One form must include a photo, such as a passport or driver’s license. Questions about accreditation should be directed to Jennifer Horner at or 321-867-6598.

Kelly launched to the space station March 27, 2015, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and is set to return on Tuesday, March 1. He will land in Kazakhstan at 11:27 p.m. (10:27 a.m. Kazakhstan time on March 2) with his one-year crewmate, cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and cosmonaut Sergey Volkov, also of Roscosmos. Kelly will return to Houston’s Ellington Field on Wednesday, March 2.

After landing, Kelly will hold the record among U.S. astronauts for cumulative time in space, with 520 days. During their record-setting mission, Kelly and Kornienko participated in a number of studies to provide new insights into how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and the stress of long-duration spaceflight, which will include the Journey to Mars. Kelly’s twin brother, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, participated in parallel twin studies on Earth to help scientists compare the effects on the body and mind in space.

For NASA TV streaming video, schedule and downlink information, visit: 

For more information about the International Space Station and its crew, visit:  


NASA news releases are written and distributed by NASA and USA in Space reprinted here to allow all access to it and to provide an archive of the information.

Media Accreditation Open for Next Commercial Space Station Cargo Mission

January 29, 2016
Media Accreditation Open for Next Commercial Space Station Cargo Mission

A transporter carries the Orbital ATK Cygnus pressurized cargo module, sealed inside a shipping container, to the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The module will soon begin preflight preparations for its upcoming mission to carry hardware and supplies on the company’s Commercial Resupply Services flight to the International Space Station.

Credits: NASA/Charles Babir

NASA has opened media accreditation for the next launch of a commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. The launch of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled for Thursday, March 10, during a 30-minute window that opens at approximately 3 a.m. EST.

Cygnus will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida. The spacecraft will carry crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory to support the Expedition 47 and 48 crews.

Media prelaunch and launch activities will take place at CCAFS and NASA’s nearby Kennedy Space Center. For media only, the deadline to apply for access to CCAFS is 5 p.m. Feb. 18 for U.S. citizens and Feb. 5 for non-citizens. The deadline to apply for media access to Kennedy is 5 p.m. on March 1 for U.S. citizens and Feb. 22 for non-citizens.

All media accreditation requests for Kennedy must be submitted online at:

International media are required to upload a scanned copy of their visa and passport or green card when submitting their online accreditation request.

All media representatives must present two forms of unexpired legal, government identification to access Kennedy. One form must include a photo, such as a passport or driver’s license. Questions about accreditation should be directed to Jennifer Horner at or 321-867-6598.

For other questions or additional information, contact the Kennedy newsroom at 321-867-2468.

This launch is the fifth contracted mission by Orbital ATK under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract and will be followed later this year by an Orbital ATK resupply mission launching from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia.

Science payloads heading to the space station on this launch include:

  • the second generation of a portable onboard printer to demonstrate 3-D printing;
  • an instrument for first space-based observations of the chemical composition of meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere; and
  • an experiment to ignite and study a large-scale fire inside an empty Cygnus resupply vehicle after it leaves the space station and before it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere to improving understanding of fire growth in microgravity and safeguarding future space missions.

The International Space Station is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that demonstrates new technologies and makes research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. The space station has been occupied continuously since November 2000. In that time, more than 200 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft have visited the orbiting laboratory. The space station remains the springboard to NASA’s next great leap in exploration, including future missions to an asteroid and Mars.

For NASA TV schedule and video streaming information, visit:

For launch countdown coverage, NASA’s launch blog, and more information about the mission, visit:


NASA news releases are written and distributed by NASA and USA in Space reprinted here to allow all access to it and to provide an archive of the information.

Preview: Andy Weir’s ‘The Martian’

JULY 30TH, 2015

It is the movie many space tech enthusiasts have been waiting for: a big-screen adaptation of Andy Weir’s book “The Martian”. Directed by Ridley Scott, the movie, like the book, promises to be a technically-accurate, action-packed story of human ingenuity and endurance on Mars. Originally set for a November 25 release, it has been moved up to October 2.

So you thought Tom Hanks had it rough surviving on an uninhabited island in “Cast Away”? Try being left for dead on Mars, stranded on a barely habitable planet with a handful of potatoes and no hope for rescue within the next four years. That’s what happens to astronaut Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, during one of the first human expeditions to the Red Planet.

Matt Damon as astronaut Mark Watney walks across the dusty plains of the Red Planet in 20th Century Fox’s The Martian. Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Watney is presumed dead when the rest of his crew is forced to evacuate during a fierce dust storm. Left with no communications and little air, water or food, Watney’s slim-to-nothing chance for rescue will require that he engineer a 1,864 mile (3,000 km) trek across the planet for a potential rendezvous with the next crewed mission.

Weir’s book has been praised for its realism, but there has been some disagreement as to whether the storms on Mars would carry so much destructive force in such a thin atmosphere, but it does set the stage for the rest of the story.

In fact, when this reporter (for SpaceFlight Insider and USA in Space) asked Weir if he would change anything in the movie, he told me, “Yeah, I’d replace the sandstorm at the beginning with an engine test failure. A real Martian sandstorm can’t cause damage like what’s shown in the story.”

“Mostly, my job was just to cash the check,” Weir said when he was asked if had been involved with the movie’s development. “Though they did send me the screenplay to get my opinion. They are not required to listen to anything I have to say. They keep me updated on the production because they’re cool.”

Like the book, the movie promises to portray a technically accurate image of NASA’s future human missions to the Red Planet. The film places its protagonist in the same position as the crew in Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 or Ryan Stone in Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity.

To add to its credibility, NASA played a major role as advisors to the movie. Dr. James Green, NASA’s Director of Planetary Science, told this reporter how this collaboration came about. “Late May of last year, 20th Century Fox contacted NASA and asked them to look at the script and asked if they could provide advisors,” Green said. “The Martian is such a great book, from a number of aspects. NASA said, sure, we would be glad to help you. What do you need?”

According to Green, Ridley Scott really wanted to understand NASA’s concepts and concerns for the exploration of Mars. Dr. Green, with permission from NASA’s Public Affairs Office, was able to organize tours to give the filmmakers what they were looking for. He arranged a visit to Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Texas for Arthur Max, the movie’s Production Designer.

The spacecraft that is used to send Watney to Mars bears a strong resemblance to the International Space Station currently on orbit. Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

“I had him meet the top Mars human system designer, some of the NASA biologists that are into farming on Mars, and we took him through the habs (habitats),” said Green. “We talked about NASA’s approach to living on Mars and what the habs would look like on Mars. We have some mockups of those. Showed him some of the (Mars) touring vehicles […]. It was a very stimulating, free-flowing conversation, for a full day.”

Green said NASA has been thinking hard about human missions to Mars for the past couple of decades, having reached a full half-century of robotic operations there. “We have been all over Mars for quite a while,” he said. What we’re learning about the planet with unmanned missions is crucial for enabling future human exploration.

Weir visited NASA’s Johnson Space Center during the production of the adaptation. Photo Credit: Andy Weir

Both the novel and the space agency itself were speaking the same language in terms of the use of what is known and what is available in terms of exploring the Red Planet.

“So what I really liked about the book is that it leveraged a number of the same ideas that we have been perusing. It talked about the habitats on Mars; it talked about resources that are on Mars. It talked about exploration, that humans have a variety of tools and capabilities, they have rovers that can get them around,” Green said.

In The Martian, the spacecraft that is used to send the crew to Mars uses ion engines for transit between Earth and Mars, a technology NASA is now using extensively for robotic exploration.

Mars is similar to Earth in many ways, it has unbelievable vistas, enormous vistas and is the likely next step for humans in our migration beyond Earth. The movie gives NASA an opportunity to say, yes, Mars is like that, it has challenges, and beauty. It allows us to begin national and international dialog about going to Mars, and what we’re really doing in comparison to the movie.

“Here’s what the movie will do,” said Green. “I predict the movie will be tremendously popular. It will be popular because it is more realistic than any other Mars movie I have seen and it does not involve lasers, fast spacecraft, aliens, and dangerous robots that try to kill people or any of that, and yet tension and excitement will be just as high as any previous movies done about Mars. That is because it is all about honest exploration, taking a risk, stepping out.”

Video courtesy of 20th Century Fox

This article was originally written by JD Taylor, a reporter for USA in Space for SpaceFlight Insider and was edited and published by SpaceFlight Insider.  It is republished here with their permission.

Women In Space: Dr. Anna Fisher, One Of The ‘Original Six’

Fisher in front of a rack of spacesuits at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. Photo Credit: NASA

APRIL 30TH, 2015

SpaceFlight Insider and USA in Space recently had a chance to interview U.S. astronaut Dr. Anna Lee Tingle Fisher. In 1978, Dr. Fisher was in the first group of six women ever selected to be American astronauts. Prior to 1978, women were not allowed into NASA’s Astronaut Training Program. In fact, the only woman to have gone into space was Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, who went into space in 1963.

Dr. Fisher was selected for NASA’s Space Shuttle program. She was one of six women in a group of 35, known as NASA’s Astronaut Group 8. It had been almost 10 years since the Apollo era Group 7 was selected. NASA had decided that they no longer needed just military pilots, they needed people with a high degree of academics and now they wanted to include women in the selection process. All six women selected had doctorate degrees in ‘STEM‘ (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields or in medicine. They were both highly educated and motivated.

Fisher’s official NASA portrait. Photo Credit: NASA

Dr. Fisher is a chemist, a medical doctor, specializing in emergency medicine, and is a NASA astronaut. Today, at the age of 65, Fisher is the oldest active American astronaut. During her career at NASA, she has been involved with three major programs: the Shuttle Program, the International Space Station, and NASA’s new crew-rated spacecraft – Orion.

Fisher said she knew she wanted to become an astronaut at the age of 12 when she heard the voice of Alan Shepard over the radio on his sub-orbital flight. In her dealings with NASA, she never felt any discrimination and felt that NASA was welcoming the women into the program. In fact, she said that she felt more negative attitudes in college against her becoming a doctor than she did by NASA in becoming an astronaut.

Once she was accepted into the program, she knew there was a spotlight on all of them. They all knew, that from this group, the first American woman astronaut would be selected. Dr. Fisher said it did not matter to the group, who was selected to be the first American woman Astronaut. Just knowing that there was going to be a first woman was more important to them than who it was. They all understood the importance of being a contributing part of the space program and to pave the way for women in the future. Dr. Sally Ride was selected and made the historic flight on STS-7 on June 18, 1983, becoming America’s first woman astronaut.

The SYNCOM IV-1 defense communications satellite is deployed out of Discovery’s payload bay during STS-51A. Photo Credit: NASA

On November 8, 1984, Dr. Fisher launched into space on the Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103). For Fisher, this was a dream come true. As a mother, this meant she was the first mother in space. She said that she most enjoyed the thrill of the launch and time spent looking out the windows at the Earth passing so fast below. One of her favorite moments in space was looking into the cargo bay of the Shuttle and seeing the two satellites they had captured from their orbits in space.

The two satellites were secured in the shuttle bay earlier in the mission. The STS-51-A mission marked the first time a shuttle deployed two communications satellites, and then retrieved from orbit two other communications satellites. The Anik D-2 and Syncom IV-1 satellite were deployed and Westar 6 and Palapa B2 satellite were retrieved. She spent 7 days, 23 hours, and 44 minutes in space and had completed 127 orbits of the Earth before landing at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Dr. Fisher was assigned to be on the flight manifest for the launch after the next Challenger shuttle launch.

On Jan. 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-099) (mission STS-51-L) broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members. The Shuttle Program was grounded until a cause and a fix could be made.

Mission patch for STS-51A. Image Credit: NASA

Two years later, on September 29, 1988, Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off, signifying a “Return to Flight”. This flight was commanded by astronaut Frederick Hauck who was also on STS-51A with Fisher, but Fisher was not part of this mission. With the birth of a second daughter, Dr. Fisher took a leave of absence to raise her kids.

She returned to NASA seven years later in 1996 and discovered that the agency she returned to, was not the one she had remembered. They were developing processes and procedures for the new International Space Station (ISS) program. Fisher became the chief of the Space Station branch and was able to use the experience of working through all of the issues that came up in the beginning of the Shuttle Program to help alleviate those same types of issues in that were coming up at the beginning of the ISS program.

Dr. Fisher continues to use her experience to contribute to the success of NASA as it starts of the Commercial Crew Program and the Orion Program. Pioneering women like Fisher helped to pave the way for many U.S. women astronauts and she continues to be an inspiration to many.

This series was originally written by USA in Space for SpaceFlight Insider and was edited and published by SpaceFlight Insider.  It is republished here with their permission.

Women In Space: Nicole Stott – More Than 100 Days On Orbit


Having flown to space twice, Nicole Stott has spent more than 100 days on orbit. She spoke with USA in Space and SpaceFlight Insider about her experiences during a recent interview. Photo Credit: NASA / JSC

APRIL 29TH, 2015

We interviewed Dr. Nicole Marie Passonno Stott, an American engineer and a NASA astronaut with more than 100 days of space experience. Dr. Stott joined NASA in 1988, as an Operations Engineer in the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida. In July of 2000, she was selected as a mission specialist and started astronaut candidate training in August of 2000, as part of the NASA Astronaut Group 18 training group, nicknamed “The Bugs”.

Dr. Stott is a veteran astronaut with three Shuttle flights – STS-128 (up), STS-129 (return), and STS-133 – and two Expedition long-duration missions (Expedition 20 and Expedition 21) on the International Space Station (ISS). She was the last ISS Expedition crew member to fly on a space shuttle when she returned to Earth aboard STS-129 in November 2009.

Nicole Stott credits her father for her passion for aviation. Her father loved flying and they hung out at the airport every weekend while her father worked on his latest airplane project.

Stott joined NASA in 1988 as an operations engineer at one of Kennedy Space Center’s Orbiter Processing Facility. Photo Credit: Bill Stafford / NASA

In 1988, while working at NASA, she watched candidates go through the astronaut program, but still did not see herself as an astronaut. People at NASA encouraged her to apply for the program and to her surprise, in July 2000, she was selected. She says she can’t believe that she was selected saying,
“I pinch myself every day.”

In 2006, as part of her astronaut training, Dr. Stott took part in a six-aquanaut crew mission called NEEMO 9. NEEMO is NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations. “The longest Nemo mission ever, I think. It was awesome,” she said with delight. Dr. Stott thoroughly enjoyed this underwater training experience. As part of the NEEMO 9 training mission, they spent 18 days of underwater living aboard Aquarius – an undersea laboratory stationed about 60 feet (18 m) down just off Key Largo in the Florida Keys.

Dr. Stott said, “It was the best preparation for going to space.” She further explained that once you are down there, you have to be very thoughtful of what you are doing, and that you can’t just open the hatch and walk out and go to the surface (without a long decompression). “You learn the dynamics of living and interacting with a crew in a confined living space.” They tested and trained on undersea “moonwalks” and robotic surgeries controlled by a doctor high and dry in Canada. Just before “splash-up” (the term for returning to the surface), Stott told fellow aquanaut Ron Garan, “You know, if we never get to fly in space, this experience would be enough.”

On 28 August 2009, Dr. Stott and her fellow crew members launched from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) on her first space flight as a Flight Engineer on board STS-128 (an ISS assembly flight 17A). This was a NASA Space Shuttle Discovery mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Stott and her STS-128 crew-mate, John “Danny” Olivas, performed a spacewalk or EVA (extravehicular activity) to prepare for the replacement of an empty ammonia tank on the station’s port truss, or backbone, by releasing its bolts. They retrieved a materials processing experiment and a European science experiment mounted outside the Columbus laboratory and stowed them in Discovery’s cargo bay for their return to Earth. The total duration of the walk was 6 hours and 39 minutes. Stott says that it was “neat” to see the station from both the outside and from the inside. She also enjoyed being inside while others were spacewalking. She loved hearing them “clanking around” as they moved along the hull of the station.

Stott lifted off on the Space Shuttle Discovery as part of the crew of STS-133. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian / SpaceFlight Insider

During the August 2009 flight, Stott and her Expedition 21 crew-mate, Jeff Williams, participated in the “First Tweetup in Space ”. It was not the instant Twitter most of us use every day; it was more of an e-mail process, a much slower and more labor intensive process. The process involved e-mailing down the tweets on whatever downlink time they had, and then it required the help of ground personnel to relay the information – tweeting it out. She returned home on Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-129) after 90 days and 10 hours in orbit.

On February 24, 2011, Stott returned to space on STS-133 (an ISS assembly flight ULF5). It was the 133rd mission in NASA’s Shuttle program and Space Shuttle Discovery‘s 39th and final mission. During the 12 day, 19 hour mission, the Space Shuttle Discovery docked with the International Space Station. Along with other supplies and equipment, this flight carried the humanoid robot Robonaut 2 (also known as R2).

Dr. Stott said that spending so much time on the station on her prior mission, made the second mission, as a mission specialist, “a return home”. It allowed her to spend more time enjoying the view. Her fond memories of this mission included being on the flight deck during launch and landing. Being able to see out the windows made her more connected with the experience than when previously sitting at the mid-deck.

Stott was a mission specialist on the final flight of Discovery, STS-133. Photo Credit: NASA

Dr. Nicole Stott is married with a one 12 year old son, who has “a lot of attitude”. His name is Roman. She says Roman “gets it”, he understands that his Mom is out there doing cool stuff in space. Dr. Stott has participated in a number of class programs and, when speaking to her son’s class, her son would take over and tell the class what she did, sometimes, according to Mom: “… better than me!” Dr. Stott seemed to really enjoy seeing how much he understood of what his Mom was doing. So will we see Roman Stott in space someday? Maybe, if they need a veterinarian in space (his current interest). She would love to see him go into space if that is what he wants to do.

Dr.Stott hopes that the United States will “take it to the limit” with the space station and that we need to be living on the Moon someday: “[T]he Moon is like our own little personal space station, perfectly placed there for us. We should take advantage of it […], there is no reason that we should not be living underneath the surface of the Moon.” She hopes that today’s children, like Roman, will be able to experience walking on the Moon or Mars. “We need to continue our human pursuit of space.”

Dr. Stott is still on active status supporting the space station operations and working the Commercial Crew Program, and also helping out with Orion landing and recovery. As part of her work on Orion, she attended the Orion Test Launch at the Kennedy Space Center on Dec. 5, 2014, and said, “It was beautiful.”

She hopes someday to bring along the family and come to visit the Space Shuttle Discovery in its Washington area home at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia. When she does, we hope we will be able to spend more time with this very amazing woman and veteran of space flight.

Stott has so far spent more than 100 days on orbit, as part of shuttle and Expedition crews to the ISS. Photo Credit: NASA

This series was originally written by USA in Space for SpaceFlight Insider and was edited and published by SpaceFlight Insider.  It is republished here with their permission.

Women In Space: Dr. Jeanette Jo Epps And The Next Generation Of Nasa Astronauts

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps during an undersea spacewalk to test EVA tools on July 22, 2014. Photo Credit: NASA

APRIL 28TH, 2015

As part of our series about the contribution of Women in Aerospace, SpaceFlight Insider interviewed Dr. Jeanette Jo Epps, a CIA intelligence officer and current NASA astronaut preparing for her first mission into space. Epps is uncertain when that first space mission will occur, but she is excited about it just the same.

She represents the next generation of astronauts, those who might ride NASA’s new super heavy-lift booster to orbit—and beyond. As a woman and an African-American, she demonstrates that the U.S. space program has come a long way since its beginnings in the late 1950s.

As a child, Epps did not think that she could become an astronaut, but she did have her sights set on becoming an aerospace engineer. Epps never felt that being a female or a minority has ever held her back. She relayed to SpaceFlight Insider how her mother raised her to work hard, do her best, and believe that anything is possible. Epps holds a Master of Science degree and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland. It was there that she learned about research, materials and aerospace engineering. In college, she was persuaded to work in the motor craft group instead of more traditional aerospace activities. She never regretted it.

“It was one of the best things I did,” she said.

Official astronaut portrait of Jeanette Epps. Photo Credit: Robert Markowitz / NASA

That led her to work at the Ford Company as an engineer, after which she put her engineering skills to work at the CIA and started to apply to NASA as an astronaut.

Epps was selected as an astronaut candidate in June of 2009. She was one of 14 astronauts who began training in NASA’s Astronaut Group 20 (The Chumps) in August 2009, they officially graduated as astronauts on November 4, 2011.

Last year on July 21, 2014, Epps started a nine-day mission to “inner” space, under the sea, as part of NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project, NEEMO 18. She feels that this experience is effective preparation for space travel. She spent those nine days with five other crew members, the typical approximate crew size for an ISS or deep space mission, simulating operations in space. Communication is also set on a delay, the same type of delay experienced by astronauts in space talking to Earth-based operators.

Epps explained that upon completion of the mission, the aquanauts required a 17-hour decompression in order to return to the surface, known as “splash-up”. They accomplished this by closing the lab’s hatch and changing the pressure in the lab over the 17 hours to that of the surface. Once this was complete, they returned it back to the pressure for about 60 foot under. At this point, the buildup of nitrogen in their blood had returned to normal, so they could reopen the hatch and return to the surface as if the made only a short 60 foot dive—no further decompression was needed.

This June, Epps will be going to Russia to engage in the Russian emergent program, to learn the Russian language. Epps says she doesn’t want to just learn Russian, but to become fluent in it. In the meantime, she continues to train and work.

Epps looks forward to future, in hopes that NASA will select her for an upcoming mission to space. In December 2014, she attended the launch of first flight of NASA’s new crew-rated spacecraft, Orion, on Exploration Flight Test 1.

“It was amazing to see! Very cool,” said Epps.

She pointed out that NASA should soon have two commercial spacecraft—Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon—capable of sending crews to the ISS. She also feels that “the possibilities are unlimited” with these vessels and with Orion. Currently, the United States is looking at sending crews to Mars and asteroids, but Epps noted: “[Y]ou never know, the Moon may pop up as another option.”

She added: “What better place to test out the engineering than the Moon, before going to Mars?”

Epps says she competes with herself every day to keep her grades high, her training relevant and her skills sharp. She knows that she needs to be at the top of her game to be ready when NASA gives her the nod.

This series was originally written by USA in Space for SpaceFlight Insider and was edited and published by SpaceFlight Insider.  It is republished here with their permission.

Women In Space: In The Beginning…

Although most Americans believe that Sally Ride was the first woman in space – in fact, she was not even the second. Photo Credit: NASA

APRIL 27, 2015

On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the Earth. Although most Americans associate women in space with shuttle astronaut Sally Ride, the simple fact of the matter is that the first woman to travel into the blackness of space was Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova who roared aloft on her Vostok 6 spacecraft on June 16, 1963 – 20 years prior to Sally Ride’s first flight on Space Shuttle Challenger in June of 1983.

Sally Ride was launched on the STS-7, the seventh shuttle mission to take to the skies and became the first American woman, but not the first woman in space. Some had dismissed Tereshkova’s accomplishments because it was said that she had never taken manual control of the spacecraft during the flight. However, Tereshkova had made two attempts to bring the spacecraft into the correct attitude for a simulated re-entry engine firing, which had been scheduled during the second orbit of Vostok 6, but she had failed to do so because, at her own admission, she was not able to reach the controls; consequently, the spacecraft kept drifting from its intended path.

If the automated attitude control had failed, then failure to control the spacecraft manually could have potentially prevented it from accomplishing a deorbiting maneuver. Despite the probability of such a scenario being low, Sergei Korolev, Soviet chief rocket engineer, was reported to have been irritated; apparently, he conversed with her during the 38th orbit. Tereshkova radioed: “Don’t worry, I’ll do it all in the morning.”

Nevertheless, Tereshkova had completed 48 orbits and almost three days – 2 days, 22 hours, 50 minutes – in space, which was more than the flight-time of all the American astronauts, at the time, put together.

Tereshkova’s flight was noted by the Soviet Premier at the time, Nikita Khrushchev, as proof that women were certainly not the weaker sex. It came at a time in the West when women’s roles were beginning to change. However, despite the progress that women’s rights achieved in the sixties – it would take some time for NASA to catch up.

Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space during the Vostok 6 mission, which lifted off in June 1963. Photo Credit: Commons / Ria Novosti

Two days prior on June 14, 1963, cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky launched into space in his Vostok 5 capsule and was still orbiting the Earth when Tereshkova launched. Bykovsky returned to Earth on June 19, after 82 orbits and almost 5 days – 4 days, 23 hours, 6 minutes – in space. The two spacecraft were somewhat close at certain points in the mission – approximately three miles (5 km) separating the two.

For the United States, the first man in space was Alan Shepard, who on May 5, 1961, entered into space in his Freedom 7 spacecraft for a 15 minute, 28 second suborbital hop.

In the 1960s, NASA, like most organizations in the United States, was very much a “good old boy” organization run almost entirely by white males. Looking for the first astronauts, NASA put the word out among military pilots that they were looking for those with the “right stuff”, which, at the time, had left women out because there were no female military pilots. The rationale behind the “right stuff” attitude was the primary select-in criterion for military pilots as possible astronaut material: that they were “battle hardened” and, therefore, could be relied upon to keep a cool head under a stressful situation – hence “the right stuff”.

More than 508 service records were reviewed; 110 were found to meet the minimum requirements. This list of names included five Marines, 47 Navy men, and 58 Air Force pilots. Several Army pilots’ records had been reviewed earlier, but none was a graduate of a test pilot school – a key stipulation to be considered. Through more selection and a battery of medical tests, they narrowed it down to seven who would go on to become NASA’s first astronauts and carry out the first flights under Project Mercury – and beyond.

Dr. William Randolph “Randy” Lovelace II helped to design many of the tests used in the selection process of the first male astronauts and helped to create the profile of what was considered to be the “perfect” astronaut. Dr. Lovelace and Brig. General Donald Flickinger wondered that if they applied the same standards, would women also have the “right stuff”. They invited award-winning pilot Geraldyn “Jerrie” Cobb to undergo the same three-phase physical testing regimen, which had been formulated for the male astronauts, at the Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education and Research in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

She had passed.

Jerrie Cobb stands in front of a model of a Mercury capsule. Photo Credit: NASA

So in 1960, Lovelace’s Woman in Space Program (WISP ) was started. It was a privately-funded project, sponsored by racing pilot and businesswoman Jacqueline Cochran.

Twenty-five women were selected for the program and that was narrowed down to 13. Known as the “Mercury Thirteen”, the women had participated in and had passed the very same Phase I (only Jerrie Cobb had passed all three) physical and psychological tests that were used to select the original male astronauts.

In his opinion, Lovelace stated that some of these women were, in fact, as much, if not more, qualified as the men that were selected.

So was NASA ready to take women as serious candidates for the astronaut program? “No!”, was the emphatic answer.

There were many excuses given, but some had believed that if a female astronaut were to die during a mission that the public would call for an end to the fledgling space program there and then.

It would be almost 20 years before another woman would return to space.

Despite claims by some politically-motivated individuals in the media, there never was a NASA program to even investigate the possibility of whether women could undergo the preliminary screening processes for astronaut selection. The activity was only a private one advocated by a doctor who was an independent consultant to NASA on astronaut selection.

In 1972, NASA began the Shuttle Program and finally NASA was ready to include women.

NASA set out to recruit new candidates, but found that women and ethnic minorities were not applying. Many said that they had not applied because, after more than two decades of discrimination, they did not believe that the agency really wanted them.

Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols played a part in encouraging women and ethnic minorities to apply to become astronauts as part of NASA’s Shuttle Program. Photo Credit: Bill Ingalls / NASA

Therefore, in the late 1970s, NASA employed Nichelle Nichols to help recruit female and ethnic minority astronaut candidates. Nichols, an African-American woman, played a leading role on the original Star Trek television show, the part of communications officer “Uhura” aboard the starship Enterprise. It seemed like that she had the “right stuff” and would be a good recruiter – and she was.

Nichols traveled the country, speaking at universities and other educational venues. She encouraged women and ethnic minorities to apply for astronaut positions at NASA. Among those who credit Nichols for their applying to the space agency were Sally Ride and Charles Bolden – the current NASA Administrator. About 12,000 people had applied for “Astronaut Group 8”, which was whittled down to 35 people. The Group 8 would be the first astronaut group to include women (6 in total).

The Soviet Union, later Russia, looked to have had the lead in terms of equality; however, the nation has only launched a handful of female astronauts since 1963. Photo Credit: Bill Ingalls / NASA

NASA had selected all six as their first female astronaut candidates in January of 1978, allowing them to enroll in a training program that they had completed in August 1979. They all went to space and contributed, or are still contributing, to the space program today. Among these first six women included a few “firsts” in terms of space exploration:

Kathryn D. Sullivan: The first American woman to perform an Extravehicular Activity (EVA).

Anna Fisher: Flew on shuttle mission STS-51A (stay tuned for an upcoming SFI Women in Space article with Fisher).

Shannon Lucid: The first American woman to make a long-duration spaceflight and the first mother to be hired as an astronaut.

The Group 8 also included the first American active-duty astronauts to marry – Robert “Hoot” Gibson and Rhea Seddon. Of course, this group included Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.

Ride was actually the third woman in space. Just a few months prior to Ride’s flight, the Soviet Union launched cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya into space on Aug. 19, 1982, on the Soyuz T-7 spacecraft. Savitskaya was also the first woman to fly to a space station (Salyut 7), the first woman to perform a spacewalk (on a later flight in July 25, 1984), and the first woman to make two spaceflights.

It looked as if the Soviet Union (now Russia) would be the leaders of equality in space, but that was not to be. Since these two women, Russia has only had two additional female cosmonauts.

Russia and the United States are not alone in including women in their space exploration efforts.

Other nationalities have also sent women to work in space; these include: China (with 2), Canada (2), United Kingdom (1), Japan (2), France (1), Republic of Korea (1), and Italy (1). The United States is currently in the lead in terms of incorporating women into its crews with 60 astronauts, and also it has more women that are in training.

Overall, women account for only about 10 percent of the overall people who went into space, but they have made a lasting impact on the roles of human space endeavors and have proven Dr. Lovelace’s assertion that women may also have the “right stuff”.

As the United States gets away from relying on Russia to provide “manned” or should we say “human” transport to space, the number of astronauts and women going into space will rise.

Today, Samantha Cristoforetti is an integral part of the Expedition 43 crew. Her presence there is viewed as nothing out of the ordinary. Photo Credit: NASA

This series was originally written by USA in Space for SpaceFlight Insider and was edited and published by SpaceFlight Insider.  It is republished here with their permission.


Launch SpaceX5 – NASA Updates Pre-Launch Briefings for Upcoming Resupply Mission to Space Station

As reported by Joshua Buck, Headquarters, Washington – 

NASA Updates Pre-Launch Briefings for Upcoming Resupply Mission to Space Station | NASA

NASA Updates Pre-Launch Briefings for Upcoming Resupply Mission to Space Station

The fifth SpaceX cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract now is scheduled to launch at 6:20:29 a.m. EST Tuesday, Jan. 6, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. NASA Television coverage of the launch begins at 5 a.m.

The new launch date will provide SpaceX engineers time to investigate further issues that arose from a static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket on Dec. 16, and will ensure proper sun angles for thermal and operational conditions to berth Dragon.

The prelaunch news conferences also have moved to Monday, Jan. 5, at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. All briefings, which are subject to a change in time, will air live on NASA TV and the agency’s website.

The first briefing of the day will air at noon and cover the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) Earth science instrument headed to the space station. Participants for this briefing will be:

  • Julie Robinson, ISS Program chief scientist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston
  • Robert J. Swap, program scientist with the Earth Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington
  • Matthew McGill, CATS principal investigator at Goddard

The second briefing will air at 1:30 p.m. and cover some of the numerous science investigations headed to the space station. Participants for the science briefing will be:

  • Julie Robinson, NASA’s ISS Program chief scientist
  • Kenneth Shields, director of operations and education for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space
  • Cheryl Nickerson, Micro-5 principal investigator at Arizona State University
  • Samuel Durrance, NR-SABOL principal investigator at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne

The final briefing will air at 4 p.m. and provide up-to-date information about the launch. Participants for the prelaunch briefing will be:

  • Mike Suffredini, NASA’s ISS Program manager
  • Hans Koenigsmann, vice president for Mission Assurance at SpaceX
  • Maj. Perry Sweat, U.S. Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron at Cape Canaveral  Air Force Station in Florida

An on-time launch on Jan. 6 will result in the Dragon spacecraft arriving at the space station on Thursday, Jan. 8. Expedition 42 Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore of NASA will use the station’s 57.7-foot robotic arm to reach out and capture Dragon at approximately 6 a.m. Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency will support Wilmore as they operate from the station’s cupola. NASA TV coverage of grapple will begin at 4:30 a.m. Coverage of Dragon’s installation to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module will begin at 8:15 a.m.

Wallops Island to receive $20 million from Federal budget to repair damaged the MARS launch pad 0A

The October explosion of the Orbital Science ORB-3 resupply mission rocket destined to the International Space Station caused an estimated $20 million damage to Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s (MARS for short) pad 0A.  It was not clear where the funding would come from to repair the damage. The state Virginia had stated that they did not have the budget to cover the expense.

Photo by JD Taylor

Included in the 1.1 trillion Federal spending bill passed by the House last night (12/11/2014) was the $20 million to cover the pad damage. The Senate is to vote on the bill as early as Friday.    NASA’s overall budget will be increased by 2% to $18 billion next year, that is a $364 million increase over current levels.

Rep. Scott Rigell, R-2nd, also worked with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and the House Appropriations Committee to secure funding in the bill to restore the launch pad, according to his press secretary, Kaylin Minton.
Rigell represents Virginia’s Eastern Shore, where Wallops is located. Minton called the Wallops facility “a world-class operation and a critical component for continued space exploration.”
“These funds will help ensure that future scheduled launches will remain as planned and that commercial spaceflight maintains its economic presence on Virginia’s Eastern Shore at NASA Wallops” reported by Richmond Times-Dispatch (Twitter@mmartzRTD)

Democratic senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced Thursday they’d sought the spending provision in an effort to help the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, known as MARS, “rebound” from that catastrophic launch failure. MARS is located at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore.

“The Wallops Flight Facility is a key asset to Virginia that will continue to play a major role in the future of NASA and space exploration,” Warner and Kaine said in a joint statement on their funding efforts. “We are proud of our work with partners in the House and across the aisle to secure $20 million in federal funding that will help Wallops Island rebound from the launch failure this fall. The Wallops Flight Facility is a key asset to Virginia that will continue to play a major role in the future of NASA and space exploration. We especially want to thank Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the Appropriations chair, who has been a key supporter and advocate of NASA and the Wallops facility.”

Lynwood W. Lewis, Jr. (a Democratic member of the Virginia State Senate, representing District 6), released the following statement:

“The announcement that the compromise spending Bill expected to be voted on and passed by Congress this week contains $20 million in Federal funding for repairs to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is great news. It clearly indicates the importance of our Wallops Island launch facility to the future of commercial space launches.

I want to thank Senator Warner, Senator Kaine and Congressman Rigell for all of their hard work to include this funding in the compromise Bill.

This is especially good news in light of Orbital’s announcement earlier this week that while it must launch from Cape Canaveral until the Wallops Island launch facility is repaired, they fully intend to resume launches at Wallops with their new engine in 2016.,

I will continue to work in the General Assembly to make Virginia a leader in commercial space launches.”



Hurricane Gonzalo pushes ORB3 launch to NET Oct 27

Hurricane Gonzalo pushes toward Bermuda and that pushes ORB3 launch to back to “no earlier than” (NET) Oct 27, 2014.

“The Wallops range relies on the Bermuda downrange assets to track and maintain data communications with the Antares rocket during flight and ultimately to ensure public safety during launch operations,” said Steven Kremer, Chief of the Wallops Range and Mission Management Office.

From Orbital’s mission update page:

Due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Gonzalo on the island of Bermuda, where an essential tracking site used to ensure public safety during Antares launches is located, the previously announced “no earlier than” (NET) launch date of October 24 for the Orb-3 CRS mission to the International Space Station for NASA is no longer feasible.

Once the hurricane has passed Bermuda, a team from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility Range will return to the tracking site to assess the situation and begin the process of re-enabling the site’s functionality to support the launch.

Today, Orbital and NASA together established a NET October 27 for the launch of the Orb-3 mission from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA Wallops. However, depending on the impact of the storm on Bermuda’s essential infrastructure systems such as transportation, power and communications, the launch date could be moved later. The launch schedule has been established in order to build flexibility into the overall mission schedule.

For an October 27 launch, lift-off time of the Antares rocket is targeted for 6:44 p.m. (EDT). The rendezvous and berthing of Cygnus with the ISS remains on November 2, with grapple of the spacecraft by the station’s robotic arm at approximately 4:58 a.m. (EST).

Orbital Sciences announces date for ISS Commercial Resupply Services Mission (Orb-3) Launch

Launch Date: No Earlier Than October 20, 2014
Launch Site: MARS Pad 0A at NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, VA



Information provided by Orbital Sciences Corporation:

Mission Overview

Designated the “Orb-3” or “#ORB3” for Twitter, it will be the fourth Orbital Science “Cygnus cargo mission” to the ISS and the fifth Antares launch in the last 18 months. A two-stage Antares rocket carrying Orbital’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft is scheduled to lift-off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia on Pad-0A.  The current schedule is for “no earlier than October 20, 2014” with a targeted launch time for the 20th of 9:29 pm (EST) reaching the International Space Station (ISS) approximately 3 days later. After separation from Antares, the Cygnus spacecraft will deploy its solar arrays and undergo initial check-out. The spacecraft will bring itself within 4 km (about 2.5 miles) of the ISS prior to receiving authorization to autonomously rendezvous with the station. When the vehicle approaches to within 12 meters (about 50 ft), the ISS will use it’s robotic arm to grapple Cygnus and berth it to the Harmony node of the station. Cygnus is planned to remain connect to the ISS for approximately five weeks during while the station crew unloads supplies and reloads it with materials for disposal. After Cygnus departs the station, it will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere. For this mission Cygnus will carry approximately 2,290 kg (5,050 lbs.) of cargo to the ISS for NASA.

Viewing the Launch

The Orb-3 launch will be viable from much of the east coast on the US and  will be broadcast live on NASA TV. .

For more information:

Orbital Antares Web Page
Orbital Antares Fact Sheet
Orbital Cygnus Fact Sheet
Orbital COTS/CRS Fact Sheet
NASA Commercial Space Transportation Web Site