Friday, October 22News That Matters

Tag: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

The Webb Telescope’s Latest Stumbling Block: Its Name

The Webb Telescope’s Latest Stumbling Block: Its Name

Technology
Sean O’Keefe, the NASA administrator who named the telescope in 2002, said in an email that Webb was “a champion of education, technology, science, aeronautics and human exploration.”“Arguably, were it not for James Webb’s determination to fulfill the most audacious vision of his time, our capacity to explore today would be starkly different,” Mr. O’Keefe said. “He introduced complex systems management — a discipline to harness the exceptional technical capability of NASA at that time.” Mr. O’Keefe added that he was unaware of any evidence that Webb was responsible for the Lavender Scare.In May, NASA promised a full investigation by its acting chief historian, Brian Odom. On Sept. 27, the agency issued a statement from the current NASA administrator, Bill Nelson, saying, “We have found no ...
Boeing Deepens NASA Starliner Probe, Prompting More Delays

Boeing Deepens NASA Starliner Probe, Prompting More Delays

Technology
Boeing’s second chance to test launch its troubled astronaut capsule to the International Space Station was delayed again, possibly until the middle of 2022, as NASA and the aerospace giant go to new lengths to investigate problems with the spacecraft’s fuel valves.The postponement adds to the woes of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, a striking contrast with SpaceX, the private company founded by Elon Musk. Its passenger spacecraft, Crew Dragon, has lofted crews to orbit four times in the past two years, with a fifth scheduled on Halloween.The Starliner capsule came within hours of launching to the space station on an Atlas 5 rocket in August, as part of a 10-day test mission without humans on board. The goal was to demonstrate that the spacecraft was safe enough to fly NASA astronauts. But ...
How to Watch Nasa’s Launch to Jupiter

How to Watch Nasa’s Launch to Jupiter

Technology
NASA embarked on a 12-year mission to study a group of asteroids on Saturday with the launch of Lucy, a robotic explorer that will meander through the unexplored caverns of deep space to find new clues about the creation of our solar system.The 5:34 a.m. Eastern time liftoff from Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop an Atlas 5 rocket from United Launch Alliance was the first step of Lucy’s four-billion mile path into the orbital neighborhood of Jupiter. There, two swarms of asteroids known as the Trojans have hid for billions of years, leftover debris from the solar system’s early formation.The spacecraft launched before dawn, setting off toward the orbit that will begin its elaborate trajectory. Lucy separated from the rocket’s second stage booster roughly an hour after liftoff and about ...
Space Station Emergency Prompted by Russian Thruster Firing

Space Station Emergency Prompted by Russian Thruster Firing

Technology
On Sunday, the same spacecraft that experienced the thruster incident is expected to bring back to Earth a Russian film crew that was flown to the station on a different Soyuz spacecraft on Oct. 5. NASA mission control, heard on a livestream of mission control audio, indicated that the thruster firing incident delayed a planned film shoot in the station’s cupola, a room with six windows facing Earth. Ms. Cheshier said the MS-18 spacecraft’s undocking with the crew inside would occur at 9:14 p.m. Saturday, as planned.In July, Russia docked its Nauka module to the orbital base, adding a new room for science experiments on the Russian segment of the station. Hours later, Nauka’s thrusters suddenly started firing, spinning the station one and a half revolutions — about 540 degrees — before it ...
Why NASA Is Launching a Robotic Archaeologist Named Lucy

Why NASA Is Launching a Robotic Archaeologist Named Lucy

Technology
NASA is scheduled on Saturday to launch a probe toward clusters of asteroids along Jupiter’s orbital path. They’re known as the Trojan swarms, and they represent the final unexplored regions of asteroids in the solar system. The spacecraft, a deep-space robotic archaeologist named Lucy, will seek to answer pressing questions about the origins of the solar system, how the planets migrated to their current orbits and how life might have emerged on Earth.“We have never gone this far to study asteroids,” said Bill Nelson, the administrator of NASA. “In so doing, we’re going to be able to better understand the formation of the solar system, and better understand ourselves and our development.”After a six-year cruise, Lucy will fly close to seven Trojan asteroids through 2033, completing wild ci...
Sometimes Life Imitates Art. William Shatner Is Headed To Space With Blue Origin.

Sometimes Life Imitates Art. William Shatner Is Headed To Space With Blue Origin.

Technology
Mr. Branson and Mr. Bezos have made the billionaire space race more literal and personal, and often speak in dreamier language. Mr. Branson launched first, in July, and Mr. Bezos followed days later. Speaking “to all the kids down there” from the edge of space, Mr. Branson said, “if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.”Mr. Bezos, after landing, said simply, “Best day ever!”In front of assembled press, he made an attempt to convey a sense of collectivity, or at least humility. “I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this,” he said. He was clearly moved, and his performance was earnest, but it also resulted in a backlash that, from perhaps any other perspective in the world, would have been easy to anticipate. “Amazon workers do...

What a Fungus Reveals About the Space Program

Technology
I spend a lot of time lately thinking about a fungus called Pilobolus. It lives on dung, mostly from cows and horses, happily munching away, enriching the soil as it goes, until it starts to run out of dung to eat. Then something magical happens: The fungus stops eating and rearranges itself into a giant stalk with a ball of cells — a sporangium — on top.This apparatus can detect sunlight. Osmosis swells the stalk until, when the pressure rises high enough, it essentially sneezes. The sporangium is launched with a force equivalent to 20,000 times the force of gravity, toward a nearby patch of grass, where another horse or cow is likely to graze.Our fungus astronaut attaches itself to a stalk of grass. Once eaten, the sporangium passes through the animal’s digestive system and is excreted b...

The Moon Crater Where NASA Will Send Its Viper Rover

Technology
NASA has been planning for years to send a robotic rover to the moon’s polar regions. Water ice trapped at the bottoms of craters there could be a boon to future visiting astronauts, providing water to drink, air to breathe and rocket fuel to propel them back to Earth or even farther out into the solar system.Now, NASA has identified the crater that the rover — the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER — will spend about 100 days exploring when it arrives in a couple of years.VIPER will land near the moon’s south pole, at the western edge of the 45-mile-wide Nobile crater, which formed when something hit the moon. Near the poles, the sun is low on the horizon and the bottoms of craters, lying in permanent shadows, are among the coldest places in the solar system.“The ro...
After Egress, SpaceX Inspiration4 Astronauts to Get Health Check

After Egress, SpaceX Inspiration4 Astronauts to Get Health Check

Technology
When astronauts return to Earth from space, they can experience a number of health and physical issues after they land — a result of living without gravity.For flights that go as long as six months, astronauts can experience difficulties with balance, muscle weakness and cardiovascular deconditioning, according to NASA. Although the Inspiration4 flight was only three days long, the four astronauts returning will also receive a health screening.It’s unclear exactly what that health screening might consist of. Health researchers working with Inspiration4 said the astronauts were to undertake some experiments that gauge their sense of balance — standing without swaying and moving between sitting and standing positions.They will also perform a series of tests measuring their cognitive performa...

Who Gets Sick in Space? Tourists Like Inspiration4 Offer More Clues.

Technology
Doctors have poked and prodded NASA astronauts for years, and the astronauts, as government employees, have largely acceded to their roles as test animals in studying how an alien environment — outer space — affects the human body.But professional astronauts have historically been a small slice of humanity. Initially, they were chosen from the ranks of military test pilots who were white, physically fit men. Later, as NASA broadened its criteria, it still chose only astronauts who passed their physical thresholds.But that could be changing as private spaceflight opens space to a more diverse cross section of humanity.For scientists, the change will create a bonanza of new data on how the human body adapts to space.The Inspiration4 mission, which launched on Wednesday, shows how medical res...