Relive the final descent of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft – Spaceflight Now

A video from SpaceX shows the companys Crew Dragon capsule plunging toward the Gulf of Mexico, then unfurling a series of parachutes to slow the spaceship carrying two NASA astronauts from 350 mph to a relatively gentle 15 mph for splashdown Sunday.

The dramatic tracking video released by SpaceX late Monday shows the capsule deploying two drogue chutes at an altitude of around 18,000 feet, or 5,500 meters, while moving at about 350 mph, or more than 560 kilometers per hour.

Moments later, four giant orange and white main parachutes fired out of mortars on the side of the Crew Dragon capsule at an altitude of 6,000 feet (1,800 meters), then began opening to their full size to slow the spaceship from 119 mph (191 kilometers per hour) to around 15 mph (24 kilometers per hour) before splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico around 34 miles (54 kilometers) off the coast of Florida near Pensacola.

The successful return to Earth with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken closed out a 64-day test flight, the first orbital mission by astronauts on a U.S. spaceship since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011. The commercial capsule was built and is owned by SpaceX, the private space transportation company founded by Elon Musk in 2002.

The successful two-month test flight to the International Space Station sets the stage for the first operational flight of a Crew Dragon spacecraft later this year. That mission will deliver four astronauts to the space station for a stay lasting around six months.

Hurley and Behnken named their reusable Crew Dragon spacecraft Endeavour after NASAs retired space shuttle, on which both astronauts flew earlier in their careers.

The Dragon Endeavour spacecraft launched May 30 atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center, then autonomously docked with the space station May 31. During their two months on the orbiting research complex, Hurley and Behnken assisted the stations other three crew members with maintenance, scientific experiments, and a series of spacewalks to complete a multi-year effort to upgrade batteries on the labs solar power truss.

Hurley and Behnken boarded their Dragon spacecraft Saturday and undocked from the space station, heading for an on-target splashdown Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico.

For more details, read our full story on the splashdown of the Dragon Endeavour spacecraft with Hurley and Behnken. Additional photos of the Crew Dragons splashdown, and views of Hurley and Behnkens exit from the spacecraft and return to shore via helicopter, are posted below.

The photos also show numerous private vessels approaching the spacecraft after splashdown. NASA and SpaceX officials say they will reassess their security and ocean clearance policies before the next Crew Dragon splashdown.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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Relive the final descent of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft - Spaceflight Now

To the Moon and Back Again – Georgia Southern University Newsroom

Alumnus Helping NASA Return to the Moon by2024

No one on Earth has stepped foot on the Moon since Apollo 17 landed there in December 1972. But NASA is relying on the new space exploration program, Artemis, to change history and take the first woman and the next man to the moonby 2024.

Georgia Southern alumnus Andy Warren (87) is one of the engineers helping NASA return astronauts to the moon. He started his career with the space agency in 1988, two years after the space shuttle Challenger disaster.

I was looking for a job and they were hiring. Honestly it was never something I thought about doing growing up but it gets in your blood, Warren said. Its very exciting and fulfilling work. I have a passionfor it.

Warren works at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama, as manager of the Cross-Program Integration team for NASAs new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS). A team at MSFC is designing the powerful SLS rocket that will send the crew in the Orion spacecraft to the moon and eventually to Mars. The Orion crew capsule is being developed at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, and the ground systems including the launch pad are being handled by a team at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Warren said the cross-agency team ensures that the systems, including the rocket components, all work together when the flight vehicle gets assembled and launchedat KSC.

Prior to the Artemis program, Warren worked on the Space Shuttle program in various capacities from 1988 through the last mission in 2011. In his early years, he worked on ground systems including the large cranes that were used to assemble the shuttle. After that, he served as the management intern to the launch director, the person who gives the final go for launch on launch day.

I sat right next to him in the control room during several shuttle launches, said Warren, who grew up in North Augusta, South Carolina. It was an amazing experience because you could just feel the raw power. You could actually physically feel it rumbling off the launch pad.

Warren was a Georgia Southern student when he watched the Challenger explosion. It was later determined that the accident was caused by the solid rocket booster O-rings not working properly at cold temperatures. During Shuttle mission STS-132 in May 2010, Warren served as the solid rocket booster representative on the Shuttle Mission Management Team and gave the final concurrence (go) that the solid rocket boosters were safe forlaunch.

It was one of the highlights of my career, he said. When talking with students, I present it in the context that theres nothing special about me, but you never know where youll end up and the opportunities that youll have in the future if you apply yourself.

As the Cross-Program Integration manager for the SLS program, Warren is excited about the upcoming test of the ambitious rocket that has been in development for the past decade. The SLS relies on long-proven hardware from the space shuttle, including the engines and solid-fuel boosters. But the rocket is different in that it has been designed for launching both astronauts and robotic scientific missions for deep space exploration hundreds of thousands of miles from Earth, while the space shuttle was designed for travel a few hundred miles above the Earth.

Our first flight will be a test to demonstrate the ground systems, rocket and crew systems. It will go around the back of the moon next year, Warren said. Then about two years later, well launch astronauts in the Orion crew capsule beyond the moon and back to Earth. Thats further than any humans have ever been from Earth. Then well launch a crew, which will land on the moon.

As NASA embarks on this next era of space flight, Warren is confident it will inspire a new generation of explorers.

I think the future is really bright, he said. In the 60s, we had the beginnings of space flight and ever since we went to the moon, people have been dreaming of going to Mars and deep space exploration. And now were actually building the rockets. We dream big and were currently building a really big rocket to achieve thosedreams.

Warren is an active Georgia Southern alumnus. He serves on the College of Science and Mathematics advisory board and returns to campus every year to meet with students, professors and administrators. SandraBennett

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To the Moon and Back Again - Georgia Southern University Newsroom

Sending Something to Space? Book Your Launch Now in Spaceflight Inc. and Avail Their Latest Offers – Science Times

Spaceflight Inc.has announced on August 3 during the opening of Small Satellite Conference 2020that it will be launching its new programs to deliver greater flexibility to its smallsat customers needing frequent, reliable, and affordable ways to meet specific mission needs.

Spaceflight Inc. is an American private aerospace company and the leading satellite rideshare and mission provider that started in 2009.

Curt Blake, Spaceflight's president, and CEO said that there are a lot of things that they have learned over the past decade, as the need for flexibility on contracting and switching vehicles, orbital destinations, booking options, and integration services.

(Photo: Twitter)Big news to kick off #Smallsat2020. We're launching multiple initiatives to provide greater flexibility for our customers. New OTV, new web initiatives, and more.

"With our expertise working with all major launch vehicles, we have the unique advantage of building flexibility into all aspects of our business to meet our customers' individual mission needs. It's foundational to our vision of getting spacecraft on-orbit exactly when and where our customers want, and we're excited to unveil several first-of-their-kind programs to support it," Blake said.

In that sense, their new programs are designed to increase flexibility in all aspects of the launch spectrum, including the following:

Read:NASA Launches "Honey I Shrunk the NASA Payload" Contest with $160,000 Prizes at Stake: Here's How to Qualify

What you see is what you get. Spaceflight offers programs with no hidden fees, which means that the common practice of initially offering a low price per kilogram for smallsats and charging extra for other services will no longer be a problem.

Spaceflight offers all-in transparent pricing for its launch services.

Like how anyone can book a flight online, Spaceflight has developed a similar way of booking smallsat launches.

Users would only have to input the spacecraft configurations, its orbital destination, desired launch timing, and also the insurance, fuel, and licensing, and then they may reserve using their credit card.

Read Also: China Successfully Launched Its Redesigned New Generation Manned Spaceship

Once the booking is confirmed, users may securely log into the new Mission Control web platform of Spaceflight to manage their mission tasks, upload documents, access templates, and the frequently asked questions (FAQs) section, and to track progress and milestone.

It has become so easy and convenient to view everything associated with current and past launches in this always-available mission control platform.

Spaceflight has announcedthat it will be launching its new space vehicles soon: the Sherpa FX, set to launch on its next SpaceX rideshare mission in December 2020, and Sherpa NG (next generation) group of orbital transfer vehicles that provides flexibility, orbital diversification, and mission assurance.

Spaceflight has developed a rapid and highly flexible reconfigurable separation sequencer that provides industry-leading capabilities for smallsat deployments.

Moreover, the sequences consist of communication hardware to independently downlink separation telemetry and is also designed to be compatible with almost all available separation systems.

Spaceflight introduces its flight-proven program that aims to aid customers to identify and track their spacecraft quickly after the launch. Customers will gain access to information that can facilitate its first contact and early operations, lessen space congestion, and provide the foundation for an effective and responsible space traffic management.

Spaceflight works with different launch vehicles such as the Falcon 9, Antares, Electron, Vega, and PSLV to give its customers launch options. Additionally, they also signed an agreement with new vehicles like SSLV of NSIL, Terran 1 of Relativity, and Alpha of Firefly to accommodate more specific mission plans.

Chief Financial Officer of Astrocast, Kjell Karlsen, noted that delays in the launch are inevitable, but it is their priority to ensure that IoT network constellation gets into orbit by switching launches as efficiently as possible.

To know more about Spaceflight's new services, registered smallsat attendees may visit the virtual exhibit of Spaceflightfrom Monday to Thursday from 10 am to 1 pm MDT to chat with staff, or they may contact sales@spaceflight.comfor more details.

Read More: Missed Falcon 9's Launch Last Month? Catch SpaceX's 10th Batch of Starlink Satellites

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Sending Something to Space? Book Your Launch Now in Spaceflight Inc. and Avail Their Latest Offers - Science Times

Secret dreams of space came through | Arts & Leisure – Irish Echo

Eileen Collins was the first woman to command a space shuttle.

By Geoffrey Cobb

Inducted into theNational Womens Hall of Fame, Eileen Collins has been recognized by Encyclopedia Britannica as one of the top 300 women in history who have changed the world. A former air force colonel, military instructor and test pilot, Collins became both the first female pilot, and first female commander, of a space shuttle.

Eileen Collins was born in Elmira, N.Y., on Nov. 19, 1956. Her Irish ancestors came to America in the mid-1800s, settling in Pennsylvania and Elmira. Collinss love of airplanes and flying began as a child. She recalled, When I was very young and first started reading about astronauts, there were no women astronauts. Inspired as a child by the Mercury astronauts, Collins started reading anything she could find on space and airplanes and especially astronauts. In fourth grade, she read a Junior Scholastic Magazine article on the pros and cons of spending money on the space program, but the 8-year-old Collins could not think of any cons about investing in space exploration.

The absence of female astronauts didnt faze her; however, she kept her dreams of flying in space secret.I never told anybody I wanted to be an astronaut or pilot, she said. I consciously never talked about it because I knew people would say, You cant do that. And I didnt want to hear it Even when I started my flying lessons and this would have been when I was between my junior and senior year in college I didnt tell my friends. I dont think I even told my parents.

She graduated from a junior college with a degree in Math and then matriculated at Syracuse University and her timing was perfect. New opportunities were opening up for women in aviation. In 1978, Collins enlisted in the Air Force and became one of four women admitted to Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training at Oklahomas Vance Air Force Base, where she faced intense scrutiny. During her first month of training, she realized she had a chance to make her childhood dream of space flight a reality. I wanted to be part of our nations space program. Its the greatest adventure on this planet or off the planet, for that matter. I wanted to fly the Space Shuttle.

In 1979, Collins became theAir Forcesfirst femaleflightinstructor at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado, where for the next 11 years she taught both flying and math. As a C-141 Starlifter transport aircraft commander, Collins also participated in the American invasion ofGrenadain 1983, delivering troops and evacuating medical students. She continued her training at the Air Forces Institute of Technology and was one of the first women to attend Air Force Test Pilot School, which she graduated from in 1990, eventually achieving the rank of Air Force Colonel. Collins also earned an M.S. inoperations researchfromStanford Universityin 1986 and an M.A. in space systems management from Webster University, St. Louis, Mo., in 1989. Collins married pilot Pat Youngs in 1987 and is the mother of two children.

Collins was selected to be an astronaut in 1990 and completed astronaut training in July 1991. After tours at Kennedy Space Center, working on the shuttle launch and landing, and at the Johnson Space Center, working as a shuttle engineer and capsule communicator, she made history in 1995 when she became the first woman to fly a space shuttle, successfully piloting Discovery. In recognition of her achievement as the first female shuttle pilot, she received theHarmon Trophy, presented to the worlds top male and female aviators. Two years later, Collins again made history when she became the first female to dock with the Russian space station Mir, piloting Atlantis. Prior to the docking of Discovery with the space station, Collins piloted the shuttle through a full 360 pitch maneuver, becoming the first person to do so with an orbiter, which allowed her crew members to photograph the ships underside for possible damage.

In 1999, with hundreds of hours of experience in space flight under her belt, Collins had her greatest achievement when she became the first ever female to command the space shuttle, piloting Columbia in 1999 during its deployment of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. AfterColumbia was destroyed in the February 2003 disaster, the space shuttle fleet was grounded until July 2005, when Collins commandedDiscoveryon a return to flight mission, checking new safety modifications, while resupplying the International Space Station. The successful mission would mark her final time in space.

In 2006, Collins retired after a 28-year distinguished career in the Air Force, logging more than 6,751 hours in 30 different types of aircraft and more than 872 hours in space on four separate space flights. That same year, Collins won the National Space Trophy and University College Dublinconferred on her the honorary Doctor of Science degree of theNational University of Ireland.

Collins has continued to garner honors and awards. She was asked to speak at the 148thcommencement ofher alma mater Syracuse University. On April 19, 2013, Eileen Collins was inducted into theUnited States Astronaut Hall of Fame. In 2016, Collins was she inducted into the Irish American Hall of Fame and she also spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio before a national audience. The main entrance to Syracuse Hancock International airport was named in her honor as well.

Collins has remained active. She became director of the United Services Automobile Association and has served also the U.S.S.A in a number of other roles. Collins has also served as an analyst covering Shuttle launches and landings forthe CNN network. There was discussion that President Trump would even name her NASA administrator. Today Corning Community College, the place where Collins began her amazing career, honors her with the Eileen Collins Observatory, a fitting tribute to the schools most illustrious graduate.


Secret dreams of space came through | Arts & Leisure - Irish Echo

Remaining Space Station Crew Busy With Fascinating Research: Free-Flying Robots, Planetary Bodies and Water Droplets – SciTechDaily

By NASAAugust 5, 2020

Expedition 63 Commander and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy installs fluid research hardware inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory modules Microgravity Science Glovebox. Cassidy was working on the Droplet Formation Study that observes how microgravity shapes water droplets possibly improving water conservation and water pressure techniques on Earth. Credit: NASA

Free-flying robots, planetary bodies, and water droplets were just part of Tuesdays research plan aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 63 trio also serviced a variety of communications gear and life support systems.

NASA and its international partners are planning human missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond and the space station represents a big step in that effort. The orbiting lab provides a unique platform to learn about the long-term effects of microgravity on a variety of systems.

A set of cube-shaped, robot assistants are flying around on their own today inside Japans Kibo laboratory module. Engineers are looking at video and imagery downlinked from the Astrobee devices to understand how the autonomous free-flyers visualize and navigate their way around the station.

Commander Chris Cassidy took a look at dynamic granular material samples this morning that simulate planetary surfaces. The experiment is taking place inside ESAs (European Space Agency) Columbus laboratory module and could inform future planetary exploration missions.

The veteran NASA astronaut also split his time between botany and fluid physics. Cassidy worked on the Plant Habitat-02 checking growth lights and installing an acoustic shield to protect the plants from station noises. Next, he moved onto commercial research to improve water conservation and water pressure techniques on Earth.

In the Russian segment of the station, the two cosmonaut flight engineers worked on their complement of orbital science and lab maintenance. Anatoly Ivanishin serviced video equipment and an air purifier before conducting Earth observations. Ivan Vagner collected air samples for microbial analysis and explored ways to improve interactions between mission controllers, students and space crews.

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Remaining Space Station Crew Busy With Fascinating Research: Free-Flying Robots, Planetary Bodies and Water Droplets - SciTechDaily

Genes in Space selects winning student experiment to be performed on International Space Station – PRNewswire

Misquitta's experiment will explore why pharmaceutical drugs are less effective when astronauts spend time in microgravity. Misquitta plans to investigate whether spaceflight-induced changes in liver function may underlie the observed changes in drug efficacy. By improving our understanding of how spaceflight affects drug metabolism, Misquitta hopes his project will aid in the design of more effective treatment plans for astronauts as they undertake long-duration missions.

Misquittadeveloped his proposal with guidance from his sponsor, teacher Jessica Quenzer, and his mentor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist Dr. Kate Malecek. Misquitta will watch his experiment launch to space in 2021.

This announcement concludes a competitive cycle for the Genes in Space competition. Despite disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, 1082 students across the U.S. submitted a total of 556 applications, from which five finalists were selected. Finalists presented their ideas to a distinguished panel of scientists and educators at the Genes in Space 2020 Finalist Launchpad, a three-day online event. The Finalist Launchpad was streamed live to a worldwide audience for the first time in the contest's history. The Launchpad concluded Thursday afternoon, as the judges announced the selection of this year's winner.

Now in its sixth year, Genes in Space invites students in grades 7 through 12 to design biology experiments that address real-world challenges in space exploration. Previous contest winners have achieved significant milestones through their experiments, including the first use of gene editing technology in space. The competition was founded by miniPCR bio and Boeing, and is sponsored by the ISS National Laboratory, Math for America, and New England Biolabs.

Media contacts:miniPCR bio: Katy Martin, [emailprotected], +1 781-990-8727Boeing: Carrie Arnold, [emailprotected], +1 281-244-4257

SOURCE Genes in Space


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Genes in Space selects winning student experiment to be performed on International Space Station - PRNewswire

Retired Army Colonel Returns to Space – Connecting Vets

NASA and its international partners have assigned crew members for Crew-2, which will be the second operational SpaceX Crew Dragon flight to theInternational Space Stationas part of NASAs Commercial Crew Program.

NASA astronautsShane KimbroughandMegan McArthurwill serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively, for the mission. JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronautAkihiko Hoshideand ESA (European Space Agency) astronautThomas Pesquetwill join as mission specialists.

Crew-2 is targeted to launch in spring 2021, following the successful completion of both NASAs SpaceX Demo-2 test flight mission, which is expected to return to Earth Aug. 2, and the launch of NASAs SpaceX Crew-1 mission, which is targeted for late September. The Crew-2 astronauts will remain aboard the space station for approximately six months as expedition crew members, along with three crewmates who will launch via a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The increase of the full space station crew complement to seven members over the previous six will allow NASA to effectively double the amount of science that can be conducted in space.

This will be Kimbroughs third trip to space and his second long-duration stay at the space station. Born in Killeen, Texas, and raised in Atlanta, Kimbrough was selected as an astronaut in 2004. He first launched aboard space shuttle Endeavour for a visit to the station on the STS-126 mission in 2008, then aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for Expedition 49/50 in 2016. He has spent a total of 189 days in space, and performed six spacewalks. Kimbrough also is a retired U.S. Army colonel and earned a bachelors degree in aerospace engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, and a masters degree in operations research from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

McArthur will be making her second trip to space, but her first to the station. She was born in Honolulu but considers California to be her home state. After being selected as an astronaut in 2000, she launched on space shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on STS-125, the final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, in 2009. McArthur operated the shuttles robotic arm over the course of the 12 days and 21 hours she spent in space, capturing the telescope and moving crew members during the five spacewalks needed to repair and upgrade it. She holds a bachelors degree in aerospace engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a doctorate in oceanography from the University of California, San Diego.

This will be Hoshides third spaceflight. He was part of the STS-124 mission aboard space shuttle Discovery in 2008 and a crew member for Expeditions 32 and 33, launching aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2012 for a 124-day visit to the station.Pesquetpreviously flew as part of Expeditions 50 and 51, launching aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and spending 196 days in space.

NASAs Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and the space station. Commercial transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time, and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbital outpost.

Foralmost 20 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. As a global endeavor, 240 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 3,000 research and educational investigations from researchers in 108 countries.

The station is a critical testbed for NASA to understand and overcome the challenges of long-duration spaceflight. As commercial companies focus on providing human transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit, NASA is free to focus on building spacecraft and rockets for deep space missions to the Moon and Mars.

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Retired Army Colonel Returns to Space - Connecting Vets

Happy anniversary, Curiosity! NASA rover marks 8 years on Mars – Space.com

NASA would be thrilled if its newly launched Mars rover ended up matching its predecessor's longevity.

The agency's car-sized Curiosity rover celebrates eight (Earth) years on the Red Planet today (Aug. 5), less than a week after the Perseverance rover took flight toward Mars.

The synergy in timing is appropriate; Perseverance shares Curiosity's chassis and "sky crane" landing strategy, among other features. And the new rover will build upon the many discoveries that Curiosity has made over the years.

Related: Amazing Mars photos by NASA's Curiosity rover (latest images)

Curiosity launched in November 2011 and touched down inside the 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) Gale Crater on the night of Aug. 5, 2012, kicking off a surface mission designed to last at least one Martian year (which is equivalent to 687 Earth days).

The main goal of Curiosity's $2.5 billion mission, officially known as Mars Science Laboratory, involves assessing whether Gale could ever have supported Earth-like life. The nuclear-powered robot has returned exciting news on this front, finding that the crater hosted a potentially habitable lake-and-stream system for long stretches in the ancient past, perhaps millions of years at a time.

Curiosity has also detected complex organic chemicals, the building blocks of life as know it, in Gale Crater rocks. In addition, the rover has rolled through several plumes of methane and discovered a seasonal pattern in the concentration of this gas, which here on Earth is primarily produced by living organisms. (Abiotic processes can generate methane as well, however, and the source of the stuff within Gale is unclear.)

In September 2014, Curiosity reached the base of Mount Sharp, which rises 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) into the sky from Gale's center. For the past six years, the rover has been climbing through the mountain's foothills, reading the rocks for clues about Gale's past habitable environments and how Mars transitioned into the cold, dry desert planet we know today.

During its eight years on Mars, Curiosity has drilled 27 rock samples, scooped up six soil samples and put more than 14 miles (23 km) on its odometer, NASA officials said. (The Mars surface-distance record is held by another NASA rover, Opportunity, which covered 28.06 miles, or 45.16 km, between 2004 and 2018.)

Perseverance's $2.7 billion mission, called Mars 2020, aims to extend Curiosity's findings. The new rover will hunt for signs of ancient life in Mars' 28-mile-wide (45 km) Jezero Crater, which was home to a lake and a river delta long ago.

Perseverance will also collect and cache samples for future return to Earth and test out several new exploration technologies, including a tiny helicopter named Ingenuity and an instrument that generates oxygen from the thin, carbon dioxide-dominated Martian atmosphere.

Mars 2020 is scheduled to touch down on Feb. 18, 2021. Maybe Curiosity will take a short break from its work in Gale Crater that day, look up at the Martian sky, and send well wishes to the new arrival.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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Happy anniversary, Curiosity! NASA rover marks 8 years on Mars - Space.com

Space race? America’s new path to the ISS could affect relationship with Russia – Houston Chronicle

A scorched Dragon capsule swooped from the heavens on Aug. 2 to restore Americas prominence in human spaceflight. Tucked safely inside were two NASA astronauts and one giant piece of baggage for the U.S.-Russia relationship:

Both countries now have a ride to the International Space Station.

This station has housed Americans and Russians, living and working side by side, for nearly two decades. But for the past nine years, Russia alone could fly people there. Its pride and budget were bolstered by the U.S. purchasing rides into space.

No longer. As the U.S. resumes launching astronauts from its own soil an ability it does not wish to lose again policy experts are watching to see if this affects the countries relationship.

On HoustonChronicle.com: NASA, SpaceX bring astronauts home in Gulf of Mexico splashdown

Through their civil space programs, Americans and Russians have sidestepped election meddling and economic sanctions to cooperate on a greater good. This relationship has helped bridge the two cultures, with astronauts learning Russian and cosmonauts visiting their counterparts homes in Houston.

Its one of the few areas that have been somewhat immune to the tensions that we see in other areas and domains, said Gregory Miller, an associate professor at the U.S. Air Forces Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. If you take that away or reduce that cooperation, its just one less restraint on further tensions.

To be clear, Miller does not think the U.S. launching astronauts will start a war. Victoria Samson, a space policy expert at the Secure World Foundation, similarly called it a ripple in our relations but not necessarily a catastrophic tidal wave.

NASA said its in active discussions to fly cosmonauts on U.S. spacecraft owned by SpaceX (and later Boeing) and to continue flying astronauts on Russian spacecraft. Its important to have people on both the U.S. and Russian segments of the International Space Station.

Building on our solid relationship with Roscosmos aboard the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit, Im hopeful there are opportunities for NASA and Roscosmos to expand our collaboration farther into the solar system, including the moon, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

But Samson and others said the introduction of commercial companies makes Russia uncomfortable. And with NASA no longer buying seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, its Roscosmos space agency loses an important source of funding for its space budget thats already a fraction of what NASA receives.

For now, Russia and the U.S. remain interdependent on the International Space Station. But this station will eventually get retired it's set to operate through 2024, though that will likely be extended leaving a big question as to what U.S.-Russian relations will look like once astronauts and cosmonauts no longer share a home some 250 miles above Earth.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon didnt just revive U.S. human spaceflight. It introduced a new partner: SpaceX founder Elon Musk, an outspoken billionaire who is eager to show that commercial entities can build, own and operate the vehicles that carry people into space.

On May 30, the day SpaceX launched NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, Musk couldnt help but take a jab at Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos.

The trampoline is working, he said.

It was the punchline six years in the making: Rogozin, upset about U.S. sanctions in 2014, suggested that Americans use a trampoline to reach the space station.

Musk called his comment an inside joke, and Rogozin initially said he loved it. He congratulated NASA on the launch.

But a few days later, he released a lengthy op-ed in which he criticized the space shuttle (its 2011 retirement began U.S. dependence on Russias Soyuz spacecraft) for its immense costliness and unforgiveable failure rate. He touted Russia in the piece that ran in Forbes for staying alone for the humanity to support the International Space Station operability and deliver the crews there.

And he did not appreciate the humor.

When our partners finally managed to carry out a successful test of their spacecraft, we didn't get anything but jokes and mockery, Rogozin said, although it would not be out of place to thank our Soyuz, its Soviet developers and Russian engineers who continued modernizing this most reliable spacecraft in the world. It would not be out of place to thank us that despite personal and sectoral sanctions we did not go to pieces and preserved cooperation in space.

Roscosmos did not respond to email requests for comment.

SpaceX, with its ability to replace the Soyuz, makes Russia uncomfortable because it threatens a pillar of Russias culture and identity, said Pavel Luzin, who lives in Perm, Russia, and has a doctorate in international relations. Luzin has studied space policy since 2008.

He said that for Russians, the space program is a yardstick they use to judge the countrys political and economic system if its doing well they view the government more favorably.

Thats why (the) Kremlin hates Elon Musk: he shows that the freedom of business activity, the market economy and the political freedoms are much more effective, Luzin said in an email. Therefore, Dmitry Rogozin in his papers and interviews tries to belittle Musks achievements and tries to show that private investments of SpaceX and other commercial space companies are nothing without huge spending of the American government.

Russia has long been opposed to a commercial space sector; a sentiment first voiced by the former Soviet Union when drafting the Outer Space Treaty that provided a framework for governing the exploration and use of space.

This treaty was signed in 1967 after the Soviet Union placed the first satellite and man into space in 1957 and 1961, respectively, and before the U.S. put the first man on the moon in 1969.

At that time, the Soviet Union did not want the private sector operating in space, but allowed for a compromise: Governments would be responsible for overseeing any non-government entities.

The relationship slowly moved from competitive to cooperative cosmonauts and astronauts shook hands in space in 1975 but had its ups and downs. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, former President George H. W. Bush was looking for new ways to collaborate.

Space was an obvious area, said John Logsdon, a retired professor and founder of George Washington Universitys Space Policy Institute. And in particular, the Russians needed money.

On HoustonChronicle.com: International Space Station: an orbiting home and lab for two decades

The U.S. didnt want Russia selling its technology or having its rocket workforce moving to Iran or North Korea, Logsdon said, so America began allowing commercial satellites to launch on Russian rockets.

And then Russia proposed merging its plans for a next-generation space station with Americas plans for Space Station Freedom. Around that time, Russia had more experience operating space stations than NASA.

The Russians involvement in the program was a major factor in order to be successful in the International Space Station, said George W.S. Abbey, senior fellow in space policy at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and a former director of NASAs Johnson Space Center.

Also important was the countrys tried-and-true Soyuz rocket and spacecraft.

Todays Soyuz-2 rocket (which shares the same name as the spacecraft it propels into space) can directly trace its lineage to the rocket that launched the Sputnik satellite in 1957, said Phil Smith, a space industry analyst at Bryce Space and Technology.

The R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile has been the basis for 25 variants of the Soyuz rocket that have launched more than 1,900 times.

Its a workhorse, Smith said. Its one of the most successful rockets ever built.

There is no equivalent track record in America, he said, as modern rockets dont trace their lineage directly back to the early days of space exploration.

Its the future priorities of Russias civil space program that are being questioned. Russia says its building a vehicle to replace the Soyuz spacecraft that has had some 170 successful flights, as well as additional modules for the International Space Station, but both projects are underfunded and behind schedule.

There have been lots of proclamations of Russian future plans, Logsdon said, but not much evidence that theyre following through on those proclamations.

Luzin said Russias focus on maintaining access to the International Space Station, which Roscosmos did without placing enough emphasis on a long-term strategy for space exploration, has weakened its position. As the U.S. develops a new spacecraft, rocket and orbiting facility for the moon, Russia will have little to offer in a partnership, Luzin said.

It was unable to use these years for developing its own manned spacecraft and launch vehicle for replacement of the old-fashioned Soyuz, he said. The main issue in U.S.-Russia relations in space now is how to continue the partnership after the ISS-era.

Its lesser budget doesnt help, either. Based off budget documents and his own analysis, Luzin said Russias space budget was roughly $3.2 billion last year. Of that, $1.4 billion was for the countrys civil space program, $1 billion was for its military space program, $437 million was for its global navigation satellite system and $358 million was for its rocket launch sites.

For comparison, NASAs budget was $21.5 billion in fiscal year 2019. Its more than $22.6 billion for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

In the fall of 2019 and spring of 2020, NASA paid nearly $86 million for each astronaut launched into space (Jessica Meir in September and Chris Cassidy in April). The agency will pay $90.3 million to launch Kate Rubins in October, a fee that also covers training and other services related to launch.

The American payments were highly important for Russias space industry and for Russias civil space program, Luzin said, and now the industry lost the source.

Samson said U.S.-Russia cooperation doesnt have to be in human spaceflight. The countries could partner on science missions, or they could share information for tracking satellites and space debris.

Ultimately, the money NASA saves by flying with commercial companies could be put toward its Artemis program seeking to return humans to the moon. Houston, the home of human spaceflight, would certainly benefit from this, said Bob Mitchell, president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership.

It potentially equates to additional people working, he said.

On HoustonChronicle.com: NASA shares its vision for creating sustained human presence on the moon

Miller suggested the U.S. use the money its saving to help subsidize another countrys space program.

He said providing funding for another country, for instance the United Arab Emirates, to fly on the Soyuz would help keep Russias space program funded, preventing its knowledge and technology from being sold to more adversarial countries, while developing U.S. ties with a new international space partner.

We dont want to sever ties in space or do anything that might reduce cooperation when there is this other competitor, for lack of a better term, he said.

That other competitor is China. In June, the U.S. Department of Defense said China and Russia present the most immediate and serious threats to U.S. space operations as they develop counterspace capabilities which may disrupt, degrade or destroy space systems and have military doctrines that view space as import to modern warfare.

Samson said she doesnt think Russia and China will get too cozy as partners in space. Like the U.S. and Russia, the two countries have their own complicated relationship. Rather, she said Chinas rise in space capabilities means there are more players that make the U.S. uneasy (in space and elsewhere) that America now has to monitor and manage relationships with in space.

The biggest thing thats changed since the cold war is that this is no longer a bilateral conversation, Samson said. Its multi-lateral.



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Space race? America's new path to the ISS could affect relationship with Russia - Houston Chronicle

Dragon astronauts describe sounds and sensations of return to Earth – Spaceflight Now

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are seen Sunday aboard a helicopter that carried from the SpaceXs Go Navigator recovery ship in the Gulf of Mexico to Naval Air Station Pensacola, where they boarded a NASA jet for a flight back to their home base in Houston. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Two days after becoming the first U.S. space fliers splash down in the sea in more than 45 years, astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on Tuesday described their fiery ride back to Earth aboard SpaceXs Crew Dragon capsule to cap a flawless test flight, setting the stage for operational flights beginning later this year.

Riding in their commercial Crew Dragon spacecraft, which they named Endeavour, the astronauts parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico Sunday after plunging through Earths atmosphere on a return trip from the International Space Station.

I personally expected there to be certainly not issues with the vehicle but some challenges, some things that were maybe not quite what we expected, said Hurley, the Crew Dragons spacecraft commander, and a veteran of two prior space shuttle flights. I mean, even on our shuttle flights we had things that happened something that you certainly wouldnt have expected in a real flight.

My credit once again is to the folks at SpaceX, the production folks, the people that put Endeavour together, and certainly our training folks, Hurley said. The mission went just like the simulators. Honestly, from start to finish, all the way, there were really no surprises.

Hurley and Behnken launched May 30 on top of a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, becoming the first astronauts to launch into orbit from U.S. soil since the retirement of the space shuttle nearly a decade ago. The next day, the duo docked with the space station to join commander Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

Behnken joined Cassidy on four spacewalks in June and July to finish a multi-year effort to upgrade batteries on the space stations solar power truss. Hurley assisted with operating the stations Canadian-built robotic arm, and both Dragon astronauts helped perform maintenance, scientific experiments and other tasks during their two-month stint on the orbiting research lab.

But the prime objective of Hurley and Behnkens mission designated Demo-2, or DM-2 was to verify the performance and capabilities of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. They were the first astronauts to fly into space on a Crew Dragon, following the unpiloted Demo-1 test flight to the space station in March 2019.

The final major task for the Crew Dragon Endeavour spaceship was the return to Earth.

Hurley and Behnken floated into the capsule Saturday, and the ship autonomously detached from the space station. A series of maneuvers using the Dragons Draco thrusters steered the capsule a safe distance from the station and lined up with the targeted recovery zone in the Gulf of Mexico roughly 34 miles (54 kilometers) off the coast near Pensacola, Florida.

A final 11-minute deorbit burn allowed the Crew Dragon to drop back into the atmosphere. A thermal shield protected the capsule and the astronauts inside from the scorching heat of re-entry, and temperatures outside the spacecraft were expected to reach up to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,900 degrees Celsius).

As expected, a sheath of plasma around the spacecraft blocked communications for several minutes between the astronauts and SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California. Mission control regained contact with the crew moments before the capsule deployed two drogue parachutes to stabilize its descent through the atmosphere, then unfurled four large orange and white main chutes to slow the capsule to about 15 mph (24 kilometers per hour) for splashdown.

Hurley and Behnken were the first U.S. astronauts to return to Earth for a water landing since the Apollo-Soyuz mission in July 1975.

The Crew Dragons return to Earthwas more than what Doug and I expected, said Behnken, who served as the spacecrafts pilot.

As we kind of descended through the atmosphere, I personally was surprised at just how quickly the events all transpired, Behnken told reporters Tuesday. It seemed just like a couple minutes later after the (deorbit) burn was complete, we could look out the windows and see the clouds rushing by at a much accelerated rate.

Once we descended a little bit into the atmosphere, Dragon really came alive, Behnken said. It started to fire thrusters and keep us pointed in the appropriate direction. The atmosphere starts to make noise. You can hear that rumble outside the vehicle, and as the vehicle tries to control, you feel that little bit of shimmy in your body. And our bodies were much better attuned to the environment, so we could feel those small rolls, pitches, and yaws. All those little motions were things we could pick up on inside the vehicle.

It took just 12 minutes from the time that the Crew Dragon encountered the uppermost reaches of the discernible atmosphere until splashdown. NASAs winged space shuttles made a more gradual descent, taking roughly 30 minutes from the start of re-entry until touchdown on a runway.

As we descended, through the atmosphere, the thrusters were firing almost continuously, Behnken said. I did record some audio of it, but it doesnt sound like a machine, it sounds like an animal coming through the atmosphere with all the puffs that are happening from the thrusters and the atmospheric noise. It just continues to gain magnitude as you descend down through the atmosphere. I think we both really, really noticed that aspect of things.

Behnken, a 50-year-old veteran of two space shuttle missions, also described what the crew felt when the Crew Dragons trunk section jettisoned just before the deorbit burn, along with the sensations inside the spaceship when mortars fired to deploy the parachutes.

All the separation events, from the trunk separation through the parachute firings were very much like getting hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat just a crack, and then you get some sort of a motion associated with that, Behnken said.

He said that feeling was pretty light for the trunk separation, but with the parachutes it was a pretty significant jolt, and a couple of jolts as you go through dis-reefing (expansion) of the parachutes as well.

Behnken said he quoted to Hurley during the re-entry a humorous scene from the 1985 comedy filmSpies Like Us,where Chevy Chase asks DanAykroyd if he wants some coffee after training in a spinning centrifuge.

I took a line from an old movie that Doug and I were both familiar with at one point, he said. Under the G-load of about 4.2 Gs, I said, Want to get some coffee, much like wed seen in an old movie that we had watched because that was really the feeling that we had. Thats the best way to describe if youve seen an old movie that happened to have some guys whod been in a centrifuge. Thats what we felt like.

The Crew Dragon capsule is equipped with an altimeter to estimate the ships altitude using GPS navigation data, and the astronauts were watching the display during the final descent under the parachutes.

Its not super-accurate everywhere that youre located, so we got below zero for our altitude on that indicator, which was a little bit surprising, and then we felt the splash and we saw it splash up over the windows. It was just a great relief, I think, for both of us at that point, Behnken said.

SpaceX provided audio recordings from the Crew Dragons first orbital test flight to help prepare Hurley and Behnken for the ride during launch and re-entry. Behnken said that helped the astronauts know what to expect as the rode the Crew Dragon for the first time.

We were really comfortable coming through the atmosphere even though it felt like we were inside of an animal, Behnken said.

He said it was difficult to see out the windows, which are located near the astronauts feet, during the period of entry with the highest G-loads. Instead, the astronauts focused on their touchscreen displays.

The thermal control system inside the capsule was designed to keep the temperature below 85 degrees Fahrenheit, or 29 degrees Celsius, as temperatures reached their hottest outside the spacecraft during entry.

I do feel like I felt some warming of the capsule on the inside, Behnken said.

Behnken offered a similarly vivid account of the ride into orbit on top of SpaceXs Falcon 9 rocket. The astronauts were the first people to rocket into space on a Falcon 9.

By the time the capsule was through the hottest part of re-entry and the G-forces subsided, the capsules windows were blackened from the ordeal. Scorch marks were also visible on the outer skin of the crew capsule, and those were anticipated by SpaceX and NASA.

You can see from just an overall view of the capsule that re-entry is a pretty demanding environment, with the different scorches on the vehicle, and the windows were not spared any of that, Hurley said. To look out the windows, you could basically tell that it was daylight but very little else.

Hurley said the Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft was rock solid during the descent back to Earth.

Personally, I expected the entry to diverge somewhat from what we saw in the simulation, Hurley said. What I mean by that is as the capsule gets into the thicker atmosphere just prior to the drogues (parachutes) with Dragon, I expected there to be some divergence in attitude control because its a real tough problem for the ship as it gets into thicker air to maintain perfect attitude control.

He expected the vehicle might command the drogue parachutes to deploy a bit early to help stabilize its attitude, or orientation. That wasnt required Sunday.

The vehicle was rock solid right up until the nominal drogue deploy altitude, Hurley said. You could feel it, you felt the decel (deceleration), you knew the drogues both worked, and then it was the same with the mains. We felt the different stages of dis-reef, and then right to the impact in the water We kind of had a feeling that it would not be as much (of an impact) as a (Russian) Soyuz landing as it was described to us, but it was going to be a pretty firm splashdown, and then even how we bobbed in the water, and how the vehicle sat in the water.

By all accounts, the Crew Dragon aced the test flight. NASA expects to convene a review in late August or early September to formally certify the Crew Dragon for operational crew rotation flights to and from the space station.

Three NASA astronauts and a Japanese astronaut are training for the first operational Crew Dragon mission, known as Crew-1, for launch on a six-month expedition to the space station as soon as late September. Sources said the late September launch schedule is somewhat optimistic, and theres a chance SpaceXs Crew-1 launch might be delayed until after the launch of the next Russian Soyuz crew capsule, which is set for Oct. 14.

So my compliments to SpaceX and the commercial crew program. The vehicle performed exactly how it was supposed to, and you feel really good about Crew-1, and what they should expect and what they should see when they fly their mission, Hurley said.

For now, NASA and SpaceX officials say they remain hopeful for a Crew-1 launch before the end of next month.

After splashdown, the crew waited for SpaceXs recovery team to arrive at the capsule and hoist it onto a recovery vessel. Once on-board the boat, the astronauts waited the SpaceX team to ensure there were no toxic vapors leaking from the capsules propulsion system, then technicians and medical personnel opened the hatch to help Hurley and Behnken out of the spacecraft.

Hurley said the astronauts took some time after splashdown to test out a satellite phone they had on-board. If they had landed off course well away from SpaceXs recovery team, they could have used the phone to call rescue forces.

The astronauts first tried calling SpaceX mission control in California.

When we called they said standby, Hurley said. Sowe decided we would exercise our judgment and use our phone to call some other folks.

Hurley joked Sunday night that the astronauts were making prank satellite phone calls to whoever we could get ahold of, which was kind of fun.

They called NASAs flight director and their wives both veteran astronauts at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Hi, this is Bob and Doug. Were in the ocean.'

This was a great chance to reassure them that we were in the water, we were ok, we were feeling good, Hurley said. And at that point, we were still waiting on SpaceX, so we just decided to call a few other people that we knew their phone numbers.

After getting out of the SpaceX capsule, getting out of their pressure suits and completing initial medical checks, the astronauts rode in a helicopter from SpaceXs recovery vessel to Naval Air Station Pensacola, where they got on a NASA jet for the trip back to their home base in Houston to be reunited with their families.

Their first meal back on Earth? A pizza.

Amid an exercise protocol to help readapt to Earths gravity, the astronauts said they are looking forward to spending time with their families. The astronauts began training for the mission in 2015.

Theres a lot of stuff to do in the next few weeks, Hurley said. Were hoping at some point to take some time off and share some more time with our families since they were the ones that really had to sacrifice over the last five years.

The astronauts said their experience flying the Crew Dragon gives them confidence the spacecraft is ready for regular crew rotation flights, pending analysis of all the data from the Demo-2 mission.

They do need to look at the data from our entry, Behnken said. Its not just the end users anecdotes of how well it performed. They will do a very thorough review, both on the SpaceX side and the NASA side, to make sure that theyre comfortable. But from a crew perspective, I think its definitely ready to go.

There are things that could be improved to make things a little bit more comfortable, or a little bit more efficient inside the vehicle for those crews. But from a crew perspective, I think were perfectly comfortable that Crew-1 is ready when they finish the engineering and analysis associated with certification, Behnken said.

Hurley added that the extension of the Demo-2 missions duration from several days to two months also offered a chance of engineers to gather more data on the capsules performance, increasing confidence that the spacecraft will be ready for the roughly-six Crew-1 mission beginning later this year.

Theres a certification process that Endeavour hasnt completed yet, and it will likely be weeks, Hurley said. From my experience of flying fighters and testing fighters theres a lot of scrutiny on a first light, and theres a lot of work that goes into a first flight, but you cant let your guard down, and youve got to take a look at the data, youve got to listen to the hardware, and its probably going to take a few flights.

We certainly did our best, and I think the teams did their best, to script this flight to be a full-up test flight, but there are certainly things on Dragon that could be tested more, Hurley said.

Behnkens wife is astronaut Megan McArthur. NASA announced last week she will be the pilot on the Crew-2 mission, which is slated launch in the spring of 2021 and will use the same reusable Crew Dragon spaceship flown by Hurley and Behnken on the Demo-2 test flight.

For me, I think in the short term I transition into a support role, Behnken said Tuesday. Illdefinitely be focused on making sure that her mission is as successful as possible and supporting her just as she did for me over the last five years with the uncertainty in our launch dates and the uncertainty in our return dates.

Its definitely her turn to focus on getting her mission, while I take care of the things that need to be taken care of for our home life, said Behnken, an Air Force colonel and flight test engineer.

Throughout their flight, Hurley and Behnken shared images on Twitter of daily life on the International Space Station and spectacular snapshots of planet Earth, showing views of cities, mountain ranges, oceans and tropical cyclones.

The perspective that you have from low Earth orbit of our planet is just one of just complete awe, said Hurley, a retired Marine Corps colonel and fighter pilot. First of all, of how beautiful the planet is, that there are no borders that you can see from space that the atmosphere is so thin.

The United States, and the world, has been dealing with so much chaos and drama, and the pandemic, and all the things that have been going on in the world, Hurley said. If it were me, it would make me feel better to see these pictures from space, so we just felt like it was a way to have folks maybe have a distraction for awhile, and also to appreciate the planet that weve been given.

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San Antonio Vies to Be Home of New U.S. Space Command – GovTech

(TNS) San Antonio is in the hunt to be the new home of U.S. Space Command.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Wednesday the city has survived the initial cut as the Air Force seeks a headquarters for the command, which is now in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Governors from 26 states nominated cities to host the command, which is part of U.S. Space Force.

Nirenberg, who said he learned of the development last weekend, didnt know how many cities were originally in the contest or how many had made the cut, but he said Houston and Fort Worth also had been nominated by Gov. Greg Abbott.

He said San Antonio was a natural fit for the command because of its quality of life, highly skilled work force that includes military personnel transitioning to civilian life, large veterans community, and specialists who work in space-related fields.

We have the largest presence of cyber and intelligence capabilities outside of the national capital region, Nirenberg said. And we have a public-private military and civilian infrastructure thats required, including medical and military support networks, housing, transportation and veteran services, as well as electric, water, gas and telecommunications that are all critically important. And not to mention the proximity to our key allies in North America and the presence of significant private space flight technology thats underway.

Space Force was established in December and is the space warfare branch of the armed forces. One of eight uniformed services, it was created with the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act and will be stood up over the next 18 months.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said Wednesday a release announcing criteria for cities seeking to host Space Command was sent out May 15. She said the Air Force had entered the evaluation phase of the selection process and that it would select candidates in mid- to late- November.

A decision is expected in January.

We expect to select the preferred location in January 2021, Stefanek said. Colorado Springs, Colorado, remains the location for the provisional headquarters for U.S. Space Command headquarters until a permanent headquarters location is selected and facilities are ready in approximately six years.

Space Force headquarters is in the Pentagon, as is the case for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, with Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs serving as the provisional home of the command as the search continues.

San Antonio is already home to several major commands. They include the Air Education and Training Command at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, and Army North, Army South, and the Armys Installation Management Command, all at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.

2020 the San Antonio Express-News, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Hurley, Behnken heading home on final leg of Crew Dragon test flight – Spaceflight Now

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken undocked from the International Space Station Saturday aboard their Crew Dragon capsule Endeavour, heading for a parachute-assisted splashdown Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico to wrap up a 64-day test flight of SpaceXs commercial human-rated spaceship.

With favorable wind and sea conditions expected in the Gulf of Mexico Sunday, mission control gave the go-ahead for Hurley and Behnken to board their Crew Dragon spacecraft and close hatches between the capsule and the space station.

After a series of leak checks, an undocking command at 7:30 p.m. EDT (2330 GMT) Saturday commenced a series of automated steps to depart the station. Power umbilicals detached inside the docking mechanism, then 12 hooks opened before the Dragon Endeavour spacecraft fired thrusters in a pair of short pulses to boost itself away from the research complex at 7:35 p.m. EDT (2335 GMT).

Wearing custom-made SpaceX-built pressure suits, Hurley and Behnken monitored the departure on touchscreen displays inside their Dragon Endeavour spacecraft. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, commander of the stations Expedition 63 crew, rang the ships bell on the research complex and ceremoniously announced the Dragons undocking.

Cassidy and his two Russian crewmates Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will remain aboard the space station until October, when they will return to a landing in Kazakhstan on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Three fresh crew members will launch to the space station Oct. 14 on a new Soyuz spaceship.

During their two-month stay, Hurley and Behnken assisted Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagner with space station duties, performing experiments and maintenance. Behnken joined Cassidy on four spacewalks in June and July to replace batteries on the space stations solar power modules.

Chris, we just cant thank you enough, Hurley said in a radio exchange with Cassidy shortly after undocking. Its been an honor and a privilege to be part of Expedition 63 with you, Anatoly and Ivan. Its been a great two months and we appreciate all youve done as a crew to help us prove out Dragon on its maiden flight.

Hurley also thanked NASA mission controllers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and SpaceX teams in Hawthorne, California, for their support.

We look forward to splashdown tomorrow, Hurley said. Also like to wish you great success on the rest of your expedition and a safe flight home in the fall. Take care, friend.

Bob and Doug, wholeheartedly agree with those sentiments, Cassidy replied. Its been a real pleasure. Its been an honor to serve with you. Safe travels and have a successful landing. Endeavours a great ship. Godspeed.

A series of rocket burns maneuvered the crew capsule a safe distance away from the space station, and the astronauts planned to begin an eight-hour sleep period at 11:40 p.m. EDT (0340 GMT).

During their sleep period, the Crew Dragon is programmed to complete an automated six-minute phasing burn to line up with the splashdown target in the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurley and Behnken will close out their 64-day test flight designated Demo-2, or DM-2 Sunday with a braking burn to drop out of orbit and enter the atmosphere, targeting a splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida.

Our mission isnt over, Hurley said Saturday before undocking. The DM-2 test flight is, in some ways, just two-thirds complete. We did the ascent, rendezvous and the docking. We completed our docked objectives, and now is the entry, descent and splashdown phase.

The hardest part was getting us launched, but the most important part is bringing us home, Behnken said.

The astronauts are scheduled to wake up at 7:40 a.m. EDT (1140 GMT) Sunday to begin preparations for their return to Earth.

Hurley and Behnken will pack bags and ready the spaceships cabin for entry. They will also drink fluids in a process known as fluid loading aimed at easing their adaptation to Earths gravity after two months in orbit.

Assuming a final assessment of weather and sea conditions look favorable in the recovery zone near Pensacola, the Dragon Endeavour spacecraft flying on autopilot will jettison its unpressurized trunk section at 1:51 p.m. EDT (1751 GMT). The trunk is attached to the rear of the Dragons crew module, and contains the ships power-generating solar panels and radiators used to shed the spacecrafts internal heat into space.

The trunk will remain in a relatively low orbit and will naturally fall back into the atmosphere and burn up.

Meanwhile, the Dragon crew module will maneuver into the proper orientation for a deorbit burn using the spacecrafts Draco thrusters. The braking maneuver will begin at 1:56 p.m. EDT (1756 GMT) and last more than 11 minutes, slowing the ships velocity by nearly 168 mph, or 75 meters per second.

That change in velocity will allow Earths gravity to pull the spacecraft back into the atmosphere, which will do most of the rest of the work to slow Dragons speed for splashdown.

The spacecraft will close its forward nose cone at 2:11 p.m. EDT (1811 GMT) before it plunges into the discernible atmosphere at 2:36 p.m. EDT (1836 GMT), moving at some 17,500 miles per hour (28,000 kilometers per hour).

Hurley and Behnken will be wearing their SpaceX-made flame-resistant pressure suits during entry, the same garments they wore during their launch May 30 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Flying with its blunt end facing the brunt of the airflow, the spacecrafts heat shield will encounter temperatures up to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,900 degrees Celsius) as it dives into the atmosphere.

The build-up of super-heated around the capsule is expected to interrupt communications with the crew for about six minutes during entry. Engineers expect to restore communications with the astronauts once Dragon Endeavour comes out of the hottest part of entry at around 2:42 p.m. EDT (1842 GMT).

Drogue parachutes will release from the top of the capsule at 2:44 p.m. EDT (1844 GMT), followed by the deployment of four orange and white main parachutes about a minute later.

The drogue chutes will deploy when Dragon Endeavour is descending through about 18,000 feet, or 5,500 meters, when the capsule is moving at approximately 350 mph, or more than 550 kilometers per hour. The four main chutes come out at an altitude of about 6,000 feet, or 1,800 meters, and at a velocity of around 119 mph, or 191 kilometers per hour.

The parachutes will slow the capsules speed for a gentle splashdown at 2:48 p.m. EDT (1848 GMT) in the Gulf of Mexico, targeting a location just south of the Alabama-Florida border.

Going into Sundays entry and splashdown, mission control identified a backup recovery site in the Gulf of Mexico near Panama City, Florida. SpaceX and NASA have seven Crew Dragon splashdown sites available in total four in the Gulf and three in the Atlantic but Tropical Storm Isaias is forecast to move near the missions recovery zones off Floridas East Coast on Sunday.

If weather conditions deteriorate in the Gulf of Mexico, mission control could wave-off Sundays return opportunities. NASA officials said the astronauts have food, water and other supplies for at least three days on the Crew Dragon after the undocking Saturday night from the space station.

A SpaceX recovery vessel named Go Navigator will be on station in the Gulf of Mexico to retrieve the Crew Dragon spaceship after it splashes down.

Two fast boats will deploy from Go Navigator and approach the capsule, which measures around 13 feet (4 meters) in diameter and 16 feet (5 meters). After ensuring the spacecraft is safe, the larger recovery boat will take position near the Dragon and hoist the capsule out of the water using a lifting frame.

Once in the Dragon is on the deck of Go Navigator, Hurley and Behnken willdisembark the capsule and undergo medical checks.

Benji Reed, SpaceXs director of crew mission management, said the recovery ship will have around 44 people on-board, including SpaceX and NASA officials, doctors, nurses and other medical personnel. Spacecraft technicians will also be aboard to recover and secure the Dragon capsule.

After an initial health assessment, Hurley and Behnken will ride a helicopter to Naval Air Station Pensacola, where they will board a NASA aircraft for the flight back to their home base in Houston.

The astronauts are coming back to Earth with around 330 pounds (150 kilograms) of cargo, including frozen experiment specimens, personal gear, and a U.S. flag left on the space station by the final space shuttle crew in 2011.

Hurley was the pilot on the final space shuttle flight.

The flag also flew on STS-1, the first shuttle mission, in 1981. The final shuttle crew left it on the space station to be returned by the next astronauts to fly to the research lab on a U.S. spacecraft.

In the end, SpaceX won the capture the flag competition on the high frontier.

NASA awarded multibillion-dollar contracts to develop and fly new U.S.-built commercial crew capsules to SpaceX and Boeing in 2014, following several years of preliminary design work.

SpaceX launched a successful unpiloted Crew Dragon demonstration flight to the space station in March 2019, then overcame a setback during ground testing of the Crew Dragons launch abort system last year. After redesigning part of the abort system, and verifying new modifications to the capsules parachutes, SpaceX launched the first Crew Dragon mission with astronauts May 30.

Boeings CST-100 Starliner crew capsule launched into orbit for its first unpiloted test flight last December, but it ran into software problems that prevented the spacecraft from reaching the space station. Boeing recovered the spacecraft with a successful landing in New Mexico, but officials plan to re-fly the uncrewed demonstration mission later this year before clearing the Starliner to carry astronauts for the first time in 2021.

With the Crew Dragon on the cusp of completing its first round-trip space mission with astronauts, SpaceX and NASA will analyze data from the Demo-2 test flight before formally certifying the commercial capsule for operational crew rotation launches.

The first such regular crew rotation flight, named Crew-1, is scheduled for launch this fall on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center. Four astronauts are assigned to the Crew-1 flight, and NASA last week announced the crew assignments for the Crew-2 mission in the spring of 2021, the second operational Crew Dragon mission to the space station.

Subsequent Crew Dragon missions to the space station will also launch with up to four passengers, and the spaceship once certified after Demo-2s return will be capable of missions lasting up to 210 days.

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Hurley, Behnken heading home on final leg of Crew Dragon test flight - Spaceflight Now

Seattles BlackSky and other satellite imaging ventures bear witness to devastation in Beirut – GeekWire

An image captured by the BlackSky Global-4 satellite shows the site of the Beirut chemical explosion at 8:22 a.m. local time Aug. 5. Image resolution is about 1 meter (3 feet) per pixel. (BlackSky Global Monitoring Photo)

The aftermath of this weeks Beirut chemical explosion has been covered in triplicate by U.S. satellite imaging systems with other nations satellites, drones and on-the-scene videos adding perspective.

All that imagery helped outside observers quickly verify that the killing blast was caused not by a terrorist bombing, but by the blow-up of a years-old stockpile of ammonium nitrate. The chemical is typically used as fertilizer but can be turned into dangerous explosives.

The Aug. 4 explosion killed at least 100 people, injured thousands more, sent out a shock wave that damaged buildings up to 6 miles away, and generated a seismic shock that was felt as far away as Cyprus.

Among the spacecraft in position to document the aftermath was BlackSkys Global-4 satellite, which was built in Seattle for BlackSky and launched last August. BlackSky is a subsidiary of Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries, and has offices in Seattle as well as Virginia.

BlackSky is due to have two more Global satellites launched as soon as this week, as rideshare payloads on a SpaceX Falcon 9 under an arrangement with Seattles Spaceflight Inc. Theyre among the first satellites built for BlackSky by Tukwila, Wash.-based LeoStella, a joint venture between Spaceflight Industries and Europes Thales Alenia Space. The deployment timetable calls for 16 BlackSky satellites to be on duty in low Earth orbit by early next year.

Two of BlackSkys competitors, Planet and Maxar Technologies, also shared before-and-after views of the Beirut blast scene today:

BlackSky, Maxar Technologies and Planet have all won study contracts from the National Reconnaissance Office, under a program aimed at assessing the companies ability to provide imagery for the defense and intelligence communities.

NRO says it will start a new round of commercial imagery procurements in late 2020, with an eye toward satisfying government requirements into the 2023 time frame. So the efforts to capture over Beirut isnt merely meant to satisfy curiosity; they serve to demonstrate what the companies can do for national defense.

In addition to the satellite pictures from those three U.S. companies, theres a surfeit of sobering imagery from other satellites and drones. Heres a sampling:

To contribute online to Beirut relief efforts, check out the Lebanese Red Cross and Impact Lebanon on Just Giving. This report was first published on Cosmic Log.

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Seattles BlackSky and other satellite imaging ventures bear witness to devastation in Beirut - GeekWire

Astronauts back on Earth after ‘extraordinary’ Dragon test flight – Spaceflight Now

SpaceXs Crew Dragon spacecraft splashes down in the Gulf of Mexico Sunday with two NASA astronauts on-board. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Returning home after a 64-day test flight, astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken blazed through Earths atmosphere and parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft Sunday, a final major step before NASA formally certifies the crew capsule for operational missions to the International Space Station.

The successful homecoming for Hurley and Behnken signaled a turning point in NASAs commercial crew program, which fostered public-private partnerships with U.S. companies to design, develop and fly new human-rated space taxis after the retirement of the space shuttle.

The astronauts launched inside SpaceXs Crew Dragon spaceship May 30, when they rode a Falcon 9 rocket into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center. The launch was the first time a crew rocketed into orbit from U.S. soil since the last space shuttle flight in 2011.

With Sundays splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico, NASA is on the verge of certifying the Crew Dragon spacecraft for regular trips to and from the space station. That will allow the space agency to end its reliance on Russia for crew transportation.

This has been quite an odyssey the last, five, seven, eight years five years since Bob and I started working on this program, Hurley said after Sundays return. And to be where we are now, (with) the first crewed flight of Dragon, is just unbelievable.

Not only was Sundays splashdown a major milestone for NASA, it also made history in the realm of commercial spaceflight. The Crew Dragon became the first privately-owned spacecraft to carry a crew into orbit and return them safely to Earth.

I do think what this heralds really is fundamentally a new era in spaceflight, a new era in space exploration, said Elon Musk, SpaceXs founder and CEO, in remarks Sunday evening in Houston to welcome home Hurley and Behnken. Were going to go to the moon. Were going to have a base on the moon. Were going to send people to Mars, and make life multi-planetary.

After detaching from the International Space Station on Saturday night, the Dragon spacecraft carrying Hurley and Behnken lined up for a southwest-to-northeast approach to a splashdown zone in the Gulf around 34 miles (54 kilometers) off the Florida coast near Pensacola.

The capsule jettisoned its unpressurized trunk section with the ships solar panels and thermal control radiator just before firing a set of Draco rocket jets at 1:56 p.m. EDT (1756 GMT) for a deorbit burn lasting more than 11 minutes.

The braking burn changed the capsules velocity enough toallow Earths gravity to pull the spacecraft back into the atmosphere, which did the rest of the work to slow Dragons speed from 17,500 mph (28,000 kilometers per hour) to just 15 mph (24 kilometers per hour) for splashdown.

The spacecraft closed its nose cone a few minutes later, then encountered the uppermost fringes of the discernible atmosphere at 2:36 p.m. EDT (1836 GMT).

Wearing their white SpaceX-madeflame-resistant pressure suits, the astronauts experienced up to 4Gs during entry. The capsule flew on autopilot, pointing its blunt end into the airflow as temperatures outside the spacecraft rose up to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (over 1,900 degrees Celsius).

A plasma sheath enshrouded the capsule for several minutes, causing an expected communication blackout between the Crew Dragon which Hurley and Behnken named Endeavour and SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California.

Ground teams restored the voice link with the Dragon astronauts, and a pair of drogue parachutes unfurled to stabilize the capsule. Four orange and white main parachutes deployed at an altitude of about 18,000 feet (5,500 meters) to slow the capsules descent in the last few minutes before splashdown.

The 13-foot-wide (4-meter), 16-foot-tall (5-meter) capsule splashed down at 2:48 p.m. EDT (1848 GMT).

Endeavour, on behalf of the SpaceX and NASA teams, welcome back to planet Earth, radioed SpaceXs spacecraft communicatorMike Heiman. Thanks for flying SpaceX.

It was truly our honor and privilege to fly the (first) flight of the Crew Dragon Endeavour, Hurley replied moments after splashdown. Congratulations to everybody at SpaceX.

The splashdown near Pensacola was the first time U.S. astronauts returned from a space mission with a splashdown at sea since 1975, when the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission came back to Earth. It was also the first splashdown of astronauts in the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurley and Behnkens mission known as Demo-2, or DM-2 lasted 64 days since they blasted off from Floridas Space Coast on May 30.

After reaching the space station May 31, the astronauts joined the Expedition 63 led by commander Chris Cassidy.

Cassidy and his two Russian crewmates Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will remain aboard the space station until October, when they will return to a landing in Kazakhstan on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Three fresh crew members will launch to the space station Oct. 14 on a new Soyuz spaceship.

During their two-month stay, Hurley and Behnken assisted Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagner with space station duties, performing experiments and maintenance. Behnken joined Cassidy on four spacewalks in June and July to replace batteries on the space stations solar power modules.

A SpaceX recovery vessel named Go Navigator was on station in the Gulf of Mexico to retrieve the Crew Dragon spaceship after it splashed down.

Two fast boats with recovery team members approached the capsule. After ensuring the spacecraft was safe, the larger recovery boat took position near the Dragon and hoisted the capsule out of the water using a lifting frame.

Once the Dragon was on the deck of Go Navigator, SpaceX technicians detected elevated levels of nitrogen tetroxide outside the spacecraft. The compound is used as an oxidizer for the spacecrafts maneuvering thrusters, and is highly toxic.

The recovery team purged part of the spacecraft to rid it of the toxic contaminants before opening the hath and helping Hurley and Behnken out of the capsule for initialmedical checks.

SpaceX said the recovery ship had around 44 people on-board, including SpaceX and NASA officials, doctors, nurses and other medical personnel. Spacecraft technicians were aboard to recover and secure the Dragon capsule.

Hurley and Behnken later rode a helicopter to Naval Air Station Pensacola, where they boarded a NASA aircraft for the flight back to their home base in Houston.

The astronauts came back to Earth with around 330 pounds (150 kilograms) of cargo, including frozen experiment specimens, personal gear, and a U.S. flag left on the space station by the final space shuttle crew in 2011.

Hurley was the pilot on the final space shuttle flight.

The flag also flew on STS-1, the first shuttle mission, in 1981. The final shuttle crew left it on the space station to be returned by the next astronauts to fly to the research lab on a U.S. spacecraft.

In the end, SpaceX won the capture the flag competition on the high frontier.

NASA awarded multibillion-dollar contracts to develop and fly new U.S.-built commercial crew capsules to SpaceX and Boeing in 2014, following several years of preliminary design work.

SpaceX, founded by Musk 18 years ago, launched a successful unpiloted Crew Dragon demonstration flight to the space station in March 2019, then overcame a setback during ground testing of the Crew Dragons launch abort system last year. After redesigning part of the abort system, and verifying new modifications to the capsules parachutes, SpaceX launched the first Crew Dragon mission with astronauts May 30.

Boeings CST-100 Starliner crew capsule launched into orbit for its first unpiloted test flight last December, but it ran into software problems that prevented the spacecraft from reaching the space station. Boeing recovered the spacecraft with a successful landing in New Mexico, but officials plan to re-fly the uncrewed demonstration mission later this year before clearing the Starliner to carry astronauts for the first time in 2021.

SpaceX has signed contracts with NASA on the Crew Dragon program valued at more than $3 billion. Boeing has a similar set of agreements with NASA worth more than $5 billion for the Starliner program.

Both companies have contributed undisclosed sums to the Crew Dragon and Starliner programs from their own corporate funds.

NASA says contracting out human spaceflight missions to low Earth orbit will reduce costs, freeing limited government funding for astronaut journeys to the moon, and eventually Mars.

With the Crew Dragons first round-trip space mission with astronauts in the books, SpaceX and NASA will analyze data from the Demo-2 test flight before formally certifying the commercial capsule for operational crew rotation launches.

The first such regular crew rotation flight, named Crew-1, is scheduled for launch this fall on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center. Four astronauts are assigned to the Crew-1 flight.

Well do a few things to get ready for certification in a few different areas, said Steve Stich, manager of NASAs commercial crew program. One, well review all the telemetry, all the data from the Dragon. Weve done that for the whole flight to date. Well do that now for undocking all the way through splashdown and recovery.

We do it jointly with SpaceX, said Stich, a former NASA flight director. We have our NASA team and SpaceX working together and going through all the data for each of the various systems life support, propulsion, and so forth. So well go through all that data to make sure that theres nothing anomalous there.

Second, well look at the parachutes, Stich said. The parachutes are a very important system on the vehicle. SpaceX was doing a great job of recovering their chutes today, so well take those back and analyze those, look at it, just to see if they performed well.

The Dragon capsule that flew Hurley and Behnken into space will fly again on the Crew-2 mission next year. Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceXs president and chief operating officer, said Sunday the companys new Dragon spacecraft design which comes in crew and cargo variants should be capable of five to 10 flights.

One of the benefits of reuse, I would say, is the fact that well take some of the vehicle apart, Stich said. The nose cone will come off, the heat shield comes off, well start to inspect part of the spacecraft, and sometimes we can learn things from that.

So well do that inspection, and then well put all that together and head into the certification review, probably toward the end of this month or early next month.

Subsequent Crew Dragon missions to the space station will also launch with up to four passengers, and the spaceship once certified after Demo-2s return will be capable of missions lasting up to 210 days.

While SpaceXs core market for crew missions is with NASA and government astronauts, the company has its eyes set on flying commercial passengers. Earlier this year, SpaceX announced agreements with Axiom Space and Space Adventures, two companies that are arranging orbital expeditions with space tourists, paying passengers, and other would-be space fliers in the private sector.

One future Crew Dragon passenger could be Tom Cruise, who is planning to film a movie in orbit through a partnership with SpaceX, according to the entertainment website Deadline.

This was an extraordinary mission, an extraordinary day for NASA, for SpaceX, and frankly for Americans and anyone interested in spaceflight, Shotwell said Sunday, referring to the conclusion of the Demo-2 test flight. This is really just the beginning. We are starting the journey of bringing people regularly to and from low Earth orbit, and on to the moon, and ultimately on to Mars.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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The Vostok Program: The Soviet’s first crewed spaceflight program – Space.com

The Vostok program was a Soviet space program project that ran from 1960 to 1963 and achieved many spectacular milestones in spaceflight, including placing the first man in space, the first woman in space, and the first joint flight of two different crewed orbiters.

Vostok took place at the beginning of the space race, a series of competitive technology demonstrations between the United States and the Soviet Union, aiming to show superiority in spaceflight during the Cold War. The USSR was largely seen to be ahead in the early days of the space race.

Russia has a long and prestigious history of thinking about human spaceflight, all the way back to the pioneering work of engineer and mathematician Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who in 1903 first derived the rocket equation, which describes the movement of spacefaring vehicles. This helped give the Soviet Union a leg up at the dawn of the Space Age.

After launching Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, in 1957, the USSR began preparations for crewed missions, which included developing the Vostok spacecraft that would carry people into space, according to Astronautix.com, a website about space history. These spacecraft were placed atop the Vostok rocket, a 98-foot (30-meter) launch vehicle slightly larger than those used in NASA's Mercury program.

Between 1960 and '61, the Soviets launched several test Vostok capsules containing dogs, some of which were killed during their missions and some of which survived and landed safely on Earth, according to Russianspaceweb.com.

Related: Laika the dog & the first animals in space

History was made on April 12, 1961 when Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly in space and orbit the Earth during the Vostok 1 mission. Gagarin's flight lasted a short 108 minutes, as he travelled once around our planet before reentering the atmosphere.

Because engineers were uncertain about how weightlessness would affect Gagarin, the spherical one-person Vostok capsule had little in the way of onboard controls, with most actions being coordinated by planners on the ground. In case of an emergency, Gagarin was given an override code allowing him to take manual control.

The cramped Vostok cabin was only about 8 feet (2.5 m) in diameter and made of aluminum alloy. It sported two windows: One above the cosmonaut's head in the entry hatch and one at his feet. During that first flight, the capsule contained 10 days' worth of provisions in case the engines failed and Gagarin was required to wait for the orbit to naturally decay.

The Vostok spacecraft had no real maneuvering capabilities and couldn't land on its own. After reentry, Gagarin ejected from the spacecraft about 4 miles (7 kilometers) up and parachuted to the ground, landing in a potato field and startling a farmer and her granddaughter, according to Russianspaceweb.com.

Gagarin became a national and international hero, with hundreds of thousands of people cheering him during a celebratory parade in Red Square, a public plaza in Moscow. The anniversary of his flight is commemorated as "Cosmonautics day" in Russia.

On Aug. 6, 1961, the USSR launched Vostok 2, which carried cosmonaut Gherman Titov, who became the fourth person in space after American astronauts Alan Shepard and Virgil Grissom flew suborbital flights for NASA's Mercury program. Titov became the first person to stay in space for more than a day, orbiting the Earth 17.5 times over the course of 25 hours, according to the New Zealand website Daryl's Space Collection.

Titov had been Gagarin's backup pilot for Vostok 1, and Vostok 2 was his only spaceflight. After his flight, he was grounded for medical reasons as he had the unfortunate honor of being the first person to experience space sickness, having been so nauseated that he could barely eat during his mission, according to Russianspaceweb.com.

Vostok 3 and 4 was a daring double mission in which two separate spacecraft launched within a day of each other, on Aug. 11 and 12, 1962. Cosmonaut Andriyan Nikolayev rode on Vostok 3 and Pavel Popovichflew aboard Vostok 4.

The simultaneous spacecraft were a response to the U.S. managing to successfully orbit one of their astronauts, John Glenn, earlier that year. The Soviets decided to show their superiority by demonstrating "formation flights" in space, according to Russianspaceweb.com.

Vostok 3 launched first and was in position when Vostok 4 arrived in orbit, with the two spacecraft coming within 3 miles (5 kilometers) of one another after Vostok 4's launch. The two pilots made radio contact with one another and Popovich reported being able to see Nikolayev's ship. But without maneuvering capabilities, the two soon drifted apart, according to Astronautix.com.

Vostok 4 had problems with its life support system, and the capsule's internal temperature dropped to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). The pilot, Popovich, still wanted to complete his mission but had been told to radio ground control and say he was "observing thunderstorms" in case he felt space-sick like Titov.

Popovich, in fact, saw thunderstorms over the Gulf of Mexico and told mission control about it, which they then mistakenly took for the secret signal. He was brought down early, landing within a few minutes of Vostok 3. Each had been up for a few days.

The final two Vostok flights were another double mission. Vostok 5 launched June 14, 1963 and Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963, and the two spacecraft once again passed within 3 miles (5 km) of one another and established radio contact, according to Astronautix.com.

Vostok 5 carried cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky, whose five-day flight remains the longest solo spaceflight in Earth orbit to this day, according to Daryl's Space Collection.

Vostok 6 set an even more impressive record, carrying the first woman into space, Valentina Tereshkova. The idea for a female cosmonaut came from Sergei Korolev, the chief architect of the Soviet space program.

But Korolev was unhappy with Tereshkova's performance and wouldn't allow her to take manual control of the craft, as had been planned. It took another 19 years before another woman, Svetlana Savitskaya, flew in space and more than two decades before NASA launched a female astronaut, Sally Ride.

Related: Women in space: A gallery of fights

Several other Vostok flights had been in the planning stages, including a double mission involving two women and much longer solo flights, according to Astronautix.com. But these were all superseded by the Soviet Voskhod program, which conducted multi-person crews, and the Soyuz program, which remains the name for Russia's crewed spaceflight missions.

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Look Up One Night and See the International Space Station – Yonkers Times

Look up as the International Space Station cruises by every night through Aug 6

If you want to find something interesting to do one night without leaving your home, check out the International Space Station, ISS, which, for the next few days (through Aug 6) will be visible every night from Westchester County, NY.The space station is Earths only microgravity laboratory. This football field-sized platform hosts a plethora of science and technology experiments that are continuously being conducted by crew members, or are automated. Research aboard the orbiting laboratory holds benefits for life back on Earth, as well as for future space exploration. The space station serves as a testbed for technologies and allows us to study the impacts of long-term spaceflight to humans, supporting NASAs mission to push human presence farther into space.The ISS circles the Earth every 90 minutes. It travels at about 17,500 miles (28,000 km) per hour, which gives the crew 16 sunrises and sunsets every day. In the more than 15 years that people have been living onboard, the Station has circumnavigated the Earth tens of thousands of times.All sightings will occur within a few hours before or after sunrise or sunset. This is the optimum viewing period as the sun reflects off the space station and contrasts against the darker sky.The space station looks like an airplane or a very bright star moving across the sky, except it doesnt have flashing lights or change direction. It will also be moving considerably faster than a typical airplane, which generally fly at about 600 miles.You can see the space station with your bare eyes, no equipment is required. NASA had made it easy to look up viewing times online at Spotthestation.nasa.gov.Westchester native, and NASA astronaut Ron Garan made two trips to the ISS, in 2008 and 2011. In 2008, Garan Ron flew his first mission to space as a crew member on Space Shuttle Discovery to carry up and install the Japanese laboratory on the International Space Station. In 2011, Garan was a fully integrated member of a Russian spacecraft crew for a six month mission aboard the ISS.

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Marshall Space Flight Center moving to less-restrictive operation rules – WAAY

Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville announced Friday that it will transition from Stage 4 to Stage 3 of the NASA Framework for Return to On-Site Work on Monday.

This allows some limited on-site work, the re-opening of day care centers and more. (See those details HERE)

The center moved to Stage 4 when coronavirus cases began to increase in Alabama.

Despite an increase in coronavirus cases across Alabama this month, weve actually seen a sustained downward trend of new infections in Madison and surrounding counties, and transitioning to Stage 3 allows us to continue making progress on our mission by allowing more on-site mission critical and essential work, said Shannon Ridinger Segovia, the centers spokesperson.

Now that we better understand how to mitigate the risk of coronavirus transmission, we are confident we can conduct work safely with the precautions we have put in place.

Center Director Jody Singer released this statement:

After careful consideration and consultation with agency leadership and other appropriate officials, Marshall Space Flight Center will transition from Stage 4 to Stage 3 of the NASA Framework for Return to On-Site Work on Monday, Aug. 3.

Weve used a methodical, risk-based, and data-driven approach to reach this decision, and I am confident we are ready for this step. Despite an increase in coronavirus cases across Alabama this month, weve actually seen a sustained downward trend of new infections in Madison and surrounding counties.

Transitioning to Stage 3 allows us to continue making progress on our mission and, now that we better understand how to mitigate the risk of coronavirus transmission, we are confident we can conduct work safely with the precautions we have put in place.

Since the onset of this pandemic, the health and safety of the Marshall Team has been our top priority. We are continuing to take informed, deliberate steps to ensure the safety and health of our employees, as well as that of our families and community.

Marshall will remain in mandatory telework status. Access to the center will remain restricted to those allowed on-site for approved mission-critical and mission-essential work. Center leadership approval is required for all on-site work and employees will be notified by their supervisor if their work activities are approved to return on-site.

Increasing on-site work will be a gradual process, as center leadership is conducting thorough facility and work-area reviews to ensure all available protective measures can be implemented effectively before making these decisions. Protective measures include work areas that minimize physical interaction with other employees and ample supply and access to hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment.

Each of us have a part to play in safety during this time. All on-site employees will continue to follow the Safe at Work Protocol Guidelines, and continue to practice good health and safety measures, such as washing hands and wearing face coverings.

I want thank those who are working on-site for their dedication to protecting astronauts, maintaining our facilities and completing critical-path tasks. The dedication our employees have shown ensuring our mission continues during the COVID-19 pandemic has been remarkable.

I am incredibly proud to be a part of this talented team and I look forward seeing all employees again when it is safe to do so!

Jody Singer, Marshall Space Flight Center Director

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Interloper, the wonderfully stylish spaceflight combat sim, blasts off on iOS today – Pocket Gamer

Interloper, developer Anchorite's spaceflight combat sim, has blasted off on iOS today. This one sees you going up against an oppressive regime using an advanced, combat-ready spacecraft that you can kit out with all manner of weaponry and upgrades.

The missions here are wave-based and typically require you to complete a single objective before warping to the next area. They feel perfectly calculated for on-the-go play, providing a few minutes of fast-paced action at a time.

Interloper also blends in some roguelike elements to add to the intensity. Dying during a mission results in you losing your current ship's loadout. You can, however, bail out of a mission if you feel things are going a bit pear-shaped. There's a huge element of risk/reward decision-making here, as holding out in the hopes of finishing the mission could result in you losing your fancy new weapons or utilities.

While you do often feel quite powerful in your ship, it's important not to get too cocky. After all, you'll be facing off against swarms of fighters, deadly frigates, and mammoth capital ships.

We first covered it late last month, which was when I put together a small video preview. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the pre-launch version, and I know that the latest build has ironed out some of the minor blemishes that were present there.

I was happy to find that Interloper supports MFi controllers from the get-go, as that'll always be my preferred way to play any sort of flying game. It's also playable in both landscape and portrait modes, and the touchscreen controls make use of haptic feedback.

Interloper is now available for download from over on the App Store. It's a premium title priced at $5.99, meaning no ads or IAPs. More content is expected to arrive post-launch, including new gameplay features, ship attachments, scenarios, and more.

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Interloper, the wonderfully stylish spaceflight combat sim, blasts off on iOS today - Pocket Gamer

How Tom Cruise & Doug Liman Pitched Way To $200 Million Universal Commitment On Space Film With Elon Musk – Deadline

EXCLUSIVE: What did Universal Pictures execs require to commit to liftoff of the first ever narrative feature film to shoot in outer space? According to sources, all it took was an exuberant Zoom call with Tom Cruise, director Doug Liman, Christopher McQuarrie and PJ van Sandwijk. They pitched the picture with no script (Liman is writing it), and came away with a production commitment around $200 million.

Sources said that Space Xs Elon Musk will be a partner in the project and the expectation is that is that McQuarrie Cruises writer-director on the Mission: Impossible films will have a ground control role as story advisor and producer alongside Cruise, Liman and van Sandwijk.

The $200 million figure is an estimate, considering the project is still being scripted and the unprecedented logistics, but it costs more to make space-set blockbusters that never require breaking through the atmosphere. It seems a reasonable sum to make movie history for a movie studio in this pandemic moment when streamers are making all the noise.

Related StoryDeadline Launches DeadlineNow: Tom Cruise's Movie Shot In Space Is Budgeted At $200 Million, And That's A Steal

Deadline revealed in early May that Cruise was working on the space-set action adventure and that he was serious about doing it and that Musk was involved. Deadline broke later that month that Doug Liman would be making the trip with him, and the director who helmed the Cruise pics American Made and Edge of Tomorrow, then went to Florida to witness the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying two American astronauts at the Kennedy Space Center, an historic public-private partnership that put the U.S. back in the business of human spaceflight for the first time in a decade.

Cruise and McQuarrie are back shooting Mission: Impossible 7 but this is looking more real by the minute. Dont expect Cruise and Liman to lose their nerve. Both are pilots and their adventurous spirit shows in their filmmaking. As for Cruise, he is a meticulous planner, but fearless in doing his own stunts that have included hanging from a helicopter and the side of a jet plane during takeoff in Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation. In Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol he scaled the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai skyscraper, and executed stunts 123 floors up.

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Crew Dragon astronauts ready for re-entry, splashdown – Spaceflight Now


With Hurricane Isaias threatening Floridas East Coast, astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken are awaiting a go-ahead on plans to undock from the International Space Station Saturday, setting up a fiery plunge to splashdown Sunday, presumably in the Gulf of Mexico, to close out a 64-day flight.

Given the track of the hurricane, a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean at one of three approved sites off Floridas east coast is effectively ruled out, focusing landing plans on the Gulf where four sites are available off Panama City, Pensacola, Tallahassee and Tampa.

Assuming NASA and SpaceX press ahead, a final decision on prime and backup landing sites is not expected until Saturday, based on the latest forecasts and assessments of the Crew Dragons health. The preferred splashdown zone is just south of Panama City.

We look forward to the weather forecasts that are coming out daily at this point, and theyll even get more frequent as we get closer to the actual splashdown, Behnken told reporters in an orbital news conference Friday.

We have confidence that the teams on the ground are, of course, watching that much more closely than we are, and we wont leave the space station without some good splashdown weather in front of us.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft is certified for around 114 days in space and if the weather or some other problem crops up that might rule out undocking for a Sunday landing, we know we can stay up here longer, Behnken said. Theres more chow, and I know the space station programs got more work that we can do for the folks that have sent science up here to the space station.

Said Hurley: We have some of the best people in the business working on this for us and if the weather is not good, we wont try to leave tomorrow, well leave on a different day when it is.

But assuming the weather cooperates and no technical issues crop up, Behnken and Hurley would undock from the stations forward port around 7:30 p.m. EDT Saturday, spend the night aboard the Crew Dragon and then fire their braking rockets around 1:50 p.m. EDT Sunday for a splashdown in the Gulf around 2:42 p.m. EDT.

A SpaceX recovery ship, staffed by engineers, medical personnel and fast-response support crews with jet skis and other gear, will be stationed nearby to recover the capsule, pull it on board, help the crew get out and render any medical assistance that might be necessary.

It will be NASAs first ocean splashdown in 45 years and the first piloted re-entry of a Crew Dragon capsule. But Hurley and Behnken, both space shuttle veterans and former test pilots, said Friday they are confident the SpaceX capsule will bring them safely back to Earth.

That said, bobbing about in the sea awaiting recovery while re-adjusting to gravity after an extended stay in weightlessness raises the prospect of post-splashdown nausea and seasickness.

One effect of (a long-duration stay in) space is youre very conditioned to microgravity, and youre not so conditioned to gravity, Hurley told James Corden, host of the CBS Late Late Show, in an earlier interview. And then your vestibular system, your inner ears, play tricks with you.

As you can imagine, even if you decided to go deep sea fishing one day, and youve lived on Earth your whole life, people get seasick. Were going to do it from space and end up in the water. So theres a pretty good likelihood that we may see breakfast twice on that particular day.

Just in case, Hurley said Friday, there are bags if (we) need them and well have those handy, well probably have some towels handy as well.

The ground teams are fully aware of the challenges of the water landing and what it does to the human body, Hurley said. Weve got the the flight surgeons on board that will be able to help us as well. So all those things are in place and other than that, its just time to go give it a give it a try and and see how it goes.

The Crew Dragon was designed and built by SpaceX under contracts with NASAs Commercial Crew Program, an initiative aimed at ending the agencys sole reliance on Russian Soyuz ferry ships for transportation to and from the space station.

A successful unpiloted test flight was carried out last year, helping clear the way for Hurley and Behnken to blast off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket May 30, the first orbital launch of astronauts aboard an American spacecraft from U.S. soil since the shuttle programs final flight.

NASA managers say the Crew Dragon has chalked up a near flawless flight, setting the stage for re-entry and splashdown.

Were really excited to see our families, Behnken said. My son is six years old, and I can tell from the videos that I get, talking to him on the phone, that hes changed a lot, even in the couple of months that weve been up here. And so thats the thing Im most looking forward to, seeing my family, my wife and my son.

Hurley and Behnken are both married to astronauts. Hurleys wife, Karen Nyberg, is retired from the astronaut corps, but Behnkens wife, Megan McArthur, is in training for launch to the space station aboard her husbands Crew Dragon next year.

Read more from the original source:

Crew Dragon astronauts ready for re-entry, splashdown - Spaceflight Now