Author: NASA

On Dec 5. 2019, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying a Dragon cargo capsule filled with dozens of scientific experiments. Those experiments look at everything from malting barley in microgravity to the spread of fire.

Not only are the experiments helping us better understand life in space, they also are giving us a better picture of our planet and benefiting humanity back on Earth. 

📸 A Better Picture of Earth 🌏

Every material on the Earth’s surface – soil, rocks, vegetation, snow, ice and human-made objects – reflects a unique spectrum of light. The Hyperspectral Imager Suite (HISUI) takes advantage of this to identify specific materials in an image. It could be useful for tasks such as resource exploration and applications in agriculture, forestry and other environmental areas.

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🌱 Malting Barley in Microgravity 🌱

Many studies of plants in space focus on how they grow in microgravity. The Malting ABI Voyager Barley Seeds in Microgravity experiment is looking at a different aspect of plants in space: the malting process. Malting converts starches from grain into various sugars that can be used for brewing, distilling and food production. The study compares malt produced in space and on the ground for genetic and structural changes, and aims to identify ways to adapt it for nutritional use on spaceflights.

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🛰️ A First for Mexico 🛰️

AztechSat-1, the first satellite built by students in Mexico for launch from the space station, is smaller than a shoebox but represents a big step for its builders. Students from a multidisciplinary team at Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla in Puebla, Mexico, built the CubeSat. This investigation demonstrates communication within a satellite network in low-Earth orbit. Such communication could reduce the need for ground stations, lowering the cost and increasing the number of data downloads possible for satellite applications.

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🚀 Checking for Leaks 🚀

Nobody wants a spacecraft to spring a leak – but if it happens, the best thing you can do is locate and fix it, fast. That’s why we launched the first Robotic External Leak Locator (RELLin 2015. Operators can use RELL to quickly detect leaks outside of station and help engineers formulate a plan to resolve an issue. On this latest commercial resupply mission, we launched the Robotic Tool Stowage (RiTS), a docking station that allows the RELL units to be stored on the outside of space station, making it quicker and simpler to deploy the instruments.

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🔥 The Spread of Fire 🔥

Understanding how fire spreads in space is crucial for the safety of future astronauts and for controlling fire here on Earth. The Confined Combustion investigation examines the behavior of flame as it spreads in differently-shaped spaces in microgravity. Studying flames in microgravity gives researchers a chance to look at the underlying physics and basic principles of combustion by removing gravity from the equation.

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💪 Staying Strong 💪

Here on Earth you might be told to drink milk to grow up with strong bones, but in space, you need a bit more than that. Astronauts in space have to exercise for hours a day to prevent substantial bone and muscle loss. A new experiment, Rodent Research-19, is seeing if there is another way to prevent the loss by targeting signaling pathways in your body at the molecular level. The results could also support treatments for a wide range of conditions that cause muscle and bone loss back here on Earth.

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Want to learn about more investigations heading to the space station (or even ones currently under way)? Make sure to follow @ISS_Research on Twitter and Space Station Research and Technology News on Facebook. 

If you want to see the International Space Station with your own eyes, check out Spot the Station to see it pass over your town.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

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In August 2018, our Parker Solar Probe mission launched to space, soon becoming the closest-ever spacecraft from the Sun. Now, scientists have announced their first discoveries from this exploration of our star!

The Sun may look calm to us here on Earth, but it’s an active star, unleashing powerful bursts of light, deluges of particles moving near the speed of light and billion-ton clouds of magnetized material. All of this activity can affect our technology here on Earth and in space.

Parker Solar Probe’s main science goals are to understand the physics that drive this activity — and its up-close look has given us a brand-new perspective. Here are a few highlights from what we’ve learned so far.

1. Surprising events in the solar wind

The Sun releases a continual outflow of magnetized material called the solar wind, which shapes space weather near Earth. Observed near Earth, the solar wind is a relatively uniform flow of plasma, with occasional turbulent tumbles. Closer to the solar wind’s source, Parker Solar Probe saw a much different picture: a complicated, active system. 

One type of event in particular drew the eye of the science teams: flips in the direction of the magnetic field, which flows out from the Sun, embedded in the solar wind. These reversals — dubbed “switchbacks” — last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes as they flow over Parker Solar Probe. During a switchback, the magnetic field whips back on itself until it is pointed almost directly back at the Sun.

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The exact source of the switchbacks isn’t yet understood, but Parker Solar Probe’s measurements have allowed scientists to narrow down the possibilities — and observations from the mission’s 21 remaining solar flybys should help scientists better understand these events. 

2. Seeing tiny particle events

The Sun can accelerate tiny electrons and ions into storms of energetic particles that rocket through the solar system at nearly the speed of light. These particles carry a lot of energy, so they can damage spacecraft electronics and even endanger astronauts, especially those in deep space, outside the protection of Earth’s magnetic field — and the short warning time for such particles makes them difficult to avoid.

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Energetic particles from the Sun impact a detector on ESA & NASA’s SOHO satellite.

Parker Solar Probe’s energetic particle instruments have measured several never-before-seen events so small that all trace of them is lost before they reach Earth. These instruments have also measured a rare type of particle burst with a particularly high number of heavier elements — suggesting that both types of events may be more common than scientists previously thought.

3. Rotation of the solar wind

Near Earth, we see the solar wind flowing almost straight out from the Sun in all directions. But the Sun rotates as it releases the solar wind, and before it breaks free, the wind spins along in sync with the Sun’s surface. For the first time, Parker was able to observe the solar wind while it was still rotating – starting more than 20 million miles from the Sun.

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The strength of the circulation was stronger than many scientists had predicted, but it also transitioned more quickly than predicted to an outward flow, which helps mask the effects of that fast rotation from the vantage point where we usually see them from, near Earth, about 93 million miles away. Understanding this transition point in the solar wind is key to helping us understand how the Sun sheds energy, with implications for the lifecycles of stars and the formation of protoplanetary disks.

4. Hints of a dust-free zone

Parker also saw the first direct evidence of dust starting to thin out near the Sun – an effect that has been theorized for nearly a century, but has been impossible to measure until now. Space is awash in dust, the cosmic crumbs of collisions that formed planets, asteroids, comets and other celestial bodies billions of years ago. Scientists have long suspected that, close to the Sun, this dust would be heated to high temperatures by powerful sunlight, turning it into a gas and creating a dust-free region around the Sun.

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For the first time, Parker’s imagers saw the cosmic dust begin to thin out a little over 7 million miles from the Sun. This decrease in dust continues steadily to the current limits of Parker Solar Probe’s instruments, measurements at a little over 4 million miles from the Sun. At that rate of thinning, scientists expect to see a truly dust-free zone starting a little more than 2-3 million miles from the Sun — meaning the spacecraft could observe the dust-free zone as early as 2020, when its sixth flyby of the Sun will carry it closer to our star than ever before.

These are just a few of Parker Solar Probe’s first discoveries, and there’s plenty more science to come throughout the mission! For the latest on our Sun, follow @NASASun on Twitter and NASA Sun Science on Facebook.

Today is Small Business Saturday, which the U.S. Small Business
Administration (SBA) recognizes as a day to celebrate and support small
businesses and all they do for their communities.

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Source:
Techshot

We are proud to partner with small
businesses across the country through NASA’s Small
Business Innovative Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer
(STTR) program
s, which have
funded the research, development and demonstration of innovative space technologies
since 1982. This year, we’ve awarded 571
SBIR/STTR contracts totaling
nearly $180 million to companies who will support our future exploration:

  • Techshot, Inc. was selected to bioprint micro-organs in a
    zero-gravity environment
    for research and testing of organs-on-chip devices, which simulate
    the physiological functions of body organs at a miniature scale for health
    research without the need for expensive tests or live subjects.
  • CertainTech, Inc., with the George Washington University, will
    demonstrate an improved water recovery system for restoring nontoxic water from
    wastewater using nanotechnology.
  • Electrochem, Inc. was contracted to create a compact and lightweight regenerative fuel cell system that can store energy from
    an electrolyzer during the lunar day to be used for operations during
    the lunar night.

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Source:
Electrochem

Small businesses are also developing
technologies for the Artemis missions to the Moon and for human and robotic
exploration of Mars. As we prepare to land the first woman and next man on the
Moon by 2024, these are just a few of the small businesses working with us to
make it happen.

Commercial Lunar Payload Delivery
Services

Masten Space Systems, Astrobotic and Tyvak
Nano-Satellite Systems
are three NASA SBIR/STTR alumni now eligible to bid on NASA delivery services to the lunar
surface through Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts. Other small
businesses selected as CLPS providers include Ceres Robotics, Deep Space
Systems
, Intuitive Machines, Moon Express, and Orbit Beyond. Under the Artemis program, these
companies could land robotic missions on the Moon to perform science
experiments, test technologies and demonstrate capabilities to help the
human exploration that will follow. The first delivery could be as early
as July 2021.

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A Pathfinder CubeSat

One cornerstone of our return to the
Moon is a small spaceship called Gateway that
will orbit our nearest neighbor to provide more access to the lunar
surface. SBIR/STTR alum Advanced Space
Systems
will develop a CubeSat that
will test out the lunar orbit planned for Gateway, demonstrating how to enter
into and operate in the unique orbit. The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning
System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) could launch as early
as December 2020.

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Tipping
Point for Moon to Mars

We selected 14
companies
as part of our Tipping
Point solicitation
, which fosters the development of critical, industry-led
space capabilities for our future missions. These small businesses all proposed
unique technologies that could benefit the Artemis program.

Many of these small businesses are also
NASA SBIR/STTR alumni whose Tipping Point awards are related to their SBIR or
STTR awards. For example, Infinity Fuel
Cell and Hydrogen, Inc.
(Infinity Fuel) will develop a power and energy
product that could be used for lunar rovers, surface equipment, and habitats.
This technology stems from a new type of fuel cell that Infinity Fuel developed
with the help of NASA SBIR/STTR awards.

CU
Aerospace
and Astrobotic are also small businesses whose Tipping Point award can
be traced back to technology developed through the NASA SBIR/STTR program. CU
Aerospace will build a CubeSat with two different propulsion systems, which
will offer high performance at a low cost, and Astrobotic will develop small
rover “scouts” that can host payloads and interface with landers on the lunar
surface.

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Small
Businesses, Big Impact

This is just a handful of the small
businesses supporting our journey back to the Moon and on to Mars, and just a taste
of how they impact the economy and American innovation. We are grateful for the
contributions that small businesses make—though they be but “small,” they are
fierce.

Make
sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space:
http://nasa.tumblr.com 

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Are you throwing all your money into a black hole today?

Forget Black Friday — celebrate #BlackHoleFriday with us and get sucked into this recent discovery of a black hole that may have sparked star births across multiple galaxies.

If confirmed, this discovery would represent the widest reach ever seen for a black hole acting as a stellar kick-starter — enhancing star formation more than one million light-years away. (One light year is equal to 6 trillion miles.)

A black hole is an extremely dense object from which no light can escape. The black hole’s immense gravity pulls in surrounding gas and dust. Sometimes, black holes hinder star birth. Sometimes — like perhaps in this case — they increase star birth.

Telescopes like our Chandra X-ray Observatory help us detect the X-rays produced by hot gas swirling around the black hole. Have more questions about black holes? Click here to learn more.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

Part of the appeal of Thanksgiving is how easily we settle into the familiar: cherished foods, friends and family, and favorite activities like football, puzzles or board games. As anyone who has spent Thanksgiving with someone else’s traditions knows, those familiar things can take on seemingly unusual forms. That’s especially true when you’re 200 miles up in space.

Holidays in space weren’t very common early in the program, but as astronauts start the 20th year of continuous habitation they will also be celebrating the 20th consecutive Thanksgiving in orbit. As it turns out, everything’s the same, but different.

Food

Early in the space program, astronauts didn’t have much choice about their meals. A turkey dinner with all the trimmings was as much a pipe dream in the early 1960s as space travel had been a few decades earlier. Food had to be able to stay fresh, or at least edible, from the time it was packed until the end of the mission, which might be several weeks. It couldn’t be bulky or heavy, but it had to contain all the nutrition an astronaut would need. It had to be easily contained, so crumbs or droplets wouldn’t escape the container and get into the spacecraft instrumentation. For the first flights, that meant a lot of food in tubes or in small bite-sized pieces.

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Examples of food from the Mercury program

Chores first, then dinner

Maybe you rake leaves to start the day or straighten up the house for guests. Perhaps you’re the cook. Just like you, astronauts sometimes have to earn their Thanksgiving dinner. In 1974, two members of the Skylab 4 crew started their day with a six-and-a-half hour spacewalk, replacing film canisters mounted outside the spacecraft and deploying an experiment package.

After the spacewalk, the crew could at least “sit down” for a meal together that included food they didn’t have to eat directly from a bag, tube or pouch. In the spacecraft’s “ward room”, a station held three trays of food selected for the astronauts. The trays themselves kept the food warm.

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A food tray similar to the ones astronauts used aboard Skylab, showing food, utensils and clean wipes. The tray itself warmed the food.

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The ward room aboard Skylab showing the warming trays in use. The Skylab 4 crew ate Thanksgiving dinner there in 1974.

Fresh food

It can’t be all mashed potatoes and pie. There have to be some greens. NASA has that covered with VEGGIE, the ongoing experiment to raise food crops aboard the space station. Though the current crop won’t necessarily be on the Thanksgiving menu, astronauts have already harvested and eaten “space lettuce”. Researchers hope to be growing peppers aboard the space station in 2020.

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Astronaut Kjell Lindgren enjoys lettuce grown and harvested aboard the International Space Station.


Football

Space station crews have been able to watch football on Thanksgiving thanks to live feeds from Mission Control. Unfortunately their choices of activities can be limited by their location. That long walk around the neighborhood to shake off the turkey coma? Not happening.

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Football in space. It’s a thing.

Be Prepared for the Unplanned

No matter how you plan, there’s a chance something’s going to go wrong, perhaps badly. It happened aboard the Space Shuttle on Thanksgiving 1989. Flight Director Wayne Hale tells of plumbing problem that left Commander Fred Gregory indisposed and vacuum-suctioned to a particular seat aboard the spacecraft.

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 This is not the seat from which the mission commander flies the Space Shuttle.

Hungry for More?

If you can’t get enough of space food, tune into this episode of “Houston, We Have a Podcast” and explore the delicious science of astronaut mealtime.

And whether you’re eating like a king or one of our astronauts currently living and working in space, we wish everybody a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

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The Island Named After a Satellite

It is so small that you cannot see it on Google maps. It measures 25 by 45 meters (27 by 49 yards), about half the size of a football field. This barren bit of rock off the coast of Canada also has an unusual namesake: the Landsat 1 satellite. The small size is actually what made the island notable in 1973, when it was initially discovered. Well, that, and the polar bear trying to eat one of the surveyors.

Betty Fleming, a researcher with the Topographic Survey of Canada, was hunting for uncharted islands and rocks amidst data from the new Landsat 1 satellite. She was particularly interested in the new satellite’s ability to find small features. Working with the Canadian Hydrographic Service, Fleming scanned images of the Labrador coast, an area that was poorly charted. About 20 kilometers (12 miles) offshore, the satellite detected a tiny, rocky island. Surveyors were sent to verify the existence of the island and encountered a hungry polar bear on the island. The surveyor quickly retreated. Eventually, the island became known as “Landsat Island,” after the satellite that discovered it. Watch the video to learn more about Betty Fleming and how Landsat Island was discovered by satellite and ground surveyors.

For more details about Landsat Island, read the full stories here:

The Island Named After a Satellite

The Unsung Woman Who Discovered an Unknown Island

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If you need to fix something on Earth, you could go to a store, buy the tools you need, and get started. In space, it’s not that easy.

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Aside from the obvious challenges associated with space (like it being cold and there being no gravity), developing the right tools requires a great deal of creativity because every task is different, especially when the tools need to be designed from scratch. From the time an engineer dreams up the right tools to the time they are used in space, it can be quite a process.

On Nov. 15, astronauts Luca Parmitano and Drew Morgan began a series of spacewalks to repair an instrument called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-2) on the exterior of the International Space Station. The first of four spacewalk focused on using specialized tools to remove shields and covers, to gain access to the heart of AMS to perform the repairs, and install a new cooling system.

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The debris shield that covered Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer floats away toward Earth as astronaut Drew Morgan successfully releases it.

Once repaired, AMS will continue to help us understand more about the formation of the universe and search for evidence of dark matter and antimatter.

These spacewalks, or extravehicular activities (EVAs), are the most complex of their kind since the servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope. AMS is particularly challenging to repair not only because of the instrument’s complexity and sensitivity, but also because it was never designed to be fixed. Because of this design, it does not have the kinds of interfaces that make spacewalks easier, or the ability to be operated on with traditional multi-purpose tools. These operations are so complex, their design and planning has taken four years. Let’s take a look at how we got ready to repair AMS.

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Thinking Outside of the (Tool) Box

When designing the tools, our engineers need to keep in mind various complications that would not come into play when fixing something on Earth. For example, if you put a screw down while you’re on Earth, gravity will keep it there — in space, you have to consistently make sure each part is secure or it will float away. You also have to add a pressurized space suit with limited dexterity to the equation, which further complicates the tool design.

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In addition to regular space complications, the AMS instrument itself presents many challenges — with over 300,000 data channels, it was considered too complex to service and therefore was not designed to one day be repaired or updated if needed. Additionally, astronauts have never before cut and reconnected micro-fluid lines (4 millimeters wide, less than the width of the average pencil) during a spacewalk, which is necessary to repair AMS, so our engineers had to develop the tools for this big first. 

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With all of this necessary out-of-the-box thinking, who better to go to for help than the teams that worked on the most well-known repair missions — the Hubble servicing missions and the space station tool teams? Building on the legacy of these missions, some of our same engineers that developed tools for the Hubble servicing missions and space station maintenance got to work designing the necessary tools for the AMS repair, some reworked from Hubble, and some from scratch. In total, the teams from Goddard Space Flight Center’s Satellite Servicing Projects Division, Johnson Space Center, and AMS Project Office developed 21 tools for the mission.

Designing and Building

Like many great inventions, it all starts with a sketch. Engineers figure out what steps need to be taken to accomplish the task, and imagine the necessary tools to get the job done.

From there, engineers develop a computer-aided design (CAD) model, and get to building a prototype. Tools will then undergo multiple iterations and testing with the AMS repair team and astronauts to get the design just right, until eventually, they are finalized, ready to undergo vibration and thermal vacuum testing to make sure they can withstand the harsh conditions of launch and use in the space environment. 

Hex Head Capture Tool Progression:

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Hex Head Capture Tool Used in Space: 

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Practice Makes Perfect

One of the reasons the AMS spacewalks have been four years in the making is because the complexity of the repairs required the astronauts to take extra time to practice. Over many months, astronauts tasked with performing the spacewalks practiced the AMS repair procedures in numerous ways to make sure they were ready for action. They practiced in:  

Virtual reality simulations:

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The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory:

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The Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS):

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Astronauts use this testing to develop and practice procedures in space-like conditions, but also to figure out what works and doesn’t work, and what changes need to be made. A great example is a part of the repair that involves cutting and reconnecting fluid lines. When astronauts practiced cutting the fluid lines during testing here on Earth, they found it was difficult to identify which was the right one to cut based on sight alone. 

The tubes on the AMS essentially look the same.

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After discussing the concern with the team monitoring the EVAs, the engineers once again got to work to fix the problem.

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And thus, the Tube Cutting Guide tool was born! Necessity is the mother of invention and the team could not have anticipated the astronauts would need such a tool until they actually began practicing. The Tube Cutting Guide provides alignment guides, fiducials and visual access to enable astronauts to differentiate between the tubes. After each of eight tubes is cut, a newly designed protective numbered cap is installed to cover the sharp tubing.

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Off to Space

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With the tools and repair procedures tested and ready to go, they launched to the International Space Station earlier this year. Now they’re in the middle of the main event – Luca and Drew completed the first spacewalk last Friday, taking things apart to access the interior of the AMS instrument. Currently, there are three other spacewalks scheduled over the course of a month. The next spacewalk will happen on Nov. 22 and will put the Tube Cutting Guide to use when astronauts reconnect the tubes to a new cooling system.

With the ingenuity of our tool designers and engineers, and our astronauts’ vigorous practice, AMS will be in good hands.

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Check out the full video for the first spacewalk. Below you can check out each of the Goddard tools above in action in space!

Debris Shield Worksite:
2:29:16 – Debris Shield Handling Aid
2:35:25 – Hex Head Capture Tool (first)
2:53:31 – #10 Allen Bit
2:54:59 – Capture Cages
3:16:35 – #10 Allen Bit (diagonal side)
3:20:58 – Socket Head Capture Tool
3:33:35 – Hex Head Capture Tool (last)
3:39:35 – Fastener Capture Block
3:40:55 – Debris Shield removal
3:46:46 – Debris Shield jettison

Vertical Support Beam (VSB) Worksite:
5:15:27 – VSB Cover Handling Aid
5:18:05 – #10 Allen Bit
5:24:34 – Socket Head Capture Tool
5:41:54 – VSB Cover breaking
5:45:22 – VSB Cover jettison
5:58:20 – Top Spacer Tool & M4 Allen Bit
6:08:25 – Top Spacer removal
7:42:05 – Astronaut shoutout to the tools team

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Launched less than four months after Apollo 11 put the first astronauts on the Moon, Apollo 12 was more than a simple encore. After being struck by lightning on launch – to no lasting damage, fortunately – Apollo 12 headed for a rendezvous with a spacecraft that was already on the Moon. The mission would expand the techniques used to explore the Moon and show the coordination between robotic and human exploration, both of which continue today as we get return to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024

Launch Day

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Apollo 12 lifted off at 11:22 a.m. EST, Nov. 14, 1969, from our Kennedy Space Center. Aboard the Apollo 12 spacecraft were astronauts Charles Conrad Jr., commander; Richard F. Gordon Jr., command module pilot; and Alan L. Bean, lunar module pilot.

Barely 40 seconds after liftoff, lightning struck the spacecraft. Conrad alerted Houston that the crew had lost telemetry and other data from the mission computers. As the Saturn V engines continued to push the capsule to orbit, ground controllers worked out a solution, restarting some electrical systems, and Apollo 12 headed toward the Moon.

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Cameras at the Kennedy Space Center captured this image of the same lightning bolt that struck Apollo 12 striking the mobile platform used for the launch.

On the Moon

Apollo 12 landed on the Moon on Nov. 19, and on the second moonwalk Conrad and Bean walked approximately 200 yards to the Surveyor 3 spacecraft. One of seven Surveyor spacecraft sent to land on the Moon and to gather data on the best way to land humans there, Surveyor 3 had been on the Moon for more than two years, exposed to cosmic radiation and the vacuum of space. Scientists on the ground wanted to recover parts of the spacecraft to see what effects the environment had had on it.

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Apollo 12 commander Pete Conrad examines the Surveyor 3 spacecraft before removing its camera and other pieces for return to Earth. In the background is the lunar module that landed Conrad and lunar module pilot Alan Bean on the Moon.

Splashdown

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Apollo 12 splashed down on Nov. 24. When Artemis returns astronauts to the Moon in 2024, it will be building on Apollo 12 as much as any of the other missions. Just as Apollo 12 had to maneuver off the standard “free return” trajectory to reach its landing site near Surveyor, Artemis missions will take advantage of the Gateway to visit a variety of lunar locations. The complementary work of Surveyor and Apollo – a robotic mission preparing the way for a crewed mission; that crewed mission going back to the robotic mission to learn more from it – prefigures how Artemis will take advantage of commercial lunar landers and other programs to make lunar exploration sustainable over the long term.

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Watch Mercury Transit the Sun on Nov. 11

On Nov. 11, Earthlings will be treated to a rare cosmic event — a Mercury transit.

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For about five and a half hours on Monday, Nov. 11 — from about 7:35 a.m. EST to 1:04 p.m. EST — Mercury will be visible from Earth as a tiny black dot crawling across the face of the Sun. This is a transit and it happens when Mercury lines up just right between the Sun and Earth.

Mercury transits happen about 13 times a century. Though it takes Mercury only about 88 days to zip around the Sun, its orbit is tilted, so it’s relatively rare for the Sun, Mercury and Earth to line up perfectly. The next Mercury transit isn’t until 2032 — and in the U.S., the next opportunity to catch a Mercury transit is in 2049!

How to watch

Our Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite, or SDO, will provide near-real time views of the transit. SDO keeps a constant eye on the Sun from its position in orbit around Earth to monitor and study the Sun’s changes, putting it in the front row for many eclipses and transits.

Visit mercurytransit.gsfc.nasa.gov to tune in!

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Our Solar Dynamics Observatory also saw Mercury transit the Sun in 2016.

If you’re thinking of watching the transit from the ground, keep in mind that it is never safe to look directly at the Sun. Even with solar viewing glasses, Mercury is too small to be easily seen with the unaided eye. Your local astronomy club may have an opportunity to see the transit using specialized, properly-filtered solar telescopes — but remember that you cannot use a regular telescope or binoculars in conjunction with solar viewing glasses.

Transits in other star systems

Transiting planets outside our solar system are a key part of how we look for exoplanets.

Our Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, is NASA’s latest planet-hunter, observing the sky for new worlds in our cosmic neighborhood. TESS searches for these exoplanets, planets orbiting other stars, by using its four cameras to scan nearly the whole sky one section at a time. It monitors the brightness of stars for periodic dips caused by planets transiting those stars.

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This is similar to Mercury’s transit across the Sun, but light-years away in other solar systems! So far, TESS has discovered 29 confirmed exoplanets using transits — with over 1,000 more candidates being studied by scientists!

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Discover more transit and eclipse science at nasa.gov/transit, and tune in on Monday, Nov. 11, at mercurytransit.gsfc.nasa.gov.

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Not all galaxies are lonely. Some have galaxy squads. ⁣

NGC 1706, captured in this image by our Hubble Space Telescope, belongs to something known as a galaxy group, which is just as the name suggests — a group of up to 50 galaxies which are gravitationally bound and relatively close to each other. ⁣

Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, has its own squad — known as the Local Group, which also contains the Andromeda galaxy, the Large and Small Magellanic clouds and the Triangulum galaxy.

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