Category: exploration

Space is a global frontier. That’s why we partner with nations all around the world to further the advancement of science and to push the boundaries of human exploration. With international collaboration, we have sent space telescopes to observe distant galaxies, established a sustainable, orbiting laboratory 254 miles above our planet’s surface and more! As we look forward to the next giant leaps in space exploration with our Artemis lunar exploration program, we will continue to go forth with international partnerships!

Teamwork makes the dream work. Here are a few of our notable collaborations:

Artemis Program

image

Our Artemis lunar exploration program will send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024. Using innovative technologies and international partnerships, we will explore more of the lunar surface than ever before and establish sustainable missions by 2028.

During these missions, the Orion spacecraft will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. The European Service Module, provided by the European Space Agency, will serve as the spacecraft’s powerhouse and supply it with electricity, propulsion, thermal control, air and water in space.

image

The Gateway, a small spaceship that will orbit the Moon, will be a home base for astronauts to maintain frequent and sustainable crewed missions to the lunar surface. With the help of a coalition of nations, this new spaceship will be assembled in space and built within the next decade.

Gateway already has far-reaching international support, with 14 space agencies agreeing on its importance in expanding humanity’s presence on the Moon, Mars and deeper into the solar system.

International Space Station

image

The International Space Station (ISS) is one of the most ambitious international collaborations ever attempted. Launched in 1998 and involving the U.S., Russia, Canada, Japan and the participating countries of the European Space Agency — the ISS has been the epitome of global cooperation for the benefit of humankind. The largest space station ever constructed, the orbital laboratory continues to bring together international flight crews, globally distributed launches, operations, training, engineering and the world’s scientific research community.

Hubble Space Telescope 

image

The Hubble Space Telescope, one of our greatest windows into worlds light-years away, was built with contributions from the European Space Agency (ESA).

image

ESA provided the original Faint Object Camera and solar panels, and continues to provide science operations support for the telescope. 

Deep Space Network

image

The Deep Space Network (DSN) is an international array of giant radio antennas that span the world, with stations in the United States, Australia and Spain. The three facilities are equidistant approximately one-third of the way around the world from one another – to permit constant communication with spacecraft as our planet rotates. The network supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and a few that orbit Earth. It also provides radar and radio astronomy observations that improve our understanding of the solar system and the larger universe!

Mars Missions 

Information gathered today by robots on Mars will help get humans to the Red Planet in the not-too-distant future. Many of our Martian rovers – both past, present and future – are the products of a coalition of science teams distributed around the globe. Here are a few notable ones:

Curiosity Mars Rover 

image
  • France: ChemCam, the rover’s laser instrument that can analyze rocks from more than 20 feet away
  • Russia: DAN, which looks for subsurface water and water locked in minerals
  • Spain: REMS, the rover’s weather station

InSight Mars Lander

image
  • France with contributions from Switzerland: SEIS, the first seismometer on the surface of another planet
  • Germany: HP3, the heatflow probe that will help us understand the interior structure of Mars
  • Spain: APSS, the lander’s weather station

Mars 2020 Rover

image
  • Norway: RIMFAX, a ground-penetrating radar
  • France: SuperCam, the laser instrument for remote science
  • Spain: MEDA, the rover’s weather station

Space-Analog Astronaut Training

We partner with space agencies around the globe on space-analog missions. Analog missions are field tests in locations that have physical similarities to the extreme space environments. They take astronauts to space-like environments to prepare as international teams for near-term and future exploration to asteroids, Mars and the Moon.

image

The European Space Agency hosts the Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior and performance Skills (CAVES) mission. The two week training prepares multicultural teams of astronauts to work safely and effectively in an environment where safety is critical. The mission is designed to foster skills such as communication, problem solving, decision-making and team dynamics.

image

We host our own analog mission, underwater! The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project sends international teams of astronauts, engineers and scientists to live in the world’s only undersea research station, Aquarius, for up to three weeks. Here, “aquanauts” as we call them, simulate living on a spacecraft and test spacewalk techniques for future space missions in hostile environments.

International Astronautical Congress 

So, whether we’re collaborating as a science team around the globe, or shoulder-to-shoulder on a spacewalk, we are committed to working together with international partners for the benefit of all humanity! 

If you’re interested in learning more about how the global space industry works together, check out our coverage of the 70th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) happening this week in Washington, D.C. IAC is a yearly gathering in which all space players meet to talk about the advancements and progress in exploration.

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

It will take incredible power to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon’s South Pole by 2024.  That’s where America’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket comes in to play.

Providing more payload mass, volume capability and energy to speed missions through deep space than any other rocket, our SLS rocket, along with our lunar Gateway and Orion spacecraft, creates the backbone for our deep space exploration and Artemis lunar mission goals.

Here’s why our SLS rocket is a deep space rocket like no other:

It’s a heavy lifter

The Artemis missions will send humans 280,000 miles away from Earth. That’s 1,000 times farther into space than the International Space Station. To accomplish that mega feat, you need a rocket that’s designed to lift — and lift heavy. With help from a dynamic core stage — the largest stage we have ever built — the 5.75-million-pound SLS rocket can propel itself off the Earth. This includes the 57,000 pounds of cargo that will go to the Moon. To accomplish this, SLS will produce 15% more thrust at launch and during ascent than the Saturn V did for the Apollo Program.

We have the power 

Where do our rocket’s lift and thrust capabilities come from? If you take a peek under our powerful rocket’s hood, so to speak, you’ll find a core stage with four RS-25 engines that produce more than 2 million pounds of thrust alongside two solid rocket boosters that each provide another 3.6 million pounds of thrust power. It’s a bold design. Together, they provide an incredible 8.8 million pounds of thrust to power the Artemis missions off the Earth. The engines and boosters are modified heritage hardware from the Space Shuttle Program, ensuring high performance and reliability to drive our deep space missions.

A rocket with style

While our rocket’s core stage design will remain basically the same for each of the Artemis missions, the SLS rocket’s upper stage evolves to open new possibilities for payloads and even robotic scientific missions to worlds farther away than the Moon like Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. For the first three Artemis missions, our SLS rocket uses an interim cryogenic propulsion stage with one RL10 engine to send Orion to the lunar south pole. For Artemis missions following the initial 2024 Moon landing, our SLS rocket will have an exploration upper stage with bigger fuel tanks and four RL10 engines so that Orion, up to four astronauts and larger cargoes can be sent to the Moon, too. Additional core stages and upper stages will support either crewed Artemis missions, science missions or cargo missions for a sustained presence in deep space.

It’s just the beginning

Crews at our Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans are in the final phases of assembling the core stage for Artemis I— and are already working on assembly for Artemis II.

Through the Artemis program, we aim not just to return humans to the Moon, but to create a sustainable presence there as well. While there, astronauts will learn to use the Moon’s natural resources and harness our newfound knowledge to prepare for the horizon goal: humans on Mars.

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

image

The Vehicle Assembly Building, or VAB, at our Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is the only facility where assembly of a rocket occurred that carried humans beyond low-Earth orbit and on to the Moon. For 30 years, its facilities and assets were used during the Space Shuttle Program and are now available to commercial partners as part of our agency’s plan in support of a multi-user spaceport. To celebrate the VAB’s continued contribution to humanity’s space exploration endeavors, we’ve put together five out-of-this-world facts for you!

1. It’s one of the largest buildings in the world by area, the VAB covers eight acres, is 525 feet tall and 518 feet wide.

image

Aerial view of the Vehicle Assembly Building with a mobile launch tower atop a crawler transporter approaching the building. 

2. The VAB was constructed for the assembly of the Apollo/Saturn V Moon rocket, the largest rocket made by humans at the time.

image

An Apollo/Saturn V facilities Test Vehicle and Launch Umbilical Tower (LUT) atop a crawler-transporter move from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on the way to Pad A on May 25, 1966. 

3. The building is home to the largest American flag, a 209-foot-tall, 110-foot-wide star spangled banner painted on the side of the VAB.

image

Workers painting the Flag on the Vehicle Assembly Building on January 2, 2007.

4. The tallest portions of the VAB are its 4 high bays. Each has a 456-foot-high door. The doors are the largest in the world and take about 45 minutes to open or close completely.

image

A mobile launcher, atop crawler-transporter 2, begins the move into High Bay 3 at the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on Sept. 8, 2018.

5. After spending more than 50 years supporting our human spaceflight programs, the VAB received its first commercial tenant – Northrop Grumman Corporation – on August 16, 2019!

image

A model of Northrop Grumman’s OmegA launch vehicle is flanked by the U.S. flag and a flag bearing the OmegA logo during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 16 in High Bay 2 of the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Whether the rockets and spacecraft are going into Earth orbit or being sent into deep space, the VAB will have the infrastructure to prepare them for their missions.  

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

The first confirmation of a planet orbiting a star outside our solar system happened in 1995. We now know that these worlds – also known as exoplanets – are abundant. So far, we’ve confirmed more than 4000. Even though these planets are far, far away, we can still study them using ground-based and space-based telescopes.

Our upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will study the atmospheres of the worlds in our solar system and those of exoplanets far beyond. Could any of these places support life? What Webb finds out about the chemical elements in these exoplanet atmospheres might help us learn the answer.

How do we know what’s in the atmosphere of an exoplanet?

Most known exoplanets have been discovered because they partially block the light of their suns. This celestial photo-bombing is called a transit.

image

During a transit, some of the star’s light travels through the planet’s atmosphere and gets absorbed.

image

The light that survives carries information about the planet across light-years of space, where it reaches our telescopes.

(However, the planet is VERY small relative to the star, and VERY far away, so it is still very difficult to detect, which is why we need a BIG telescope to be sure to capture this tiny bit of light.)

So how do we use a telescope to read light?

image

Stars emit light at many wavelengths. Like a prism making a rainbow, we can separate light into its separate wavelengths. This is called a spectrum. Learn more about how telescopes break down light here

image

Visible light appears to our eyes as the colors of the rainbow, but beyond visible light there are many wavelengths we cannot see.

Now back to the transiting planet…

As light is traveling through the planet’s atmosphere, some wavelengths get absorbed.

image

Which wavelengths get absorbed depends on which molecules are in the planet’s atmosphere. For example, carbon monoxide molecules will capture different wavelengths than water vapor molecules.

image

So, when we look at that planet in front of the star, some of the wavelengths of the starlight will be missing, depending on which molecules are in the atmosphere of the planet.

image

Learning about the atmospheres of other worlds is how we identify those that could potentially support life…

image

…bringing us another step closer to answering one of humanity’s oldest questions: Are we alone?

image

Watch the full video where this method of hunting for distant planets is explained:

To learn more about NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, visit the website, or follow the mission on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Text and graphics credit Space Telescope Science Institute

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

Our Space Launch System rocket is on the move this summer — literally. With the help of big and small businesses in all 50 states, various pieces of hardware are making their way to Louisiana for manufacturing, to Alabama for testing, and to Florida for final assembly. All of that work brings us closer to the launch of Artemis 1, SLS and Orion’s first mission to the Moon.

image

By land and by sea and everywhere in between, here’s why our powerful SLS rocket is truly America’s rocket:

Rollin’ on the River

image

The SLS rocket will feature the largest core stage we have ever built before. It’s so large, in fact, that we had to modify and refurbish our barge Pegasus to accommodate the massive load. Pegasus was originally designed to transport the giant external tanks of the space shuttles on the 900-mile journey from our rocket factory, Michoud Assembly Facility, in New Orleans to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Now, our barge ferries test articles from Michoud along the river to Huntsville, Alabama, for testing at Marshall Space Flight Center. Just a week ago, the last of four structural test articles — the liquid oxygen tank — was loaded onto Pegasus to be delivered at Marshall for testing. Once testing is completed and the flight hardware is cleared for launch, Pegasus will again go to work — this time transporting the flight hardware along the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Cape Canaveral.

Chuggin’ along

image

The massive, five-segment solid rocket boosters each weigh 1.6 million pounds. That’s the size of four blue whales! The only way to move the components for the powerful boosters on SLS from Promontory, Utah, to the Booster Fabrication Facility and Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy is by railway. That’s why you’ll find railway tracks leading from these assembly buildings and facilities to and from the launch pad, too. Altogether, we have about 38-mile industrial short track on Kennedy alone. Using a small fleet of specialized cars and hoppers and existing railways across the US, we can move the large, bulky equipment from the Southwest to Florida’s Space Coast. With all the motor segments complete in January, the last booster motor segment (pictured above) was moved to storage in Utah. Soon, trains will deliver all 10 segments to Kennedy to be stacked with the booster forward and aft skirts and prepared for flight.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s super Guppy!

image

A regular passenger airplane doesn’t have the capacity to carry the specialized hardware for SLS and our Orion spacecraft. Equipped with a unique hinged nose that can open more than 200 degrees, our Super Guppy airplane is specially designed to carry the hulking hardware, like the Orion stage adapter, to the Cape. That hinged nose means cargo is actually loaded from the front, not the back, of the airplane. The Orion stage adapter, delivered to Kennedy in 2018, joins to the rocket’s interim cryogenic propulsion stage, which will give our spacecraft the push it needs to go to the Moon on Artemis 1. It fit perfectly inside the Guppy’s cargo compartment, which is 25 feet tall and 25 feet wide and 111 feet long.

All roads lead to Kennedy

image

In the end, all roads lead to Kennedy, and the star of the transportation show is really the “crawler.” Rolling along at a delicate 1 MPH when it’s loaded with the mobile launcher, our two crawler-transporters are vital in bringing the fully assembled rocket to the launchpad for each Artemis mission. Each the size of a baseball field and powered by locomotive and large power generator engines, one crawler-transporter is able to carry 18 million pounds on the nine-mile journey to the launchpad. As of June 27, 2019, the mobile launcher atop crawler-transporter 2 made a successful final test roll to the launchpad, clearing the transporter and mobile launcher ready to carry SLS and Orion to the launchpad for Artemis 1.

Dream Team

image

It takes a lot of team work to launch Artemis 1. We are partnering with Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Aerojet Rocketdyne to produce the complex structures of the rocket. Every one of our centers and more than 1,200 companies across the United States support the development of the rocket that will launch Artemis 1 to the Moon and, ultimately, to Mars. From supplying key tools to accelerate the development of the core stage to aiding the transportation of the rocket closer to the launchpad, companies like Futuramic in Michigan and Major Tool & Machine in Indiana, are playing a vital role in returning American astronauts to the Moon. This time, to stay. To stay up to date with the latest SLS progress, click here.

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

image

NASA’s Space Launch System isn’t your average rocket. It is the only rocket that can send NASA’s Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the Moon. To accomplish this mega-feat, it has to be the most powerful rocket ever built. SLS has already marked a series of milestones moving it closer to its first launch, Artemis.

Here are four highlights you need to know about — plus one more just on the horizon.

Counting Down

Earlier this month, Boeing technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans successfully joined the top part to the core stage with the liquid hydrogen tank. The core stage will provide the most of the power to launch Artemis 1. NASA’s 212-foot-tall core stage, the largest the agency has ever built, has five major structural parts. With the addition of the liquid hydrogen tank to the forward join, four of the five parts have been bolted together. Technicians are finishing up the final part — the complex engine section — and plan to bolt it in place later this summer.  

Ready to Rumble

image

This August, to be exact. That’s when the engines for Artemis 1 will be added to the core stage. Earlier this year, all the engines for the first four SLS flights were updated with controllers, tested and officially cleared “go” for launch. NASA saved time and money by modifying 16 RS-25 engines from the space shuttle and creating a more powerful version of the solid rocket boosters that launched the shuttle. In April, the last engine from the shuttle program finished up a four-year test series that included 32 tests at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. These acceptance tests proved the engines could operate at a higher thrust level necessary for deep space travel and that new, modernized flight controllers —the “brains” of the engine — are ready to send astronauts to the Moon in 2024.

Getting a Boost

image

NASA and its industry partners have completed the manufacture and checkout of 10 motor segments that will power two of the largest propellant boosters ever built. Just like the engines, these boosters are designed to be fast and powerful. Each booster burns 60 tons of propellant every second, generating a max thrust of 3.6 million pounds for two minutes of pure awesome. The boosters will finish assembly at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and readied for the rocket’s first launch in 2020. In the meantime, NASA is well underway in completing the boosters for SLS and Orion’s second flight in 2022.

Come Together

Meanwhile, other parts of the rocket are finished and ready for the ride to the Moon. The final piece of the upper part of the rocket, the launch vehicle stage adapter, will soon head toward Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Two other pieces, including the interim cryogenic propulsion stage that will provide the power in space to send Orion on to the Moon, have already been delivered to Kennedy.

Looking to the Future

image

NASA engineers evaluated thousands of designs before selecting the current SLS rocket design. Now, they are performing critical testing and using lessons learned from current assembly to ensure the initial and future designs are up to the tasks of launching exploration missions for years to come. This real-time evaluation means engineers and technicians are already cutting down on assembly time for future mission hardware, so the NASA and its partners can stay on target to return humans to the Moon by 2024 — to stay so we can travel on to Mars.

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

When NASA began operations on Oct. 1, 1958, we consisted mainly of the four laboratories of our predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Hot on the heels of NASA’s first day of business, we opened the Goddard Space Flight Center. Chartered May 1, 1959, and located in Greenbelt, Maryland, Goddard is home to one of the largest groups of scientists and engineers in the world. These people are building, testing and experimenting their way toward answering some of the universe’s most intriguing questions.

To celebrate 60 years of exploring, here are six ways Goddard shoots for the stars.

image

For the last 60 years, we’ve kept a close eye on our home planet, watching its atmosphere, lands and ocean.

Goddard instruments were crucial in tracking the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica as it grew and eventually began to show signs of healing. Satellites and field campaigns track the changing height and extent of ice around the globe. Precipitation missions give us a global, near-real-time look at rain and snow everywhere on Earth. Researchers keep a record of the planet’s temperature, and Goddard supercomputer models consider how Earth will change with rising temperatures. From satellites in Earth’s orbit to field campaigns in the air and on the ground, Goddard is helping us understand our planet.

image

We seek to answer the big questions about our universe: Are we alone? How does the universe work? How did we get here?

We’re piecing together the story of our cosmos, from now all the way back to its start 13.7 billion years ago. Goddard missions have contributed to our understanding of the big bang and have shown us nurseries where stars are born and what happens when galaxies collide. Our ongoing census of planets far beyond our own solar system (several thousand known and counting!) is helping us hone in on which ones might be potentially habitable.

image

We study our dynamic Sun.

Our Sun is an active star, with occasional storms and a constant outflow of particles, radiation and magnetic fields that fill the solar system out far past the orbit of Neptune. Goddard scientists study the Sun and its activity with a host of satellites to understand how our star affects Earth, planets throughout the solar system and the nature of the very space our astronauts travel through.

image

We explore the planets, moons and small objects in the solar system and beyond. 

Goddard instruments (well over 100 in total!) have visited every planet in the solar system and continue on to new frontiers. What we’ve learned about the history of our solar system helps us piece together the mysteries of life: How did life in our solar system form and evolve? Can we find life elsewhere?

image

Over 60 years, our communications networks have enabled hundreds of NASA spacecraft to “phone home.”

Today, Goddard communications networks bring down 98 percent of our spacecraft data – nearly 30 terabytes per day! This includes not only science data, but also key information related to spacecraft operations and astronaut health. Goddard is also leading the way in creating cutting-edge solutions like laser communications that will enable exploration – faster, better, safer – for generations to come. Pew pew!

image

Exploring the unknown often means we must create new ways of exploring, new ways of knowing what we’re “seeing.” 

Goddard’s technologists and engineers must often invent tools, mechanisms and sensors to return information about our universe that we may not have even known to look for when the center was first commissioned.

image

Behind every discovery is an amazing team of people, pushing the boundaries of humanity’s knowledge. Here’s to the ones who ask questions, find answers and ask questions some more!

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

Mars in a Box: How a Metal Chamber on Earth Helps Us do EXperiments on Mars

Inside this metal box, it’s punishingly cold. The air is unbreathable. The pressure is so low, you’d inflate like a balloon. This metal chamber is essentially Mars in a box — or a near-perfect replica of the Martian environment. This box allows scientists to practice chemistry experiments on Earth before programming NASA’s Curiosity rover to carry them out on Mars. In some cases, scientists use this chamber to duplicate experiments from Mars to better understand the results. This is what’s happening today.

The ladder is set so an engineer can climb to the top of the chamber to drop in a pinch of lab-made Martian rock. A team of scientists is trying to duplicate one of Curiosity’s first experiments to settle some open questions about the origin of certain organic compounds the rover found in Gale Crater on Mars. Today’s sample will be dropped for chemical analysis into a tiny lab inside the chamber known as SAM, which stands for Sample Analysis at Mars. Another SAM lab is on Mars, inside the belly of Curiosity. The SAM lab analyzes rock and soil samples in search of organic matter, which on Earth is usually associated with life. Mars-in-a-box is kept at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

This is Goddard engineer Ariel Siguelnitzky. He is showing how far he has to drop the sample, from the top of the test chamber to the sample collection cup, a small capsule about half an inch (1 centimeter) tall (pictured right below). On Mars, there are no engineers like Siguelnitzky, so Curiosity’s arm drops soil and rock powder through small funnels on its deck. In the photo, Siguelnitzky’s right hand is pointing to a model of the tiny lab, which is about the size of a microwave. SAM will heat the soil to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius) to extract the gases inside and reveal the chemical elements the soil is made of. It takes about 30 minutes for the oven to reach that super high temperature.

Each new sample is dropped into one of the white cups set into a carousel inside SAM. There are 74 tiny cups. Inside Curiosity’s SAM lab, the cups are made of quartz glass or metal. After a cup is filled, it’s lifted into an oven inside SAM for heating and analysis.

Amy McAdam, a NASA Goddard geochemist, hands Siguelnitzky the sample. Members of the SAM team made it in the lab using Earthly ingredients that duplicate Martian rock powder. The powder is wrapped in a nickel capsule (see photo below) to protect the sample cups so they can be reused many times. On Mars, there’s no nickel capsule around the sample, which means the sample cups there can’t be reused very much.

SAM needs as little as 45 milligrams of soil or rock powder to reveal the secrets locked in minerals and organic matter on the surface of Mars and in its atmosphere. That’s smaller than a baby aspirin!

Siguelnitzky has pressurized the chamber – raised the air pressure to match that of Earth – in order to open the hatch on top of the Mars box.

Now, he will carefully insert the sample into SAM through one of the two small openings below the hatch. They’re about 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) across, the same as on Curiosity. Siguelnitzky will use a special tool to carefully insert the sample capsule about two feet down to the sample cup in the carousel.

Sample drop.

NASA Goddard scientist Samuel Teinturier is reviewing the chemical data, shown in the graphs, coming in from SAM inside Mars-in-a-box. He’s looking to see if the lab-made rock powder shows similar chemical signals to those seen during an earlier experiment on Mars.

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

Whether or not you caught the SpaceX Crew Dragon launch this past weekend, here’s your chance to learn why this mission, known as Demo-1, is such a big deal.

The First of its Kind

Demo-1 is the first flight test of an American spacecraft designed for humans built and operated by a commercial company. 

Liftoff

image

The SpaceX Crew Dragon lifted off at 2:49 a.m. EST Saturday, March 2, on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center. 

This was the first time in history a commercially-built American crew spacecraft and rocket launched from American soil. 

Docking the Dragon

image

After making 18 orbits of Earth, the Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 5:51 a.m. EST Sunday, March 3. The Crew Dragon used the station’s new international docking adapter for the first time since astronauts installed it in August 2016

The docking phase, in addition to the return and recovery of Crew Dragon, are critical to understanding the system’s ability to support crew flights.

A New Era in Human Spaceflight

image

Although the test is uncrewed, that doesn’t mean the Crew Dragon is empty. Along for the ride was Ripley, a lifelike test device outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on future astronauts. (There is also a plush Earth doll strapped inside that can float in the microgravity!)

Astronauts on the International Space Station welcomed the Crew Dragon spacecraft in a ceremony onboard. NASA Astronaut Anne McClain from inside Crew Dragon said, “Welcome to a new era in human spaceflight.”

Inside the Dragon

For future operational missions, Crew Dragon will be able to launch as many as four crew members and carry more than 220 pounds of cargo. This will increase the number of astronauts who are able to live onboard the station, which will create more time for research in the unique microgravity environment.

SpaceX and NASA

image

Elon Musk, CEO and lead designer at SpaceX, expressed appreciation for NASA’s support: “SpaceX would not be here without NASA, without the incredible work that was done before SpaceX even started and without the support after SpaceX did start.”

Preparation for Demo-2

image

NASA and SpaceX will use data from Demo-1 to further prepare for Demo-2, the crewed flight test that will carry NASA astronauts and Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station. NASA will validate the performance of SpaceX’s systems before putting crew on board for the Demo-2 flight, currently targeted for July 2019.

Undocking

image

The Crew Dragon is designed to stay docked to station for up to 210 days, although the spacecraft used for this flight test will remain docked to the space station for only five days, departing Friday, March 8. (We will be providing live coverage — don’t miss it!)

Demo-1: So What?

image

Demo-1 is a big deal because it demonstrates NASA and commercial companies working together to advance future space exploration! With Demo-1’s success, NASA and SpaceX will begin to prepare to safely fly astronauts to the orbital laboratory.

Follow along with mission updates with the Space Station blog.

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

We sent the first humans to land on the Moon in 1969. Since then, only of 12 men have stepped foot on the lunar surface – but we left robotic explorers behind to continue gathering science data. And now, we’re preparing to return. Establishing a sustained presence on and near the Moon will help us learn to live off of our home planet and prepare for travel to Mars.

image

To help establish ourselves on and near the Moon, we are working with a few select American companies. We will buy space on commercial robotic landers, along with other customers, to deliver our payloads to the lunar surface. We’re even developing lunar instruments and tools that will fly on missions as early as 2019!

image

Through partnerships with American companies, we are leading a flexible and sustainable approach to deep space missions. These early commercial delivery missions will also help inform new space systems we build to send humans to the Moon in the next decade. Involving American companies and stimulating the space market with these new opportunities to send science instruments and new technologies to deep space will be similar to how we use companies like Northrop Grumman and SpaceX to send cargo to the International Space Station now. These selected companies will provide a rocket and cargo space on their robotic landers for us (and others!) to send science and technology to our nearest neighbor.

So who are these companies that will get to ferry science instruments and new technologies to the Moon?

Here’s a digital “catalogue” of the organizations and their spacecraft that will be available for lunar services over the next decade:

Astrobotic Technology, Inc.

Pittsburg, PA

image

Deep Space Systems

Littleton, CO

image

Firefly Aerospace, Inc.

Cedar Park, TX

image

Intuitive Machines, LLC

Houston, TX

image

Lockheed Martin Space

Littleton, CO

image

Masten Space Systems, Inc.

Mojave, CA

image

Moon Express, Inc.

Cape Canaveral, FL

image

Orbit Beyond, Inc.

Edison, NJ

image

Draper, Inc.

Cambridge, MA

image

We are thrilled to be working with these companies to enable us to investigate the Moon in new ways. In order to expand humanity’s presence beyond Earth, we need to return to the Moon before we go to Mars.

The Moon helps us to learn how to live and work on another planetary body while being only three days away from home – instead of several months. The Moon also holds enormous potential for testing new technologies, like prospecting for water ice and turning it into drinking water, oxygen and rocket fuel. Plus, there’s so much science to be done!

image

The Moon can help us understand the early history of the solar system, how planets migrated to their current formation and much more. Understanding how the Earth-Moon system formed is difficult because those ancient rocks no longer exist here on Earth. They have been recycled by plate tectonics, but the Moon still has rocks that date back to the time of its formation! It’s like traveling to a cosmic time machine!

Join us on this exciting journey as we expand humanity’s presence beyond Earth.

Learn more about the Moon and all the surprises it may hold: https://moon.nasa.gov

Find out more about today’s announcement HERE.

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