Category: explore

How could your research in diseases help missions to the Moon, Mars and other places in our solar system?

NASA Spotlight: Astronaut Candidate Frank Rubio

“Where else in the world would you hear a story like mine? I’m a kid from a single mom, a teenage mom from El Salvador who worked in all sorts of low-income jobs… My story is a great story about America. What are the chances that a kid like me would end up being where I am today?” – Frank Rubio

Dr. Frank Rubio is a Los Angeles-born Salvadorian-American who was selected as NASA astronaut candidate in 2017. The Florida native graduated from the U.S. Military Academy and earned a Doctorate of Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Prior to attending medical school, he served as a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot and flew more than 1,100 hours, including more than 600 hours of combat and imminent danger time during deployments to Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Dr. Rubio is a board certified family physician and flight surgeon. At the time of his selection, he was serving in the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). 

Frank took time from training to become a certified NASA Astronaut to answer questions about his life and career: 

You’ve served in the Special Forces, are certified as a family physician and now are a selected Astronaut candidate – What inspired you to apply to be an astronaut and how do you think your past jobs will play a role in your new career?

It was a friend in the astronaut corps that recommended I put in an application. After he recommended it, I thought it was an amazing opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself and to allow me to continue to serve. It gave me an opportunity to explore and make a difference. And it sounded like a lot of fun! My past careers have allowed me to be comfortable with uncertainty and the unknown and to function well despite often not having all the facts.

Do you have any secret skills, talents, or hobbies?

I was on the skydive team in college.

image

How would you describe your job to a five year old?

I have one of the best jobs in the world because I get to train and work towards a mission that helps humankind. My job is unique in that you and your team are working to make a difference from a much bigger perspective. And hopefully I get to ride on a rocket and go to space!

image

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Early in my career and throughout my career I was assigned to jobs that may not have been my first choice, but they turned out to be amazing opportunities. I was taught to have a good attitude and give it your best no matter where you are. Those opportunities ended up being some of the best and helped me get where I am today.

Any facts about/aspects of astronaut training that you think people would be surprised to find out?

A lot of people don’t realize how much studying is involved. It’s comparable to the studying I did in flight school or medical school.

What are five things that you will definitely take with you on your first space flight?

Pictures of my family and friends, a Bible and lots of books to read (probably on a tablet), patches from my Army units- they helped form me to be the person I am today, music, and if I could take my dog (and family), I definitely would! Also, Something for each of my kids to give to them.

You just finished up geology training. What fact or skill did you learn during geology training that you think rocks the most?

The overall idea that the rocks and the different units we studied have so much to tell. You learn to appreciate how much the layout of the land and the rocks and the way they interact together can tell you about the history of that place. It’s amazing.

image

Since you’re getting close to completing astronaut training, what about your first space flight are you most looking forward to?

Everything will be fantastic from the ride up there, to floating in space, to the amazing science we get to perform, to being part of the team. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of looking back at Earth and having the chance to get the perspective to recognize the grandeur and uniqueness of Earth.

What would be the first thing you would say if you happened to make contact with an alien lifeform able to communicate with you?

Hello! How are you? I would want to know about them and to share humankind with them.

Thank you for your time Frank, and good luck as you continue to complete astronaut training! 

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.  

Say hello to spiral galaxy NGC 1097 👋

About 45 million light-years away, in another corner of the cosmos, lies spiral galaxy NGC 1097. Though this Hubble Space Telescope image zooms in toward the core, the galaxy’s vast spiral arms span over 100,000 light-years as they silently sweep through space. At the heart of this galaxy lurks a black hole that is about 100 million times as massive as the Sun.

The supermassive black hole is voraciously eating up surrounding matter, which forms a doughnut-shaped ring around it. Matter that’s pulled into the black hole releases powerful radiation, making the star-filled center of the galaxy even brighter. Hubble’s observations have led to the discovery that while the material that is drawn toward NGC 1097’s black hole may be doomed to die, new stars are bursting into life in the ring around it.

This sparkling spiral galaxy is especially interesting to both professional scientists and amateur astronomers. It is a popular target for supernova hunters ever since the galaxy experienced three supernovas in relatively rapid succession — just over a decade, between 1992 and 2003. Scientists are intrigued by the galaxy’s satellites — smaller “dwarf” galaxies that orbit NGC 1097 like moons. Studying this set of galaxies could reveal new information about how galaxies interact with each other and co-evolve.

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

On this day 50 years ago, human beings embarked on a journey to set foot on another world for the very first time

image

At 9:32 a.m. EDT, millions watched as Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, flying high on the most powerful rocket ever built: the mighty Saturn V.

image

As we prepare to return humans to the lunar surface with our Artemis program, we’re planning to make history again with a similarly unprecedented rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS will be our first exploration-class vehicle since the Saturn V took American astronauts to the Moon a decade ago. With its superior lift capability, the SLS will expand our reach into the solar system, allowing astronauts aboard our Orion spacecraft to explore multiple, deep-space destinations including near-Earth asteroids, the Moon and ultimately Mars.

image

So, how does the Saturn V measure up half a century later? Let’s take a look.

Mission Profiles: From Apollo to Artemis 

Saturn V

image

Every human who has ever stepped foot on the Moon made it there on a Saturn V rocket. The Saturn rockets were the driving force behind our Apollo program that was designed to land humans on the Moon and return them safely back to Earth.

image

Developed at our Marshall Space Flight Center in the 1960s, the Saturn V rocket (V for the Roman numeral “5”)  launched for the first time uncrewed during the Apollo 4 mission on November 9, 1967. One year later, it lifted off for its first crewed mission during Apollo 8. On this mission, astronauts orbited the Moon but did not land. Then, on July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission was the first Saturn V flight to land astronauts on the Moon. In total, this powerful rocket completed 13 successful missions, landing humans on the lunar surface six times before lifting off for the last time in 1973.

Space Launch System (SLS) 

image

Just as the Saturn V was the rocket of the Apollo generation, the Space Launch System will be the driving force behind a new era of spaceflight: the Artemis generation.

image

During our Artemis missions, SLS will take humanity farther than ever before. It is the vehicle that will return our astronauts to the Moon by 2024, transporting the first woman and the next man to a destination never before explored – the lunar South Pole. Over time, the rocket will evolve into increasingly more powerful configurations to provide the foundation for human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit to deep space destinations, including Mars.

SLS will take flight for the first time during Artemis 1 where it will travel 280,000 miles from Earth – farther into deep space than any spacecraft built for humans has ever ventured.

Size: From Big to BIGGER 

Saturn V

image

The Saturn V was big. 

In fact, the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center is one of the largest buildings in the world by volume and was built specifically for assembling the massive rocket. At a height of 363 feet, the Saturn V rocket was about the size of a 36-story building and 60 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty!

Space Launch System (SLS)

image

Measured at just 41 feet shy of the Saturn V, the initial SLS rocket will stand at a height of 322 feet. Because this rocket will evolve into heavier lift capacities to facilitate crew and cargo missions beyond Earth’s orbit, its size will evolve as well. When the SLS reaches its maximum lift capability, it will stand at a height of 384 feet, making it the tallest rocket in the world.

Power: Turning Up the Heat 

Saturn V

For the 1960s, the Saturn V rocket was a beast – to say the least.

Fully fueled for liftoff, the Saturn V weighed 6.2 million pounds and generated 7.6 million pounds of thrust at launch. That is more power than 85 Hoover Dams! This thrust came from five F-1 engines that made up the rocket’s first stage. With this lift capability, the Saturn V had the ability to send 130 tons (about 10 school buses) into low-Earth orbit and about 50 tons (about 4 school buses) to the Moon.

Space Launch System (SLS)

image

Photo of SLS rocket booster test

Unlike the Saturn V, our SLS rocket will evolve over time into increasingly more powerful versions of itself to accommodate missions to the Moon and then beyond to Mars.

image

The first SLS vehicle, called Block 1, will weigh 5.75 million pounds and produce 8.8 million pounds of thrust at time of launch. That’s 15 percent more than the Saturn V produced during liftoff! It will also send more than 26 tons  beyond the Moon. Powered by a pair of five-segment boosters and four RS-25 engines, the rocket will reach the period of greatest atmospheric force within 90 seconds!

image

Following Block 1, the SLS will evolve five more times to reach its final stage, Block 2 Cargo. At this stage, the rocket will provide 11.9 million pounds of thrust and will be the workhorse vehicle for sending cargo to the Moon, Mars and other deep space destinations. SLS Block 2 will be designed to lift more than 45 tons to deep space. With its unprecedented power and capabilities, SLS is the only rocket that can send our Orion spacecraft, astronauts and large cargo to the Moon on a single mission.

Build: How the Rockets Stack Up

Saturn V

image

The Saturn V was designed as a multi-stage system rocket, with three core stages. When one system ran out of fuel, it separated from the spacecraft and the next stage took over. The first stage, which was the most powerful, lifted the rocket off of Earth’s surface to an altitude of 68 kilometers (42 miles). This took only 2 minutes and 47 seconds! The first stage separated, allowing the second stage to fire and carry the rest of the stack almost into orbit. The third stage placed the Apollo spacecraft and service module into Earth orbit and pushed it toward the Moon. After the first two stages separated, they fell into the ocean for recovery. The third stage either stayed in space or crashed into the Moon.

Space Launch System (SLS)

Much like the Saturn V, our Space Launch System is also a multi-stage rocket. Its three stages (the solid rocket boosters, core stage and upper stage) will each take turns thrusting the spacecraft on its trajectory and separating after each individual stage has exhausted its fuel. In later, more powerful versions of the SLS, the third stage will carry both the Orion crew module and a deep space habitat module.

A New Era of Space Exploration 

Just as the Saturn V and Apollo era signified a new age of exploration and technological advancements, the Space Launch System and Artemis missions will bring the United States into a new age of space travel and scientific discovery.

Join us in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing and hear about our future plans to go forward to the Moon and on to Mars by tuning in to a special two-hour live NASA Television broadcast at 1 p.m. ET on Friday, July 19. Watch the program at www.nasa.gov/live.

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

image

The next generation of lunar explorers – the Artemis generation – will establish a sustained presence on the Moon, making revolutionary discoveries, prospecting for resources and proving technologies key to future deep space exploration. To support these ambitions, our navigation engineers are developing an architecture that will provide accurate, robust location services all the way out to lunar orbit.

How? We’re teaming up with the U.S. Air Force to extend the use of GPS in space by developing advanced space receivers capable of tracking weak GPS signals far out in space.

image

Spacecraft near Earth have long relied on GPS signals for navigation data, just as users on the ground might use their phones to maneuver through a highway system. Below approximately 1,860 miles, spacecraft in low-Earth orbit can rely on GPS for near-instantaneous location data. This is an enormous benefit to these missions, allowing many satellites the autonomy to react and respond to unforeseen events without much hands-on oversight.

image

Beyond this altitude, navigation becomes more challenging. To reliably calculate their position, spacecraft must use signals from the global navigation satellite system (GNSS), the collection of international GPS-like satellite constellations. The region of space that can be serviced by these satellites is called the Space Service Volume, which extends from 1,860 miles to about 22,000 miles, or geosynchronous orbit.

image

In this area of service, missions don’t rely on GNSS signals in the same way one would on Earth or in low-Earth orbit. They orbit too high to “see” enough signals from GNSS satellites on their side of the globe, so they must rely on signals from GNSS satellite signals spilling over to the opposite side of the globe.  This is because the Earth blocks the main signals of these satellites, so the spacecraft must “listen” for the fainter signals that extend out from the sides of their antennas, known as “side-lobes.”

image

Though 22,000 miles is considered the end of the Space Service Volume, that hasn’t stopped our engineers from reaching higher. In fact, our simulations prove that GNSS signals could even be used for reliable navigation in lunar orbit, far outside the Space Service Volume, over 200,000 miles from Earth. We’re even planning to use GNSS signals in the navigation architecture for the Gateway, an outpost in orbit around the Moon that will enable sustained lunar surface exploration.

image

It’s amazing that the same systems you might use to navigate the highways are putting us on the path forward to the Moon!

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

image

Today we roll out a new communications project that highlights some of the many ways that NASA’s Earth observations help people strengthen communities across the United States.

Space for U.S. features stories on how Earth science data is used to make informed decisions about public health, disaster response and recovery and environmental protection. By highlighting advanced technology from a global perspective, our data helps provide people achieve groundbreaking insights.

image

For example, a family-owned coffee company in Maine used our sunlight, wind and temperature data to determine the placement of their power-generating solar wall.

Space for U.S. features 56 stories illustrating how our science has made an impact in every state in the nation as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and regions along the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes.

image

For six decades, we’ve used the vantage point of space to better understand our home planet and improve lives. Using Space for U.S., you can browse through stories about how applied Earth science either by state or by topics such as animals, disasters, energy, health, land and water. Each click brings you a story about how people are putting NASA data to work.

image

Explore the true stories behind the innovative technology, groundbreaking insights, and extraordinary collaboration happening right here in the United States with Space for U.S.

Check out “Space for U.S.” today! www.nasa.gov/spaceforus

image

For more information on NASA Earth, head to www.nasa.gov/Earth or https://appliedsciences.nasa.gov.

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

image

Have you ever wanted to drive a rover across the surface of the Moon?

This weekend, students from around the world will get their chance to live out the experience on Earth! At the Human Exploration Rover Challenge, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, high schoolers and college students operate human-powered rovers that they designed and built as they traverse a simulated world, making decisions and facing obstacles that replicate what the next generation of explorers will face in space.

image

Though the teams that build the rover can be a few people or a few dozen, in the end, two students (one male, one female) will end up navigating their rover through a custom-built course at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Each duo will push their rover to the limit, climbing up hills, bumping over rocky and gravelly grounds, and completing mission objectives (like retrieving soil samples and planting their team flag) for extra points – all in less than seven minutes.

image

2019 will mark the 25th year of Rover Challenge, which started life as the Great Moonbuggy Race on July 16, 1994. Six teams braved the rain and terrain (without a time limit) in the Rocket City that first year – and in the end, the University of New Hampshire emerged victorious, powering through the moon craters, boulder fields and other obstacles in eighteen minutes and fifty-five seconds.

image

When it came time to present that year’s design awards, though, the honors went to the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao, who have since become the only school to compete in every Great Moonbuggy Race and Rover Challenge hosted by NASA Marshall. The second-place finishers in 1994, the hometown University of Alabama in Huntsville, are the only other school to compete in both the first race and the 25th anniversary race in 2019.

image

Since that first expedition, the competition has only grown: the race was officially renamed the Human Exploration Rover Challenge for 2014, requiring teams to build even more of their rover from the wheels up, and last year, new challenges and tasks were added to better reflect the experience of completing a NASA mission on another planet. This year, almost 100 teams will be competing in Rover Challenge, hailing from 24 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and countries from Bolivia to Bangladesh.

image

Rover Challenge honors the legacy of the NASA Lunar Roving Vehicle, which made its first excursion on the moon in 1971, driven by astronauts David Scott and James Irwin on Apollo 15. Given the competition’s space race inspiration, it’s only appropriate that the 25th year of Rover Challenge is happening in 2019, the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s historic Apollo 11 moon landing.

image

Interested in learning more about Rover Challenge? Get the details on the NASA Rover Challenge site – then join us at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (entrance is free) or watch live on the Rover Challenge Facebook Page starting at 7 AM CT, this Friday, April 12 and Saturday, April 13. Happy roving!

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