Astronaut Reid Wiseman on the First Spacewalk of Expedition 41
NASA – On Oct. 7, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman (pictured here) and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst completed the first of three spacewalks for the Expedition 41 crew aboard the International Space Station. The spacewalkers worked outside the space station’s Quest airlock for 6 hours and 13 minutes, relocating a failed cooling pump to external stowage and installing gear that provides back up power to external robotics equipment. Flight Engineer Barry Wilmore of NASA operated the Canadian robotic arm, maneuvered Gerst during the course of the spacewalk and served as the spacewalk coordinator.
A second U.S. spacewalk is set for Oct. 15. Wilmore will don a U.S. spacesuit and follow Wiseman outside the Quest airlock for a 6-1/2 hour excursion. Gerst will serve as the spacewalk choreographer. The goal of the excursion is to replace a failed voltage regulator component on the starboard truss of the station. They will also move external camera equipment in advance of a major reconfiguration of station modules next year for the arrival of new docking adapters for commercial crew vehicles.
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Alexander Gerst
Launch Abort System Installed for Orion Flight Test
NASA – The launch abort system for the Orion Flight Test is lowered by crane for installation on the Orion spacecraft inside the Launch Abort System Facility, or LASF, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The completed crew and service modules will be tested and verified together with the launch abort system. Orion will remain inside the LASF until mid-November, when the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket is ready for integration with the spacecraft.
Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans, including an asteroid and Mars.
It will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.
The first unpiloted test flight of the Orion is scheduled to launch in December atop the Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to an altitude of 3,600 miles above the Earth’s surface. The two-orbit, four-hour flight test will help engineers evaluate the systems critical to crew safety including the heat shield, parachute system and launch abort system.
Image Credit: NASA/Cory Huston
Fall Colors Arriving
NASA – A few days after autumn showed up on the calendar in the Northern Hemisphere, it showed up on the landscape of North America. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this view of fall colors around the Great Lakes on Sept. 26, 2014.
The changing of leaf color in temperate forests involves several causes and reactions, but the dominant factors are sunlight and heat. Since temperatures tend to drop sooner and sunlight fades faster at higher latitudes, the progression of fall color changes tends to move from north to south across North America from mid-September through mid-November.
In late summer and autumn, tree and plant leaves produce less chlorophyll, the green pigment that harvests sunlight for plants to convert water and carbon dioxide into sugars. The subsidence of chlorophyll allows other chemical compounds in the leaves—particularly carotenoids and flavonoids—to emerge from the green shadow of summer. These compounds do not decay as fast as chlorophyll, so they shine through in yellows, oranges, and reds as the green fades. Another set of chemicals, anthocyanins, are associated with the storage of sugars and give the leaves of some species deep purple and red hues.
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Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz at NASA GSFC. Caption by Mike Carlowicz
Milky Way Viewed From the International Space Station
NASA – NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman captured this image from the International Space Station and posted it to social media on Sept. 28, 2014, writing, “The Milky Way steals the show from Sahara sands that make the Earth glow orange.”
Aboard the space station, the six-person Expedition 41 crew is currently preparing for two spacewalks set for Oct. 7 and 15. During the first six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk, slated to begin on Oct. 7 around 8:10 a.m. EDT, Wiseman and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst will transfer a previously uninstalled pump module from its temporary stowage location to the External Stowage Platform-2. The two spacewalkers also will install the Mobile Transporter Relay Assembly that adds the capability to provide “keep-alive” power to the system that moves the station’s robotic arm between worksites. NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore will join Wiseman for the second Expedition 41 spacewalk on Oct. 15.
Image Credit: NASA/Reid Wiseman
Rocket Boosters Prepared For Orion Spacecraft’s First Flight
NASA – Engineers took another step forward in preparations for the first test flight of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft in December. At the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF), at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, the three primary core elements of the ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket recently were integrated, forming the first stage of the launch vehicle that will send Orion far from Earth to allow NASA to evaluate the spacecraft’s performance in space.
The three common booster cores are 134 feet in length and 17 feet in diameter. Each has an RS-68 engine that uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellant producing 656,000 pounds of thrust. All totaled, the three Delta IV boosters collectively generate 1.96 million pounds of thrust.
The upcoming flight test will use the Delta IV Heavy to launch the Orion and send it 3,600 miles in altitude beyond the Earth’s surface. During the two-orbit, four-hour mission, engineers will evaluate the systems critical to crew safety, the launch abort system, the heat shield and the parachute system. The data gathered during the mission will influence design decisions and validate existing computer models. The flight also will reduce overall mission risks and costs for later Orion flights.
> Delta IV Booster Integration Another Step Toward First Orion Flight
Image Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky
Looking for Comets in a Sea of Stars
NASA – On a July night this summer, a 5,200-pound balloon gondola hangs from a crane and moves toward the open doors of a building at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Md. The telescopes and instruments carried by the gondola, which are part of NASA’s Balloon Observation Platform for Planetary Science (BOPPS), are calibrated by taking a long look at the stars and other objects in the sky.
This photo was created from 100 separate 30-second-exposure photos, composited together to make the star trail that “spins” around Polaris, the North Star.
BOPPS is a high-altitude, stratospheric balloon mission, which will spend up to 24 hours aloft to study a number of objects in our solar system, including an Oort cloud comet. Two comets that may be visible during the flight include Pan STARRS and Siding Spring, which will pass very close to Mars on Oct. 19. The mission may also survey a potential array of other targets including asteroids Ceres and Vesta, Earth’s moon, and Neptune and Uranus. BOPPS is scheduled to launch on Sept. 25 from the NASA Columbia Scientific Balloon Research Facility in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
Learn more about the BOPPS mission:
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Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL
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Tagged Balloon Observation Platform for Planetary Science, BOPPS, Ceres, Columbia Scientific Balloon Research Facility, NASA, Pan STARRS, Siding Spring, Technology, United States, Vesta
NASA Engineers Conduct Low Light Test on New Technology for Webb Telescope
NASA – NASA engineers inspect a new piece of technology developed for the James Webb Space Telescope, the micro shutter array, with a low light test at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Developed at Goddard to allow Webb’s Near Infrared Spectrograph to obtain spectra of more than 100 objects in the universe simultaneously, the micro shutter array uses thousands of tiny shutters to capture spectra from selected objects of interest in space and block out light from all other sources.
The James Webb Space Telescope is a large space telescope, optimized for infrared wavelengths. It is scheduled for launch later in this decade. Webb will find the first galaxies that formed in the early universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way galaxy. Webb will peer through dusty clouds to see stars forming planetary systems, connecting the Milky Way to our own solar system.
Caption Credit: Laura Betz, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland. Image Credit: NASA Goddard/Chris Gunn
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Tagged Big Bang, Infrared, James Webb Space Telescope, Milky Way, NASA, Technology, United States