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NASA Astronaut Mary L. Cleave. April 8, 1985NASA Retired NASA astronaut Mary Cleave, a veteran of two NASA spaceflights, died Nov. 27. She was 76. A scientist with training in civil and environmental engineering, as well as biological sciences and microbial ecology, Cleave was the first woman to serve as an associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
Born in Southampton, New York, Cleave received a Bachelor of Science degree in biological sciences from Colorado State University, Fort Collins, in 1969, and Master of Science in microbial ecology and a doctorate in civil and environmental engineering, both from Utah State University, Logan, in 1975 and 1979, respectively.
“I’m sad we’ve lost trail blazer Dr. Mary Cleave, shuttle astronaut, veteran of two spaceflights, and first woman to lead the Science Mission Directorate as associate administrator,” said NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana. “Mary was a force of nature with a passion for science, exploration, and caring for our home planet. She will be missed.”
Cleave was selected as an astronaut in May 1980. Her technical assignments included flight software verification in the SAIL (Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory), spacecraft communicator on five space shuttle flights, and malfunctions procedures book and crew equipment design.
Cleave launched on her first mission, STS-61B, aboard space shuttle Atlantis on Nov. 26,1985. During the flight, the crew deployed communications satellites, conducted two six-hour spacewalks to demonstrate space station construction techniques, operated the Continuous Flow Electrophoresis experiment for McDonnell Douglas and a Getaway Special container for Telesat and tested the Orbiter Experiments Digital Autopilot.
Cleave’s second mission, STS-30, which also was on Atlantis, launched May 4, 1989. It was a four-day flight during which the crew successfully deployed the Magellan Venus exploration spacecraft, the first planetary probe to be deployed from a space shuttle. Magellan arrived at Venus in August 1990 and mapped more than 95% of the surface. In addition, the crew also worked on secondary payloads involving indium crystal growth, electrical storms, and Earth observation studies.
Cleave transferred from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland in May 1991. There, she worked in the Laboratory for Hydrospheric Processes as the project manager for SeaWiFS (Sea-viewing, Wide-Field-of-view-Sensor), an ocean color sensor which monitored vegetation globally.
In March 2000, she went to serve as deputy associate administrator for advanced planning in the Office of Earth Science at NASA’s Headquarters in Washington. From August 2005 to February 2007, Cleave was the associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate where she guided an array of research and scientific exploration programs for planet Earth, space weather, the solar system, and the universe. She also oversaw an assortment of grant-based research programs and a diverse constellation of spacecraft, from small, principal investigator-led missions to large flagship missions.
Cleave’s awards included: two NASA Space Flight medals; two NASA Exceptional Service medals; an American Astronautical Society Flight Achievement Award; a NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal; and NASA Engineer of the Year.
Cleave retired from NASA in February 2007.
Johnson Space Center, Houston
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Announcing the New Heliophysics Division Director
November 29, 2023
NASA has selected Dr. Joseph Westlake to fill the position of Heliophysics Division Director. Joe will join the Science Mission Directorate and assume his new role on Jan. 16, 2024.
I am pleased to have Joe take on the role as the Heliophysics Division Director. Joe has a strong background in heliophysics and planetary science and has already made significant contributions to our efforts by supporting several NASA missions including the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, the Van Allen Probes, Parker Solar Probe, the Interstellar Boundary Explorer mission, the Juno mission, Cassini and the European Space Agency’s Juice mission to Ganymede.
Joe brings with him more than 18 years of scientific, technical, management, and programmatic experience in heliophysics, astrophysics, and planetary science. He is coming to us from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) where he works as a researcher and project scientist for the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe mission and principal investigator for the Plasma Instrument for Magnetic Sounding, or PIMS, instrument destined for Jupiter’s moon, Europa, onboard the Europa Clipper mission.
“I’m very excited to join NASA as the Division Director for Heliophysics,” said Westlake. “I look forward to diving in and working with the vibrant community of scientists and engineers that are uncovering the mysteries of our star.”
In 2024, the National Academies will release a new Decadal Survey that lays out a strategy to advance scientific understanding of the Sun, Sun-Earth connections and the origins of space weather, the Sun’s interactions with other bodies in the solar system, the interplanetary medium, and the interstellar medium; Joe’s experience across several scientific disciplines, as well as his leadership and technical experience, uniquely qualifies him for this critical leadership position in the Science Mission Directorate as we embark on an exciting new decade of solar and space physics.
I extend my sincere appreciation to Peg Luce who led the Division for nearly a year while the director position was vacant; she has done a stellar job. With nearly 10 years as the deputy director, Peg’s exceptional efforts have brought significant strides within Science Mission Directorate and the broader scientific community. I am thrilled she will continue serving as the Heliophysics Division Deputy Director and helping Joe usher the division into this new era.
“The Sun touches everything and the science of heliophysics is helping us unlock its mysteries,” said Peg Luce, deputy division director, Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Joe’s unique experience and insight will help guide the division as we usher in solar max, launch a host of new heliophysics missions, and flow through the Heliophysics Big Year.”
Please join me in welcoming Joe to Headquarters!
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A view of the Earth with Aurora Borealis and an orbital sunrise taken by the Expedition 35 crew aboard the International Space Station.NASA Two small businesses are benefitting from NASA’s expertise as they develop heat shield technologies, cargo delivery systems, and new protective materials for spacecraft and space stations in the growing commercial industry of low Earth orbit operations.
The two American companies – Canopy Aerospace Inc. of Littleton, Colorado and Outpost Technologies Corp. of Santa Monica, California – recently announced progress in the development of a new heat shield manufacturing capability and a new cargo transportation system for potential use on the International Space Station and future commercial space stations.
“These projects are a great example of how NASA is supporting a growing commercial space industry,” said Angela Hart, manager of NASA’s Commercial Low Earth Orbit Development Program at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “There is an entire ecosystem emerging where companies are working together and innovating to meet NASA’s needs and also positioning themselves to reach new customers, so that NASA can be just one of many customers in low Earth orbit.”
The companies work with NASA’s Commercial Low Earth Orbit Development Program through SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) contracts funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. Both contracts are part of an innovative pilot program known as SBIR Ignite, focused on small businesses with commercially viable technology ideas aligned with NASA mission needs that can help support the expanding aerospace ecosystem.
Improving heat shields, saving time
A piece of Thermal Protection System (TPS) material undergoes high temperature testing at Canopy Aerospace’s facility in Littleton, Colorado. Canopy Aerospace Canopy Aerospace Inc., a venture-funded startup, is collaborating with NASA to develop a new manufacturing system that can improve production of ceramic heat shields – otherwise referred to as thermal protection systems (TPS). In the vacuum of space, spacecraft and space station hardware must withstand extreme cold and heat environments. Upon re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere, these craft in low Earth orbits are exposed to temperatures as high as 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
To protect spacecraft and space stations during re-entry, engineered TPS are required. NASA developed the first TPS types under the Space Shuttle Program, and similar technologies are still used today to protect the Orion spacecraft as it returns to Earth from space. Canopy’s RHAM (Reusable Heatshields Additive Manufacturing) platform builds on the shuttle program’s heritage methods, but utilizes novel materials, new binding, and heat treatment processes to create a new type of ceramic heat shield and produce it at scale in the commercial sector.
As more companies enter the commercial space market, improved heat shield manufacturing methods are critical to driving down launch costs, shortening lead times, and enabling new mission capabilities for future spacecraft.
Transporting cargo, saving space
A concept infographic depicting the Cargo Ferry cargo transportation vehicle’s launch and return process. Outpost Technologies Outpost Technologies Corp. is collaborating with NASA to develop a new cargo transport vehicle, named Cargo Ferry. The reusable vehicle consists of a payload container for cargo, solar array wings to power the vehicle, a deployable heat shield to protect it on re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere, and a robotic paraglider system to deliver it safely to the ground with “landing pad” precision.
Cargo Ferry could transport non-human cargo including science and hardware from space stations back down to Earth more frequently, freeing up vital research and stowage space on board the station. Commercial space stations are expected to be smaller than the International Space Station, thus systems like Cargo Ferry could offer a more versatile and adaptable solution for cargo transportation.
NASA is supporting the design and development of multiple commercial space stations with three funded partners, as well as several other partners with unfunded agreements through NASA’s Collaborations for Commercial Space Capabilities-2 project.
NASA’s commercial strategy for low Earth orbit will provide the government with reliable and safe services at a lower cost and enable the agency to focus on Artemis missions to the Moon in preparation for Mars while also continuing to use low Earth orbit as a training and proving ground for those deep space missions.
For more information about NASA’s commercial space strategy, visit:
Johnson Space Center, Houston
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JAXA / Koichi Wakata NASA astronaut and Expedition 68 flight engineer Nicole Mann is pictured during a fit check of her spacesuit on Jan. 12, 2023, ahead of a planned spacewalk to upgrade the International Space Station’s power generation system.
Selected as an astronaut candidate in June 2013, Mann is the first Native American woman from NASA in space. In 2018, she was chosen as one of the nine astronauts to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon. In her first spaceflight, she launched to the International Space Station as commander of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on Oct. 5, 2022.
While aboard the orbital laboratory, Mann executed two spacewalks totaling 14 hours and two minutes. She also supported two spacewalks as the robotic arm operator and captured the NG-18 cargo resupply spacecraft, S.S. Sally Ride.
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Image Credit: JAXA/Koichi Wakata
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