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Artemis II Astronauts Check Out Some Flight Hardware on This Week @NASA – November 24, 2023
19 Min Read The Marshall Star for November 22, 2023
Artemis II Astronauts View SLS Core Stage at Michoud
Artemis II NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman and Christina Koch of NASA, and CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Jeremy Hansen viewed the core stage for the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility on Nov. 16. The three astronauts, along with NASA’s Victor Glover, will launch atop the rocket stage to venture around the Moon on Artemis II, the first crewed flight for Artemis.
From left, Artemis II NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Jeremy Hansen, NASA astronaut Christina Koch, and Boeing’s Amanda Gertjejansen view the core stage for the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility on Nov. 16.NASA / Michael DeMocker The SLS core stage, towering at 212 feet, is the backbone of the Moon rocket and includes two massive propellant tanks that collectively hold 733,000 gallons of propellant to help power the stage’s four RS-25 engines. NASA, Boeing, the core stage lead contractor, along with Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies company and the RS-25 engines lead contractor, are in the midst of conducting final integrated testing on the fully assembled rocket stage. At launch and during ascent to space, the Artemis astronauts inside NASA’s Orion spacecraft will feel the power of the rocket’s four RS-25 engines producing more than 2 million pounds of thrust for a full eight minutes. The mega rocket’s twin solid rocket boosters, which flank either side of the core stage, will each add an additional 3.6 million pounds of thrust for two minutes.
Artemis II NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman and Christina Koch of NASA, and CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Jeremy Hansen view the core stage for the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans on Nov. 16. NASA / Michael DeMocker The astronauts’ visit to Michoud coincided with the first anniversary of the launch of Artemis I. The uncrewed flight test of SLS and Orion was the first in a series of increasingly complex missions for Artemis as the agency works to return humans to the lunar surface and develop a long-term presence there for discovery and exploration.
NASA is working to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon under Artemis. SLS is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with the Orion spacecraft, advanced spacesuits and rovers, the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, and commercial human landing systems. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.
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Mission Success is in Our Hands: Jeramie Broadway
Mission Success is in Our Hands is a safety initiative collaboration between NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Jacobs. As part of the initiative, eight Marshall team members are featured in new testimonial banners placed around the center. This is the first in a Marshall Star series profiling team members featured in the testimonial banners.
Jeramie Broadway is the center strategy lead for the Office of the Center Director.
Jeramie Broadway is center strategy lead at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.NASA/Charles Beason Before assuming this role, Broadway was senior technical assistant to the Marshall associate director, technical, from September 2021 to October 2022. In that capacity, he supported the development, coordination, and implementation of Marshall strategic planning and partnering within NASA and across industry and academia. Prior to that detail, he was the assistant manager of Marshall’s Partnerships and Formulation Office, providing strategic planning and business development support and creating new partnering and new mission opportunities for the center.
Broadway, a Dallas, Texas, native who joined NASA full-time in 2008, began his career in Marshall’s Materials and Processes Laboratory, supporting and leading production operations for the Ares I and Space Launch System program. Over the years, he served as project engineer or deputy project manager for a variety of work, including the Nuclear Cryogenic Propulsion Stage Project, for which he led development of advanced, high-temperature nuclear fuel materials. He was assistant chief engineer for launch vehicles for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and assistant chief engineer for NASA’s Technology Demonstration Mission Program, managed for the agency at Marshall.
Question: What are some of your key responsibilities?
Broadway: Leading and implementing the center director’s strategic vision, leveraging, and integrating the strategic business units across the Marshall Center, one of NASA’s largest field installations, with nearly 7,000 on-site and near-site civil service and contractor employees and an annual budget of approximately $4 billion. Working closely in coordination and collaboration with every center organization to ensure Marshall’s planning, workflow, and business tactics align with the agency’s strategic priorities.
Question: How does your work support the safety and success of NASA and Marshall missions?
Broadway: My work as the center strategy lead is focused on the success and viability for the Marshall of the future. I work to pursue and capture programs, projects, and opportunities for Marshall to maintain ourselves as an engineering center of excellence. We work hard capturing opportunities to develop the skills, capabilities, and expertise to safely deliver on the vision and mission of the agency.
Question: What does the Mission Success Is In Our Hands initiative mean to you?
Broadway: Mission success is the responsibility of every single person at Marshall Space Flight Center, regardless of grade, position, or civil servant or support contractor. Everyone has a vital role in the success of Marshall and our ability to deliver on our mission. We all have the ability to lean forward, break down barriers, and strive for a culture that that says ‘yes, and…’.
Question: How can we work together better to achieve mission success?
Broadway: In this pursuits culture, it will take all of us to achieve the goals and objectives set forward by the agency and center leadership. We have a vibrant future with many opportunities coming our way and it will take all of us to make that vision a reality. It will take both our mission execution and our mission support organizations to get us there.
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Marshall Makes Impact at University of Alabama’s 8th Annual Space Days
By Celine Smith
Team members from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center participated in the 8th annual Space Days at UA (University of Alabama) on Nov 14-16, where more than 500 students met with experts from NASA and aerospace companies to learn more about the space industry.
During the three-day program, Marshall team members conducted outreach presentations and updates about the Artemis missions, HLS (Human Landing System), and other NASA programs, as well as how students can get involved in NASA’s internship program.
NASA astronaut Bob Hines delivers a presentation entitled, “An Astronaut’s Journey,” during the 8th annual Space Days at the UA on Nov. 16.Matthew Wood Kicking off the event was Aaron Houin, an engineer on the aerospace vehicle design and mission analysis team at Marshall. Houin delivered a detailed presentation on orbital mechanics and vehicle properties. Houin is no stranger to the classroom, as he is currently earning his doctorate at UA’s Astrodynamics and Space Research Laboratory and was eager to give back to his alma mater.
“Having been in their position studying the same theories, I emphasized how their coursework directly applies to physics-based modeling and trajectory design,” Houin said. “I’m hopeful sharing my experiences of transitioning from the classroom to the workplace will help others find similar success.”
The Marshall team also conducted an hour-long panel discussion and Q&A segment allowing students to learn more about the fields of aerospace and aeronautic research. Panelists included Christy Gattis, cross-program integration lead, and Kent Criswell, lead systems engineer, both representing the HLS team, as well as Tim Smith, senior mission manager of the TDM (Technology Demonstration Missions) program.
From left, Tim Smith, senior mission manager of the Technology Demonstration Missions Program, joins Human Landing System team members Christy Gattis, cross-program integration lead, and Kent Criswell, lead systems engineer, in speaking with attendees following a NASA panel discussion at the University of Alabama Space Days on Nov. 16.NASA/Christopher Blair During the panel discussion, attendees were treated with a surprise guest speaker as Eric Vanderslice, stages structures sub element lead with SLS (Space Launch System), connected virtually from the Michoud Assembly Facility. Vanderslice shared insight about “America’s Rocket Factory” and progress for the agency’s Artemis II missions, including the recent installation of all four RS-25 engines onto the 212-ft-tall SLS core stage.
UA students also received a Tech Talk presentation focused on the SCaN (Space Communications and Navigation) program and related internship opportunities from team members from NASA’s Glenn Research Center and NASA Headquarters. Panelists included Dawn Brooks, program specialist at NASA Headquarters; Timothy Gallagher, senior project lead, and Molly Kearns, digital media specialist, all three representing SCaN’s Policy and Strategic Communications office.
And in true “One NASA” collaboration, joining the Glenn contingency for this Tech Talk was once again, Tim Smith, providing related updates on the Deep Space Optical Communications and the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration experiments.
Holly Ellis, communication specialist, and Tim Smith, senior mission manager, both of the Technology Demonstration Missions Program, speak with students during Space Days at the University of Alabama on Nov. 15. NASA/Christopher Blair The annual Space Days event concluded with NASA astronaut Bob Hines delivering a special presentation entitled, “An Astronaut’s Journey” to nearly 100 students, staff and industry partners. Hines completed his first spaceflight as a mission specialist for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission, serving as flight engineer of Expedition 67/68 aboard the International Space Station.
Space Days is hosted by the UA College of Engineering and their staff shared how crucial it is to have support from aerospace industry partners willing to visit campus and meet students. Key partners exhibiting and presenting included Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance, Alabama Space Grant Consortium, and others.
“By the time our students attend a career fair, apply for an internship, or pursue cooperative education, they will have learned about these companies in a smaller setting and begin to consider the many pathways to success,” said Tru Livaudais, director of external affairs for UA College of Engineering. “This event offers all UA students – regardless of majors and specialties – a chance to explore future career possibilities and how to be a part of the cutting-edge research and opportunities in the space industry.”
Smith, a Media Fusion employee, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.
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NASA Telescope Data Becomes Music You Can Play
For millennia, musicians have looked to the heavens for inspiration. Now a new collaboration is enabling actual data from NASA telescopes to be used as the basis for original music that can be played by humans.
Since 2020, the “sonification” project at NASA’s Chandra X-ray Center has translated the digital data taken by telescopes into notes and sounds. This process allows the listener to experience the data through the sense of hearing instead of seeing it as images, a more common way to present astronomical data.
The Galactic Center sonification, using data from NASA’s Chandra, Hubble, and Spitzer space telescopes, has been translated into a new composition with sheet music and score. Working with a composer, this soundscape can be played by musicians. The full score and sheet music for individual instruments is available at: https://chandra.si.edu/sound/symphony.htmlComposition: NASA/CXC/SAO/Sophie Kastner A new phase of the sonification project takes the data into different territory. Working with composer Sophie Kastner, the team has developed versions of the data that can be played by musicians.
“It’s like a writing a fictional story that is largely based on real facts,” said Kastner. “We are taking the data from space that has been translated into sound and putting a new and human twist on it.”
This pilot program focuses on data from a small region at the center of our Milky Way galaxy where a supermassive black hole resides. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, and retired Spitzer Space Telescope have all studied this area, which spans about 400 light-years across.
“We’ve been working with these data, taken in X-ray, visible, and infrared light, for years,” said Kimberly Arcand, Chandra visualization and emerging technology scientist. “Translating these data into sound was a big step, and now with Sophie we are again trying something completely new for us.”
In the data sonification process, computers use algorithms to mathematically map the digital data from these telescopes to sounds that humans can perceive. Human musicians, however, have different capabilities than computers.
Kastner chose to focus on small sections of the image in order to make the data more playable for people. This also allowed her to create spotlights on certain parts of the image that are easily overlooked when the full sonification is played.
“I like to think of it as creating short vignettes of the data, and approaching it almost as if I was writing a film score for the image,” said Kastner. “I wanted to draw listener’s attention to smaller events in the greater data set.”
A musical ensemble performs soundscape that composer Sophie Katsner created using data sonifications from NASA’s Chandra, Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. Based in Montreal, Ensemble Éclat is dedicated to the performance of contemporary classical music and promoting the works of emerging composers. (NASA/CXC/A. Jubett & Priam David) The result of this trial project is a new composition based upon and influenced by real data from NASA telescopes, but with a human take.
“In some ways, this is just another way for humans to interact with the night sky just as they have throughout recorded history,” says Arcand. “We are using different tools but the concept of being inspired by the heavens to make art remains the same.”
Kastner hopes to expand this pilot composition project to other objects in Chandra’s data sonification collection. She is also looking to bring in other musical collaborators who are interested in using the data in their pieces.
Sophie Kastner’s Galactic Center piece is entitled “Where Parallel Lines Converge.” If you are a musician who wants to try playing this sonification at home, check out the sheet music at: https://chandra.si.edu/sound/symphony.html.
The piece was recorded by Montreal based Ensemble Éclat conducted by Charles-Eric LaFontaine on July 19, 2023, at McGill University.
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center controls science operations from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and flight operations from Burlington, Massachusetts.
Read more from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.
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Dietitian Rachel Brown Speaker for Nov. 28 Marshall Association Event
Rachel Brown, registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist, will be the guest speaker for the Marshall Association Speaker Series on Nov. 28.
The event will be 12-1 p.m. The event is free to attend and open to everyone via Teams. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center team members can attend in Building 4221, Conference Room 1103. The meeting topic follows this year’s theme of Breaking Boundaries.
Rachel Brown, registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist, will be the guest speaker for the Marshall Association Speaker Series on Nov. 28. NASA A mom of two and a Huntsville resident since 2016, Brown is the owner of Rocket City Dietitian social media channels, where she focuses on promoting local food, fun, and fitness available in the Rocket City. She has a monthly TV segment on TN Valley Living promoting the local food scene and is a regular contributor to Huntsville Magazine, We Are Huntsville, and VisitHuntsville.org.
Email the Marshall Association for questions about the event. For more information on the Marshall Association and how to join, team members can visit their page on Inside Marshall.
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Cube Quest Concludes: Wins, Lessons Learned from Centennial Challenge
By Savannah Bullard
Artemis I launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 16, 2022, penning a new era of space exploration and inching the agency closer to sending the first woman and first person of color to the lunar surface.
Aboard the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket were 10 small satellites, no bigger than shoeboxes, whose goal was to detach and capably perform operations near and beyond the Moon. One of those satellites was a product of the Cube Quest Challenge, a NASA-led prize competition that asked citizen innovators to design, build, and deliver flight-qualified satellites called CubeSats that could perform its mission independently of the Artemis I mission.
Small satellites, called CubeSats, are shown secured inside NASA’s Orion stage adapter at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Aug. 5, 2021. One of these CubeSats belonged to Team Miles, one of the three finalists in the Cube Quest Centennial Challenge. The ring-shaped stage adapter was connected to the Space Launch System’s Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage, with the Orion spacecraft secured on top. The CubeSats’ mission was to detach from the stage adapter, then fly near and beyond the Moon to conduct a variety of science experiments and technology demonstrations to expand our knowledge of the lunar surface during the Artemis I mission.NASA/Cory Huston Cube Quest is the agency’s first in-space public prize competition. Opened in 2015, the challenge began with four ground-based tournaments, which awarded almost $500,000 in prizes. Three finalists emerged from the ground competition with a ticket to hitch a ride aboard the SLS as a secondary payload – and win the rest of the competition’s $5 million prize purse, NASA’s largest-ever prize offering to date – in 2022.
Of the three finalists, Team Miles was the sole team to make the trip on Artemis I successfully. Shortly after a successful deployment in space, controllers detected downlink signals and processed them to confirm whether the CubeSat was operational. This remains the latest update for the Team Miles CubeSat.
“We’re still celebrating the many wins that were borne out of Cube Quest,” said Centennial Challenges Program Manager Denise Morris. “The intent of the challenge was to reward citizen inventors who successfully advance the CubeSat technologies needed for operations on the Moon and beyond, and I believe we accomplished this.”
Innovation rarely comes without error, but according to Challenge Manager Naveen Vetcha, who supports Centennial Challenges through Jacobs Space Exploration Group, even after everything goes as expected, there is no guarantee that scientists will reach their desired outcomes.
“Given the magnitude of what we can and do accomplish every day at NASA, it comes with the territory that not every test, proposal, or idea will come out with 100 percent success,” Vetcha said. “We have set ambitious goals, and challenging ourselves to change what’s possible will inevitably end with examples of not meeting our stretch goals. But, with each failure comes more opportunities and lessons to carry forward. In the end, our competitors created technologies that will enable affordable deep space CubeSats, which, to me, is a big win.”
Although Team Miles may have made it furthest in the Cube Quest Challenge, having launched its CubeSat as a secondary payload aboard Artemis I, the team continues to participate in the challenge long after launch.
“From Team Miles, Miles Space LLC was created and is still in business,” said Jan McKenna, Team Miles’ project manager and safety lead. “Miles Space is developing and selling the propulsion system designed for our craft to commercial aerospace companies, and we’ve expanded to be able to create hardware for communications along with our CubeSat developments.”
The next steps for Miles Space LLC include seeing through their active patent applications, establishing relationships with potential clients, and continuing to hunt for a connection with their flying CubeSat. Another finalist team, Cislunar Explorers, is currently focused on using their lessons learned to benefit the global small satellite community.
“I utilized the contacts I made through Cube Quest and the other Artemis Secondary Payloads for my thesis research,” said Aaron Zucherman, Cislunar Explorers’ project manager. “This has enabled me to find partnerships and consulting work with other universities and companies where I have shared my experiences learning the best ways to build interplanetary CubeSats.”
This challenge featured teams from diverse educational and commercial backgrounds. Several team members credited the challenge as a catalyst in their graduate thesis or Ph.D. research, but one young innovator says Cube Quest completely redirected his entire career trajectory.
Project Selene team lead, Braden Oh, competed with his peers at La Cañada High School in La Cañada, California. Oh’s team eventually caught the attention of Kerri Cahoy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the designs were similar enough that Cahoy invited the two teams to merge. The exposure gained through this partnership was a powerful inspiration for Oh and his peers.
“I originally intended to apply to college as a computer science major, but my experiences in Cube Quest inspired me to study engineering instead,” Oh said. “I saw similar stories unfold for a number of my teammates; one eventually graduated from MIT and another now works for NASA.”
Cube Quest is managed out of NASA’s Ames Research Center. The competition is a part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges, which is housed at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Centennial Challenges is a part of NASA’s Prizes, Challenges, and Crowdsourcing program in the Space Technology Mission Directorate.
Bullard, a Manufacturing Technical Solutions Inc. employee, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.
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The Heat is On! NASA’s ‘Flawless’ Heat Shield Demo Passes the Test
A little more than a year ago, a NASA flight test article came screaming back from space at more than 18,000 mph, reaching temperatures of nearly 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit before gently splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. At that moment, it became the largest blunt body – a type of reentry vehicle that creates a heat-deflecting shockwave – ever to reenter Earth’s atmosphere.
The Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator, or LOFTID, launched Nov. 10, 2022, aboard a ULA (United Launch Alliance) Atlas V rocket and successfully demonstrated an inflatable heat shield. Also known as a Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, or HIAD, aeroshell, this technology could allow larger spacecraft to safely descend through the atmospheres of celestial bodies like Mars, Venus, and even Saturn’s moon, Titan.
The Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator, or LOFTID, spacecraft is pictured after its atmospheric re-entry test in November 2022.NASA/Greg Swanson “Large-diameter aeroshells allow us to deliver critical support hardware, and potentially even crew, to the surface of planets with atmospheres,” said Trudy Kortes, director of Technology Demonstrations at NASA Headquarters. “This capability is crucial for the nation’s ambition of expanding human and robotic exploration across our solar system.”
NASA has been developing HIAD technologies for over a decade, including two smaller scale suborbital flight tests before LOFTID. In addition to this successful tech demo, NASA is investigating future applications, including partnering with commercial companies to develop technologies for small satellite reentry, aerocapture, and cislunar payloads.
“This was a keystone event for us, and the short answer is: It was highly successful,” said LOFTID Project Manager Joe Del Corso. “Our assessment of LOFTID concluded with the promise of what this technology may do to empower the exploration of deep space.”
Due to the success of the LOFTID tech demo, NASA announced under its Tipping Point program that it would partner with ULA to develop and deliver the “next size up,” a larger 12-meter HIAD aeroshell for recovering the company’s Vulcan engines from low Earth orbit for reuse.
The LOFTID team recently held a post-flight analysis assessment of the flight test at NASA’s Langley Research Center. Their verdict?
Upon recovery, the team discovered LOFTID appeared pristine, with minimal damage, meaning its performance was, as Del Corso puts it, “Just flawless.”
View some interesting visual highlights from LOFTID’s flight test.
LOFTID splashed down in the Pacific Ocean several hundred miles off the east coast of Hawaii and only about eight miles from the recovery ship’s bow – almost exactly as modeled. A crew got on a small boat and retrieved and hoisted LOFTID onto the recovery ship.
“The LOFTID mission was important because it proved the cutting-edge HIAD design functioned successfully at an appropriate scale and in a relevant environment,” said Tawnya Laughinghouse, manager of the TDM (Technology Demonstrations Missions) program office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
Marshall supported the Langley-led LOFTID project, providing avionics flight hardware, including the data acquisition system, the inertial measurement unit, and six camera pods. Marshall engineers also performed thermal and fluids analyses and modeling in support of the LOFTID re-entry vehicle inflation system and aeroshell designs.
The LOFTID demonstration was a public private-partnership with ULA funded by STMD and managed by the Technology Demonstration Mission Program, executed by NASA Langley with contributions from across NASA centers. Multiple U.S. small businesses contributed to the hardware. NASA’s Launch Services Program was responsible for NASA’s oversight of launch operations.
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7 min read
Science on Station: November 2023
Inspiring Students with Ham Radio, Other Educational Programs
As an orbiting microgravity laboratory, the International Space Station hosts experiments from almost every scientific field. It also is home to educational programs to encourage young people worldwide to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). These programs aim to inspire the next generation of space scientists and explorers and experts who can solve problems facing people on Earth.
The first and longest running educational outreach program on the space station is ISS Ham Radio. An organization known as Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, or ARISS, helps run the program. ARISS is a partnership between NASA, the American Radio Relay League, the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, amateur radio organizations, and multiple international space agencies. Students use amateur or ham radio to talk with astronauts, asking them questions about life in space, career opportunities, and other space-related topics. Three contacts with schools in Australia and Canada were scheduled during the month of November 2023.
JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata during a ham radio session.NASA Before a contact, students help set up a ground radio station and study radio waves, space technology, the space station, geography, and the space environment. Contact events have been held with schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, universities, scout groups, museums, libraries, and after school programs, and at national and international events. Approximately 15,000 to 100,000 students are involved directly each year and thousands more people in their communities witness these contacts directly or through the news media.
Rita Wright, a teacher at Burbank School in Burbank, IL, one of the first to have a contact with the space station, reported on the extensive study and preparation by the students there.1 She noted that their contact was “an interdisciplinary learning experience for all grades across a variety of academic concentrations that included math, science, reading, writing and art…. The transformation that took place was quite revolutionary. We came closer together as a school.” Students talked extensively about the experiment and parents pitched in and helped because they sensed how special the event was and wanted to be a part of it.
Wright adds that ripple effects continued long after the December 2000 contact with astronaut William Shepherd. Staff members were inspired to look for other interdisciplinary projects and many students talked about pursuing careers associated with the space industry.
After a contact at Sonoran Sky Elementary School in Scottsdale, AZ, teacher Carrie Cunningham reported that the students started an after-school Amateur Radio Club and that, “sparked by the excitement of the ARISS contact, many students have shown an interested in pursuing their own Amateur Radio experience.”2
“There is a sense of accomplishment that results from the school and the students setting up and conducting the ISS ham contact themselves,” Cunningham reported. “The students better understand how NASA and the other international space agencies conduct science in space. The unique, hands-on nature of the amateur radio contact provides the incentive to learn about orbital mechanics, space flight, and radio operations.”
In a 2018 conference presentation, members of the ARISS staff noted that the program and its predecessors have jump-started countless careers, touched millions of people from all walks of life, and even become local and international phenomena. Participants have ranged from disadvantaged students to heads of states, and the program has been mentioned in IMAX films, numerous television shows, and commercials.3
A group of educators from Australia recently looked at how ham radio affected student interest in STEM subjects. They found that the program has a significant and positive impact on students and that interest in all STEM areas increases as a direct result of contacts.4
That research also reported a strong belief among teachers that astronauts provide outstanding examples of role models for their students. While the greatest changes in student interests occurs with primary school age students, the program also creates strong change in the interests of high school students.
NASA astronaut Edward M. (Mike) Fincke uses the station’s ham radio set during Expedition 9. NASA Patricia Palazzolo was the coordinator for gifted education in the Upper St. Clair School District in Pennsylvania during a 2004 contact with NASA astronaut Mike Fincke. She wrote a report about the event, noting that the positive impact of the program goes far beyond the numbers. “All of my students who have participated … have gone on to phenomenal accomplishments and careers that contribute much to society. Almost all have opted for careers in science, technology, or science-related fields.”
Ham radio experiences help students make real-world connections among disciplines, teach problem-solving under the pressure of deadlines, hone communication skills, and illustrate the importance of technology.5 For the adults involved, contacts highlight the significance of sharing skills with others and provide an opportunity to model the power of passion, partnership, and persistence.
AstroPi is an educational program from ESA (European Space Agency) where primary and secondary school students design experiments and write computer code for one of two Raspberry Pi computers on the space station. The computers are equipped with sensors to measure the environment inside the spacecraft, detect how the station moves through space, and pick up the Earth’s magnetic field. One of them has an infrared camera and the other a standard visible-spectrum camera.
One student project used the visible camera to observe small-scale gravity waves in different regions in the northern hemisphere.6 Atmospheric gravity waves transport energy and momentum to the upper layers of the atmosphere. These phenomena can be detected by visual patterns such as meteor trails, airglow, and clouds.
ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti poses with the AstroPi equipped with a visual camera.NASA YouTube Space Lab was a world-wide contest for students ages 14 to 18 to design an experiment about physics or biology using video. Two proposals were selected from 2,000 entries received from around the world. One of those documented the ability of the Phidippus jumping spider to walk on surfaces and make short, direct jumps to capture small flies in microgravity.7
Other space station facilities that host student-designed projects include CubeSat small satellites, TangoLab, the Nanoracks platform, and Space Studio Kibo, a JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) broadcasting studio.
NASA is committed to engaging, inspiring, and attracting future explorers and building a diverse future STEM workforce through a broad set of programs and opportunities. The space station is an important part of that commitment.
John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist
Search this database of scientific experiments to learn more about those mentioned above. Space Station Research Explorer.
Wright RL. Remember, We’re Pioneers! The First School Contact with the International Space Station. AMSAT-NA Space Symposium. Arlington, VA. 2004 9pp. Cunningham C. NA1SS, NA1SS, This is KA7SKY Calling…… AMSAT-NA Space Symposium, Arlington, VA. 2004 Bauer F, Taylor D, White R. Educational Outreach and International Collaboration Through ARISS: Amateur Radio on the International Space Station. 2018 SpaceOps Conference, Marseille, France. 2018 28 May – 1 June; 14 pp. DOI: 10.2514/6.2018-2437. Diggens, M., Williams, J., Benedix, G. (2023). No Roadblocks in Low Earth Orbit: The Motivational Role of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) School Program in STEM Education. Space Education & Strategic Applications. https://doi.org/10.18278/001c.89715 Palazzolo P. Launching Dreams: The Long-term Impact of SAREX and ARISS on Student Achievement. AMSAT-NA Space Symposium, Pittsburgh, PA. 2007 18pp. Magalhaes TE, Silva DE, Silva CE, Dinis AA, Magalhaes JP, Ribeiro TM. Observation of atmospheric gravity waves using a Raspberry Pi camera module on board the International Space Station. Acta Astronautica. 2021 May 1; 182416-423. DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2021.02.022 Hill DE. Jumping spiders in outer space (Araneae: Salticidae). PECKHAMIA. 2016 September 17; 146(1): 7 pp. Facebook logo @ISS @Space_Station@ISS_Research Instagram logo @ISS Linkedin logo @NASA Keep Exploring Discover Related Topics
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9 Min Read Temperatures Across Our Solar System
An illustration of our solar system. Planets and other objects are not to scale. Credits:
NASA What’s the weather like out there? We mean waaaay out there in our solar system – where the forecast might not be quite what you think.
Let’s look at the mean temperature of the Sun, and the planets in our solar system. The mean temperature is the average temperature over the surface of the rocky planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. Dwarf planet Pluto also has a solid surface. But since the gas giants don’t have a surface, the mean is the average temperature at what would be equivalent at sea level on Earth.
An illustration of planets in our solar system showing their mean temperatures. Planets and dwarf planet Pluto are not to scale. NASA Let’s start with our Sun. You already know the Sun is hot. OK, it’s extremely hot! But temperatures on the Sun also are a bit puzzling.
An image of the Sun taken Oct. 30, 2023, by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. NASA/SDO The hottest part of the Sun is its core, where temperatures top 27 million°F (15 million°C). The part of the Sun we call its surface – the photosphere – is a relatively cool 10,000° F (5,500°C). In one of the Sun’s biggest mysteries, the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, gets hotter the farther it stretches from the surface. The corona reaches up to 3.5 million°F (2 million°C) – much, much hotter than the photosphere.
So some temperatures on the Sun are a bit upside down. How about the planets? Surely things are cooler on the planets that are farther from the Sun.
Well, mostly. But then there’s Venus.
As it sped away from Venus, NASA’s Mariner 10 spacecraft captured this seemingly peaceful view of a planet the size of Earth, wrapped in a dense, global cloud layer. But, contrary to its serene appearance, the clouded globe of Venus is a world of intense heat, crushing atmospheric pressure and clouds of corrosive acid. NASA/JPL-Caltech Venus is the second closest planet to the Sun after Mercury, with an average distance from the Sun of about 67 million miles (108 million kilometers). It takes sunlight about six minutes to travel to Venus.
Venus also is Earth’s closest neighbor and is similar in size. It has even been called Earth’s twin. But Venus is shrouded in clouds and has a dense atmosphere that acts as a greenhouse and heats the surface to above the melting point of lead. It has a mean surface temperature of 867°F (464°C).
So Venus – not Mercury – is the hottest planet in our solar system. Save that bit of info for any future trivia contests.
Maybe Venus is hotter, but Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun. Surely it gets hot, too?
Mercury as seen from NASA’s MESSENGER, the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington Mercury is about 36 million miles (57 million kilometers) from the Sun. From this distance, it takes sunlight about three minutes to travel to Mercury. Even though it’s sitting right next to the Sun – relatively speaking – Mercury gets extremely cold at night. It has a mean surface temperature of 333°F (167°C). Daytime temperatures get much hotter than the mean, and can reach highs of 800°F (430°C). But without an atmosphere thick enough to hold in the heat at night, temperatures can dip as low as -290°F (-180°C).
Ahhh, Earth. We know about the weather here, right? Even Earth has some temperatures you may not have heard about.
An image of Earth from the Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR. NASA Earth is an average of 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) from the Sun. It takes about eight minutes for light from the Sun to reach our planet.
Our homeworld is a dynamic and stormy planet with everything from clear, sunny days, to brief rain showers, to tornados, to raging hurricanes, to blizzards, and dust storms. But in spite of its wide variety of storms – Earth generally has very hospitable temperatures compared to the other planets. The mean surface temperature on Earth is 59°F (15°C). But Earth days have some extreme temperatures. According to NOAA, Death Valley holds the record for the world’s highest surface air temperature ever recorded on Earth: 134°F (56.7°C) observed at Furnace Creek (Greenland Ranch), California, on July 10, 1913. Earth’s lowest recorded temperature was -128.6°F (89.2°C) at Vostok Station, Antarctica, on July 21, 1983, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
NASA missions have found lots of evidence that Mars was much wetter and warmer, with a thicker atmosphere, billions of years ago. How about now?
Side-by-side animated images show how a 2018 global dust storm enveloped the Red Planet. The images were taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS Mars is an average distance of 142 million miles (228 million kilometers) from the Sun. From this distance, it takes about 13 minutes for light to travel from the Sun to Mars.
The median surface temperature on Mars is -85°F (-65°C). Because the atmosphere is so thin, heat from the Sun easily escapes Mars. Temperatures on the Red Planet range from the 70s°F (20s°C) to -225°F (-153°C). Occasionally, winds on Mars are strong enough to create dust storms that cover much of the planet. After such storms, it can be months before all of the dust settles.
Two NASA rovers on Mars have weather stations. You can check the daily temps at their locations:
Mars Weather Report From Perseverance Curiosity Daily Weather Report The ground temperature around the Perseverance rover ranges from about -136°F to 62°F (-93°C to 17°C). The air temperature near the surface ranges from about -118°F to 8°F (-83°C to -13°C).
As planets move farther away from the Sun, it really cools down fast! Since gas giants Jupiter and Saturn don’t have a solid surface, temperatures are taken from a level in the atmosphere equal in pressure to sea level on Earth. The same goes for the ice giants Uranus and Neptune.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft took this image during a flyby of Jupiter. This view highlights Jupiter’s most famous weather phenomenon, the persistent storm known as the Great Red Spot. Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. Enhanced image by Kevin M. Gill (CC-BY) based on images provided courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Jupiter’s stripes and swirls are beautiful, but they are actually cold, windy clouds of ammonia and water, floating in an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium. The planet’s iconic Great Red Spot is a giant storm bigger than Earth that has raged for hundreds of years. The mean temperature on Jupiter is -166°F (-110°C).
Jupiter is an average distance of 484 million miles (778 million kilometers) from the Sun. From this distance, it takes sunlight 43 minutes to travel from the Sun to Jupiter. Jupiter has the shortest day in the solar system. One day on Jupiter takes only about 10 hours (the time it takes for Jupiter to rotate or spin around once), and Jupiter makes a complete orbit around the Sun (a year in Jovian time) in about 12 Earth years (4,333 Earth days).
Jupiter’s equator is tilted with respect to its orbital path around the Sun by just 3 degrees. This means the giant planet spins nearly upright and does not have seasons as extreme as other planets do.
As we keep moving out into the solar system, we come to Saturn – the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest planet in our solar system. Saturn orbits the Sun from an average distance of 886 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers). It takes sunlight 80 minutes to travel from the Sun to Saturn.
This series of images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows the development of the largest storm seen on Saturn since 1990. These true-color and composite near-true-color views chronicle the storm from its start in late 2010 through mid-2011, showing how the distinct head of the storm quickly grew large but eventually became engulfed by the storm’s tail. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute Like fellow gas giant Jupiter, Saturn is a massive ball made mostly of hydrogen and helium and it doesn’t have a true surface. The mean temperature is -220°F (-140°C).
In addition to the bone-chilling cold, the winds in the upper atmosphere of Saturn reach 1,600 feet per second (500 meters per second) in the equatorial region. In contrast, the strongest hurricane-force winds on Earth top out at about 360 feet per second (110 meters per second). And the pressure – the same kind you feel when you dive deep underwater – is so powerful it squeezes gas into a liquid.
This colorful movie made with images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is the highest-resolution view of the unique six-sided jet stream at Saturn’s north pole known as “the hexagon.” NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University Saturn’s north pole has an interesting atmospheric feature – a six-sided jet stream. This hexagon-shaped pattern was first noticed in images from the Voyager I spacecraft and was more closely observed by the Cassini spacecraft. Spanning about 20,000 miles (30,000 kilometers) across, the hexagon is a wavy jet stream of 200-mile-per-hour winds (about 322 kilometers per hour) with a massive, rotating storm at the center. There is no weather feature like it anywhere else in the solar system.
Crane your neck to the side while we go check out the weather on Uranus, the sideways planet.
This is an image of the planet Uranus taken by the spacecraft Voyager 2 in 1986. NASA/JPL-Caltech The seventh planet from the Sun with the third largest diameter in our solar system, Uranus is very cold and windy. It has a mean temperature of -320°F (-195°C). Uranus rotates at a nearly 90-degree angle from the plane of its orbit. This unique tilt makes Uranus appear to spin sideways, orbiting the Sun like a rolling ball. And like Saturn, Uranus has rings. The ice giant is surrounded by 13 faint rings and 27 small moons.
Now we move on to the last major planet in our solar system – Neptune. What’s the weather like there? Well you would definitely need a windbreaker if you went for a visit. Dark, cold, and whipped by supersonic winds, giant Neptune is the eighth and most distant major planet orbiting our Sun. The mean temperature on Neptune is -330°F (-200°C).
And not to be outdone by Jupiter and its Great Red Spot, Neptune has the Great Dark Spot – and Scooter. Yep, Scooter.
Voyager 2 photographed these features on Neptune in 1989. NASA/JPL-Caltech This photograph of Neptune was created from two images taken by NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft in August 1989. It was the first and last time a spacecraft came close to Neptune. The image shows three of the features that Voyager 2 monitored. At the north (top) is the Great Dark Spot, accompanied by bright, white clouds that undergo rapid changes in appearance. To the south of the Great Dark Spot is the bright feature that Voyager scientists nicknamed “Scooter.” Still farther south is the feature called “Dark Spot 2,” which has a bright core.
More than 30 times as far from the Sun as Earth, Neptune is not visible to the naked eye. In 2011, Neptune completed its first 165-year orbit of the Sun since its discovery.
That wraps up forecasting for the major planets.
But there is one more place we need to check out. Beyond Neptune is a small world, with a big heart – dwarf planet Pluto.
New Horizons scientists use enhanced color images to detect differences in the composition and texture of Pluto’s surface. NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI With a mean surface temperature of -375°F (-225°C), Pluto is considered too cold to sustain life. Pluto’s interior is warmer, however, and some think there may be an ocean deep inside.
From an average distance of 3.7 billion miles (5.9 billion kilometers) away from the Sun, it takes sunlight 5.5 hours to travel to Pluto. If you were to stand on the surface of Pluto at noon, the Sun would be 1/900 the brightness it is here on Earth. There is a moment each day near sunset here on Earth when the light is the same brightness as midday on Pluto.
So the next time you’re complaining about the weather in your spot here on Earth, think about Pluto and all the worlds in between.
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