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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.
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Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
NASA completed a full duration, 650-second hot fire of the RS-25 certification engine Nov. 29, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to deep space as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all. Danny Nowlin NASA completed a full duration, 650-second hot fire of the RS-25 certification engine Nov. 29, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to deep space as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all. Danny Nowlin NASA completed a full duration, 650-second hot fire of the RS-25 certification engine Nov. 29, continuing a critical test series to support future SLS (Space Launch System) missions to deep space as NASA explores the secrets of the universe for the benefit of all. Danny Nowlin NASA conducted the third RS-25 engine hot fire in a critical 12-test certification series Nov. 29, demonstrating a key capability necessary for flight of the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket during Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond.
NASA is conducting the series of tests to certify new manufacturing processes for producing RS-25 engines for future deep space missions, beginning with Artemis V. Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies Company and lead engines contractor for the SLS rocket, is incorporating new manufacturing techniques and processes, such as 3D printing, in production of new RS-25 engines.
Crews gimbaled, or pivoted, the RS-25 engine around a central point during the almost 11-minute (650 seconds) hot fire on the Fred Haise Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The gimbaling technique is used to control and stabilize SLS as it reaches orbit.
During the Nov. 29 test, operators also pushed the engine beyond any parameters it might experience during flight to provide a margin of operational safety. The 650-second test exceeded the 500 seconds RS-25 engines must operate to help power SLS to space. The RS-25 engine also was fired to 113% power level, exceeding the 111% level needed to lift SLS to orbit.
The ongoing series will stretch into 2024 as NASA continues its mission to return humans to the lunar surface to establish a long-term presence for scientific discovery and to prepare for human missions to Mars.
Four RS-25 engines fire simultaneously to generate a combined 1.6 million pounds of thrust at launch and 2 million pounds of thrust during ascent to help power each SLS flight. NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne modified 16 holdover space shuttle main engines, all proven flightworthy at NASA Stennis, for Artemis missions I through IV.
Every new RS-25 engine that will help power SLS also will be tested at NASA Stennis. RS-25 tests at the site are conducted by a combined team of NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Syncom Space Services operators. Syncom Space Services is the prime contractor for Stennis facilities and operations.
Stay connected with the mission on social media, and let people know you’re following it on X, Facebook, and Instagram using the hashtags #Artemis, #NASAStennis, #SLS. Follow and tag these accounts:
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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope Pauses Science Due to Gyro Issue
Hubble orbiting more than 300 miles above Earth as seen from the space shuttle. NASA NASA is working to resume science operations of the agency’s Hubble Space Telescope after it entered safe mode Nov. 23 due to an ongoing gyroscope (gyro) issue. Hubble’s instruments are stable, and the telescope is in good health.
The telescope automatically entered safe mode when one of its three gyroscopes gave faulty readings. The gyros measure the telescope’s turn rates and are part of the system that determines which direction the telescope is pointed. While in safe mode, science operations are suspended, and the telescope waits for new directions from the ground.
Hubble first went into safe mode Nov. 19. Although the operations team successfully recovered the spacecraft to resume observations the following day, the unstable gyro caused the observatory to suspend science operations once again Nov. 21. Following a successful recovery, Hubble entered safe mode again Nov. 23.
The team is now running tests to characterize the issue and develop solutions. If necessary, the spacecraft can be re-configured to operate with only one gyro. The spacecraft had six new gyros installed during the fifth and final space shuttle servicing mission in 2009. To date, three of those gyros remain operational, including the gyro currently experiencing fluctuations. Hubble uses three gyros to maximize efficiency, but could continue to make science observations with only one gyro if required.
NASA anticipates Hubble will continue making groundbreaking discoveries, working with other observatories, such as the agency’s James Webb Space Telescope, throughout this decade and possibly into the next.
Launched in 1990, Hubble has been observing the universe for more than 33 years. Read more about some of Hubble’s greatest scientific discoveries.
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Since its 1990 launch, the Hubble Space Telescope has changed our fundamental understanding of the universe.
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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.
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Ham Radio in Space: Engaging with Students Worldwide for 40 Years
In May 2018, a student at Mill Springs Academy in Alpharetta, Georgia, Andrew Maichle, talked to NASA astronaut Scott Tingle on the International Space Station via amateur or ham radio. The experience profoundly affected Maichle, who went on to study electrical engineering at Clemson University in South Carolina.
“It was so cool to see in real time the utmost levels of what people in science are able to accomplish, and to talk to and interact with someone at that level,” Maichle recalls. “The space station is an incredible work of engineering and to interact with someone in space was just mind-boggling. I was extraordinarily honored and very lucky to have had the opportunity.”
40 Years of Contact
As of November 2023, students have been talking to astronauts in space for 40 years. Crew members on the space shuttle Columbia first used an amateur radio to communicate with people on Earth in 1983. That program, the Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX), ended in 1999.
In October 2000, amateur radio equipment launched to the space station along with its first crew members, who deployed it on Nov. 13, 2000. ISS Ham Radio, also known as Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS), has operated continuously since then. Each year, the program hosts about a hundred contacts. It has now directly connected over 100 crew members with more than 250,000 participants from 49 U.S. states, 63 countries, and every continent. These experiences encourage interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and help inspire the next generation.
“The ham radio program represents an amazing opportunity to engage with kids all over the world,” said NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who participated on each of his missions. “It provides the opportunity for educators and ham operators to encourage and inspire their students with STEM topics culminating in a real-time conversation with astronauts living and working on the space station.”
Before a scheduled contact, students study related topics. They have about nine minutes to ask questions, often discussing career choices and scientific activities aboard the orbiting laboratory.
NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren talks on the space station’s ham radio set. NASA Inspiration Beyond Education
These contacts go beyond inspiring students – sometimes they encourage entire communities. Students at Canterbury School in Fort Myers, Florida, spoke with crew members on Oct. 24, 2022. Just a few weeks earlier, Hurricane Ian displaced 30 percent of the school’s population.
“Before the hurricane, our had students spent months building their own satellite tracking antenna,” said Christiana Deeter, science department head at the school. “After the storm, so many people came forward to make sure that we had what we needed. It was a great opportunity for our kids to stop looking around and look up.”
The school spoke with NASA astronaut Josh Cassada. “He has kids of his own and was just as excited as our kids were,” said Deeter. “I asked him if he had a message for the families and he talked about coming together as a community and not giving up hope. Our school was on a high the rest of the year.”
Canterbury School student Isaac Deeter asks a question during the school’s ham radio contact while student Samantha Pezzi waits her turn. Canterbury School From an Astronaut’s Perspective
Ham radio also contributes to astronaut well-being. In addition to scheduled contacts, crew members often crank up the radio during free time to catch calls from around the world.
Lindgren spoke to amateur radio operators or “hams” on all seven continents. His favorite memory is connecting with eight-year-old Isabella Payne and her father Matthew Payne in the United Kingdom. “Hearing her young, accented voice cut through the static – I was very impressed to hear her calling the space station,” said Lindgren. “It made my day!”
Lindgren’s contact with Payne was on Aug. 2, 2022. On Aug.18, 2023, Payne’s school, St Peter-In-Thanet CE Primary, conducted a scheduled contact with NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli.
UK student Isabella Payne, who contacted NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren via ham radio, is shown on Lindgren’s device floating in the space station.NASA The program also fosters international cooperation. Crew members are trained by multi-national teams. Italian teams designed and built antennas, while German teams built repeater stations that improve ham contacts. Amateur radio even serves as an emergency backup communications network for the space station.
How Schools Can Get Involved
ARISS is a partnership between NASA, amateur radio organizations, and international space agencies. While there is no cost to a host location for the contact, there may be some equipment-related costs. Scheduling is subject to mission operations and may change, so hosts need to be flexible.
The astronaut and the ham radio operator, who is the technical point of contact on the ground, must be licensed. While students do not have to be licensed, many choose to obtain their license after the experience.
Information about applying is available at www.ariss.org or can be requested from firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Next 40 Years
“I hope the program continues for a long time,” said Maichle. “It is so important for kids trying to figure out what you want to accomplish in life. It is cool to have that memory that sticks with you. It inspires so many people.”
And as those involved celebrate 40 years of ham radio in space, some are dreaming even bigger.
“I would love for there to be a continued amateur radio presence in human spaceflight,” said Lindgren. “I expect we’ll have a radio on the space station for as long as it operates. Then can we put a ham radio station on the Moon? Now that would be cool.”
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