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Embark on a cosmic journey with ESA as we explore the universe through the lens of ‘One Million’. From the scorching temperatures of the Sun's corona to the cosmic gaze of the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope — discover the astronomical wonders that surround us. Join our space community in celebrating a momentous occasion — 1 MILLION subscribers on YouTube! Thank you for your enthusiasm and support.

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    • By NASA
      With the dress rehearsal completed during Apollo 10 in May 1969, only a few weeks remained until Apollo 11, the actual Moon landing mission to meet President Kennedy’s goal set in 1961. Apollo 11 astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin and their backups James A. Lovell, William A. Anders, and Fred W. Haise entered the final phase of their training, rehearsing their mission in simulators and practicing for the lunar surface activities. Teams in Mission Control supported the simulations. A successful countdown demonstration cleared the way to start the actual countdown leading to launch. In the Pacific Ocean, U.S. Navy and NASA teams prepared for the recovery of the astronauts returning from the Moon, and for their postflight quarantine.
      Apollo 10
      After returning from their successful Moon landing dress rehearsal mission on May 26, 1969, Apollo 10 astronauts Thomas P. Stafford, John W. Young, and Eugene A. Cernan passed on their knowledge and lessons learned to the Apollo 11 Moon landing crew during postflight debriefs. On June 8, they accepted Emmy Awards on behalf of all Apollo crews for their television broadcasts from space, with special recognition for Apollo 10’s first use of color TV in space. On June 19, Stafford, Young, and Cernan returned to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida to thank the employees there for getting them safely into orbit. On June 30, President Richard M. Nixon hosted them and their wives at a White House black tie dinner in their honor.

      Left: Apollo 10 astronauts debrief their mission with the Apollo 11 astronauts. Middle: Apollo 10 astronauts John W. Young, left, Eugene A. Cernan, and Thomas P. Stafford hold their Emmy Awards. Right: At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, Stafford, left, Young, and Cernan hold photographs of their launch presented to them by KSC Launch Director Rocco A. Petrone.

      Apollo 10 astronauts Thomas P. Stafford, left, John W. Young, and Eugene A. Cernan wave to employees as they ride in a convertible through NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
      Apollo 11

      The document from NASA’s Office of Manned Space Flight stating Apollo 11’s primary objective.
      On June 26, Samuel C. Phillips, Apollo Program Director, and George E. Mueller, Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., signed the directive stating Apollo 11’s primary objective: perform a manned lunar landing and return. The focus of the crew’s training, and all the other preparatory activities happening across the agency, aimed at accomplishing that seemingly simple, yet in truth extremely complex and never before accomplished, task.

      Left: Apollo 11 astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, left, and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin in the Lunar Module simulator at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Right: Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins in KSC’s Command Module simulator.

      Apollo 11 Flight Directors Eugene F. Kranz, left, Glynn S. Lunney, Clifford E. Charlesworth, Milton L. Windler, and Gerald D. Griffin pose in Mission Control.
      The final weeks leading up to the launch of their historic mission proved quite busy for Apollo 11 astronauts Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin and their backups Lovell, Anders, and Haise, as well as the ground teams preparing their rocket and spacecraft for flight. To train for the different phases of their mission, the astronauts conducted many sessions in Command Module (CM) and Lunar Module (LM) simulators at both the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), now NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and at KSC. For many of these sessions, teams of operators in MSC’s Mission Control monitored their activities as they would during the actual mission. Flight Directors Eugene F. Kranz, left, Glynn S. Lunney, Clifford E. Charlesworth, Milton L. Windler, and Gerald D. Griffin led the Mission Control teams.

      Apollo 11 astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, left, and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin practice their lunar surface activities at the Manned Spacecraft Center, now NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, left, and at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
      Apollo 11 would conduct the first spacewalk on another celestial body and only the second spacewalk of the Apollo program. At training facilities at MSC and KSC, Armstrong and Aldrin practiced setting up a television camera that would relay their activities back to Earth during the 2.5-hour excursion, deploying the three science experiments, and collecting rock and regolith samples for return to Earth.

      Left: Apollo 11 Commander Neil A. Armstrong prepares to fly the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle (LLTV) at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston. Middle: Armstrong airborne in the LLTV. Right: Apollo 11 backup Commander James A. Lovell following a flight in the LLTV.
      On June 6, NASA managers approved the resumption of astronaut training flights in the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle (LLTV) at Ellington Air Force Base (AFB) near MSC. The LLTV simulated the flight characteristics of the LM and astronauts used it to train for the final 200 feet of the descent to the lunar surface. Managers reached the decision after reviewing findings from the Review Board headed by astronaut Walter M. Schirra that investigated the Dec. 8, 1968 crash of LLTV-1 as well as results from flights in LLTV-2 made by MSC test pilots Harold E. “Bud” Ream and Jere B. Cobb. Between June 14 and 16, Armstrong flew LLTV-2 eight times to complete his training program with the vehicle. He had previously completed 12 simulated Moon landings in the LLTV and its predecessor, the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV), narrowly escaping the crash of LLRV-1 in May 1968. Backup Commander Lovell completed four flights in the LLTV between June 19 and July 1. Armstrong, Aldrin, Lovell, and Haise also practiced landings in the Lunar Landing Research Facility (LLRF) at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

      Left: Senior NASA managers monitor the Apollo 11 Countdown Demonstration Test (CDDT) in Firing Room 1 of the Launch Control Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Right: The team of controllers in Firing Room 1 monitor the Apollo 11 CDDT.

      Left: Apollo 11 astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, front, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin about to board the transfer van to Launch Pad 39A for the Countdown Demonstration Test (CDDT). Middle: Workers in the White Room assist Collins, left, Armstrong, and Aldrin to enter their spacecraft for the CDDT. Right: Armstrong, left, Aldrin, and Collins leave Launch Pad 39A at the conclusion of the CDDT.
      At KSC, engineers completed the three-day Flight Readiness Test on June 6, ensuring the flight readiness of the Saturn V rocket and the Apollo spacecraft perched on Launch Pad 39A. On June 17, top managers from NASA Headquarters and the Directors of MSC, KSC, and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, held the Flight Readiness Review at KSC. The meeting reviewed all aspects of readiness for the launch and mission, clearing the way for the next milestone, the Countdown Demonstration Test (CDDT). The CDDT, a full dress rehearsal for the actual countdown to launch, consisted of two parts. The “wet” test, conducted from June 27 to July 2, included fueling the rocket as if for flight, with the countdown stopping just prior to first stage engine ignition, and did not involve the flight crew. The “dry” test followed on July 3, an abbreviated countdown without fueling the rocket but with the astronauts boarding the CM as if on launch day. Controllers in Firing Room 1 of the Launch Control Center at Launch Complex 39 monitored all aspects of the CDDT as they would for an actual countdown. The successful test cleared the way for the start of the launch countdown at 8 p.m. EDT on July 10, leading to launch on July 16.

      The three commemorative items carried aboard Apollo 11. Left: The Lunar Flag Assembly. Middle: The stainless steel commemorative plaque. Right: The silicon disc containing messages of goodwill from world leaders.
      On July 2, NASA announced that Armstrong and Aldrin would leave three symbolic items behind on the Moon to commemorate the historic first landing – an American flag, a commemorative plaque, and a silicon disc bearing messages from world leaders. The astronauts would plant the three-by-five-foot flag near their LM during their spacewalk. The stainless steel plaque bore the images of the two hemispheres of the Earth and this inscription,
      HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH
      FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON
      JULY 1969 A.D.
      WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND
      The signatures of the three astronauts and President Richard M. Nixon also appeared on the plaque. Workers mounted it on the forward landing leg strut of the LM. The one-and-one-half-inch silicon disc contained messages of goodwill from 73 world leaders, etched on the disk using the technique to make microcircuits for electronic equipment. The crew placed the disc on the lunar surface at the end of their spacewalk.

      Left: Apollo 11 astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, left, Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins hold a copy of the commemorative plaque they will leave behind on the Moon and their mission patch. Right: The Apollo 11 astronauts in the glass-enclosed room at the Lunar Receiving Laboratory.
      During a July 5 press conference in the MSC auditorium, the Apollo 11 astronauts revealed the call signs for their spacecraft. They named their CM Columbia and their LM Eagle. “We selected these as being representative of the flight, the nation’s hope,” said Armstrong. Columbia served as a national symbol represented by a statue atop the Capitol in Washington, D.C. They named the LM after the symbol of the United States, the bald eagle, featured on the Apollo 11 mission patch. In a second event, the astronauts answered reporters’ questions from inside a glass-enclosed conference room at MSC’s Lunar Receiving Laboratory (LRL). After their mission, the returning astronauts completed their 21-day quarantine in the LRL to prevent any back contamination of the Earth by any possible lunar microorganisms.

      NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, workers simulate the arrival of the first Moon rocks and other items returned from Apollo 11. Middle: Workers practice docking the Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) with the LRL. Right: In Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, workers barge the prime and backup MQFs to load them onto the U.S.S. Hornet. Image credit: courtesy U.S. Navy.
      At the LRL, other preparations for the return of the Apollo 11 astronauts from the Moon included a simulation of the arrival and processing of the Moon rocks and other items following the mission. The rocks, crew biological samples, and film would be flown from the prime recovery ship to Houston ahead of the crew. Engineers and technicians also rehearsed the arrival of the crew with a dry run of docking a Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) to the LRL’s loading dock. Following the test, workers loaded two MQFs, a prime and a backup, onto a cargo plane for transport to Hawaii and loading onto the prime recovery ship.

      Left: Workers in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, prepare to lift a boilerplate Apollo Command Module onto the U.S.S. Hornet for splashdown and recovery rehearsals. Image credit: courtesy U.S. Navy Bob Fish. Middle: Crews from the U.S.S. Hornet practice recovery operations. Right: Recovery team members dry their Biological Isolation Garments aboard the U.S.S. Hornet following a recovery exercise.
      On June 12, the U.S. Navy notified NASA that it had selected the U.S.S. Hornet (CVS-12) as the prime recovery ship for Apollo 11 to undertake the most complex recovery of an astronaut crew. The same day, with Hornet docked in her home port of Long Beach, California, its commanding officer, Capt. Carl J. Seiberlich, held the first recovery team meeting to review the Apollo Recovery Operations Manual, written by MSC’s Landing and Recovery Division. Between June 12 and 25, Hornet onloaded NASA equipment required for the recovery. On June 27, Hornet left Long Beach for a three-hour stop in San Diego, where air group maintenance and support personnel embarked. The next day, after Hornet left for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, pilots flew the aircraft required to support the recovery onto the carrier. During the cruise to Pearl Harbor, Hornet’s 90-man team detailed for Apollo 11 recovery operations held numerous meetings and table-top simulations. After arriving in Hawaii on July 2, workers loaded a boilerplate Apollo capsule onto the aircraft carrier to be used for recovery practice. The NASA recovery team, the Frogmen swimmers from the U.S. Navy’s Underwater Demolition Team 11 (UDT-11) who assisted with the recovery, and some media personnel arrived onboard. For the recovery operation, Capt. Seiberlich adopted the motto “Hornet Plus Three,” indicating the goal of a safe recovery of the three astronauts returning from the Moon. On July 3, Capt. Seiberlich introduced the 35-member NASA recovery team to the Hornet’s crew. Donald E. Stullken, Chief of the Recovery Operations Branch at MSC and inventor of the inflatable flotation collar attached by swimmers to the capsule after splashdown, led the NASA team. His assistant John C. Stonesifer oversaw the decontamination and quarantine operations. Stullken and Stonesifer briefed Hornet’s Command Module Retrieval Team on all events associated with the recovery and retrieval of an Apollo capsule and its crew. On July 6, workers loaded the two MQFs aboard Hornet. The prime MQF would house the returning astronauts, a flight surgeon, and an engineer from shortly after splashdown until their arrival at the LRL in Houston several days later. The second MQF served as a backup should a problem arise with the first or if violations of quarantine protocols required additional personnel to be isolated. Along with the MQFs, Navy personnel loaded other equipment necessary for the recovery, including 55 one-gallon containers of sodium hypochlorite to be used as a disinfectant. Between July 7 and 9, the Hornet conducted nine Simulated Recovery Exercises in local Hawaiian waters. Lieutenant Clarence J. “Clancy” Hatleberg led the team as the designated decontamination swimmer with U.S. Navy Frogmen serving as stand-ins for the astronauts, all wearing Biological Isolation Garments as they would on recovery day. The Hornet returned to Pearl Harbor to pick up the rest of the NASA recovery team before setting sail on July 12 for its first recovery position. 
      Apollo 12

      Left: Apollo 12 astronauts Charles “Pete” Conrad, left, Alan L. Bean, and Richard F. Gordon prepare to enter their Command Module for an altitude test. Right: Conrad after completing a flight in the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle.

      Left: In the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building (MSOB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, workers finish attaching the landing gear to the Apollo 12 Lunar Module (LM). Middle left: Workers in the MSOB prepare to mate the Apollo 12 Command and Service Modules with the Spacecraft LM Adapter. Middle right: Workers move the assembled Apollo 12 spacecraft from the MSOB to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Right: In the VAB. workers lower the Apollo 12 spacecraft onto its Saturn V rocket.
      With Apollo 11 on its launch pad, workers continued to prepare Apollo 12 for its eventual journey to the Moon, targeting a September launch should Apollo 11 not succeed. If Apollo 11 succeeded in its Moon landing mission, Apollo 12 would fly later, most likely in November, to attempt the second Moon landing at a different location. In KSC’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), the three-stage Saturn V stood on its Mobile Launcher, awaiting the arrival of the Apollo spacecraft. In the nearby Manned Spacecraft Operations Building, the Apollo 12 prime crew of Charles “Pete” Conrad, Richard F. Gordon, and Alan L. Bean and their backups David R. Scott, Alfred M. Worden, and James B. Irwin completed altitude chamber tests of the CM and LM during the first two weeks of June. Workers removed the spacecraft from the vacuum chambers, mated them on June 27, and transferred them to the VAB on July 1 for stacking on the Saturn V rocket. At Ellington AFB in Houston, Conrad completed his first flights aboard LLTV-2 on July 9-10.
      Apollo 13

      Left: In the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, workers place the first stage of the Apollo 13 Saturn V rocket onto the Mobile Launcher to begin the stacking process. Middle: The Apollo 13 Command and Service Modules arrive at KSC. Right: The ascent stage of the Apollo 13 Lunar Module arrives at KSC.
      In the event that neither Apollo 11 nor 12 succeeded in landing on the Moon, NASA stood prepared to try a third time with Apollo 13 in November or December, still in time to meet President Kennedy’s deadline. The Apollo 13 Command and Service Modules arrived at KSC on June 26, followed by the LM ascent and descent stages on June 28 and 29, respectively. The Saturn V’s S-IC first stage arrived on June 16 and workers placed it on its Mobile Launcher two days later. The S-IVB third stage and S-II second stage arrived June 13 and 29, respectively, and workers stacked the stages in mid-July.
      To be continued …
      News from around the world in June 1969:
      June 3 – Eric Carle publishes children’s picture book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”
      June 3 – The final episode of Star Trek airs on NBC.
      June 5 – The Tupolev Tu-144 became the first passenger jet to fly faster than the speed of sound.
      June 10 – The Nixon Administration cancels the U.S. Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory program.
      June 15 – “Hee Haw,” with Roy Clark and Buck Owens, premieres on CBS.
      June 20 – Georges Pompidou sworn in as the 19th President of France.
      June 20 – 200,000 attend Newport ’69, then largest-ever pop concert, in Northridge, California.
      June 23 – Warren E. Burger sworn in as U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice.
      June 28 – Police carry out a raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, beginning the modern LGBT rights movement.
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    • By European Space Agency
      Europe’s newest rocket soon launches, taking with it many space missions each with a unique objective, destination and team at home, cheering them on. Whether into Earth orbit to look back and study Earth, peer out to deep space or test important new technologies, Ariane 6’s first flight will showcase the versatility and flexibility of this impressive, heavy-lift launcher. Read on for all about Curium One, then see who else is flying first.
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    • By NASA
      This article tells the story of one small American flag fortunate enough to be singled out from a group of one thousand flags just like it and embark on an incredible journey. The other 999 flags likely ended up as gifts, but this one flag had a loftier fate. It wasn’t the first American flag to ride on a crewed spacecraft into space, that one flew aboard Freedom 7 with Alan B. Shepard on May 5, 1961. Or the most famous flag that went into space, the Stars and Stripes planted on the Moon by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin on July 20, 1969, holds that honor. Other American flags have even flown on spacecraft not just to other planets but out of the solar system entirely. And tens of thousands of other small flags have thundered into space aboard space shuttles and returned to Earth for distribution around the world. So what makes this one small flag, known as the Legacy Flag, so special?

      Left: Launch of space shuttle Columbia on the STS-1 mission, April 12, 1981. Right: Landing of Columbia, April 14, 1981.
      Space shuttle Columbia first lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on April 12, 1981, to usher in a new era of reusable crewed space transportation. It carried not only its two pilots, John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen, but also the Official Flight Kit (OFK), stowed away in the lockers in the shuttle’s middeck, along with food, clothing and other supplies. Many of the OFK items, including 1,000 8-by-12-inch American flags, were destined for distribution after the mission to commemorate its historic significance. Once they returned to Earth and workers removed them from the shuttle’s middeck, NASA distributed many of the flags to various people and organizations. But some remained and ended up in storage at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. As the shuttle program progressed over the next 30 years, the number of flags in storage dwindled as additional recipients were identified. Finally, in 2011 it was time for the last shuttle mission, STS-135, and NASA felt it a fitting tribute to refly one of the flags from STS-1 on the final flight. Since STS-135 delivered supplies to the International Space Station, the flag would remain on board until the next time an American spacecraft carrying American astronauts launched from American soil arrived at the station. At the time, no one knew exactly how long that would take.

      Left: Launch of STS-135, July 8, 2011. Right: The crew of STS-135 pose with the Legacy Flag on the flight deck of Atlantis.
      On July 8, 2011, space shuttle Atlantis lifted off to begin STS-135, the final mission of the program with Christopher J. Ferguson, Douglas G. Hurley, Sandra H. Magnus, and Rex J. Walheim aboard, and two days later they docked with the station. The six international crewmembers of Expedition 28 welcomed them aboard. The long-term plan for the little flag was publicly revealed during a live TV session between the crew and President Barack H. Obama. “I also understand that Atlantis brought a unique American flag up to the station,” said President Obama. Shuttle Commander Ferguson explained that before their departure they would present the flag to the crew aboard the station, where “it will hopefully maintain a position of honor until the next vehicle launched from U.S. soil brings U.S. astronauts up to dock with the space station.”

      Left: The crews of STS-135 and Expedition 28 pose with the Legacy Flag. Right: The crews of STS-135 and Expedition 28 place the Legacy Flag on the hatch of the Harmony module.
      On July 18, near the end of the docked phase of STS-135, during a televised ceremony the crews placed the flag, flanked by the patches of the first and last space shuttle missions, on the forward hatch of the Harmony module, from where Atlantis would soon depart and where the next American crewed spacecraft would dock. After the shuttle and its crew left, the flag remained on the hatch for a while, but as time passed, onboard crews needed to use that area for stowage and so they moved it to a nearby wall for safekeeping. In 2015, to further safeguard the flag against damage or loss, Mission Control asked the onboard crew to place it in a stowage bag. As sometimes happens with stowage bags, this one moved around and ended up in a different module of the station. Three years later, during a general inventory of stowage bags, the crew found the flag and placed in a Ziploc bag with the words “Flown on STS-1 & STS-135. Only to be removed by crew launching from KSC” attached.

      Left: The Legacy Flag, placed between the STS-1 and STS-135 patches on the Harmony module’s forward hatch as Atlantis prepared to depart. Middle: In May 2014, during Expedition 40, astronauts mounted the flag on a wall near the Harmony module’s hatch to allow that area to be used for stowage. Right: The Legacy Flag in July 2018 during Expedition 56, placed in a Ziploc bag for safety.
      On May 30, 2020, a Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from KSC’s Launch Pad 39A, the same pad used for STS-1 and STS-135, carrying SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule on its Demo 2 mission. Aboard were Doug Hurley, who flew aboard the last shuttle mission, and Robert L. Behnken, the first American astronauts launched aboard an American spacecraft from American soil since STS-135. Once in orbit, Hurley and Behnken announced that they had christened their spacecraft Endeavour. The next day, Endeavour docked with the station, and Hurley and Behnken came aboard, welcomed by Expedition 63 Commander NASA astronaut Christopher J. Cassidy and Flight Engineers Anatoli A. Ivanishin and Ivan V.  Vagner representing Roscosmos. Mounted on the open hatch as they floated aboard the station was our intrepid little flag, in space for nine years, and 39 years after making its first trip into space. After their arrival, Cassidy, Hurley and Behnken held a press conference and proudly displayed the flag and how it stood as a symbol of the return of American launch capability. The flag’s nine-year journey came to end when Hurley and Behnken brought it back to Earth on Aug. 2, 2020. The flag first went on display at SpaceX’s facility in Hawthorne, California, then toured the country for a few months, making its final public appearance at the World Petroleum Congress in Houston in December 2021. Currently in storage at JSC, the Legacy Flag will fly again, possibly on even more distant journeys.

      Left: The Harmony module’s forward hatch bearing the Legacy Flag, opened to welcome the SpaceX Demo 2 crew. Middle: NASA astronauts Robert L. Behnken, left, Douglas G. Hurley (holding the Legacy Flag), and Christopher J. Cassidy during a press conference. Right: The Legacy Flag in its display case after its return to Earth.
      During its time on the space station, the Legacy Flag saw 100 visitors from many nationalities come and go, some of them more than once. Most stayed six months, some stayed longer, up to almost one year. A few made short visits of about a week. During all that time, the space station remained a busy beehive of activity, with hundreds of experiments conducted by the international crews. Many astronauts ventured outside, to repair equipment, place new experiments out, or bring older ones back inside. And in that time, the flag traveled more than 1.3 billion miles. 
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    • By NASA
      4 Min Read Flag Day – One Small Flag’s Incredible Journey
      This article is for students grades 5-8.
      This story tells the tale of one small American flag fortunate enough to embark on an incredible journey. It wasn’t the first flag to ride into space, or the most famous flag that went into space — that honor probably goes to the Stars and Stripes planted on the Moon by the Apollo 11 astronauts in 1969. So what makes this one little flag so special? Let’s let the flag tell its own story.
      Here I am launching into space aboard the space shuttle Columbia for the first time in 1981.Credits: NASA Workers packed me away with many other small flags like me – there must have been a thousand of us – just 8-by-12-inch Stars and Stripes, in a locker aboard space shuttle Columbia. We took off on STS-1, the shuttle’s very first mission in 1981, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Although we couldn’t see anything, we could feel the vibrations and noises of the liftoff, the ride a bit rough for the first two minutes, then much smoother until we reached space. Once in orbit, we could hear the two astronauts working as they tested the new spaceship.
      And two days later, I’m back on Earth!Credits: NASA Then after just two days, we came home, making a smooth landing in California. Thirty years later, someone had the idea to send me into space again, this time on the very last space shuttle mission, STS-135. And this time I would be making a much longer trip, since I would be left aboard the International Space Station.
      Here I am starting my second trip into space in 2011, this time aboard the space shuttle Atlantis.Credits: NASA So I roared off into space again in 2011, this time aboard space shuttle Atlantis. I had four friends to keep me company, Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus, and Rex Walheim. They actually took me out of my locker, and we all took pictures together. That made me feel really special.
      Here I am posing with my friends Doug, Chris, Sandy, and Rex aboard Atlantis.Credits: NASA But there was more in store for me: Two days after our launch we arrived at the space station; wow, what a huge place this was! I met even more astronauts here, from America, Russia, and Japan! President Barack Obama called to congratulate the crews, and I heard him talking about me and what a unique American flag I was. I would have a position of honor aboard the station until the next team of Americans arrived aboard an American spacecraft launched from American soil. I couldn’t have been more proud! 
      Here I am with all 10 crewmembers aboard the station, from America, Russia, and Japan.Credits: NASA And here I am, taking my position of honor on the space station’s hatch.Credits :NASA The astronauts made a TV show and I was the star. They placed me in my position of honor on the forward hatch of the space station, between the patches of the first and last space shuttle missions. I stayed on the hatch for a while, but as no spacecraft arrived through that portal for a few years, the crews needed the space to store their stuff.
      Here I am between the STS-1 and STS-135 patches on the station’s forward hatch.Credits: NASA Worried I might be injured, they slipped me into a plastic cover and placed me on a wall near the hatch. People grew concerned about me and thought it would be good to put me away in storage for safekeeping, at least temporarily, so that’s what happened. And while I waited, the bag I was in got moved around, and after a few years, people weren’t really sure where I was. But luckily, they found me and placed me in a safer bag and wrote these words, “Flown on STS-1 & STS-135. Only to be removed by crew launching from KSC,” to let everyone know I was that special flag.
      Later I was moved to a nearby wall.Credits: NASA Later still, placed in a Ziploc bag for safety, with the words to let everyone know I was that special flag.Credits: NASA Two more years went by, and I began to hear rumblings that I might be needed again. My newest friend on the space station, Chris Cassidy, cleared out the area around the hatch. Was I about to resume my position of honor? Excitement was building, and Chris and his two crewmates, Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner prepared the station for its newest arrivals. Apparently two Americans had launched aboard an American spacecraft from American soil, the first time in nine years.
      Here I am welcoming the SpaceX Demo 2 crew.Credits: NASA Doug is holding me up to the camera during a press conference.Credits: NASA My long wait was over! Chris placed me on the now-open hatch, and first Bob Behnken and then Doug Hurley, my old friend from Atlantis, floated inside the station! I was there to welcome them aboard! Once again, I starred in another TV show. After returning to Earth with Doug and Bob – I’m told I had traveled 1.3 billion miles – I went on display in several places. And now I hear rumblings of another possibly more distant journey awaiting me. We’ll just have to see.
      Here I am all dressed up for public display after my return to Earth.Credits: NASA Share
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    • By NASA
      4 Min Read California Teams Win $1.5 Million in NASA’s Break the Ice Lunar Challenge
      By Savannah Bullard
      After two days of live competitions, two teams from southern California are heading home with a combined $1.5 million from NASA’s Break the Ice Lunar Challenge. 
      The husband-and-wife duo of Terra Engineering, Valerie and Todd Mendenhall, receive the $1 million prize Wednesday, June 12, for winning the final phase of NASA’s Break the Ice Lunar Challenge at Alabama A&M’s Agribition Center in Huntsville, Alabama. With the Terra Engineering team at the awards ceremony are from left Daniel K. Wims, Alabama A&M University president; Joseph Pelfrey, NASA Marshall Space Flight center director; NASA’s Break the Ice Challenge Manager Naveen Vetcha; and Majed El-Dweik, Alabama A&M University’s vice president of research & economic development. NASA/Jonathan Deal Since 2020, competitors from around the world have competed in this challenge with the common goal of inventing robots that can excavate and transport the icy regolith on the Moon. The lunar South Pole is the targeted landing site for crewed Artemis missions, so utilizing all resources in that area, including the ice within the dusty regolith inside the permanently shadowed regions, is vital for the success of a sustained human lunar presence.
      On Earth, the mission architectures developed in this challenge aim to help guide machine design and operation concepts for future mining and excavation operations and equipment for decades.
      “Break the Ice represents a significant milestone in our journey toward sustainable lunar exploration and a future human presence on the Moon,” said Joseph Pelfrey, Center Director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. “This competition has pushed the boundaries of what is possible by challenging the brightest minds to devise groundbreaking solutions for excavating lunar ice, a crucial resource for future missions. Together, we are forging a future where humanity ventures further into the cosmos than ever before.”
      The final round of the Break the Ice competition featured six finalist teams who succeeded in an earlier phase of the challenge. The competition took place at the Alabama A&M Agribition Center in Huntsville, Alabama, on June 11 and 12, where each team put their diverse solutions to the test in a series of trials, using terrestrial resources like gravity-offloading cranes, concrete slabs, and a rocky track with tricky obstacles to mimic the environment on the Moon.
      Thehusband-and-wife duo of Terra Engineering took home the top prize for their “Irresistible Object” rover. Team lead Todd Mendenhall competed in NASA’s 2007 Regolith Excavation Challenge, facilitated through NASA’s Centennial Challenges, which led him and Valerie Mendenhall to continue the pursuit of solutions for autonomous lunar excavation.
      Starpath Robotics earned the second place prize for its four-wheeled rover that can mine, collect, and haul material during the final phase of NASA’s Break the Ice Lunar Challenge at Alabama A&M’s Agribition Center in Huntsville, Alabama. From left are Matt Kruszynski, Saurav Shroff, Matt Khudari, Alan Hsu, David Aden, Mihir Gondhalekarl, Joshua Huang and Aakash Ramachandran.NASA/Jonathan Deal A small space hardware business, Starpath Robotics, earned the second-place prize for its four-wheeled rover that can mine, collect, and haul material. The team, led by Saurav Shroff and lead engineer Mihir Gondhalekar, developed a robotic mining tool that features a drum barrel scraping mechanism for breaking into the tough lunar surface. This allows the robot to mine material quickly and robustly without sacrificing energy.
      “This challenge has been pivotal in advancing the technologies we need to achieve a sustained human presence on the Moon,” said Kim Krome, the Acting Program Manager for NASA’s Centennial Challenges. “Terra Engineering’s rover, especially, bridged several of the technology gaps that we identified – for instance, being robust and resilient enough to traverse rocky landscapes and survive the harsh conditions of the lunar South Pole.”
      Beyond the $1.5 million in prize funds, three teams will be given the chance to use Marshall Space Flight Center’s thermal vacuum (TVAC) chambers to continue testing and developing their robots. These chambers use thermal vacuum technologies to create a simulated lunar environment, allowing scientists and researchers to build, test, and approve hardware for flight-ready use.
      The following teams performed exceptionally well in the excavation portion of the final competition, earning these invitations to the TVAC facilities:
      Terra Engineering (Gardena, California) Starpath Robotics (Hawthorne, California) Michigan Technological University – Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab (Houghton, Michigan) “We’re looking forward to hosting three of our finalists at our thermal vacuum chamber, where they will get full access to continue testing and developing their technologies in our state-of-the-art facilities,” said Break the Ice Challenge Manager Naveen Vetcha, who supports NASA’s Centennial Challenges through Jacobs Space Exploration Group. “Hopefully, these tests will allow the teams to take their solutions to the next level and open the door for opportunities for years to come.”
      NASA’s Break the Ice Lunar Challenge is a NASA Centennial Challenge led by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center, with support from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in  Florida. Centennial Challenges are part of the Prizes, Challenges, and Crowdsourcing program under NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. Ensemble Consultancy supports challenge competitors. Alabama A&M University, in coordination with NASA, supports the final competitions and winner event for the challenge.
      For more information on Break the Ice, visit:
      nasa.gov/breaktheice
      Jonathan Deal
      Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. 
      256.544.0034  
      jonathan.e.deal@nasa.gov 
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