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      A NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite captures a view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away.Credit: NASA NASA, on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has selected SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation) to provide launch services for NOAA’s JPSS-4 mission. The spacecraft is part of the multi-satellite cooperative Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) program, a partnership between NASA and NOAA. This mission is the next satellite in the program, which began with the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership.
      This is a firm fixed price contract with a value of approximately $112.7 million, which includes launch services and other mission related costs. The JPSS-4 mission currently is targeted to launch in 2027, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
      The JPSS constellation of satellites collects global multi-spectral radiometry and other specialized meteorologic, oceanographic, and solar-geophysical data via remote sensing of land, sea, and atmospheric properties. These data support NOAA’s mission for continuous observation of Earth’s environment to understand and predict changes in weather, climate, oceans, and coasts to support the nation’s economy and protect lives and property. NASA uses the instruments aboard the JPSS satellites to continue decades of Earth science research for the betterment of humanity. When launched, JPSS-4, will carry the NASA Earth Venture mission Libera, an instrument that will improve our understanding of trends in Earth’s energy imbalance and our changing climate.
      NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for managing the launch services. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the JPSS Flight Projects Office, which oversees the acquisition of the JPSS series instruments and spacecraft. A collaborative NOAA and NASA team manages the JPSS Program.
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      Astronauts Eileen M. Collins, mission commander and Jeffrey S. Ashby, pilot, peruse checklists on Columbia's middeck during the STS-93 mission. Credits: NASA At the end of February 1998, Johnson Space Center Deputy Director James D. Wetherbee called Astronaut Eileen Collins to his office in Building 1. He told her she had been assigned to command STS-93 and went with her to speak with Center Director George W.S. Abbey who informed her that she would be going to the White House the following week.
      Selecting a female commander to fly in space was a monumental decision, something the space agency recognized when they alerted the president of the United States. First Lady Hillary Clinton wanted to publicly announce the flight to the American people along with her husband President William J. Clinton and NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin.
      President William Jefferson Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton with Eileen Collins in the Oval Office.Sharon Farmer and White House Photograph Office At that event, on March 5, 1998, the First Lady noted what a change it would be to have a female in the commander’s seat. Referencing Neil A. Armstrong’s first words on the Moon, Clinton proclaimed, “Collins will take one big step forward for women and one giant leap for humanity.” Collins, a military test pilot and shuttle astronaut, was about to break one of the last remaining barriers for women at NASA by being assigned a position previously filled by men only. Clinton went on to reflect on her own experience with the space agency when she explained how in 1962, at the age of 14, she had written to NASA and asked about the qualifications to become an astronaut. NASA responded that women were not being considered to fly space missions. “Well, times have certainly changed,” she said wryly.
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      Astronaut Eileen M. Collins looks over a checklist at the commander’s station on the forward flight deck of the space shuttle Columbia on July 23, 1999, the first day of the mission.  The most important event of this day was the deployment of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.NASA By 1998, views about women’s roles had changed substantially, as demonstrated by the naming of the first female shuttle commander. The agency even commissioned a song for the occasion: “Beyond the Sky,” by singer-songwriter Judy Collins. NASA dedicated the historic mission’s launch to America’s female aviation pioneers from the Ninety-Nines—an international organization of women pilots—to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), women who ferried aircraft for the military during World War II. Collins also extended an invitation to the women who had participated in Randy Lovelace’s Woman in Space Program, where women went through the same medical and psychological tests as the Mercury 7 astronauts; the press commonly refers to these women as the Mercury 13. (Commander Collins had thanked both the WASPs and the Mercury 13 for paving the way and inspiring her career in aviation and spaceflight in her White House speech.)
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      In a group interview with several of the WASPs in Florida, just before launch, Mary Anna “Marty” Martin Wyall explained why they came. “Eileen Collins was one of those women that has always looked at us as being her mentors, and we just think she’s great. That’s why we want to come see her blast off.” Betty Skelton Frankman expressed just how proud she was of Collins, and how NASA’s first female commander would be fulfilling her dream to fly in space. “In a way,” she said, “it’s like my dream come true.” In the ‘60s it was not possible for a woman to fly in space because none met the requirements as laid out by NASA. But by the end of the twentieth century, women had been in the Astronaut Office for 20 years, and opportunities for women had grown as women were selected as pilot astronauts. NASA named its second and only other female space shuttle commander, Pamela A. Melroy, to STS-120, and Peggy A. Whitson went on to command the International Space Station. Melroy and Whitson shook hands in space, when their missions coincided, for another historic first—two women commanding space missions at the same time.
      Twenty-five years ago, Eileen Collins’ command broke down barriers in human spaceflight. As the First Lady predicted, her selection led to other opportunities for women astronauts. More women continue to command spaceflight missions, including Expedition 65 Commander Shannon Walker and Expedition 68 Commander Samantha Cristoforetti. More importantly, Collins became a role model for young people interested in aviation, engineering, math, science, and technology. Her career demonstrated that there were no limits if you worked hard and pursued your passion.
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      Southwest Girl Scout Council Leaders test out their “cereal box” pin-hole viewers to study the sun during educator training program. NASA awards inspire the next generation of explorers by helping community institutions like museums, science centers, libraries, and other informal education institutions and their partners bring science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) content to their communities. NASA’s Next Generation STEM project has expanded the Teams Engaging Affiliated Museums and Informal Institutions (TEAM II) program to include a new tier of funding and provide even more opportunities to informal educational institutions across the country.
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      The TEAM II program was first expanded to include Community Anchors in 2022. Since then, the program has designated over 50 institutions across 29 states as NASA Community Anchors. These awards support proposals that strengthen the STEM impact of many community organizations, including:
      5th-8th Graders from Whiting Village School join Flight Director Tyson as they embark on a Destination Mars Virtual Mission from their two-room schoolhouse in rural Maine.NASA The Challenger Learning Center of Maine reached more than 960 K-8 students statewide through 58 virtual programs touching 27 mainland schools and four island schools, hosted a STEM community night for residents of rural Whiting, Maine, and held two virtual programs featuring NASA women engineers for girls across the state.
      “NASA’s funding allowed Challenger Maine to provide this Mars mission experience for free to schools, no matter their size,” said Kirsten Hibbard, executive director of the Challenger Learning Center of Maine. “We’ve connected with new schools and become this resource, literally a community anchor of STEM, for these schools.”
      Youth at the Standing Arrow Powwow on the Flathead Reservation experience remote sensing content with virtual reality.NASA The University of Montana spectrUM Discovery Area engaged western Montana’s rural and tribal communities in understanding the role NASA and its partners play in sensing and responding to fire. SpectrUM developed the Montana Virtual Reality Fire Sensing Experience. Using ClassVR headsets, visitors learned about NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Joint Polar Satellite System satellites, JPSS-1 and JPSS-2, and how they are used to remotely sense the Earth.
      SpectrUM collaborated with its community advisory group, SciNation on the Flathead Reservation, to incorporate fire and Earth science curricula developed by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes into their field trip and educational programs, impacting hundreds of students.
      A student from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana is excited to complete an activity in the “Aeronautics Museum in a Box” kit developed by NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate; Community Anchor grantee Sci-Port Discovery Center in Shreveport, Louisiana; and Central Creativity, an education center in Laurel, Mississippi.NASA Sci-Port Discovery Center Shreveport, Louisiana introduced middle and high school students to NASA aeronautics content through their Aeronautics Museum in a Box kits. The kits were developed in collaboration with NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, Sci-Port, and Central Creativity. The kits include fun, hands-on activities focusing on the parts of an airplane, principles of flight, airplane structure and materials, propulsion, future of flight, careers, and more. Students and families from underserved communities across Northwest Louisiana tested the kits and shared feedback with developers.
      “Museum in a Box brought our participants to new heights beyond their imagination. They see themselves as teachers for their children, as a source of guidance for STEM careers instead of gangs,” said Dr. Heather Kleiner, director, Northwest LaSTEM Innovation Center, Sci-Port Discovery Center.
      U.S. informal education institutions interested in proposing for these awards are invited to attend an optional pre-proposal webinar Thursday, July 25, or Tuesday, August 13. Event times and connection details are available here.
      More information about funding opportunities can be found on NASA’s TEAM II Grant Forecasting webpage.
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