Hurley, a veteran of Space Shuttle missions, docked into the Space Station in May and boarded the orbiting space lab following the eagerly-anticipated launch of the Demo-2 mission from Kennedy Space Center atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The mission marked the first time astronauts have launched from American soil since the final Space Shuttle flight in 2011.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy on Saturday tweeted a cool shot showing SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft docked with the International Space Station (ISS). The capsule, seen to the right of the picture, looks tiny alongside the enormous space station, but its interior is actually large enough for a human to perform something close to a somersault.
Cassidy captured the image during Friday’s spacewalk with fellow astronaut Bob Behnken. The outing involved ongoing work to upgrade power systems on the space station, swapping old nickel-hydrogen batteries for new lithium-ion batteries. The batteries store power gathered from the station’s main solar arrays and the new ones will provide an improved and more efficient power capacity for the orbiting outpost.
Cassidy later tweeted a couple of other shots from the spacewalk, one a “space selfie” and another taken shortly after the pair returned to the inside of the ISS.
NASA declared the six-hour spacewalk a success and is now preparing another one for Wednesday, July 1, which will see the completion of the work.
SpaceX’s capsule made its first-ever crewed launch on May 30, transporting Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS as part of the Demo-2 mission.
NASA said last week it’s currently targeting no earlier than August 2 for the return of the Crew Dragon, along with Behnken and Hurley. The trip home will follow the completion of further testing of the spacecraft during its time docked at the space station.
This includes a habitability test scheduled for July 4. It will involve four of the space station’s astronauts entering the capsule and carrying out everyday activities, as well as emergency procedures, to learn more about how it might perform during future crewed missions with more astronauts aboard. While future NASA missions using the Crew Dragon are likely to involve up to four astronauts, upcoming space tourism trips could see as many as seven people heading to space.
Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, said last week, “We’re learning a lot about the vehicle, [such as] how to manage the systems, heaters, and thermal performance as we go through the changes in the orbit,” adding, “The vehicle’s doing extremely well as we put it through its paces.”
The deepest point in Earth’s ocean has been visited by a woman for the first time.
On Sunday, former NASA astronaut Kathy Sullivan reached the bottom of the Challenger Deep, almost 6.9 miles (11,000 meters) below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, according to EYOS Expeditions. Challenger Deep is considered the deepest point in Earth’s oceans and resides within the Mariana Trench, a mighty, sickle-shaped depression lying about 1,100 miles east of the Philippines. The pressure at the bottom is over 1,000 times the pressure at sea level.
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Sullivan was accompanied by Victor Vescovo, an entrepreneur and deep sea explorer, in the deep sea submersible Limiting Factor. In total, the expedition lasted just under four hours.
The history-making dive was part of the Ring of Fire expedition organized by Caladan Oceanic, a deep-sea exploration company founded by Vescovo. Caladan and Vescovo also oversaw the Five Deeps expedition, which explored the five deepest points on Earth in 2019. The new expedition is expected to provide the first 4K video of the Challenger Deep.
Upon the pair’s return, EYOS coordinated a call between the duo and the International Space Station, allowing them to discuss their journey with another group of history-making explorers: the US astronauts recently delivered to the ISS by SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.
“As a hybrid oceanographer and astronaut this was an extraordinary day, a once in a lifetime day, seeing the moonscape of the Challenger Deep and then comparing notes with my colleagues on the ISS about our remarkable reusable inner-space outer-spacecraft,” she said in a statement.
Vescovo funded the new mission and sent a “big congratulations” to Sullivan in a tweet posted Sunday.
The word “challenger” has become a bit of a theme in Sullivan’s expeditions off the surface of the Earth.
She was part of NASA’s historic STS-41-G mission, the sixth flight of the space shuttle Challenger and first to include two women in the crew. On Oct. 11, 1984, she performed a three hour and 29 minute EVA — a spacewalk — the first ever by an American woman. The mission also carried Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, and Paul Scully-Power, who famously refused to shave his beard.
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NASA and SpaceX usher in new era of humans in space
As Americans took to the streets in protest and NASA astronauts took to the skies on a commercial spacecraft, some space fans had a question: “Can’t we just do space?”
One space fan asked exactly the right person, NASA astronaut Victor Glover. Glover is a former naval aviator and a rookie astronaut scheduled to launch on SpaceX’s first operational crew launch later this summer. He’s also Black and has spent the past few days speaking candidly and kindly on Twitter about social justice.
“Actually no,” Glover wrote on June 6 in response to the person who asked about sticking to space. “Remember who is doing space. People are. As we address extreme weather and pandemic disease, we will understand and overcome racism and bigotry so we can safely and together do space. Thanks for asking.”
The mission, dubbed Demo-2, on May 30 marked the first human launch from Florida in nearly a decade and was a highly anticipated milestone for NASA. It was a sign of the times that when President Donald Trump spoke after the launch, his comments began not in space but on the streets of Minneapolis.
That city led the nation in showing its pain and anger after police killed yet another Black person for a minor incident. George Floyd, a Black man who lived in Minneapolis, died on May 25. Police suspected him of using a counterfeit $20 bill, and a white officer named Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes as other officers looked on. Chauvin was fired the day after the incident and charged on May 29.
Actually no. Remember who is doing space. People are. As we address extreme weather and pandemic disease, we will understand and overcome racism and bigotry so we can safely and together do space. Thanks for asking. https://t.co/32tFWVMhV1June 6, 2020
The Demo-2 launch played out against this backdrop. Poor weather scrubbed a launch attempt on May 27, but the flight blasted off without incident on May 30 and two NASA astronauts (Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley) docked the commercial capsule at the orbiting laboratory on May 31.
(Demo-2 wasn’t the first milestone spaceflight to juxtapose with racial justice. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination was one of the tragedies of 1968 that is frequently contrasted with that year’s successful Apollo 8 flight around the moon; King’s group, the Poor People’s Campaign, demonstrated at the Apollo 11 launch to argue that spaceflight shouldn’t take precedence over fighting poverty.)
Meanwhile, on Earth, turmoil continued. Floyd’s death, added to countless such incidents over the past years, prompted demonstrators to again turn out against racial bias in policing. Cities across the country instituted curfews in an attempt to reduce tension between demonstrators and law enforcement. (Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic, which early data suggests has disproportionately infected and killed Black Americans, continues, with the U.S. reporting nearly 2 million confirmed infections as of June 8.)
1/5 My heart is low, my head is level, and my faith is high. So much to process, if you’re struggling, that’s OK. I see you, I am you. Let’s dialogue. Let’s think. Let’s Work. What can I share that’s soul-stirring, informing, or encouraging you right now?June 5, 2020
The week following the Demo-2 launch saw a spate of statements from space industry and organizations responding to the demonstrations and more generally to the Black Lives Matter movement, which began in 2013 and condemns racism, racial violence and biased policing.
Glover, who began training with the astronaut corps in 2013 and became an active astronaut in 2015, entered the conversation on June 5 in a Twitter thread that opened with sadness and honesty.
“My heart is low, my head is level, and my faith is high,” Glover wrote. “So much to process, if you’re struggling, that’s OK. I see you, I am you. Let’s dialogue. Let’s think. Let’s Work.” Since that initial tweet thread, Glover has been doing just what he called for, having candid conversations with individual followers like the one who asked to stick to space.
Bill Nye, former television presenter and current CEO of The Planetary Society advocacy group, released a lengthy statement on Twitter. “Despite all the remarkable achievements of humankind, we are failing each other,” he wrote on June 2. “We vow to do our part to fight racism as we help advance space science and exploration for all of Earth’s citizens.”
Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, spoke out more generally in favor of diversity. “In #NASAScience, we understand the incredible benefits to having a diverse team,” he wrote on June 3. “When people from different backgrounds come together for a common goal, we are able to achieve the impossible.”
In general, active NASA astronauts have kept quiet.
Jessica Meir, who returned from space in April, posted a black square with the hashtag #BlackOutTuesday on June 2, a day some social media users marked by silencing their own posts and focusing instead on amplifying Black voices. New NASA astronaut Zena Cardman, who formally joined the corps in January, shared an anecdote from her workweek on June 3. “Today, during some pre-telecon small talk, I heard a joke belittling those protesting for justice,” she wrote. “I sat gape-mouthed, stunned, instead of speaking up. I feel ashamed. Silent complicity is dangerous. Insidious bias grows without opposition. Open the conversation.”
3/5 Work = Force x Displacement (people x movement x direction&magnitude). If we apply force in every direction, no work gets done, or at least the net sum is zero. We don’t have to agree on every detail, but we need to agree on an end state.June 5, 2020
Currently, NASA’s 48 active astronauts include just 4 Black astronauts: Glover, Jeanette Epps, Jessica Watkins and Stephanie Wilson. Wilson flew on three space shuttle missions, the other three have not yet flown; Epps was briefly assigned to a launch in 2018 but later taken off that mission with no explanation from NASA.
Traditionally, active astronauts don’t tend to speak so candidly about sensitive issues.
Glover followed his initial tweet by comparing social justice to basic physics equations. “Force = Mass x Acceleration (the people x the movement),” one tweet read. “Work = Force x Displacement / (people x movement x direction&magnitude),” read another.
“If we apply force in every direction, no work gets done, or at least the net sum is zero. We don’t have to agree on every detail, but we need to agree on an end state,” Glover wrote later in the thread. “Plenty of history and data to help us clarify where to put our energy. … So, let’s unify, clarify, and work!”
NASA astronaut Bob Behnken is a native of Missouri and a veteran of two space shuttle flights. Behnken flew STS-123 in March 2008 and STS-130 in February 2010, logging more than 708 hours in space, and more than 37 hours during six spacewalks. Behnken is currently serving as Joint Operations Commander on the first crewed flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon, the Demo-2 mission, which launched May 27, 2020. The SpaceX Crew Dragon, along with the Boeing CST-100 Starliner, will provide roundtrip crew transportation services to the International Space Station and return the ability to launch humans into space from United States soil as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. After docking with the International Space Station on the second day of the mission, he also joined Expedition 63 as a flight engineer.
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Published on 27-Apr-2020
Astronaut Anne McClain speaks to us from the International Space Station about the life-altering “Overview Effect” – seeing the earth from above – and what she hopes to bring back to earth from her research work in space.