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A room with Earth views! 🌎 Earlier this week, astronaut Ricky…

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A room with Earth views! 🌎 Earlier this week, astronaut Ricky…

A room with Earth views! 🌎 Earlier this week, astronaut Ricky Arnold captured this spectacular view of our home planet while he was orbiting at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour. If you’re wondering where in the world this video was taken, it starts as the International Space Station is above San Francisco and moving southward through the Americas. 

Each day, the station completes 16 orbits of our home planet as the six humans living and working aboard our orbiting laboratory conduct important science and research. Their work will not only benefit life here on Earth, but will help us venture deeper into space than ever before.

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Source: NASA


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Chemical Space Gardens

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Chemical Space Gardens

You know that colorful crystal garden you grew as a kid?

Yeah, we do that in space now. 

Chemical Gardens, a new investigation aboard the International Space Station takes a classic science experiment to space with the hope of improving our understanding of gravity’s impact on their structural formation.

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Here on Earth, chemical gardens are most often used to teach students about things like chemical reactions.

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Chemical gardens form when dissolvable metal salts are placed in an aqueous solution containing anions such as silicate, borate, phosphate, or carbonate.

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Delivered to the space station aboard SpaceX’S CRS-15 cargo mission, the samples for this experiment will be processed by crew members and grown throughout Expedition 56 before returning to Earth.

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Results from this investigation could provide a better understanding of cement science and improvements to biomaterial devices used for scaffolding, for use both in space and on Earth. 

Follow the growth of the chemical garden and the hundreds of other investigations constantly orbiting above you by following @ISS_Research on Twitter.

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Source: NASA


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Using All of Our Senses in Space

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Using All of Our Senses in Space

Today, we and the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the detection of light and a high-energy cosmic particle that both came from near a black hole billions of trillions of miles from Earth. This discovery is a big step forward in the field of multimessenger astronomy.

But wait — what is multimessenger astronomy? And why is it a big deal?

People learn about different objects through their senses: sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell. Similarly, multimessenger astronomy allows us to study the same astronomical object or event through a variety of “messengers,” which include light of all wavelengths, cosmic ray particles, gravitational waves, and neutrinos — speedy tiny particles that weigh almost nothing and rarely interact with anything. By receiving and combining different pieces of information from these different messengers, we can learn much more about these objects and events than we would from just one.

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Lights, Detector, Action!  

Much of what we know about the universe comes just from different wavelengths of light. We study the rotations of galaxies through radio waves and visible light, investigate the eating habits of black holes through X-rays and gamma rays, and peer into dusty star-forming regions through infrared light.

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The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, which recently turned 10, studies the universe by detecting gamma rays — the highest-energy form of light. This allows us to investigate some of the most extreme objects in the universe.

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Last fall, Fermi was involved in another multimessenger finding — the very first detection of light and gravitational waves from the same source, two merging neutron stars. In that instance, light and gravitational waves were the messengers that gave us a better understanding of the neutron stars and their explosive merger into a black hole.

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Fermi has also advanced our understanding of blazars, which are galaxies with supermassive black holes at their centers. Black holes are famous for drawing material into them. But with blazars, some material near the black hole shoots outward in a pair of fast-moving jets. With blazars, one of those jets points directly at us!

Multimessenger Astronomy is Cool

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Today’s announcement combines another pair of messengers. The IceCube Neutrino Observatory lies a mile under the ice in Antarctica and uses the ice itself to detect neutrinos. When IceCube caught a super-high-energy neutrino and traced its origin to a specific area of the sky, they alerted the astronomical community.

Fermi completes a scan of the entire sky about every three hours, monitoring thousands of blazars among all the bright gamma-ray sources it sees. For months it had observed a blazar producing more gamma rays than usual. Flaring is a common characteristic in blazars, so this did not attract special attention. But when the alert from IceCube came through about a neutrino coming from that same patch of sky, and the Fermi data were analyzed, this flare became a big deal!

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IceCube, Fermi, and followup observations all link this neutrino to a blazar called TXS 0506+056. This event connects a neutrino to a supermassive black hole for the very first time.  

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Why is this such a big deal? And why haven’t we done it before? Detecting a neutrino is hard since it doesn’t interact easily with matter and can travel unaffected great distances through the universe. Neutrinos are passing through you right now and you can’t even feel a thing!

The neat thing about this discovery — and multimessenger astronomy in general — is how much more we can learn by combining observations. This blazar/neutrino connection, for example, tells us that it was protons being accelerated by the blazar’s jet. Our study of blazars, neutrinos, and other objects and events in the universe will continue with many more exciting multimessenger discoveries to come in the future.

Want to know more? Read the story HERE.

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Source: NASA


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6 Fun Facts About Our New Hexapod Robot

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6 Fun Facts About Our New Hexapod Robot

Satellites are crucial to everyday life and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to manufacture and launch. Currently, they are simply decommissioned when they run out of fuel. There is a better way, and it centers on satellite servicing, which can make spaceflight more sustainable, affordable, and resilient. Our satellite servicing technologies will open up a new world where fleet managers can call on robotic mechanics to diagnose, maintain and extend the lifespan of their assets.

Our new and unique robot is designed to test robotic satellite servicing capabilities. Standing 10 feet tall and 16 feet wide, the six-legged “hexapod” robot helps engineers perfect technologies before they’re put to use in space.

Here are SIX interesting facts about the hexapod:

1. The hexapod has six degrees of freedom. 

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This essentially means the robot can move in six directions—three translational directions (forward and backward, up and down and left and right), and three rotational directions (roll, pitch and yaw). Because of its wide range of movement, the hexapod mimics the way a satellite moves in zero gravity.

2. It can move up to eight inches per second and can extend up to 13 feet (but usually doesn’t).

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Like most space simulators, the hexapod typically moves slowly at about one inch per second. During tests, it remains positioned about nine feet off the floor to line up with and interact with a robotic servicing arm mounted to an arch nearby. However, the robot can move at speeds up to eight inches per second and extend/reach nearly 13 feet high!

3. The hexapod tests mission elements without humans.

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The hexapod is crucial to testing for our Restore-L project, which will prove a combination of technologies needed to robotically refuel a satellite not originally designed to be refueled in space.

Perhaps the most difficult part of refueling a satellite in space is the autonomous rendezvous and grapple stage. A satellite in need of fuel might be moving 16,500 miles per hour in the darkness of space. A servicer satellite will need to match its speed and approach the client satellite, then grab it. This nail-biting stage needs to be done autonomously by the spacecraft’s systems (no humans controlling operations from the ground).

The hexapod helps us practice this never-before-attempted feat in space-like conditions. Eventually a suite of satellite servicing capabilities could be incorporated in other missions.

4. This type of robot is also used for flight and roller coaster simulators.

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Because of the hexapod’s unparalleled* ability to handle a high load capacity and range of movement, while maintaining a high degree of precision and repeatability, a similar kind of robot is used for flight and roller coaster simulators.

*Pun intended: the hexapod is what is referred to as a parallel motion robot

5. The hexapod was designed and made in the U S of A.

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The hexapod was designed and built by a small, New Hampshire-based company called Mikrolar. Mikrolar designs and produces custom robots that offer a wide range of motion and high degree of precision, for a wide variety of applications.

6. The robot lives at our Goddard Space Flight Center’s Robotic Operations Center.

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The hexapod conducts crucial tests at our Goddard Space Flight Center’s Robotic Operations Center (ROC). The ROC is a 5,000-square-foot facility with 50 feet high ceilings. It acts as an incubator for satellite servicing technologies. Within its black curtain-lined walls, space systems, components and tasks are put to the test in simulated environments, refined and finally declared ready for action in orbit.

The hexapod is not alone in the ROC. Five other robots test satellite servicing capabilities. Engineers use these robots to practice robotic repairs on satellites rendezvousing with objects in space. 

Watch the hexapod in action HERE.

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Source: NASA


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Meet Our New Flight Directors!

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Meet Our New Flight Directors!

We just hired six new flight directors to join a unique group of individuals who lead human spaceflights from mission control at our Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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A flight director manages all human spaceflight missions and related test flights, including International Space Station missions, integration of new American-made commercial spacecraft and developing plans for future Orion missions to the Moon and beyond. 

Only 97 people have served as flight directors, or are in training to do so, in the 50-plus years of human spaceflight. That’s fewer than the over 300 astronauts!
We talked with the new class about their upcoming transitions, how to keep calm in stressful situations, the importance of human spaceflight and how to best learn from past mistakes. Here’s what they had to say…

Allison Bollinger

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Allison is from Lancaster, Ohio and received a BS in Aerospace Engineering from Purdue University. She wanted to work at NASA for as long as she can remember. “I was four-and-a-half when Challenger happened,” she said. “It was my first childhood memory.” Something in her clicked that day. “After, when people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said an astronaut.” 

By high school a slight fear of heights, a propensity for motion sickness and an aptitude for engineering shifted her goal a bit. She didn’t want to be an astronaut. “I wanted to train astronauts,” she said. Allison has most recently worked at our Neutral Buoyancy Lab managing the daily operations of the 40-ft-deep pool the astronauts use for spacewalk training! She admits she’ll miss “the smell of chlorine each day. Coming to work at one of the world’s largest pools and training astronauts is an incredible job,” she says. But she’s excited to be back in mission control, where in a previous role she guided astronauts through spacewalks. 

She’s had to make some tough calls over the years. So we asked her if she had any tips for when something… isn’t going as planned. She said, “It’s so easy to think the sky is falling. Take a second to take a deep breath, and then you’ll realize it’s not as bad as you thought.”

Adi Boulos

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Adi is from Chicago, Illinois and graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign with a BS in Aerospace Engineering. He joined us in 2008 as a member of the very first group of flight controllers that specialize in data handling and communications and tracking systems aboard the space station. 

Most recently he served as the group lead in the Avionics Trainee group, which he loved. “I was managing newer folks just coming to NASA from college and getting to become flight controllers,” he said. “I will miss getting to mentor them from day one.” But he’s excited to start his new role alongside some familiar faces already in mission control. “It’s a great group of people,” he said of his fellow 2018 flight director class. “The six of us, we mesh well together, and we are all from very diverse backgrounds.” 

As someone who has spent most of his career supporting human spaceflight and cargo missions from mission control, we asked him why human spaceflight is so important. He had a practical take. “It allows us to solve problems we didn’t know we had,” he said. “For example, when we went to the moon, we had to solve all kinds of problems on how to keep humans alive for long-duration flights in space which directly impacts how we live on the ground. All of the new technology we develop for living in space, we also use on the ground.”

Marcos Flores

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Marcos is from Caguas, Puerto Rico and earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico and an MS in Aerospace Engineering from Purdue University. Spanish is his first language; English is his second. 

The first time he came to the Continental US was on a trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as a kid! “I always knew I wanted to work for NASA,” he said. “And I knew I wanted to be an engineer because I liked to break things to try to figure out how they worked.” He joined us in 2010 as an intern in a robotics laboratory working on conceptual designs for an experimental, autonomous land rover. He later transitioned to the space station flight control team, where he has led various projects, including major software transitions, spacewalks and commercial cargo missions! 

He shares his new coworkers’ thoughts on the practical aspects of human spaceflight and believes it’s an expression of our “drive to explore” and our “innate need to know the world and the universe better.” But for him, “It’s more about answering the fundamental questions of where we come from and where we’re headed.”

Pooja Jesrani

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Pooja graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a BS in Aerospace Engineering. She began at NASA in 2007 as a flight controller responsible for the motion control system of the International Space Station. She currently works as a Capsule Communicator, talking with the astronauts on the space station, and on integration with the Boeing Starliner commercial crew spacecraft. 

She has a two-year-old daughter, and she’s passionate about motherhood, art, fashion, baking, international travel and, of course, her timing as a new flight director! “Not only have we been doing International Space Station operations continuously, and we will continue to do that, but we are about to launch U.S. crewed vehicles off of U.S. soil for the first time since the space shuttle in 2011. Exploration is ramping up and taking us back to the moon!” she said.” “By the time we get certified, a lot of the things we will get to do will be next-gen.”  

We asked her if she had any advice for aspiring flight directors who might want to support such missions down the road. “Work hard every day,” she said. “Every day is an interview. And get a mentor. Or multiple mentors. Having mentorship while you progress through your career is very important, and they really help guide you in the right direction.”

Paul Konyha

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Paul was born in Manhasset, NY, and has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Louisiana Tech University, a Master’s of Military Operational Arts and Science from Air University, and an MS in Astronautical Engineering from the University of Southern California. He began his career as an officer in the United States Air Force in 1996 and authored the Air Force’s certification guide detailing the process through which new industry launch vehicles (including SpaceX’s Falcon 9) gain approval to launch Department of Defense (DoD) payloads. 

As a self-described “Star Wars kid,” he has always loved space and, of course, NASA! After retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2016, Paul joined Johnson Space Center as the Deputy Director of the DoD Space Test Program Human Spaceflight Payloads Office. He’s had a rich career in some pretty high-stakes roles. We asked him for advice on handling stress and recovering from life’s occasional setbacks. “For me, it’s about taking a deep breath, focusing on the data and trying not to what if too much,” he said. “Realize that mistakes are going to happen. Be mentally prepared to know that at some point it’s going to happen—you’re going to have to do that self-reflection to understand what you could’ve done better and how you’ll fix it in the future. That constant process of evaluation and self-reflection will help you get through it.”

Rebecca Wingfield

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Rebecca is from Princeton, Kentucky and has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Kentucky and an MS in Systems Engineering from the University of Houston, Clear Lake. She joined us in 2007 as a flight controller responsible for maintenance, repairs and hardware installations aboard the space station. 

Since then, she’s worked as a capsule communicator for the space station and commercial crew programs and on training astronauts. She’s dedicated her career to human spaceflight and has a special appreciation for the program’s long-term benefits. “As our human race advances and we change our planet in lots of different ways, we may eventually need to get off of it,” she said. “There’s no way to do that until we explore a way to do it safely and effectively for mass numbers of people. And to do that, you have to start with one person.” We asked her if there are any misconceptions about flight directors. She responded, “While they are often steely-eyed missile men and women, and they can be rough around the edges, they are also very good mentors and teachers. They’re very much engaged in bringing up the next generation of flight controllers for NASA.”

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Congrats to these folks on leading the future of human spaceflight! 

You can learn more about each of them HERE

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Source: NASA


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