News from Virgin Galactic

We’ll be running weekly Live Spacechats on the Virgin Galactic YouTube channel. The first will take place this Thursday and will feature our Chief Astronaut Trainer, Beth Moses, talking through her flight to space.

In 2 days – get up early and listen to Beth!

Coronavirus pauses work on JWST

NASA has suspended work on the James Webb Space Telescope as it prioritizes what agency missions require people to be on site during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement March 20, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said NASA had completed an assessment of work across the agency, deciding which projects are essential enough to require people to go to NASA centers or other facilities to work on them.

“We are going to take care of our people. That’s our first priority,” said Bridenstine. “Technology allows us to do a lot of what we need to do remotely, but, where hands-on work is required, it is difficult or impossible to comply with [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines while processing spaceflight hardware, and where we can’t safely do that we’re going to have to suspend work and focus on the mission-critical activities.”

Watch how the only woman in space today celebrated International Women’s Day

The only woman in space right now made a special presentation for International Women’s Day this Monday (March 9).

Floating in the Kibo module of the International Space Station NASA astronaut Jessica Meir spoke in a video posted to Twitter Monday about why we need diverse perspectives to accomplish big goals in space exploration. “It takes all sorts of people from diverse backgrounds to explore the unknown and to make things that are seemingly impossible, possible,” said Meir, an astronaut on the three-person Expedition 62. “When we all work together, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.”

SpaceX Dragon cargo ship, the last to be caught by robot arm, arrives at space station

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo capsule arrived at the International Space Station early in the morning of March 9, delivering more than 4,300 lbs. (1,950 kgs) of supplies to the orbiting lab.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir used the station’s huge Canadarm robotic arm to capture Dragon at 6:25 a.m. EDT (1025 GMT).

It was the last-ever capture of a Dragon by the station’s robotic arm. The current mission, the 20th SpaceX has flown under a cargo deal with NASA, is the last for this first version of the SpaceX resupply vehicle. The new iteration will dock directly to the International Space Station (ISS), no arm required, just like SpaceX’s astronaut-carrying Crew Dragon capsule.

“The SpaceX 20 mission is a milestone for several reasons,” Meir said this morning. “It is of course the 20th SpaceX cargo mission, but it is also the last SpaceX cargo vehicle captured by the Canadarm, as future vehicles will automatically dock to the space station. It is also the last cargo vehicle that will visit during our current crew’s time on the space station.”

This gas-giant exoplanet has water-rich clouds. Here’s why it thrills astronomers

Three teams of astronomers have been fascinated by an alien world known as K2-18b, which is 110 light-years away, in the constellation Leo. But what’s all the fuss about?

In September, two teams announced that they had found signs of liquid water in the planet’s atmosphere — a landmark discovery in the search for potentially habitable alien worlds. But the mere presence of water isn’t the only condition necessary for life. Other conditions, like temperature and pressure, can also affect a planet’s habitability. Now, a third team reports that the pressures of liquid water on the same world may be good for life to evolve — another intriguing development for scientists.

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover has a new name: Perseverance

NASA’s next Mars rover is officially called Perseverance. The new name suits the car-size rover and its ground-breaking mission nicely, NASA officials said. “There has never been exploration — never, never been making history — without perseverance,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said during a name-unveiling ceremony. “Perseverance is a strong word,” he added. “It’s about making progress despite obstacles.”

Perseverance will land inside Mars’ Jezero Crater in February 2021, kicking off a $2.5 billion mission to search for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet — the first time a NASA surface craft has actively hunted for possible Martians since the twin Viking landers did so from the mid-1970s through the early 1980s. Perseverance will also collect and cache several dozen samples of pristine, promising Mars material for future return to Earth, where scientists can continue the hunt using advanced equipment in labs around the world.

Astronomers spot hundreds of baby stars and planet-forming disks

While imaging more than 300 new born stars, which lie in a dense star-forming region known as the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, astronomers have revealed new clues about the early stages of star formation and the birth of planets. Young stars, also called protostars, are surrounded by a ring of dust and gas, known as a protoplanetary disk, which supports the birth of new planets.

Fired Up! Final Test of Orion Motor Critical to Astronaut Safety a Spectacular Success

When NASA astronauts blast off for their voyage to the Moon on the Orion spacecraft during Artemis missions, they’ll have protection in the form of the launch abort system (LAS). The LAS is designed to carry crew to safety in the event of an emergency during launch or ascent atop the agency’s Space Launch System rocket.

On Feb. 25, NASA successfully tested the attitude control motor (ACM), which is built by Northrop Grumman and provides steering for Orion’s LAS during an abort, at the company’s facility in Elkton, Maryland. The 30-second hot fire was the third and final test to qualify the motor for human missions, beginning with Artemis II.

Become a Citizen Astronomer

“GALAXY CRUISE” is a Citizen Astronomy project (citizen science project in astronomy) run by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). This project utilizes the data from a large-scale survey program using Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC), the world’s best wide-field imaging camera mounted on the Subaru Telescope. We hope that, while exploring the Universe captured by the Subaru Telescope and classifying the shapes of interacting galaxies, the public and astronomers can come together to solve the mysteries of galaxies and generate new research results.

Northrop Grumman’s MEV-1 servicer docks with Intelsat satellite

Northrop Grumman’s satellite servicing spacecraft successfully docked with an Intelsat communications satellite Feb. 25 in a bid to keep the nearly 19-year-old satellite in service an additional five years, Northrop Grumman and Intelsat executives said Feb. 26.

“This is the first time in history a docking has ever been performed with a satellite that was not pre-designed with docking in mind, and the first time two commercial satellites have ever docked,” said Joe Anderson, vice president of operations and business development at SpaceLogistics, Northrop Grumman’s subsidiary focused on satellite servicing, on a Feb. 26 call with reporters.

NASA preparing for long-duration SpaceX commercial crew test flight

NASA is leaning increasingly towards making SpaceX’s crewed test flight to the International Space Station a long-duration mission, a move that could alleviate concerns about a lack of crew on the station later this year.

The original plans for the Demo-2, also known as DM-2, mission called for the flight to be a relatively short one, spending no more than a couple weeks at the station. In recent months, though, agency officials have suggested that they might extend the mission for months in order to have more astronauts on the station.