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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Katherine Johnson, pioneering NASA mathematician of ‘Hidden Figures’ fame, dies at 101

Katherine Johnson, whose career making vital calculations for NASA was immortalized in the 2016 book and movie “Hidden Figures,” has died at 101.

Johnson joined what was then called the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1953 as a so-called human computer at the agency’s Langley, Virginia, office.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was quoted as saying “Ms. Johnson helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors for women and people of color in the universal human quest to explore space. Her dedication and skill as a mathematician helped put humans on the moon.”

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NASA Wants Your Help Designing a Venus Rover Concept

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is running a public challenge to develop an obstacle avoidance sensor for a possible future Venus rover. Using a grant from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program the challenge, titled ‘Exploring Hell: Avoiding Obstacles on a Clockwork Rover’, is seeking designs from the public for a sensor that could be incorporated into the design concept.

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Meet Our Space Explorers

The term “astronaut” derives from the Greek words meaning “space sailor,” and refers to all who have been launched as crew members aboard NASA spacecraft bound for orbit and beyond. Keep up with who’s who in space by downloading our 2020 Astronaut Poster.

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Design/Build/Launch Competition

AIAA and Blue Origin are excited to partner on a new program competition titled Design/Build/Launch (DBL). DBL was created to incite innovation within the next generation of aerospace professionals. Focused on experimental payloads designed to study short-duration microgravity effects, AIAA invites high school students to develop creative research proposals in the fields of microgravity science or space technology, pairing your experiment with a public outreach plan to share the excitement of the field with others.

The top proposal will receive a free spaceflight for your payload on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket and an $1,000 grant to prepare and develop your experiment for your flight.

AIAA and Blue Origin representatives will judge the submitted proposals on the basis of scientific/technical merit, outreach creativity, and feasibility. The winning payload is expected to fly on New Shepard the following year. Post flight, the students will be invited to be recognized at an AIAA Forum and have the opportunity to deliver their final report in a public forum.

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Gearing Up for Mars 2020 Rover

Critical ground support equipment needed to prepare NASA’s Mars 2020 rover for its journey to the Red Planet has arrived at a payload processing facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rover is being manufactured at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and, once complete, will be sent to Kennedy for assembly, prelaunch processing and checkouts.

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NASA Scientists Confirm Water Vapor on Europa

Forty years ago, a Voyager spacecraft snapped the first closeup images of Europa, one of Jupiter’s 79 moons. These revealed brownish cracks slicing the moon’s icy surface, which give Europa the look of a veiny eyeball. Missions to the outer solar system in the decades since have amassed enough additional information about Europa to make it a high-priority target of investigation in NASA’s search for life.

What makes this moon so alluring is the possibility that it may possess all of the ingredients necessary for life. Scientists have evidence that one of these ingredients, liquid water, is present under the icy surface and may sometimes erupt into space in huge geysers. But no one has been able to confirm the presence of water in these plumes by directly measuring the water molecule itself

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STEM subjects in schools are becoming increasingly important

From John Bigelow…I recently had the pleasure of spending some time in the United States with a host of amazing people from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Over the course of two weeks, I was able to meet with staff from both the Space Centre and the Manned Flight Centre in Houston as well as the Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena, California. The goal of these meetings was to conduct a range of interviews focused on why STEM subjects in schools are becoming increasingly important, especially in the face of the changing needs of tomorrow’s workforce and the way new technologies are shaping our future.

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