This Week at NASA | Yearlong ISS Crew Lifts Off March 27; Historic Spaceflights; more
Expedition 43, the next crew headed to the International Space Station is conducting final training at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. NASA’s Scott Kelly and Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) are scheduled for launch aboard a Soyuz spacecraft on March 27 at 3:42 p.m. Eastern. Kelly and Kornienko will become the first crew to conduct a one-year research mission aboard the orbital laboratory.
A March 18 news conference at Johnson Space Center in Houston featured NASA Astronaut Kjell Lindgren and his Expedition 44/45 crewmates – discussing their upcoming mission to the ISS. Lindgren, Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will launch to the space station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft May 26 from Kazakhstan.
The heat shield for NASA’s Orion spacecraft is at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama for 2-3 months of testing following Orion’s successful flight test in December. Samples of the heat shield’s ablative material will be studied and analyzed to better understand its performance during Orion’s high-velocity return to Earth on the flight. After the tests, technicians will mill off the ablative coating before transferring the heat shield to NASA’s Langley Research Center, in Virginia, for water impact testing.
Training for spacewalks underwater in gigantic pools like NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab or NBL, in Houston, was the focus of a March 19 What’s New in Aerospace? presentation at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington. Water is uniquely suited for spacewalk training because it provides extended periods of simulated microgravity. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first two spacewalks in history – March 18, 1965 by Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov, followed by U.S. astronaut Edward White a few months later on June 3, during the Gemini IV mission.
On March 23, fifty years ago, astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom and John Young flew on Gemini 3. The 3-orbit, nearly 5-hour flight in the “Molly Brown” spacecraft was the first human mission in NASA’s Gemini program. The mission also saw the first orbital maneuver by any human-piloted spacecraft when a short burn of the orbit attitude and maneuvering system (OAMS) was completed near the end of the first orbit.
The South by Southwest festival, March 13-18 in Austin, Texas, featured NASA exhibits, panel discussions and presentations that highlighted how technology drives exploration of the skies and space; how NASA is exploring Earth, the solar system and beyond; provided updates on our journey to Mars; and outlined how festival attendees can collaborate with NASA on citizen science projects and submit new ideas for NASA challenges.
The only total solar eclipse of 2015 took place March 20 and was only visible in parts of Iceland, Europe, Northern Africa and Northern Asia – with the totality of the eclipse only visible for its entire 2-minutes 47-seconds from a pair of small island groups in that region. The next total solar eclipse visible in the U.S. will be on August 21, 2017.
And that’s what’s up this week @NASA.
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