This Week @ NASA | Expedition 43 En Route to ISS; Curiosity Detects Nitrogen on Mars
The much-anticipated March 27 launch to the International Space Station of NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Expedition 43 crewmates Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko of the Russian Federal Space Agency, began a one-year odyssey that plays a key role in NASA’s journey to Mars. Kelly and Kornienko will spend a year on the orbital laboratory conducting extensive research on the human body to provide valuable data on the physical and mental challenges astronauts may face on future longer-duration missions.
NASA announced on March 25 more details about the Asteroid Redirect Mission, or ARM, which in the mid-2020s will test a number of new capabilities needed for future human expeditions to deep space, including to Mars. NASA also announced it has increased the detection of near-Earth Asteroids by 65 percent since launching its asteroid initiative three years ago. For ARM, a robotic spacecraft will capture a boulder from the surface of a near-Earth asteroid and move it into a stable orbit around the moon for exploration by astronauts, all in support of advancing the nation’s journey to Mars.
NASA’s Curiosity rover has made the first detection of nitrogen on the surface of Mars from release during heating of Martian sediments. The nitrogen detected – a form of nitric oxide – could be released from the breakdown of nitrates during heating. Nitrates are a class of molecules that contain nitrogen in a form that can be used by living organisms. The discovery adds to the evidence that ancient Mars was habitable for life.
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden attended the March 23 White House Science Fair, where approximately 35 student teams showcased projects ranging from breakthrough basic research to new inventions. The annual event, a key part of President Obama’s Educate to Innovate campaign, is designed to inspire more students to excel in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math or STEM subjects According to the White House, the most ever female science students – over 100 from more than 30 states, were expected to participate in this year’s fair.
An Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 recognition event was held March 25 at NASA headquarters to thank employees for helping with the success of Orion’s flight test last December. Similar events are being held at other NASA facilities around the country by the Orion, Space Launch System (SLS) and Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) programs to show gratitude and highlight the progress being made to develop the systems and capabilities needed for future deep space travel.
Also on March 25, the team in charge of NASA’s Kepler mission was awarded the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s 2015 Trophy for Current Achievement — that institution’s highest group award. The trophy honors outstanding endeavors in the fields of aerospace science and technology. Kepler is responsible for history’s first detection of Earth-sized planets orbiting other suns in their “habitable zone”, and has unveiled a whole new side of our Milky Way galaxy — one that is teeming with planets.
And that’s what’s up this week @NASA …