This Week at NASA | New Launch System, Veggies in Space, Black Holes, Perseids
On Aug. 13, NASA conducted a test firing of the RS-25 rocket engine at Stennis Space Center. The 535 second test was the sixth in the current series of seven developmental tests of the former space shuttle main engine. Four RS-25 engines will power the core stage of the new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which will carry humans deeper into space than ever before, including to an asteroid and Mars. Also, Veggies in space, Russian spacewalk, Supply ship undocks from ISS, Smallest giant black hole, 10th anniversary of MRO launch and more.
On Aug. 13, NASA conducted a test firing of the RS-25 rocket engine at Stennis Space Center. The 535 second test was the sixth in the current series of seven developmental tests of the former space shuttle main engine. Four RS-25 engines will power the core stage of the new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which will carry humans deeper into space than ever before, including to an asteroid and Mars. A pre-test NASA Social featured a discussion with deputy administrator Dava Newman and other behind-the-scenes perspectives for the agency’s social media followers.
On Aug. 10, astronauts onboard the International Space Station had space grown vegetables on their menu for the first time ever. The red romaine lettuce they ate was produced by NASA’s Deployable Vegetable Production System, or Veggie experiment – which provides lighting and nutrients to grow a variety of plants in space. The experiment could help astronauts grow food on the journey to Mars, and could help farmers grow crops more efficiently on Earth.
While veggies were sampled inside the space station, Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko conducted a spacewalk on the outside. The pair retrieved an experiment deployed in 2013 to study space plasma, replaced and upgraded communications equipment on the Russian segment of the ISS, cleaned residue from the windows of the Russian service module, and conducted a complete photographic inspection of the station exterior. It was the 188th spacewalk in support of space station assembly.
Six months after arriving with three tons of food, fuel and supplies, a Russian Progress cargo craft undocked from the station on Aug. 14. Another Progress, which arrived in July, remains docked to the station – with yet another scheduled to launch Oct. 1 loaded with additional supplies and cargo.
Astronomers have found the smallest supermassive black hole ever detected in the center of a galaxy. The discovery of this interstellar oxymoron, made with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Clay Telescope in Chile, could provide clues to how larger black holes formed along with their host galaxies 13 billion years or more in the past. This black hole is estimated to be less than half the mass of the previously found smallest black hole at the center of a galaxy.
Aug. 12 marked the 10-year anniversary of the launch of NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, on its mission to study the history of water on Mars. While other Mars missions have shown that water flowed across the Martian surface in the past, MRO’s extreme close up imagery looks for proof of whether water was ever around long enough to sustain life. MRO completed its primary science phase in 2008, and continues to yield “bonus science” on its second extended mission, which began in 2012.
The sunshield for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope was inspected recently at a Northrop Grumman clean room in southern California. The sunshield uses an effective sun protection factor, or SPF, of 1,000,000 to keep the observatory’s sensitive instruments from overheating. By comparison — sunscreen for humans typically has an SPF of 8 to 50.
The annual Perseid meteor shower took place during the overnight hours of August 12 and Aug. 13, with live coverage from Marshall Space Flight Center.. The Perseids are associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun every 133 years. Every August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet’s debris, which burns up in Earth’s atmosphere — creating one of the best meteor showers of the year.
And that’s what’s up this week @NASA.
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