This Week at NASA | This Week @ NASA: NASA Cassini Mission Prepares for “Grand Finale”
NASA’s Cassini Mission Prepares for “Grand Finale”
NASA held a news conference April 4 at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, with participation from NASA headquarters, to preview the final phase of the Cassini spacecraft’s mission to Saturn. On April 26, Cassini will begin its “Grand Finale” – a series of deep dives between the planet and its rings. No other mission has ever explored this unique region that is so close to the planet. Cassini will make 22 orbits that swoop between the rings and the planet before ending its 20-year mission on Sept. 15, with a final plunge into Saturn. The mission team hopes to gain powerful insights into the planet’s internal structure and the origins of the rings, obtain the first-ever sampling of Saturn’s atmosphere and particles coming from the main rings, and capture the closest-ever views of Saturn’s clouds and inner rings.
Next Space Station Crew Travels to Launch Site
Prelaunch training continues for Expedition 51/52 – the next crew headed to the International Space Station. NASA’s Jack Fischer, and Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, participated in traditional ceremonies in Star City, Russia April 3, with members of the back-up crew. Two days later, the group headed to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for final preparations for the launch of Fischer and Yurchikhin on April 20. The pair is scheduled to spend four-and-a-half months on the space station.
New Target Launch Date for Orbital ATK Mission to ISS
NASA, Orbital ATK and United Launch Alliance (ULA) are now targeting April 18 for the launch of Orbital ATK’s seventh contracted commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. ULA has developed a plan to resolve an earlier booster hydraulic issue, and is moving forward with launch processing. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft will lift off on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Cygnus will carry several tons of supplies and experiments to the space station.
Lightfoot Visits Industry Partners
NASA’s acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot was in Colorado Springs, Colorado the week of April 3. During the trip, Lightfoot visited the facilities of several NASA industry partners. On April 5, he visited Lockheed Martin, one of the American companies supporting development of NASA’s Orion spacecraft. The next day, Lightfoot visited Ball Aerospace, which is working on several NASA missions, including the James Webb Space Telescope, and he visited Sierra Nevada Corporation. Sierra Nevada is developing its Dream Chaser spacecraft to deliver cargo to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2).
Human Exploration Rover Challenge
On April 3, NASA announced the winners of its Human Exploration Rover Challenge. Ramon Quinones Medina High School of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, won first place in the high school division, with a time of 4 minutes, 12 seconds. The University of Puerto Rico at Humacao Team 1 won the college/university division with a time of 4 minutes, 21 seconds. The annual event managed by Marshall Space Flight Center, challenges students to design, build, test and race lightweight, and human-powered vehicles both as a research project, while highlighting NASA’s commitment to inspiring new generations of scientists, engineers and explorers.
John Glenn Interred at Arlington National Cemetery
On April 6, former NASA astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn was interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Glenn, who passed away Dec. 8, 2016 at the age of 95, served four terms as a U.S. senator from Ohio, and was one of NASA’s original seven Mercury astronauts. His flight on Friendship 7 on Feb. 20, 1962, made him the first American to orbit Earth. The riveting flight united our nation, showed the world that America was a serious contender in the space race with the Soviet Union, and secured for him a unique place in the annals of history.(c)2017 NASA | SCVTV