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This Week at NASA | This Year @ NASA: NASA Begins America’s New Moon to Mars Exploration Approach in 2018

Uploaded 12/17/2018

This Year @ NASA: NASA Begins America’s New Moon to Mars Exploration Approach in 2018

With our Moon to Mars effort underway …. A new administrator takes over to lead the charge … And – oh yeah … we stuck another nearly flawless landing on Mars! All that and more as we mark our 60th anniversary — this year @ NASA.

Moon to Mars

NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine:
“I, James Bridenstine, do solemnly swear …”

Jim Bridenstine took office as our 13th administrator in April, to oversee implementation of Space Policy Directive-1, which calls for sustainable and long-term human and robotic exploration of the Moon as a precursor to eventual human missions to Mars. Jim Morhard joined him as Deputy Administrator in October.

The administrator worked with the White House and National Space Council, on a renewed commitment to American leadership in space.

NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine:
“The architecture that we’re building now is entirely different than any architecture we’ve ever built before in an effort to get to the Moon.”

Progress developing that architecture in 2018 included our mobile launcher, which has been modified to support our massive Space Launch System rocket, or SLS …

Also, more successful testing of the rocket engine that will power SLS when it launches astronauts aboard our Orion spacecraft to deep space …

Delivery of the European Service Module – that will sustain Orion and its crew on missions – by providing propulsion, power and cooling …

Successful evaluations of Orion’s parachute system …

And practice for recovering Orion, after it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean.

We also announced new partnerships with U.S. companies to potentially deliver science payloads to the lunar surface.

NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine:
“We want multiple providers that are competing on costs and innovation.”

And we asked industry for input on supplying our Gateway – a permanent spaceship in lunar orbit that will serve as home base for human and robotic missions to the surface.

Solar System and Beyond

InSight Control Room:
“Touchdown confirmed (applause and cheering) … we’re on the surface of Mars!”

Our InSight lander touched down on Mars in November, kicking off a mission to study the Red Planet’s interior.

Within its first week, InSight recorded vibrations caused by the Martian wind – the very first sounds ever sensed directly from the surface of Mars.

We also selected a landing site for Mars 2020, and announced that rover will carry the first helicopter to the Red Planet.

In June a massive dust storm on Mars sent our solar-powered Opportunity rover –which has far exceeded its expected lifespan on Mars — into hibernation.

OSIRIS-REx Control Room:
“We have arrived! (applause and cheering)”

After traveling through space for more than two years and two billion kilometers, our OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at asteroid Bennu, on Dec. 3. OSIRIS-REx will study the asteroid and return a sample to Earth in September 2023.

Our New Horizons spacecraft made its first detection of Ultima Thule, the Kuiper Belt object it is scheduled to fly by on New Year’s Day, 2019 —  the farthest exploration of any planetary body in history.

Our next planet hunter, TESS launched in April and sent back this first image in May.  TESS is expected to cover more than 400 times as much sky as shown in the image during its initial two-year search for exoplanets.

Launch Commentator:
“A daring mission to shed light on the mysteries of our closest star.”

Our Parker Solar Probe launched in August to “touch the Sun” to gather data that could help us better understand space weather.  It has already made the closest approach to the Sun by a human-made object.

And two groundbreaking spacecraft ended science operations in 2018. Dawn, which became the first mission to orbit two destinations beyond Earth – asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres –

And Kepler, the prolific planet hunter which revealed our night sky to be filled with more planets than stars.

Another veteran spacecraft, Voyager 2, entered the interstellar space beyond our Sun’s protective heliosphere. It joins its twin Voyager 1 as the only human-made objects to reach the space between the stars.

Astronomers using Hubble and ground-based observatories found that the interstellar object known as Oumuamua had an unexpected speed boost passing through our solar system and may be a new type of comet.

Humans in Space

 NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine:
“For the first time since 2011 we are on the brink of launching American astronauts, on American rockets, from American soil … (applause).”

In August, we introduced the next astronauts that will launch from American soil on the first flight tests and missions of American-made, commercial spacecraft flying to and from the International Space Station. Those flights are set to begin in 2019.

2018’s space station crews supported more than 120 new U.S. science investigations, with a record-setting 100 hours of research in one week in February.

Our astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, who were forced to abort their planned mission to the orbital laboratory, were reassigned to the Expedition 59 mission, targeted to launch Feb. 28, 2019.


Observations of our home planet from above included a rash of eruptions of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano …

Major hurricanes, including powerful storms Florence and Michael …

And the wildfires in California.

The ICESat-2 mission launched in September with a  laser instrument that fires 10,000 pulses a second to measure the height of ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice and vegetation on Earth.

In October, our airborne Operation IceBridge mission spotted a rectangular-shaped tabular iceberg during a pass over the northern Antarctic Peninsula.


We selected Lockheed Martin to build an experimental aircraft named the X-59 QueSST – for Quiet Supersonic Technology. It could help open a new era of quiet, supersonic air travel over land by reducing sonic booms …

… to gentle thumps.

In June, our remotely-piloted Ikhana aircraft successfully flew its first mission in the National Airspace System without a safety chase aircraft. The historic flight moves the country a step closer to normalizing unmanned commercial and private aircraft operations.

And we continued testing concepts and technologies for Urban Air Mobility, a safe and efficient system for passenger and cargo air transportation in and around an urban area.

Space Tech

We’re developing new technologies to enable exploration, including this September test of a heatshield that folds like an umbrella for launch and unfurls once deployed in space.

We partnered with the Department of Energy on the Kilopower project, which aims to develop nuclear power technologies that could provide power for long-duration stays on planetary surfaces.

And the twin Mars Cube One, or MarCO CubeSats that launched with our InSight spacecraft to Mars as a tech demo, not only successfully helped relay landing signals from InSight and other data back to Earth – but also captured some incredible images – including the first ever image of the Red Planet captured by a CubeSat.


Oct. 1 marked the 60th anniversary of NASA opening for business …

and we kicked off celebrations in June, with a concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

We also began celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo missions, leading up to the anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing in July 2019. Restored Historic Mission Control consoles were delivered to Houston – while we marked Apollo 8’s Christmas 1968 mission with an event at Washington National Cathedral.

That’s the highlights of 2018 – the year at NASA. For more details, visit Happy Holidays, thanks for watching, and we’re looking forward to sharing more exciting exploration and groundbreaking discoveries with you in 2019!

(c)2018 NASA | SCVTV
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