This Week at NASA | This Week @ NASA: An Extended Stay Onboard The Space Station
An extended stay in space for one of our astronauts … A new resupply mission to the space station … And locating the universe’s first type of molecule … a few of the stories to tell you about – This Week at NASA!
NASA Extends Koch’s Space Station Mission to Record-Setting Duration
NASA and its International Space Station partners have made new crew assignments and set a new schedule for station expeditions that includes an expected record-setting flight for our Christina Koch. Instead of returning to Earth this October, Koch will remain in orbit until February 2020 – which will set a new record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman. The previous mark of 288 days was set by our Peggy Whitson on Expeditions 50 through 52, from 2016 through 2017.
NASA Astronaut, Christina Koch:
U.S. Commercial Cargo Ship Launches to the Space Station
On April 17, Northrop Grumman launched a Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the space station from our Wallops Flight Facility, in Virginia, atop the company’s Antares rocket. The Cygnus – loaded with 7,500 pounds of research, hardware and crew supplies – is named in honor of Roger Chaffee, one of the three NASA astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire in January 1967. The Cygnus is scheduled to remain at the station until July 23.
Astrobee Robots Launched to Space Station
Among the cargo on Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft are three free-flying robots that are part of the Astrobee project. The cubed robots are a follow-on to the SPHERES robots already on the space station. They are designed to help develop and test technologies for use in zero-gravity, and help station astronauts do routine chores. Astrobee robots can operate in a fully automated mode or be controlled remotely from the ground – freeing up astronauts to do work on other important tasks.
SOFIA Discovers Universe’s First Molecule
Helium hydride – the first type of molecule to ever form in the universe – has been detected in space for the first time ever. Our SOFIA airborne observatory discovered the molecule’s signature in a planetary nebula near the constellation Cygnus – some 3,000 light-years away from us. The molecule first formed about 100,000 years after the big bang, when atoms of helium and hydrogen combined. Researchers have long believed helium hydride should be present in some parts of the modern universe, but it had never been detected in space — until now.
Meteoroid Strikes Eject Precious Water From Moon
Data from our Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE mission, which ended in April 2014, show that meteoroids that strike the Moon can release water from hydrated soil just below the lunar surface. Models had predicted that meteoroid impacts could release water vapor from the Moon, but scientists had not yet observed the phenomenon. The findings will help us understand the history of lunar water — a potential resource for sustaining long term operations on the Moon and human exploration of deep space.
Skylab and Space Shuttle Astronaut Owen Garriott Dies at 88
Former astronaut and long-duration spaceflight pioneer Owen Garriott, died April 15, at his home in Huntsville, Alabama. Garriott flew aboard the Skylab space station during the Skylab 3 mission and on the Space Shuttle Columbia for the STS-9/Spacelab-1 mission. He spent a total of 70 days in space. Owen Garriott was 88 years old.
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