Ride, Sally Ride: 35 Years Since America's First Woman in Space

Sally Ride on Challenger’s flight deck during STS-7. Her mission opened the door for U.S. women to venture into orbit. Photo Credit: NASA

Thirty-five years ago, this week, America launched its first woman into space. Physicist Dr. Sally Ride rocketed into orbit aboard shuttle Challenger—accompanied by fellow STS-7 astronauts Bob Crippen, Rick Hauck, John Fabian and Norm Thagard—and became the third female spacefarer, following in the footsteps of Soviet cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova and Svetlana Savitskaya. STS-7 marked the first time that five people had launched into space on the same vehicle and, during their six days aloft, the crew deployed two communications and released and later retrieved the German-built Shuttle Pallet Satellite (SPAS), which returned the first “full” photographs of the shuttle, drifting serenely above the Home Planet.

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NASA Hopeful Opportunity Rover Will Survive Raging Dust Storm on Mars

Series of images showing the gradually darkening skies at Opportunity’s location. The current darkest view is on the right side. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/TAMU

If you felt a bit apprehensive about this morning’s media teleconference from NASA, you’re not the only one. The very long-lived Opportunity is facing its most dire predicament yet – a raging dust storm that has virtually turned day into night at its current location. This is, of course, cause for a great deal of concern, but it seems like, as of now, that the rover has a good chance of riding it out. It is by no means out of the woods yet, but the mission team have confidence in their plucky rover, which has already far outlived its primary mission of 90 sols – by nearly 15 years!

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'Why I Wasn't Devastated': Remembering the Final Shuttle-Mir Mission, 20 Years On

STS-91 marked the ninth and final docking mission between the shuttle and Russia’s Mir space station. Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty years ago, this week, shuttle Discovery pulled away from Russia’s Mir space station for the final time, closing out a group of impressive rendezvous and docking missions which had cemented a new partnership between two old rivals and had laid much of the groundwork for the construction and operations of the International Space Station (ISS). On 8 June 1998, as the STS-91 and Mir crews bade one another farewell, the station commander, Talgat Musabayev, pulled out a surprise gift for shuttle commander Charlie Precourt. It was a 24-inch (60 cm) wrench.

“Charlie, take this wrench,” Musabayev grinned. “It’s sort of a relay stick from the Old Lady, Mir, to the International Space Station.”

“We’re going to need this,” Precourt replied, “for all the work that we have ahead of us.”

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Juno Gets Science Mission Extension and Solves Electrifying Mystery on Jupiter

This image is a combination of a JunoCam image with artist’s conception of lightning distribution in Juno’s northern hemisphere. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/JunoCam

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has shown Jupiter in ways never seen before, not only sending back incredibly detailed images of the beautifully turbulent atmosphere, but also new data on what the giant planet is really like on the inside and how it formed. The mission has been very successful so far, since July 4, 2016, and now there’s more good news – NASA has approved an extension of Juno’s science operations until July 2021. Juno has also now solved a 39-year mystery about Jovian lightning and how it compares to lightning on Earth.

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Curiosity Rover Makes Intriguing New Discoveries About Martian Organics and Methane

“Self-portrait” of the Curiosity rover on Vera Rubin Ridge. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Is there or has there ever been life on Mars? We still don’t know the answer for sure, but two new findings announced this morning by NASA during a live discussion provide more tantalizing clues. The new results come from the Curiosity rover in Gale crater, and build on previous data collected by the rover. They concern two key findings – organics and methane, both of which could have significant implications for the possibility of life on Mars.

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Soyuz MS-09 Launches U.S., Russian, German Spacefarers to Space Station

Soyuz MS-09 launches from Site 1/5 at Baikonur at 5:12 p.m. local time (7:12 a.m. EDT) Wednesday, 6 June, bound for a two-day pursuit of the International Space Station (ISS). Photo Credit: Roscosmos/Twitter

Three spacefarers from three nations—including a former Russian Air Force strategic bomber pilot, the second European commander of the International Space Station (ISS) and a Cuban-American flight surgeon moved in January from the backup to the prime crew—have launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, aboard Soyuz MS-09. Sergei Prokopiev, Alexander Gerst and Serena Auñón-Chancellor rocketed away from Site 1/5 at the historic launch site at 5:12 p.m. local time (7:12 a.m. EDT) Wednesday, 6 June, bound for a six-month increment on the orbiting outpost. They will initially form the second half of Expedition 56, helmed by U.S. astronaut Drew Feustel, before Gerst rotates into the command of Expedition 57 in October, leading the station until his own crew returns to Earth in mid-December.

For the third consecutive occasion, a Soyuz crew will embark on a longer rendezvous approach to get to the ISS, spending two days and 34 orbits in transit, due to phasing constraints. The Soyuz MS-08 crew followed a similar profile in March 2018, as did their predecessors aboard Soyuz MS-07, last December. Not since Soyuz MS-06 in September 2017 has a crew followed the shorter, six-hour and four-orbit “fast rendezvous” approach. “08 and 09…happen to be scheduled on dates that do not allow phasing for the four-orbit rendezvous,” NASA’s Rob Navias told AmericaSpace, earlier this year. “Four-orbit rendezvous are desirable, but by no means mandatory.” Depending upon the launch date, it is anticipated that the Soyuz MS-10 flight of Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague in the fall will follow a shorter rendezvous profile.

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Ceres Up-Close: Dawn Prepares for Lowest (and Last) Science Orbit Around Dwarf Planet

Recent new image of Ceres from Dawn, one of the first sent back in over a year. Image was taken on May 16, 2018 from an altitude of about 270 miles (440 kilometers). Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

NASA is about to get its closest-ever look at the dwarf planet Ceres – a world which has already amazed planetary scientists with its intriguing geology including numerous bright spots and an odd, isolated conical mountain. In early June, the Dawn spacecraft will maneuver to its lowest-ever orbit, which will provide even better views of this strange place.

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SpaceX Successfully Launches Powerful SES-12 Communications Satellite to Geostationary Orbit

Boasting an flight-proven Block 4 first stage and a new Block 5 second stage, SpaceX’s Upgraded Falcon 9 roars into the night at 12:45 a.m. EDT Monday, 4 June. Photo Credit: John Studwell/AmericaSpace

After several days of weather-related delay, SpaceX’s long-running partnership with Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES bore fruit in the small hours of Monday, 4 June, with the launch to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) of the heavyweight SES-12 payload atop an Upgraded Falcon 9 booster from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. It was the sixth SES bird to be lofted by SpaceX, following SES-8—its very first customer to geostationary orbit—way back in December 2013 and, more recently, SES-9 in March 2016, last year’s SES-10 and SES-11 and SES-16/GovSat-1 in January. When it reaches its final orbital position at 95 degrees East longitude, SES-12 will be co-located with SES-8 and will replace the aging, 16-year-old NSS-6 satellite, providing direct-to-home and high-throughput communications services in the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region, reaching 18 million homes and supporting rapid-growth markets in India and Indonesia.

Tonight’s mission was the 11th SpaceX mission in the first half of 2018, coming on the back of a rapid-fire tempo of two launches every month, since January. Next up will be the CRS-15 Dragon cargo flight to the International Space Station (ISS) in late June, which is being conducted under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA.

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The Saddest Moment: Remembering America's First Spacewalk, On This Day in 1965

Clasping the cold-gas maneuvering gun in his right hand, and trailed by a snake-like tether, Ed White tumbles over a cloud-speckled Earth during the United States’ first EVA. Photo Credit: NASA

On this day, 3 June, way back in 1965, the United States took a huge step forward in its drive to land a man on the Moon. Aboard Gemini IV, astronauts Jim McDivitt and Ed White spent four days in orbit—longer than any previous American crew—and supported their nation’s first “spacewalk”. Neither accomplishment was a true “first”, for the Soviets had already done both, but for a relieved America the mission offered tangible proof that the lunar goal was in sight. McDivitt and White’s voyage is a case of being in the right place at the right time. When their names were announced in July 1964, Gemini Deputy Manager Kenneth Kleinknecht mentioned that one of them might perform a “stand-up EVA”, by opening the hatch and poking his head into the void of space. Yet it would take several months, and no small amount of lobbying by the astronauts, before such plans bore fruit.

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No U.S. Crew Will Command The International Space Station in 2019

Drew Feustel will be the 22nd U.S. citizen to command the International Space Station (ISS). After the completion of his tenure, no U.S. astronaut is slated to command the station throughout 2019. Photo Credit: NASA

When Expedition 56 astronaut Drew Feustel relinquishes the helm of the International Space Station (ISS) to Germany’s Alexander Gerst, early in October, more than a year will elapse with no U.S. citizen in command of the multi-national orbiting outpost. From that date, and throughout the entirety of 2019—for the first time in the station’s two-decade history—we will see a 12-month calendar year without a U.S. ISS Commander. NASA has revealed that no fewer than two European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts will command the ISS during this period, together with three Russian cosmonauts.

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