Computer pioneer Margaret Hamilton was critical to landing astronauts on the moon for the first time on 20 July 1969 and returning them safely a few days later. The young Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) computer programmer and working mother led the team that created the onboard flight software for the Apollo missions, including Apollo 11. The computer system was the most sophisticated of its day. Her rigorous approach was so successful that no software bugs were ever known to have occurred during any crewed Apollo missions. [...]-> Interview in The Guardian
Only five people in the world get to routinely handle these precious pebbles, sample processor Charis Krysher tells me. She’s one of them. But even Krysher and the lucky few can’t touch the samples directly. To pick up an Apollo rock, Krysher must either use stainless steel tweezers or slide her fingers into a third set of gloves made of Teflon.#Space #Moon #Geology #Rocks #MoonRocks #Research
All this effort is to protect the 382 kilograms of rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand and dust lifted from the moon during the six Apollo landings from 1969 through 1972. Those priceless samples are still offering fresh details about how the moon — and the entire solar system — formed and evolved. The rocks have revealed the rough ages of all the rocky planets’ surfaces and informed debate about whether an ancient reshuffling of the outer planets caused a bombardment of meteorites on Earth (SN Online: 9/12/16).
Since those first bits of moon arrived, NASA has sent about 50,000 individual samples to 500 research labs in more than 15 countries. Even with all that sharing, upward of 80 percent of the original haul is still untouched. Keeping with NASA’s hypercareful approach, nearly 15 percent of that lot is stored in a vault at the White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces, N.M., a roughly 1,300-kilometer drive from Houston.
Designers also constructed this boxy, beige building in Houston, which opened in 1979, with certain disasters in mind. The structure is hurricane-resistant, and the pristine sample lab is one story above ground level to avoid flooding."
Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft has touched down on Ryugu for a second time, bagging samples which hopefully contain material from the subsurface of the asteroid.#Asteroids #Ryugu #Hayabusa2 #Japan #Space #Exploration
The first touchdown in February saw Hayabusa2 successfully collect samples from the primitive C-type asteroid Ryugu, achieving one of the main science goals of the mission.
JAXA and ISAS however decided to proceed with a second touchdown in order to boost sample volume, perform an unprecedented multi-sampling from a planetary body and, crucially, collect subsurface material excavated by the SCI experiment. In doing so the team will aim to answer questions regarding the very low reflectance of Ryugu, give insight into the regional heterogeneity of celestial bodies and, through comparison, assess the impact of solar wind on the surface.
With careful planning and dashes of creativity, engineers have been able to keep NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft flying for nearly 42 years - longer than any other spacecraft in history. To ensure that these vintage robots continue to return the best science data possible from the frontiers of space, mission engineers are implementing a new plan to manage them. And that involves making difficult choices, particularly about instruments and thrusters.#Voyager #Space #Exploration
After extensive discussions with the science team, mission managers recently turned off a heater for the cosmic ray subsystem instrument (CRS) on Voyager 2 as part of the new power management plan. The cosmic ray instrument played a crucial role last November in determining that Voyager 2 had exited the heliosphere, the protective bubble created by a constant outflow (or wind) of ionized particles from the Sun. Ever since, the two Voyagers have been sending back details of how our heliosphere interacts with the wind flowing in interstellar space, the space between stars.
Mission team members can now preliminarily confirm that Voyager 2's cosmic ray instrument is still returning data, despite dropping to a chilly minus 74 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 59 degrees Celsius). This is lower than the temperatures at which CRS was tested more than 42 years ago (down to minus 49 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 45 degrees Celsius). Another Voyager instrument also continued to function for years after it dropped below temperatures at which it was tested."
As lead crew systems engineer at Kennedy Space Center during Apollo, Ann Montgomery was responsible for testing hundreds of pieces of loose equipment that the astronauts used during each mission. The gear included power cables and oxygen lines that hooked into the astronauts’ space suits, flight logs, an optical site used for docking in space, and even the urinal and fecal bags used by the crew.#Interviews #Personalities #Space #Apollo #ApolloMissions
For Apollo 11, Montgomery processed the handheld tools, TV camera and the lunar sample return containers that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took to the surface of the moon. Following extensive tests in the lab, all the equipment was tested again with the astronauts in an altitude chamber, and then again on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center before it was cleared to blast off to another world.
After working on the Apollo missions, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and Skylab, Montgomery became facility manager of the Orbiter Processing Facility in 1979—the huge hanger where the space shuttles were prepared between missions. She processed the first ever space shuttle flight, and in 1986, she became NASA’s first female flow director of a shuttle, responsible for returning the Columbia orbiter to flight after the space shuttle Challenger broke apart shortly after launch.
Smithsonian spoke with Ann Montgomery about what it was like to work on the Apollo missions as a 21-year-old woman, the trials and the triumphs of Apollo 11, and some of the other highlights of her 34-year NASA career.
It seems like a long time ago on a moon far, far away, but now you can follow along with a satellite’s-eye-view of the mission: The folks at the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera website have created a very cool interactive feature where you can view the landing site using an LROC image, and when you scroll through the mission timeline the image changes to show you where the astronauts were, what they were doing, and what conversations they were having with each other and Mission Control back on Earth.#Space #Moon #Apollo11 #MoonLandings
It’s cool to see how things unfolded in that brief time they were on the Moon. I had fun going over Armstrong’s first small step, and then watching the two of them zip around the site performing their tasks. I was especially taken with their short walk over to Little West Crater to their immediate east by about 60 meters.
For many at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, January 1 this year didn't mean a New Year's celebration. Instead, it meant the first arrival of data from New Horizons' visit to a small Kuiper Belt object. But, like its earlier flyby of Pluto, the probe was instructed to grab all the data it could and deal with getting it back to Earth later. The full set of everything New Horizons captured won't be available for more than a year yet. But with 10 percent of the total cache in hand, researchers decided they had enough to do the first analysis of 2014 MU69.#Astronomy #Space #NewHorizons #Exploration #2014MU69 #UltimaThule #KuiperBeltObjects
Overall, 2014 MU69 looks exactly like what we'd hope for: a world that underwent some major changes immediately after its formation but has since become static, preserving its state largely as it was billions of years ago. Hopefully, more details on that state are sitting in storage on New Horizons. Because we're not likely to send something back to 2014 MU69 any time soon.