JSC Director News
Dr. Ellen Ochoa,
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It’s the time of year when we are reminded for what we are thankful: family, friends, good health and more. I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with JSC’s dynamic, dedicated and purposeful team. I’m also thankful for the support that all of you who receive this newsletter give human spaceflight. Your involvement and encouragement is important to our success.
Speaking of success, the International Space Station (ISS) celebrated its 15th anniversary in space this month. On Nov. 20, 1998, space station’s first module, Zarya (meaning sunrise, signifying the dawn of a new era in space), was launched from Russia. Two weeks later, Space Shuttle Endeavour, with an international crew led by Bob Cabana, attached the six-sided Unity module, the building block for U.S. modules. Beginning from opposite sides of the world, the space station has fused strong international ties, benefited humankind through research, provided a better understanding of the laws of nature and paved the way for future human exploration of deep space. If you are interested in space station research, check out ISS scientist Dr. Julie Robinson’s blog entry for her top ten results.
This past month also saw the arrival of new crew on the space station, which brought the crew complement to nine for the first time in four years. NASA Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio, Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos and Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency arrived Nov. 6. The three brought with them the Olympic torch that will light the Olympic flame in Sochi, Russia, next February, marking the start of the 2014 Winter Games.
The torch was part of an international high-flying relay aboard the station, passing from one module to the next and culminating on a spacewalk photo-op with cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy.
Returning the torch to Earth, Expedition 37 crew Karen Nyberg, Fyodor Yurchikhin and Luca Parmitano arrived home Nov. 10. Before Karen returned home, she invited fellow crafters to join her in stitching together a global community space quilt for next year’s 40th anniversary of the International Quilt Festival.
JSC’s Chamber A made this year’s Best of What’s New list in Popular Science. The giant thermal vacuum testing chamber has been upgraded and remodeled for testing the James Webb Space Telescope and is capable of temperatures as low as 440 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.
This month the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle team completed a flawless separation in a test of three massive panels designed to protect the vehicle from heat, wind and acoustics during its first trip to space next year. It was the second test of the system.
In late October, the successful Orbital Sciences demonstration mission to station signified the completion of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) initiative led from JSC. Thanks to some great collaboration, NASA now contracts delivery of science experiments and supplies with Orbital and SpaceX, and is working an ambitious plan with American companies to transport astronauts to and from the space station as soon as 2017.
There’s more news, too, on future exploration. The Asteroid Synthesis Workshop, a public forum to examine and synthesize 96 of the ideas submitted to a Request for Information (RFI) about the agency's asteroid initiative, was held Nov. 20-22 at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. Workshop attendees talked about how best to identify, capture and relocate a near-Earth asteroid for closer study, how to respond to asteroid threats, as well as partnership, crowdsourcing and citizen science ideas.
I certainly had a lot of news to report this time. If you want to keep up daily, bookmark our JSC Web page.
Have a happy Thanksgiving!
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