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March 2015 E-News

Astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will launch to the International Space Station March 27, becoming the first station crew to spend a year in space – researchers expect the mission’s investigations to provide data on physical and mental changes and challenges astronauts may face when they embark on longer-duration missions, like those to an asteroid and Mars.  

On March 22, CBS Sunday Morning featured a video segment on the mission. If you have children, be sure to watch for TIME For Kids which is offering a series of articles this year on the station’s science mission, including the twins Study with Kelly’s brother Mark, a former astronaut. TIME magazine is posting more on the mission on its website this week.

The launch, which will be televised on NASA TV and nasa.gov, is set for 2:42 p.m. CDT. Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka will join the two on the launch, rounding out the 43rd expedition to the station: He returns home in September.

I wanted to share some of the wonderful photographs NASA.gov is posting. Here's one by photographer Bill Ingalls who captured an incredible shot of the Soyuz capsule that brought Expedition 42 commander Butch “Barry” Wilmore home with the moon behind it, seen above. JSC photographer Bill Stafford caught engineers in the vacuum chamber testing the next generation space suit being developed for Orion. The other is a photo taken from the space station’s earth observation camera of the Texas Gulf Coast. Can you identify the cities?

Though the solar eclipse on March 20 was not visible at JSC, Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts watched it from the space station and sent a photo out on his twitter account. This is the world's first total solar eclipse since November 2013.

The Orion’s heat shield that survived re-entry during its December flight test is now at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., to assess the shield’s performance. Experts are extracting samples of the ablative material, or Avcoat, to measure the char layers and degree of erosion or ablation.  Well done also to the Orion team on the completion of the latest test of the crew module’s launch abort system attitude control motor and to engineers designing the Space Launch System on a successful ground test March 11 of one of the most powerful rocket boosters ever built; it packs 3.6 million pounds of thrust.

A big, bright James Webb Space Telescope “STTARS” is now deep in the heart of Texas. The Space Telescope Transporter for Air Road and Sea (STTARS) is a giant white shipping container with a very important cargo: a test model of part of the Webb telescope, called the “Pathfinder Backplane.” The real telescope will arrive for testing in 2017.

JSC personnel are also working with the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, team as they prepare the expandable habitat for launch to the space station this year. Once deployed it will add 565 cubic feet of volume—the size of a family tent.

Next month I’ll provide more information on the upcoming launch of the Expedition 44 crew that includes Kjell Lindgren, Kimiya Yui and Oleg Kononenko, who will launch on May 26.


Ellen Ochoa
JSC Director

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Page Last Updated: March 26th, 2015
Page Editor: Jason Roberts