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FANTASTIC VOYAGES New technology, research map deep-space trips COSMIC CAREERS 4 women in inspiring, influential roles WHAT’S NEXT NASA’s leader talks about the future SUPER STARS Small businesses support space efforts, missions

Beyond Earth

PULLOUT POSTER Apollo 11 spacesuit gets a reboot













NASA HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HUBBLE Telescope’s 25 years of brilliant work




MARS EXPLORATION Robotic rovers pave the way for humans to land on the Red Planet.


TODAY’S ASTRONAUTS Agency searches for the right people with the right skills to send into space.


PULLOUT SAVING THE SUIT Crowdsourcing helps to preserve Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit.



MR. ECLIPSE An astrophysicist’s lifelong fascination with predicting eclipses makes him a leading expert.


ECLIPSE CITIES What to know and where to go to view the total solar eclipse that spans the U.S. in 2017.





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Jeanette Barrett-Stokes jbstokes@usatoday.com

MISSIONS & VISION Q&A with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. SPACE ANNIVERSARIES Historic milestones for 2016 SLS AND ORION Work on Mars rocket and crew capsule continues





IS ANYONE OUT THERE? Kepler discovers more than 1,000 exoplanets in habitable zone


PLUTO MISSION New Horizons flyby shines big spotlight on dwarf planet


LIFE IN THE LAB Typical day aboard space station has its fun, challenges


ASTRONAUTS UNDER STUDY Effects of long-duration space travel examined

Jerald Council jcouncil@usatoday.com Michelle Washington mjwashington@usatoday.com CREATIVE MEDIA MANAGER

Christine Neff cneff@usatoday.com EDITORS

Chris Garsson, Elizabeth Neus Sara Schwartz DESIGNERS

Ashleigh Carter, Gina Toole Saunders Lisa M. Zilka INTERNS


Alexa Rogers, Miranda Pellicano

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EVERYDAY GADGETS NASA technology a good fit for the needs of mere earthlings


DRONE REVOLUTION Unmanned aerial vehicles explore where humans can’t


BUSINESS PARTNERS Small businesses are big contributors to space efforts


GRANTS AND PROGRAMS NASA committed to working with colleges, students


POP CULTURE Our fascination with the universe inspires art


MISSION-READY Astronauts are human, too, and their humor proves it


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This year, NASA celebrated achievements aboard the International Space Station, continued discoveries on Mars and Pluto and recognized the Hubble PHOTOS BY NASA telescope, which opened a stunning window to the universe.

COMMERCIAL SPACE TRAVEL Recent setbacks have not dampened optimism



DRIVING SUCCESS Four women in key roles at NASA









Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden Jr., administrator of NASA and a four-time space shuttle astronaut, discusses funding for the agency, the successful New Horizons mission and the challenges to come By Lee Roop


NASA’s 2016 budget isn’t final although the House and Senate have passed versions that must be reconciled. Does it appear NASA will get what it needs? BOLDEN: The most critical thing we need is full funding for commercial crew. We have two contracts, and both providers — Boeing and SpaceX — are making excellent progress. We think we’ve got enough (funding) to get us through a portion of next year, but not to the end of the year. To stop for any reason has the potential to

cause the provider to issue a stop work (order), which means you’re probably going to have to renegotiate some contracts, and that almost always means increased costs. Any further delay also puts (commercial flights) on the other side of 2017, and that puts me — or my successor — in a position where we’ve got to go back to the Russians one more time (for rides to the International Space Station). I doubt very seriously that it’s going to cost anywhere short of $600 or $700 million, and I don’t think we want to pay that. If you look at what we have spent now on Soyuz seats compared

to the shortfall in the Congress meeting the president’s requests, they’re equal. We’ve spent a billion dollars on Soyuz seats we should not have had to spend. Did the House cut the earth sciences part of the budget more than you liked? We have spent a lot of time trying to explain that we are not spending an exorbitant amount on earth sciences to the detriment of human spaceflight, that when you look at dollars spent, as opposed CO N T I N U E D



In February, nearly two months after the Orion spacecraft completed a four-hour, two-orbit test mission, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. gave his “state of the agency” address in front of the module at Kennedy Space Center.


to percentage, we have spent a massive amount more on human exploration since the president came into office than we have on earth science. I think we’re making slow but steady progress as we get out and brief people. Even the speaker (of the House, John Boehner) himself, when we were at his farm forum in Ohio, made a statement that he didn’t realize NASA did what they do for the farmers.

it has excited beyond belief school kids and teachers and just plain old people who don’t really care anything about space.

Let’s talk about a big success: the New Horizons flyby of Pluto. How exciting was that? It was awesome and, as somebody said, it’s the gift that keeps on giving, because

What happens to New Horizons now? We don’t know. I know a large segment of the planetary science community would like to get every drop of fuel out of New Horizons and have at least one (more)

Now that you’ve seen it close up in the pictures, should Pluto be a planet again? I have never not called Pluto a planet. What kind of planet it is — is it a normal one or a dwarf one — I don’t get into that discussion. It’s a planet.

target in the Kuiper Belt. That will be decided by the science community later this year and then brought to leadership in the agency. There are a lot of articles out, and they’re generally by people in the planetary science community, who want, through wishful thinking, to make it seem NASA has decided on the fate of New Horizons, and we have not. The agency at my level is probably a year or so from a decision, but what we have done is to put New Horizons in a position where it could do a follow-on mission if one is approved. I call it, “Do no harm.” We have not harmed New Horizons and its future.

Let’s talk about the path to Mars. Are the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion on track to launch in 2018? No. We are not on track for any defined launch yet, because we have not determined a launch date. The thing I would plead with you to try to get across is the importance of our efforts to design a program, not the first flight of SLS and Orion. Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) is critical, but that’s nowhere close to being as important as having a viable program that includes Exploration Mission 2, 3, 4, 5 and subsequent. We made the decision some time ago that the critical date for Orion was going to be EM-2 — the first human flight. We will



“I have never not called Pluto a planet. What kind of planet it is — is it a normal one or a dwarf one — I don’t get into that discussion. It’s a planet.”

— Charles Bolden Jr.

decide when Orion will be ready for the first human flight, and then we will back out and give you EM-1’s launch date. Is this about building something that can transcend administrations? Yes. We already have a program we think is reasonable and, (as) in almost every case with NASA, it’s got to be able to live through multiple administrations and multiple congresses. That’s a challenge. So that’s what we’re trying to give them — something they can look out and see that we have a path forward to multiple flights of SLS and Orion. That path forward possibly includes SLS without Orion in flights to support the science community. When you talk about a Europa mission, for example, the power of SLS has excited the planetary science community, because it means we don’t have to do a Venus (gravity acceleration) assist. When we launch on SLS, we can almost put something on a direct trajectory to a place like Jupiter and cut the transit by years. Not months, but years. You’d like to cut the time it takes to get to Mars in half. What would that take? It would take a type of game-changing propulsion. There are a number of candidates out there that are different kinds of non-chemical, non-solar propulsion, and they generally deal with big ions and/or nuclear power. When I talk about big ions, I mean big, heavy ions that give you a lot of stuff when they come out the back.


SpaceX CEO and chief designer Elon Musk, right, speaks to employees as NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. gets a first look at the Dragon capsule at the SpaceX facility June 13, 2012, in McGregor, Texas. The Dragon capsule returned to Earth on May 31, 2012, after SpaceX became the first private company to successfully carry supplies to the International Space Station.

What would something like that cost? Seriously, you’re in the billions of dollars, but I don’t know whether it’s $1 billion or $2 billion. That’s like a launch vehicle engine. I think what we have in our plans now is very doable, very affordable, and affordable means it’s got to fit in a foreseeable budget that increases with inflation and has some room for growth above what NASA currently gets. I don’t think there’s anybody who will tell you that anyone can put together an exploration program on a flat budget. This Q&A has been edited for clarity and brevity.


The CST-100 Starliner, Boeing’s commercial human-rated spaceship, will be designed to ferry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The crew capsule is one of two manned spacecraft commissioned by NASA as part of the transition to commercial spaceflight and is expected to be ready to launch with human passengers by the end of 2017.





Jan. 28, 1986: STS-51L (Space Shuttle Challenger) explodes 78 seconds after launch, killing all seven astronauts, Francis R. “Dick” Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Christa McAuliffe and Gregory Jarvis. A faulty O-ring in one of the rocket boosters is found to have been the cause of the disaster.


Feb. 12, 2001: The NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft touches down on asteroid 433 Eros, which is about 196 million miles from Earth. It’s the first spacecraft to ever land on an asteroid.


Jan. 31, 1961: Mercury Redstone 2 launches at 11:54 a.m. from Cape Canaveral, Fla., with chimpanzee Ham aboard. Ham the Astrochimp is airborne for 16.5 minutes and performs tasks such as pushing levers aboard the spacecraft. After the flight, he resides at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., for the next 17 years.


Feb. 24, 2011: STS 133 (Space Shuttle Discovery) launches for its final flight, delivering critical spare parts and Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot in space, to the International Space Station. NASA’s oldest and most-traveled space shuttle retires to the Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Va.


March 13, 1781: Sir William Herschel, a British Astronomer Royal, discovers Uranus after observing an object in space that looks like a disc.


The history of space exploration yields many moments to remember. Here’s a look at some of the notable anniversaries coming up in 2016.


April 12, 1981: In its first flight, STS-1 (Space Shuttle Columbia) launches from Edwards Air Force Base in California. The spacecraft returns two days later after orbiting the Earth 37 times with its two-man crew, John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen.

April 28, 2001: The Russian Soyuz TM-32 carries the first commercial space tourist, U.S. businessman Dennis Tito, to the International Space Station. He spends almost eight days in orbit and performs several scientific experiments.



March 16, 1926: Robert H. Goddard, considered the father of the modern rocket, launches the first liquidpropelled rocket from a farm in Auburn, Mass. The slim 10-foot cylinder reaches an altitude of 41 feet and flies for two and a half seconds before falling. In December 1930, Goddard launches a rocket that reaches an altitude of 2,000 feet and a speed of 500 mph.



April 12, 1961: Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human in orbit when he reaches space inside a spherical Vostok 1 capsule. He orbits Earth one time during the 108-minute flight, then lands safely in a Russian field. The flight is a major milestone for humanity, and another victory for the Soviet Union in its escalating Cold War space race with the U.S. But America isn’t far behind. On May 5, 1961, Freedom 7 astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr. becomes the first American to reach space in a 15-minute suborbital flight.


Sept. 16, 1996: STS-79 (Space Shuttle Atlantis) heads to the Russian space station Mir to pick up U.S. astronaut Shannon W. Lucid, who had been aboard Mir for 179 days. During that time, she performed numerous life science and physical science experiments. Until 2007, she held the record for the most flight hours in orbit by any woman in the world.

NASA has a wealth of info online about historical missions and events. Find more upcoming anniversaries at history.nasa.gov/annivforecast.htm.








NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover captures an image of dramatic buttes and layers on the lower flank of Mount Sharp. NASA

For thousands of years we have called Earth our home, but what if it is only home base? By Adam Stone


K, SO THERE ARE a few small hurdles between us and a mission to Mars. Mars is 140 million miles away. It will probably take about nine months to get there, and there’s no air or water or gravity conveniently stationed along the way. Surface temperatures can drop to -195 degrees Fahrenheit at the poles (versus a balmy -100 degrees for a low at the equator). These are not ideal conditions for humans. Yet here we are, about 15 years out from a projected launch, and all systems are very much go. How can this be? We talked to three top NASA executives about human factors, engineering and mission logistics. It’s going to

be tough, they concede, but, as of today, a Mars mission is right on track.


On the way to Mars, in the absence of gravity, muscles will break down. Bones will weaken and deteriorate, and all the fluid in your feet will go to your head, giving you permanent sinus congestion for the duration of the trip. NASA isn’t thrilled about that scenario, and it’s been running experiments on board the International Space Station (ISS) to see how the situation might be improved. “The space station serves as our best test bed,” said Julie Robinson, chief scientist for the ISS program. Scientists won’t learn everything they need to know about Mars travel through research

on the space station, but that’s OK. “NASA is all about balancing the risks of the unknowable with enough knowledge that you can handle whatever arises,” Robinson said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect.” Humans did not evolve to live on Mars, where the surface gravity is only 37.5 percent of the surface gravity on Earth. In addition to giving us brittle bones, low gravity erodes eyesight. Astronauts may go from perfect close-up vision to needing reading glasses. And one of the biggest risks is behavioral: Nine months is a long time to spend in a little bitty box. But we’ve done this before, Robinson noted. Consider Magellan, Lewis and Clark, the Antarctic explorers. “Human history is loaded with people who



HOW BIG? SPACE SYSTEM LAUNCH FACTS v Weight: 6.5 million pounds, equivalent to 8.8 fully loaded 747 jets

x 8.8

were willing to take these kinds of risks to be the first,” she said. Some of those intrepid explorers have already stepped up, offering themselves as volunteer astronauts in the independent Mars One effort, which plans to begin shuttling humans to Mars by 2020. In February, organizers said they had winnowed down a pool of 202,586 applicants to 100 individuals who will move on to the next round of selection. NASA points out a major distinction between its plans and those of Mars One. “Critically, the explorers who have signed up for that mission know they won’t be returning,” a NASA press release notes. “Sending humans on a government-funded return trip will take much more effort, both in terms of science and technology and political will.”


NASA’s Mars mission will call for machinery both staggeringly large and remarkably complex.

the oxygen, nitrogen and water The first flight test of NASA’s needed to sustain life. Onboard Space Launch System will be systems will draw water out of configured to carry an unmanned recycled air. Orion spacecraft. It will be capable “Getting this off Earth is of lifting a 154,000-pound payload, no easy task,” said Bill Hill, 10 percent more than the Saturn deputy associate V rocket, which took administrator, Apollo astronauts to Exploration Systems the moon. One of the Development Later, an SLS biggest risks Division. So here’s an with an evolved idea: Why not send lift capability will is behavioral: the whole thing into be configured to Nine months space in several large accommodate a pieces, assemble payload of up to is a long time them somewhere 286,000 pounds. to spend in a near the Moon, and The launch system then launch from and its space capsule, little bitty box. there? Orion, together will That’s the plan, weigh in at a hefty and it’s no small 5.5 million pounds. trick. “You can lift smaller pieces, The capsule itself will be twice but the integration of those pieces the volume of the Apollo crew is a challenge,” Hill said. module, with the interior capacity Earlier this year, NASA fired up of two average-size minivans. In the most powerful rocket booster addition, Orion will be toting an ever built in a ground test for the 8,000-pound “service module,” SLS rocket. The booster fired for which will help propel the crew two minutes, as it will when the through space while also carrying

SLS lifts off, and produced about 3.6 million pounds of thrust. Under the project leadership of prime contractor Lockheed Martin, the capsule Orion strutted its stuff in a flashy flight test in December 2014, including a sunrise liftoff followed by a four-hour, two-orbit test and a 20,000 mph re-entry. Orion’s engineering challenges are complex. For instance, in the vast reaches of space, with no place to pull over and change a tire, with virtually no room to carry anything extra, what if stuff breaks? And second, in very general terms, what is Plan B? The answer to the first question is selective laser sintering, also known as 3-D printing. Increasingly popular in the manufacturing world, 3-D printing offers astronauts a way to fabricate parts from crumbled plastic in a highly efficient way. “You can prepare a complex part — a valve, a duct — in about a third CO N T I N U E D

v Height: 384 feet, as tall as a 38-story building



v Cargo volume:

Enough room for nine school buses

x9 v Payload: 286,000 pounds, or 22 fully grown elephants



NASA’s Space Launch System is an advanced launch vehicle for a new era of exploration beyond Earth’s orbit into deep space. The SLS, which will be the world’s most-powerful rocket when built, will launch astronauts in the Orion spacecraft on missions to an asteroid and eventually to Mars.



of the time it takes to do it by machining it,” Hill said. No cabin space is wasted. “When you are finished with it, you could crumble it back up into its original powder and use that material for something else.” As far as having a Plan B, NASA works on a philosophy that is almost, but not quite the same as the design that underlies the human body. We have two lungs, identical and reversed. Two arms, two kidneys. As much as possible, NASA also aims for this same notion of redundancy, but no two parts are quite the same. After all, if Part A breaks, won’t an identical piece also break? So the plan instead is “dissimilar redundancy” — have an extra, but one that works slightly different. Need a carbon monoxide scrubber in the capsule? Have one made in the U.S. and one made in Russia. This is the kind of engineering finesse you need to get to Mars.


You also need money. A lot of it. How much? NASA is still working that out, but they’d like to keep the project affordable. “We are trying to design a program that we can implement based on today’s money, paired with planned national economic growth,” said Greg Williams, deputy associate administrator for policy and plans in NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. “We are trying to plan a mission that does not require an enormous spike in

funding,” he said. Translation: Money will be spent, just not outrageous amounts. Assuming Congress keeps the financial spigot open, there’s still a lot of testing and studying to be done. “We have a decade or so of research we need to accomplish in order to understand what we need to know about longduration space flight, about how to keep crews healthy and productive,” he said. This will likely mean flying a few laps around the moon, maybe by the end of the 2020s. NASA calls this the proving ground. Near the moon, you can do space walks, live without (much) gravity, and it’s only a couple of weeks from Earth in case of emergency. “We’re lucky to have a moon the size of ours, as close as it is to us,” Williams said. NASA will have partners, too, including other nations and the commercial sector. These teammates may fabricate parts or shuttle astronauts to and from the space station. And Williams is confident NASA will have the backing of the American people. “I think the public wants us to do this. People are supportive, they are curious,” he said. But why go to Mars at all? To hear the people at NASA tell it, this is just a jumping-off point to further worlds and future destinations. “Mars is not the end,” Robinson said. “It’s a matter of extending our abilities and our technologies so we can continue to go beyond Earth orbit.”

ORION, PIECE BY PIECE v Transports up to four astronauts to deep space and returns them safely back to Earth.

v Launch Abort System immediately launches capsule and crew to safety in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent.

v Computer systems and software are radiation-proof.

v Systems have same but slightly different backups to prevent singlepoint failures.

v Specialized welding improves strength, offers lighter mass and prevents leaks. ARTIST’S RENDERING/NASA

Orion will be twice the volume of the Apollo crew module, with the interior capacity of two minivans. Its 8,000-pound “service module” will help propel the crew through space while also carrying the oxygen, nitrogen and water needed to sustain life. Onboard systems will draw water out of recycled air.


Lockheed Martin engineers, top, perform the first weld on the Orion Exploration Mission-1 Crew Module on Sept. 5 at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Middle, after a four-and-a-half hour mission, Orion is recovered Dec. 5, 2014. Bottom, NASA tests its Space Launch System in August at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.







Mighty machines scout Mars ahead of humans

By Adam Hadhazy


NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. attends a viewing of Curiosity’s descent to the surface of Mars on Aug. 5, 2012, in Pasadena, Calif. Right, several images taken by Curiosity’s Mars hand lens imager combine for a low-angle selfie taken Aug. 5, 2015, during the 1,065th Martian day (or sol) of the rover’s work on Mars.


N OCTOBER, NASA PLANS to hold an inaugural workshop to draw up potential landing sites for humanity’s first mission to Mars. But when humans finally press a boot-print into Mars’ ruddy soil, perhaps sometime in the 2030s, we will have robots to thank for setting the stage. Right now, high above the Red Planet, a trio of NASA orbiters — Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Atmospheric and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) — in addition to other nations’ spacecraft, are bringing us a sharper understanding of Martian weather and climate. On the ground of the Red Planet, the Mars Science Laboratory’s (MSL) Curiosity rover, which landed in 2012, along with its plucky predecessor rovers, Spirit and Opportunity (residents since 2004; Opportunity is still roaming the planet) have given us in-depth knowledge of surface conditions, guiding the choice for where humans will want to go first. As a species, we’re driven to explore, but we also want to know if we’re alone in the universe.

Although a frigid are definitely specific desert today, Mars looks ways that Curiosity was To get the most as though it was carved designed to be a in places by bygone rivpredecessor for human bang for the buck, ers and lakes. Geological missions,” said Ashwin mission planners evidence suggests that a Vasavada, the MSL watery, warm, possibly project scientist at will want to send Earth-like world existed NASA’s Jet Propulsion humans to the early in Martian history. Laboratory in Pasadena, “We think there Calif. places on Mars were conditions on Curiosity went to work where rovers have Mars that would have before it even set its been conducive to the wheels in Martian dirt. revealed conditions development of life,” said Since human conducive to life. Ellen Stofan, NASA’s chief astronauts en route to scientist. “Could Mars Mars will be bombarded be the place to go to find with high levels of fossil evidence of life? We think it is.” cancer-causing cosmic radiation, researchers gauged this exposure by flipping on Curiosity’s radiation detection instrument GETTING THERE shortly after its launch from Florida. The While robotic probes have done a instrument reported that an astronaut bang-up job investigating the Red Planet might receive close to what NASA considon our behalf, humans could scour sites ers a lifetime acceptable dosage of radiation for signs of past or current alien life far on the journey, even assuming a quicker more efficiently. But a monthslong trip trip than current propulsion technology across millions of miles to Mars will put allows. the human spirit, and our engineering, to Curiosity’s instrument, however, was not the test. In the meantime, the aptly named CO N T I N U E D Curiosity rover advances the cause. “There




Mighty machines scout Mars ahead of humans

By Adam Hadhazy


NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. attends a viewing of Curiosity’s descent to the surface of Mars on Aug. 5, 2012, in Pasadena, Calif. Right, several images taken by Curiosity’s Mars hand lens imager combine for a low-angle selfie taken Aug. 5, 2015, during the 1,065th Martian day (or sol) of the rover’s work on Mars.


N OCTOBER, NASA PLANS to hold an inaugural workshop to draw up potential landing sites for humanity’s first mission to Mars. But when humans finally press a boot-print into Mars’ ruddy soil, perhaps sometime in the 2030s, we will have robots to thank for setting the stage. Right now, high above the Red Planet, a trio of NASA orbiters — Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Atmospheric and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) — in addition to other nations’ spacecraft, are bringing us a sharper understanding of Martian weather and climate. On the ground of the Red Planet, the Mars Science Laboratory’s (MSL) Curiosity rover, which landed in 2012, along with its plucky predecessor rovers, Spirit and Opportunity (residents since 2004; Opportunity is still roaming the planet) have given us in-depth knowledge of surface conditions, guiding the choice for where humans will want to go first. As a species, we’re driven to explore, but we also want to know if we’re alone in the universe.

Although a frigid are definitely specific desert today, Mars looks ways that Curiosity was To get the most as though it was carved designed to be a in places by bygone rivpredecessor for human bang for the buck, ers and lakes. Geological missions,” said Ashwin mission planners evidence suggests that a Vasavada, the MSL watery, warm, possibly project scientist at will want to send Earth-like world existed NASA’s Jet Propulsion humans to the early in Martian history. Laboratory in Pasadena, “We think there Calif. places on Mars were conditions on Curiosity went to work where rovers have Mars that would have before it even set its been conducive to the wheels in Martian dirt. revealed conditions development of life,” said Since human conducive to life. Ellen Stofan, NASA’s chief astronauts en route to scientist. “Could Mars Mars will be bombarded be the place to go to find with high levels of fossil evidence of life? We think it is.” cancer-causing cosmic radiation, researchers gauged this exposure by flipping on Curiosity’s radiation detection instrument GETTING THERE shortly after its launch from Florida. The While robotic probes have done a instrument reported that an astronaut bang-up job investigating the Red Planet might receive close to what NASA considon our behalf, humans could scour sites ers a lifetime acceptable dosage of radiation for signs of past or current alien life far on the journey, even assuming a quicker more efficiently. But a monthslong trip trip than current propulsion technology across millions of miles to Mars will put allows. the human spirit, and our engineering, to Curiosity’s instrument, however, was not the test. In the meantime, the aptly named CO N T I N U E D Curiosity rover advances the cause. “There







Mars Atmospheric and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN)


The Mars rover Opportunity casts a shadow, top, as it uses tools to examine freshly exposed rock. The rover Spirit took a multitude of Martian photos, middle, before it lost communication with Earth in 2010. Bottom, an artist’s concept of NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN). The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped this impact crater, right, in the Sirenum Fossae region of Mars on March 30, 2015.

shielded as a manned vessel would be, so the data offers hope that a crew’s radiation exposure could be greatly reduced with advanced shielding technologies.


Curiosity further assisted an eventual manned mission by addressing the practical matter of getting heavy payloads down to Mars. Far heftier than any previous robotic visitors, Curiosity is the size of a small SUV and literally weighs a ton. After Curiosity’s perilous descent through Mars’ atmosphere, its heat shield and parachute jettisoned. Engineers devised a novel, rocket-powered “sky crane” that then kicked in. The crane hovered 65 feet above Mars as a winch gently lowered the rover in for a soft touchdown. As risky as the sky crane seemed to all but its designers, it worked perfectly. “Curiosity took a giant leap forward,” said Vasavada, “but more leaps are left before we get to landing humans.”


Once landed, astronauts will have to stay warm in oxygenated suits that are built to withstand both the brutal Martian cold and the carbon dioxide-laced air, and rovers

are taking exact measurements of that environment. From its landing site in Gale Crater and now climbing Mount Sharp, Curiosity reports on the local details of temperature, pressure, scant humidity and surface radiation. “It’s the most sophisticated weather station that’s been flown yet to the surface of Mars,” said Vasavada. Critical research by Curiosity also involves gleaning the composition of Martian dust, which kicks up into globespanning, seasonal dust storms. Whirling Martian dust could corrode equipment and infiltrate even well-sealed human enclosures. Once inhaled, it might be damaging to an astronaut’s lungs.


Given these hazards and more, human explorers will want to work efficiently on Mars. Planners will seek to minimize the bold, costly expedition’s length, while still reaping maximum scientific benefits. To get the most bang for the buck, mission planners will want to send humans to the locations on Mars where rovers have already revealed conditions are conducive to life and, fingers crossed, where they can

find signs of it. Unfortunately, the Spirit rover got stuck in soft soil and lost communications with Earth in 2010, but its partner, Opportunity, is still on the go and has traversed more than 26 miles. These twin rovers have catalogued rocks of volcanic origin, which point to sources of nutrients and energy for fledgling Martian life. They’ve also collected compelling evidence of abundant water from Martian mineralogy. “What’s nice about Curiosity, Spirit and Opportunity (is that) each has studied a very different environment where water once was in the past,” said Vasavada. Curiosity has drilled into rocks and found chemicals conducive to biology, in addition to evidence of a not-too-acidic, not-toobasic water ideal for life. NASA is taking important steps to send humans to Mars to see all this up close. Among the projects is the development of the new Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule, which are scheduled to test-fly together in 2018. “We’ve mapped out what we’re doing on a yearly basis to get astronauts to go to Mars,” said Stofan. “We feel like we’re on track and we’re in a good place.”






Planetary scientists hope to discover what no one has found before By Paige Bowers


IS IMAGINATION SPARKED BY original Star Trek episodes he watched as a boy, John Grunsfeld stared at the night sky and wondered whether planets orbited the twinkling stars beyond our solar system. If such planets existed, Grunsfeld mused, would they be inhabited by some sort of life form? “It didn’t seem real,” Grunsfeld said. “But (space) was the source of our modern westerns.” Now, as associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Grunsfeld has overseen research that has answered at least one pressing question from his youth: There are nearly 1,900 exoplanets — or planets orbiting a star other than the sun — in our region of the Milky Way galaxy. “Now that we know there are planets everywhere, the big question is whether anyone is out there,” Grunsfeld said. “We’re on the cusp of being able to answer that.” For NASA, the breakthrough began more

than 20 years ago when scientists at Ames Research Center in California determined that a high-powered photometer could measure the faintest fluctuation of brightness in stars — a dip that signified a planet had passed in front of the star. After building a photometer accurate enough for the task, NASA scientists discovered three exoplanets in ground observations that began in 1995. In March 2009, NASA launched its Kepler mission, sending a photometer into space to find exoplanets. Five were discovered in Kepler’s first 43 days of data, and, since then, a total of 1,030 planets have been confirmed through the mission. “When we designed and built (the photometer and Kepler), we didn’t know if planets were common or rare,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s director of astrophysics. “Kepler data shows us that pretty much every star has planets around it, and one-fifth of those stars has a rocky planet — like Earth — in its habitable zone (a range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the planet’s surface).” Kepler regularly discovers new planets. Two of its most notable discoveries are the

exoplanets Kepler-186f — an Earth-size body in the habitable zone of a star that’s smaller than the sun — and Kepler-452b, which is in the habitable zone of a star similar to the sun, Grunsfeld said. “What it means to me is that there are other Earth-like planets in the habitable zone and we haven’t seen them yet,” Grunsfeld said. “My guess is that we’ll learn about them in the next year or so.” In the meantime, these discoveries are helping NASA design its next set of missions. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the James Webb Space Telescope (JSWT) will go into orbit in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Grunsfeld said the telescope’s infrared technology could help scientists study the exoplanets in detail like never before, allowing them to find signs of life through “biosignature gases” such as oxygen, carbon dioxide or sulfur dioxide. NASA also announced this spring the formation of a coalition of experts to look for life on planets beyond our solar system. Nexus for Exoplanet System Science CO N T I N U E D

Kepler-452b Kepler-186f — the first validated Earthsize planet orbiting a distant star in the habitable zone — is in the Kepler-186 star system, about 500 light-years from Earth. Kepler-452b, dubbed “an older, bigger cousin to Earth,” takes 385 days to orbit the star Kepler-452, which is 1,400 lightyears from Earth.





EXOPLANETS An artist’s rendering, courtesy of NASA, shows the relative sizes of some exoplanets discovered by Kepler that are in a habitable zone.

Kepler-22b Discovered in 2011 with a temperature similar to Earth’s.

Kepler-69c A year on Kepler-69c takes about 242 Earth-days to complete.


The centuries-old quest to find Earth-like planets orbiting other stars spurred NASA to launch the Kepler spacecraft on March 7, 2009. At left, scientists lower the photometer onto Kepler in a clean room at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo. At right is an artist’s rendering of Kepler in space. The spacecraft, named after the German Renaissance astronomer Johannes Kepler, was designed to look for planets crossing in front of their host stars. To date, Kepler has found 1,030 confirmed exoplanets. Kepler-452b Larger than Earth, the gravity on Kepler-452b is also stronger.

Kepler-62f Researchers think Kepler-62f is likely engulfed in water.

Kepler-186f Research suggests that Kepler186f’s terrain is likely to be rocky.

Earth No exoplanet comes close to matching Earth’s environment.

(NExSS) connects scientists in several key disciplines, including earth and planetary sciences and astrophysics. “We knew that the science being used to figure out some of these questions would require a broad community of people,” said Shawn Domagal-Goldman, a research scientist in the Sciences and Exploration Directorate at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and member of two NExSS teams. “We just needed a new network to make that happen.” The network unites at least 15 teams of scientists and offers research grants. More importantly, it gets those teams to share their perspectives in virtual meetings, workshops and white papers so that the overall science becomes stronger, Domagal-Goldman said. “For me personally, my goal for the rest of my career is to work on this question of how many planets are out there that could harbor life and how many have signs of life,” Domagal-Goldman said. “To get there, you have to ask questions like, what are the properties of the star? Are there other planets in the system? What is the composition of the star and does that influence the composition of the planet? And so on. … It gets so complicated so quickly with just a simple question. That’s why

developing powerful we want to bring these telescopes that will be people to the table.” “My goal for the able to examine planets One of the scientists is in finer detail. Penelope Boston, director rest of my career “Right now, we of cave and karst studies is to work on this can’t take pictures of at the New Mexico elephants grazing on the Institute of Mining and question of how plains on planets of other Technology. Boston, many planets are stars,” Hertz said. “Our who crawls down into best technique is to look hot tropical caves to out there that for gases in the atmosearch for microbial life, could harbor life sphere that wouldn’t believes that if we can exist if there were no life. find life in dangerous and how many If we were to see those caves on our own planet, have signs of life.” kinds of gases, we could we can probably use ask ourselves whether the same techniques — Shawn Domagal-Goldman, they were caused by life to discover life in other research scientist at NASA’s or something else.” planetary caves. Goddard Space Flight Center Hertz is excited about Astrobiologist Victoria the future. “Life appears Meadows, a University of to have arisen quickly Washington astronomy and robustly on Earth and it seems unlikely professor, is building computer models of that it was an accident or one-of-a-kind the stars Kepler is monitoring so she can event,” Hertz said. “If the same conditions develop a catalog of planets that could exist we have here on Earth exist on (these around those stars. exoplanets) … it’s time for us to go out and Other scientists are using computer simufind data to see if this hunch is actually lations to create models of how planetary correct. It’s exciting that we’re living in systems form so that they can determine a time when we can turn our telescopes how these worlds would have to evolve and apply our science to that question and to sustain life. They are also exploring the maybe get an answer.” Earth’s frozen lakes for signs of life and





Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon.




AHOY, PLUTO! Nearly 10 years after being sent to the distant dwarf planet, New Horizons sends awe-inspiring photos and compelling data to Earth

By Adam Hadhazy


S APPLAUSE LINES GO, “We are in lock with telemetry with the spacecraft” sounds like a dud. But these words brought the house down July 14 at the packed mission control room for the New Horizons spacecraft at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. The announcement by operations manager Alice Bowman confirmed the receipt on Earth of a signal sent from 3 billion miles away by New Horizons. The signal, which arrived on schedule at 8:52 p.m. ET, bore news of the probe’s successful flyby of Pluto, marking humanity’s first-ever visit to the distant world. Researchers who had sat discreetly behind their

computer screens erupted into cheers and whoops. “We knew we were doing something larger than life and something that no one else in the world was getting to do,” said Alan Stern, the principal investigator for New Horizons and a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio. “The people on the team were just tickled to death.”


Ever since its discovery in 1930 by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, whose ashes were among nine mementos carried on New Horizons, Pluto has charmed scientists and the public alike. The mysterious world was long considered the CO N T I N U E D




Annette Tombaugh Sitze, daughter of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh, watches as images of Pluto taken by New Horizons are shown during a NASA news conference July 15, in Laurel, Md. The Pluto mission completes the reconnaissance of the solar system and makes the United States the first nation to send a space probe to every planet from Mercury to Pluto.

After the long wait, New Horizons finally swooped about 7,800 miles above Pluto’s surface, snapping pictures and obtaining gobs of data.

ninth planet in our solar system, and usually the most distant, although its oval orbit temporarily sweeps it inside of Neptune’s orbit for 20 years out of every 248. Adding to Pluto’s mystique, in August 2006, the International Astronomical Union, astronomy’s governing body, controversially demoted it to “dwarf planet” status, following the discovery of similarly sized objects out in Pluto’s distant neck of the woods.

For all the interest Pluto has generated, though, no one has ever seen it up close. The best images of it, obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope, had revealed little more than a blurry disk of brownish colors. Hoping to vastly improve on the imagery and information, NASA launched the New Horizons spacecraft in January 2006. Its outbound journey to Pluto took a patiencetesting nine-and-a-half years. A computer glitch just 10 days prior

to New Horizons’ closest Pluto encounter fried some nerves, but engineers quickly solved the issue — an overloaded computer processor.


After the long wait, New Horizons finally swooped about 7,800 miles above Pluto’s surface, snapping pictures and obtaining gobs of data earlier this year. The true visage of the far-off realm was finally unveiled.




July 14 was a time for New Horizons mission team members to celebrate at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., as the New Horizons space probe’s flyby of Pluto was confirmed. The history-making event secured America’s place as the first country to explore the dwarf planet.

Against expectation, Pluto has turned out to be a geologically lively body, with mountain peaks 11,000 feet high and wrinkled plains of methane and nitrogen ice creeping along like glaciers on Earth. Craters from meteorite impacts — a ubiquitous feature on geologically “dead” bodies, like Earth’s moon — are largely absent in certain regions. This is a sign that those parts of Pluto could be relatively young, about 100 million years old. “Pluto could have ended up as a cratered ball,” said William McKinnon, a co-investigator on New Horizons and a professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. “But it has turned out to be this wildly interesting and fascinating place.” New Horizons took a backward glance at Pluto after its flyby, capturing the dwarf planet’s thin, tenuous, hazy atmosphere illuminated and extended 1,000

miles above the surface. “One thing that really took my breath away was the departure image, when we were looking back at Pluto,” said Cathy Olkin, a deputy project scientist on New Horizons and a planetary scientist at SwRI. “You can see how high up the haze goes, and it’s really quite amazing.” New Horizons also photographed Pluto’s several moons, including Charon, which is so large compared with Pluto that some astronomers have dubbed them a “double planet.” Charon is distinct from Pluto, with vast, chasm-like features and a dark patch at its north pole. “From the geology and the atmosphere to the satellite system, everything at Pluto is mind-blowingly complicated,” said Stern. “I don’t know a person on the New Horizons team who isn’t gobsmacked. “It will be a great story to unravel, the history and formation of the Pluto system,” he added.

“I don’t know a person on the New Horizons team who isn’t gobsmacked.” — Alan Stern, principal investigator for New Horizons and a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute


Scientific interest in Pluto and its companions goes well beyond their individual personalities. Although smaller than our moon, Pluto reigns as the largest-known object in a region of the solar system known as the Kuiper Belt. This mammoth band beyond Neptune’s orbit is populated by hundreds of thousands of small, icy and rocky bodies so dim and distant their collective existence was not evident until as recently as 1992.

Astronomers believe the Kuiper Belt contains key clues to the formation and evolution of all of our solar system’s worlds. For starters, many Kuiper Belt objects are believed to be pristine examples of the available materials when the solar system took form, as well as the processes these materials underwent as they aggregated into solid chunks. Furthermore, newer models of the genesis of the solar system, which have had to take the presence of the Kuiper Belt into account, have upended CO N T I N U E D






A recently discovered mountain range lies between bright, icy plains and dark, heavily cratered terrain on Pluto. The image was taken by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14, from a distance of 48,000 miles and sent back to Earth on July 20.

any staid notions of planets placidly forming where we see them today. Instead, the dynamic, gravitational interplay of the objects in our solar system suggest the planets originated closer to the sun, after which they migrated to their current locations. “Pluto was the first body that gave people a clue that the solar system evolved in a very particular way,” said McKinnon. “It used to be a lot more compact … but then the whole solar system went unstable and expanded out like an accordion.” Understanding how Pluto and its moons’ current features arose, in tandem with the continued

study of other worlds, will help astronomers dig back through cosmic time to the solar system’s dawn. “The history of Pluto is written in its geology,” said McKinnon.


As exciting as the early results from New Horizons have been, they are only “the tip of the iceberg,” said Stern. At the start of this month, 95 percent of the data New Horizons collected still remained on board in its memory, awaiting download to Earth. “And it’s not just run-of-themill stuff,” Stern said. “It’s all of the most important datasets,”

including the highest-resolution images and most-detailed measurements of surface and atmospheric composition. New Horizons soaked up so much data during its Pluto run that it will take until late 2016 to transmit it all to Earth. Major new discoveries are likely in store on Pluto, Stern said — a tantalizing thought for both researchers and the general public. “I’ve been really gratified by the level of interest in New Horizons,” said Stern. “People really like exploration.” With Pluto, Stern added: “I feel like the solar system has saved the best for last.”

As of late September, New Horizons has very much left Pluto in its wake, some 60 million miles behind. The spacecraft still has enough power to operate for years. What will it do next? NASA is still choosing which object in the Kuiper Belt that New Horizons can cruise by in 2019. The spacecraft will execute thruster burns this year to set itself on course for the body, called 2014 MU69. This extended mission technically needs NASA to approve a formal funding request submitted by the New Horizons team, and the possibility is being reviewed. 2014 MU69 is nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto and, at a shade under 30 miles across, is around 1 percent of the dwarf planet’s size. Yet 2014 MU69 is approximately 10 times bigger than the comets that also share residence in the Kuiper Belt, making its anticipated study helpful for connecting the dots about how these differently sized objects formed. Scientists are very eager to keep exploring with New Horizons, given the rare opportunity to get out so far from Earth. William McKinnon, the co-investigator on New Horizons and Washington University in St. Louis professor, said, “We’re truly off in deep space, in the solar system’s attic.”



Courtesy NASA

Southwest Research Institute® congratulates our Magnetospheric Multiscale team members.

Turning our gaze from Pluto back toward Earth – and the view is just as magnetic.





Here are some of the most iconic — and most beautiful — of Hubble’s images. 1 | The well-known and massive Cone Nebula (NGC 2264), rising like a creature out of the sea, is comprised of cold gas and dust 2,500 light-years away in the constellation Monoceros. 2 | Three columns of cold gas make up the iconic Pillars of Creation, which are bathed in ultraviolet light from young, massive stars in the Eagle Nebula (M16). 3 | A Hubble color mosaic provides a detailed look at the Orion Nebula (M42) star-forming region, which is 1,500 light-years away. 4 | A young star cluster in the giant nebula NGC 3603 is surrounded by dust and gas in the Milky Way Galaxy, about 20,000 light-years away. 5 | In a composite image, Hubble captures hundreds of thousands of stars in the globular cluster M13, which is 25,000 light-years away. 6 | An aurora tops Jupiter’s north pole. Also visible are magnetic “footprints” of three of Jupiter’s largest moons. 7 | The famous Horsehead Nebula is actually a column of hydrogen gas laced with dust within the constellation Orion.

The Wonders of the Universe ... Brought to you by Hubble


OR 25 YEARS, NASA’S Hubble Space Telescope has been offering us breathtaking glimpses into the majesty of the universe. Launched on April 24, 1990, Hubble was expected to end its mission in 2005, but, 10 years later, it continues to

capture images from the far reaches of the cosmos. Circling the Earth every 97 minutes, the space-based telescope has made significant contributions to our understanding of space, from the age of the universe and evolution of galaxies to the birth of planets and the existence of black holes.

8 | Hubble takes a look inside a “celestial geode” — a gas cavity carved by wind and ultraviolet radiation from a hot young star in the nebula N44F, which is 160,000 light-years away.

Hubble’s cameras and sensors see visible, nearinfrared and ultraviolet light.













International Space Station Expedition 42 Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore shows off a ratchet wrench made with a 3-D printer aboard the vessel.

LIFE IN THE LAB Tight quarters, zero gravity and insomnia are all part of a typical day aboard the International Space Station

By Mary Helen Berg


STRONAUTS ABOARD THE INTERNATIONAL Space Station (ISS) live a life experienced by only 218 people in the world. Though part of their daily routine is familiar to all of us, even mundane tasks become extraordinary when your home is a high-tech microgravity lab hurtling through space at 5 miles per second, 250 miles above your home planet.


For instance, imagine trying to do your “business” in zero gravity and floating

away from the throne. Or worse. “You do occasionally get what we call a ‘brown trout,’ where the ‘fish’ get away and you have to corral them with a wet wipe and put them back where they need to go,” revealed Barry “Butch” Wilmore, who served as ISS commander from November 2014 to March 2015. The ISS toilet is much like a standard commode with a lid and seat, but since there’s no gravity, crewmembers use various restraints and handles to keep themselves in the correct position. Astronauts use a “waste collection







NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, right, didn’t let being on the International Space Station, top right, stop her from running the Boston Marathon in 2007. Astronaut Kjell Lindgren corrals fruit on the ISS that arrived in late August from a visiting cargo ship.

Without gravity to provide resistance, astronauts risk losing endurance, strength, power, coordination, balance and agility.

system,” which includes a hose device to vacuum urine away from the body and keep solid waste in place as it is deposited into an individual plastic bag in the toilet can. Liquid waste is filtered, purified and recycled for use as drinking water.


Sit-down dinners are for earthlings. Meals on the ISS look more like space take-out, and dining is designed so feasts don’t float away. Astronauts gather for meals but usually hover near each other and dip long-handled spoons into individually portioned pouches of pre-made food, Wilmore said. “Cooking” consists of heating food packets in a briefcase-like apparatus fitted with a hot plate and springs to hold the package in place. The station also stocks dehydrated meals that are lighter to ship and stay preserved longer than militarystyle Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s). Salt and pepper in liquid form help spice things up. “You can eat anything with the right condiments,” said Wilmore, a fan of ISS meatloaf and chicken with peanut sauce. An astronauts’ diet must prevent weight loss, which can damage bones and muscles and cause cardiovascular stress and other health complications, explained Scott Smith, lead scientist in the Nutritional Biochemistry Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Crewmembers also take vitamin D supplements to offset months without sunlight and drink plenty of water to


compensate for the station’s dry environment, Smith said. Since 2009, the ISS has processed condensation from the station’s air and recycled astronauts’ urine to provide drinking water. “It is the best water I have ever tasted,” Wilmore claimed. “It’s fantastic.”


Astronauts on the ISS barely break a sweat performing triple flips mid air, but the weightless environment requires strenuous daily workouts to stay strong. Without gravity to provide resistance, astronauts risk losing endurance, strength, power, coordination, balance and agility. Weakness and bone loss are “equivalent to being in bed for six months,” said Mark Guilliams, a NASA strength, conditioning and rehabilitation specialist. Astronauts lose 1 percent to 2 percent of their bone mass during flight and can

lose more than 10 percent of muscle strength during a six-month space station expedition. To counteract these side effects, crewmembers follow strength training and cardiovascular protocols two hours a day, six days a week. Their “gym” consists of three machines scattered amid the station’s scientific experiments: a treadmill fitted with a harness and bungee cords to keep the user in place; a stationary bicycle that can be ridden without a seat or handlebars; and a type of weight resistance machine called the aRED, or advanced Resistive Exercise Device. Astronaut Sunita Williams shook up her workout by running the Boston Marathon on the ISS treadmill in 2007 (unofficial time: 4:24) and completing the first space triathlon in 2012 (unofficial time: 1:48:33), using all three exercise devices to simulate the race.


“I could actually go on Amazon.com and say, ‘Hey, buy that for my wife for her birthday,” said astronaut Butch Wilmore. But, he added, as for many of us, sometimes the connection is a little slow. THINKSTOCK



NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, left, and Scott Kelly take their first bites in August of red romaine lettuce that was grown on the ISS. A critical step on the path to Mars, the lettuce, above, was grown using red, green and blue LED lights. Astronauts will eat half of the bounty they grow and the rest will return to Earth to be tested.



No rain, no sun, no soil. Space station farming sounds daunting for even those with the greenest of thumbs. But if humans want to survive independently on Mars, they will need to grow their own food, and for 30 years, NASA has experimented with gardening techniques. In August, U.S. astronauts on the ISS harvested and ate the first NASA space crop — red romaine lettuce. “Kind of like arugula,” declared astronaut Scott Kelly during a video of the Veg-01 experiment harvest. If not exactly a bumper crop, it was crunchy, fresh and a move toward selfsustaining space travel. “This is a first step of what we call a bio-regenerative life support system, which is using biology to support the crew,” said Gioia Massa, a project scientist at the Kennedy Space Center. Six plant “pillows” (small cloth bags containing seeds), two types of clay “soil” and fertilizer pellets were placed in a clear accordion-style growth chamber about the size of a personal filing cabinet, said Trent Smith, a Veg-01 project manager. Astronauts watered the plants with a dropper,

and the pillows wicked additional water from a tray reservoir within the chamber. The collapsible compartment uses only 70 watts to power LED lights, a fan and electronic controls.


Researchers selected red romaine as a space crop because it is packed with nutrition, particularly antioxidants, which are thought to offer radiation protection. It can be grown quickly and in a compact area, and it has a pleasing (to some!) taste and texture. NASA


Sweet dreams can be elusive, especially when your head floats above your pillow and the sun rises every 45 minutes. Astronauts often suffer insomnia as they adjust to strange light cycles, body fluid shifts and zero gravity, said Dr. Smith Johnston, who leads NASA’s fatigue management program at the Johnson Space Center. Wilmore, a self-described “side sleeper,” experienced a restless first night on his shuttle flight to the ISS. “But the second night, I squeezed myself into some bags that we were transporting to the space station that were strapped into the ceiling on the mid deck,” he said. “I slept like a baby.” ISS astronauts sleep in small pods about the size of a phone booth that contain a sleeping bag and personal belongings. At bedtime, they crawl into their bag and float with their hands and head bobbing. Sleep deprivation is a serious health concern. ISS astronauts average only about six hours of sleep — even fewer during busy periods, such as when the shuttle docks, Johnston said. People who are overtired are more likely to make errors. A government report on

the 1986 space shuttle Challenger accident determined that sleep loss by engineers on the ground played a role in the explosion that killed seven astronauts. Next year, NASA plans to replace the station’s fluorescent lights with LEDs programmed to produce light that will help the astronauts’ bodies differentiate day from night.


What do astronauts think about when so far from home? The same kinds of things we do: their spouses and family, work and relationships, frustrations and accomplishments. During the past 12 years, 22 astronauts have kept anonymous diaries as part of a NASA study on the more personal side of long space expeditions, said Brandon Vessey, a NASA psychologist. The journals give NASA an organic way to collect data on personal responses to the space missions without asking astronauts to fill out boring questionnaires. For the crew, space logs seem to serve a purpose similar to diaries kept on Earth. “Writing in this journal helps to let off steam!” wrote one astronaut.



Astronaut Scott Kelly sits inside a Russian Soyuz simulator March 5, 2015 ahead of his flight to the International Space Station.

MISSION TO MARS? NASA studies the effects of long-duration space travel on the human body

By Erik Schechter


O FAR, IT’S BEEN a long battery of tests — ultrasounds, cognitive experiments and assorted, ahem, sample collections — for Mark Kelly, a former NASA shuttle commander and husband of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. “A team of people recently came out to Tucson to gather some ‘data,’ which consisted of about 30 tubes of blood and other bodily fluids. I tweeted a picture of it,” Kelly said. At the same time, his identical twin brother, Scott, an astronaut currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS), has been undergoing similar tests, but in zero gravity. “The urine collection experience can be quite complex and takes some practice to get right,” Scott Kelly

explained by email from the ISS. “We put those and other samples in a -98 degree (Celsius) freezer for return to Earth at a later time.” Some of these samples will come back on a SpaceX cargo craft. Others will arrive on Earth via a Russian Soyuz capsule. In the meantime, Scott and Mark have more tests to take.


NASA’s Human Research Program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston officially began its 10-part study of the Kelly twins on March 27 when Scott was launched into space aboard a Soyuz. The aim of the Twins Study, which includes teams from more than a dozen universities, labs, hospitals companies, institutions and agencies, is to better understand the health risks of an extended

stay in space in order to prepare for a Mars mission. Scott is expected be on the ISS for 342 days. That’s not a perfect analogue to a Mars mission, which would be a 12-month round trip plus the extra months spent on the surface of the planet, but it’s longer than any other NASA test subject has been in space. And on Earth, Mark makes the perfect control subject, providing a point of comparison to whatever physical effects Scott experiences.


One of the 10 studies addresses nutrition, which can make or break a mission. “Scurvy killed more sailors (in the days of the explorers) than all other causes combined,” said Scott Smith, lead scientist




at the Johnson Space Center’s Nutritional Biochemistry Lab. In addition, Smith’s team will review before-and-after X-rays of the twins and look for specific bone markers in Scott’s blood and urine to understand what happens to the human skeleton in space. Bone breakdown in zero-gravity has been documented in the past, but no one knows when the deterioration levels off. “This is our first step beyond six-month flights,” Smith emphasized. Fragile bones can lead to broken bones, which can compromise a mission. Calcium released from bones can also lead to painful kidney stones, and if that happens in space, “you better pray really hard that it is small and it passes quickly,” Smith said.


NASA has long recognized that space travel affects vision. “Astronauts would carry a couple of extra pairs of glasses with them to adjust their vision as needed,” noted Michael Stenger, a Wyle Science, Technology and Engineering Group researcher who is a principal investigator on NASA’s Fluid Shifts investigation. But, he added, after short shuttle missions, those problems typically resolve themselves. Then came the six-month missions aboard ISS. Some of the astronauts on those crews found their vision didn’t return to normal back on Earth. Instead, their eyes deformed, and the optic nerve was distended and swollen, leading to poorer vision and even “cotton wool spots” — fluffy white lesions on the retina that typically fade with time on Earth. The question becomes: What would happen on an extended mission to Mars? “When you get to three years (living) in space, we don’t know how bad this can get,” said Stuart Lee, lead scientist at NASA’s Cardiovascular Laboratory and also a Wyle researcher.


Another concern being addressed in the Twins Study is the possibility of accelerated aging, cardiovascular disease and cancer due to chromosomal damage. Susan Bailey, an associate professor of environmental and radiology health sciences at Colorado State University, leads the team that studies what happens to an astronaut’s telomeres (the long protective caps on the ends of chromosomes) and telomerase (the enzyme that maintains telomere length) after being exposed to the stresses of an extended stay in space. Telomeres are measured by taking cells from room-temperature blood samples and placing them under a microscope. A fluorescent probe is then put on the cell, lighting up the telomeres. “The brighter the fluorescent signal, the longer the telomere,” Bailey said. One of the stresses likely to affect

Because astronaut Scott Kelly, right, and his identical twin brother, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, have virtually the same genetic material, NASA can study how long-duration spaceflight affects the body and mind, using Mark as the control subject. telomeres is radiation, said Eddie Semones, a radiation health officer at Johnson Space Center. Though none of the Twins Study experiments control specifically for radiation, the broader space community does recognize it as a major threat.


If hurdling through space isn’t frightening enough, astronauts on a three-year mission to Mars will also have to contend with radiation from solar-particle events and galactic cosmic rays. Solar-particle events are streams of protons ejected from the sun. They tend to be low-energy affairs, so layers of polymer material, water or aluminum on a spacecraft should shield the crew, said Semones. However, galactic cosmic rays — streams of ionized particles of helium, nickel, iron and other materials traveling at high speeds from outside our solar system — can pack a wallop. “They penetrate shielding and deposit a lot of energy in the human body,” said Charles Limoli, a professor of radiation oncology at the University of CaliforniaIrvine and co-author of a recent paper on the effects of galactic cosmic rays on the brain. “They break up covalent bonds (between atoms) in the body, and they cause molecular damage,” he said. Here on Earth, we’re surrounded by a geomagnetic field that protects people on the surface — and, to a large extent, astronauts aboard the ISS — from galactic cosmic rays. But Mars has a weak geomagnetic field, and the risk gets even higher in space where there’s no natural shielding at all. One possible effect of this bombardment is an increased risk of cancer rates, said Semones. According to the National Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements, a 3 percent chance of a fatal cancer is the

highest acceptable risk for NASA. However, in deep space, that risk starts “approaching 10 percent,” he explained. Another threat is damage to the cognitive nervous system, said Limoli. His research, funded by NASA’s Human Research Program at the Johnson Space Center, studies the molecular changes in the prefrontal cortex of rat brains that have been exposed to ion levels found in galactic cosmic rays. “The doses we used were about equivalent to a month of travel in space,” Limoli said. The results, published in May, weren’t pretty. The branching dendrites (the parts of the neuron that receive and send signals) in rodent cells looked like they had been pruned, and dendrite spines, which are associated with learning and memory, saw a “marked reduction in density,” he said. The damage is similar to that seen in Alzheimer’s patients. “Will astronauts develop this level of dementia?’ asked Limoli. “That’s the million-dollar question.” He’s now looking


at possible pharmaceutical measures that can counter brain damage. A third effect of the galactic cosmic rays is the increased risk of cataracts and circulatory diseases, said Francis Cucinotta, a professor of health physics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a collaborator with Limoli. “We saw (cataracts) after Apollo (and) the space shuttle.” Basically, the galactic cosmic radiation particles damage the epithelial cells in the lens of the eye, causing them to cloud over. It’s impractical to mitigate this risk by increasing the passive shielding on a spacecraft, said Semones, because it would require “several hundred centimeters of material,” making the vehicle too massive to launch. So risks will just have to be minimized by flying faster and taking off when the Earth is closest to Mars. Ultimately, though, what’s deemed an “acceptable risk” depends on the value of the mission, Cucinotta said. And regarding Mars, there are those, he said, who argue we should, “like Christopher Columbus, just accept any risk.”

PRIVACY AND RESULTS Scott Kelly is scheduled to return to Earth in early March 2016. But “the real interesting thing is going to be when these researchers in these universities release their results,” he said. How long that takes, though, depends on each research group’s deadline and experiment parameters. Then, even when everything is completed, there is the issue of disclosure. The brothers, Mark said, “will be able to find out whatever we want.” But there’s a question as to how much of their genomic sequence data, if any, will be released to the general public, especially since both men have children. (Scott Kelly, who is divorced, has daughters aged 20 and 11; Mark’s daughters from a previous marriage are both teenagers.) Sensitive personal and medical information will not be shared with the general public unless the twins agree to it first, and researchers will do their best to scrub that data when releasing the results of their studies.





NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman spent nearly six months aboard the International Space Station last year, which is more of the norm today.



NASA keeps up with the changing times by constantly tweaking its vision of the ideal space explorer By Rachel Nuwer


ASA’S REQUIREMENTS FOR ITS astronauts have evolved over the years, adapting to ever-changing missions, agency goals and culture. In fact, the agency evaluates what it is looking for in an ideal candidate each time it prepares to choose its next class of space explorers. “We just selected a new astronaut class in 2013 and will probably do the next one in 2017,” said Chris Cassidy, an astronaut

and former Navy SEAL who currently serves as chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA. “It’s about this time relative to the selection period that we start to ask ourselves, ‘Do we want to do anything different than last time to ensure we get the right people with the right skills? And do we need to adjust our tests or questions to hone in on what we’re looking for?’” Physically, astronauts still need to be strong enough to lift themselves out of a capsule while wearing a full space suit, in case of an emergency. As for height,

applicants currently cannot be shorter than 5 foot 2 inches or taller than 6 foot 3 inches, although these parameters could change as missions evolve. And while NASA has in the past excluded candidates who have undergone corrective eye surgery, now the agency allows anyone whose vision is correctable to 20/20 to apply. When it comes to experience and talents, the rules have changed. Astronauts no longer have to be military test pilots, CO N T I N U E D





NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy looks at Earth some 250 miles below him while sitting inside the Cupola, an observatory module of the International Space Station. The Expedition 36 flight engineer served aboard the outpost in 2013. NASA

In 2013, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) released a cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, filmed aboard the International Space Station. Hadfield’s YouTube music video has since racked up more than 26 million views, and other, more educational videos he shot, such as Proof That You Can’t Cry In Space and Chris Hadfield Brushes his Teeth in Space, have garnered over a million views each. Arguably social media’s biggest astronaut star, Hadfield is by no means the only one taking advantage of the power of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others to share experiences in space. Today, about 50 current and former NASA astronauts use social media. “It’s a paradigm shift from a few years ago, when the only people with access to space were mission control and maybe a news agency,” said John Yembrick, NASA’s social media manager. “Now, anyone from the world can ask a question to an astronaut and have an answer — it’s profound.” And astronaut Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) recently held the first live-tweet conversation from space. He also wishes the planet goodnight from space on a nightly basis. Astronaut Reid Wiseman (@astro_reid) was the first to publish short videos via the social platform Vine, and he also discovered the power of social media to crowdsource knowledge during his time in space. Last year, Wiseman posted a photo of an atoll on Twitter and asked if anyone knew more about it. Ten minutes later, a user replied, saying he was born there. The atoll, the user said, was Huvadhu, located in the Maldives, and Wiseman was welcome to visit any time. “What I love about social media is that you can reach beyond borders, to people all around the world,” Wiseman said. “That’s one of our job duties as astronauts, even if it’s not officially listed: education, outreach and inspiration.” - Rachel Nuwer



Reid Wiseman ventures outside the International Space Station for a six-hour and 13-minute spacewalk on Oct. 7, 2014, to make repairs and install a backup power supply system.


as they were in the early days of space flight. Instead, NASA recruits doctors, teachers, scientists, engineers and even a veterinarian. So long as an applicant holds a bachelor’s degree in a technical major, such as math, physics, chemistry, science or engineering, he or she may try out. “Being an astronaut is no longer pigeonholed to just military test pilots,” Cassidy said. “It now extends to a broader spectrum of America.” But because going into space is an operational mission, applicants without a military background still need to demonstrate that they are skilled with their hands and mechanically inclined. This includes being able to fix broken instruments while simultaneously communicating to ground control, all while maintaining an awareness of the overall situation and keeping stress to a minimum. This skill is difficult to measure, but NASA gets a feel for an applicant’s capacity to multi-task under pressure through computer-based tests. Using the program, applicants attempt increasingly complex and multifaceted tasks, until they finally fail. With applicants, NASA also looks for evidence that the candidate can operate outside of an office or laboratory environment. This requirement may be satisfied

by a variety of activities, such as securing a private pilot license or spending vacations hiking in the wilderness. One requirement becoming increasingly vital as NASA contemplates long-term missions beyond low-Earth orbit and even to Mars is an easygoing personality. “We want smart, talented people, but there’s a billion of those out there in the world,” Cassidy said. “The bottom line is that we need nice people that you don’t mind living in a very small, confined area and sharing a toilet with for months at a time.” Sifting out these candidates can be a challenge. Like a person trying to impress on a first date, astronaut hopefuls who come to Houston for interviews are typically on their best behavior. So to better understand the applicant’s true nature, NASA administers a battery of standard personality tests. Evaluators also call references to see what they think of an applicant, and watch as candidates interact with each other and with the selection panel. But short of spending a month in a cramped room with each applicant, there is no surefire way to discern whether a candidate is the type of person who will remain pleasant and convivial under the circumstances of space. “At the end of the day,” Cassidy said, “it really comes down

“We want smart, talented people, but there’s a billion of those out there in the world. The bottom line is that we need nice people that you don’t mind living in a very small, confined area and sharing a toilet with for months at a time.” — Chris Cassidy, Chief, NASA Astronaut Office

to a gut feeling by the folks doing the picking.” Today, as astronauts spend more and more time in space, a good personality ranks higher on the requirement list than it did in the past. While shuttle missions used to be capped at around two weeks,

astronauts now spend six months or more at the International Space Station. And NASA is planning for missions that will likely be longer than a year, Cassidy said. “So those personality qualities are more important than ever,” he added. Given that most astronauts serve 10 to 12 years, some of those serving today, as well as those selected as members of the next astronaut class, will be filling longdistance duties on the Orion spacecraft when it launches into deep space. As a mission to Mars comes closer to reality, NASA must decide whether it needs to put more weight on certain physical characteristics, such as how many calories a person burns in a day, and personality traits such as how a person feels about spending a year and a half away from Earth. NASA will also rely on a heavy dose of self-selection for new classes of astronauts. “In the application process, we’ll be emphasizing that, ‘Hey, what you’re signing up for is to ride in a really small rocket for a really long time,’” Cassidy said. “We’ll ask them, ‘Be honest with yourself: Is that something you can do?’” Those who answer yes could be the first to embark on humanity’s grandest adventure yet.

Not everything is staying put. The orange spots on the spacesuit’s left pant pocket are actually stains that will be removed, carefully.


Decades later, embedded lunar dust is still visible. These historical hangers-on will be documented and stabilized.


The boots that Armstrong used to walk on the moon (the ones with the thick, blue-silicon bottoms) were actually pulled over top of regular astronaut boots and then left on the moon. NASA, concerned about weight for the flight home, told the Apollo 11 crew to leave non-essentials behind — boots included. Armstong’s aren’t the only pair up there. Every astronaut but one who’s walked on the moon has left boots behind.


When the spacesuit is ready, it will be permanently displayed with other historic artifacts in the Air and Space’s “Destination Moon” gallery, which will open in 2020. But first the team needs to find or create a display case that mimics the storage environment at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Va., where the suit is stored. Because the suit off-gases chemicals, the case must keep out moisture, hydrochloric acid and chlorides and be kept at 60 to 65 degrees with a low relative humidity.


The spacesuit’s outer layer is a very durable fiberglass fabric, called Beta cloth, that has threads dipped in Teflon. One of Armstrong’s boots has a small tear in the outer Beta cloth layer, revealing a gold-colored insulating layer called Kapton. Researchers don’t know why this hole wasn’t repaired when Armstrong returned to Earth (the suit was sent to what is now Johnson Space Center for documentation and repairs then), but they plan to investigate.

The Kickstarter funds will also help create a 3-D digitization of the suit and an online interactive (hosted at 3d.si.edu) so it can be viewed from around the world.




Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit, shown here, gives off a very distinct smell — not unlike old tennis shoes that were forgotten in the back of your closet, Young said. “We call it the spacesuit smell.”




Armstrong’s rubber gloves – and those of many astronauts of his time – were custom made using plaster casts. Today, astronauts’ hands are measured and compared with a library of about 200 sizes to find the perfect fit. They are also made of urethane, which doesn’t degrade like rubber does.


You can’t see it here, but a very cool zipper runs down the back of the suit and around to the crotch. Patented by B.F. Goodrich, the zipper is actually two brass zippers with a rubber gasket in between. When the zipper is closed and the suit is pressurized, the rubber gasket forms an airtight seal. An enclosure folds over and completes the seal. Spacesuit designers stopped using zippers after Apollo, except in the orange “pumpkin suits” astronauts still wear.


Light-sensitive colors, such as the red and blue on the flag patch over the shoulder, have faded and the silk fibers are now brittle and thin. Experts will stabilize the material to stop the fading.


Armstrong’s helmet contains a goldcoated visor that could be pulled down over the clear, polycarbonate bubble. Unfortunately, the gold is flaking off. Researchers hope to learn how it was applied to prevent additional flaking.


HE APOLLO 11 MOON landing was one of the greatest achievements of humankind. When astronaut Neil Armstrong took those famous first steps in 1969, the entire world watched. And while memories of that event are vivid, the spacesuit he wore that day is, unfortunately, not. Because of deterioration, the suit was removed from public display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in 2006, but thanks to a partnership with Kickstarter, the museum raised $719,779 to study, conserve, digitize and prepare it for display once again. A highly skilled team that includes Air and Space’s objects conservator Lisa Young and Cathy Lewis, curator of international space programs and spacesuits, will spend the next four years learning more about the components listed below.


By Sara Schwartz

Through Kickstarter, fans helped save Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit





As a lead quality engineer at NASA, Tiffaney Miller Alexander has supported multiple shuttle launches.

Women have long been an integral part of NASA’s history and heritage. Meet four who are helping to propel the agency into the future. By Stephanie Anderson Witmer


POSITION: Lead quality engineer LOCATION: Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Cape Canaveral, Fla. EDUCATION: B.S., electrical engineering; M.S., industrial engineering; Ph.D. candidate, industrial engineering, all from University of Central Florida Has worked at KSC since 1999 and NASA since 2007 For as long as she can remember, Tiffaney Miller Alexander has been fascinated by electricity and figuring out how things work. Growing up in Florida, she often took apart electronic devices and put them back together. “I loved music, and I would just look at the radio and want to know how it was working,” she said. “I wasn’t satisfied with just seeing the surface.” By age 11, that natural curiosity turned into a fully realized career path when a family friend explained to her what engineers did for a living. The woman told her engineers not only built and repaired things but also designed them. “I said, ‘Oh, that’s what I want to do then. I want to be an engineer,’” Alexander said. She began her career at Kennedy Space Center in 1999 working as a payload electrical systems engineer for Boeing. For eight years, she tested International Space Station (ISS) payloads by using various ground support equipment to ensure electrical power remained stable throughout all integrated and standalone payload systems. During her time with the company, she

was nominated for the Boeing Florida Space Coast Operations Engineer of the Year award — the youngest and first female engineer to be a top-10 finalist. In 2007, she was hired by NASA as a quality engineer for the space shuttle program. Three years later, she served in a safety mission assurance management position for the shuttle’s final mission, STS-135, where she led the safety director’s effort to ensure the resolution of all critical safety and quality issues affecting the space shuttle vehicle prior to flight. When the shuttle program ended, Alexander transitioned into a different job: Safety and Mission Assurance Manager for Shuttle Transition and Retirement, coordinating and ensuring the safe transport of all decommissioned space vehicles to their final locations. Currently, she is a NASA safety and mission assurance lead quality engineer for the Ground Systems Development & Operations (GSDO) Program, working with the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft missions. Though she loves building, repairing and designing equipment for space exploration, one of her favorite parts of the job is serving as a member of the Kennedy Space Center’s speakers bureau, which allows her to visit schools and talk to kids about space and STEM. “I try to encourage young people to go into engineering if they love math and science and to not be afraid of it,” she said. “While I’m out there, I try to give an extra push for girls to let them know, ‘You can do it. Don’t be intimidated because you have a lot of guys in engineering. It’s for girls, too. We can do it, too.’”




Kidney stones kept Ginger Kerrick from becoming an astronaut, but not from helping her direct missions from Earth.


NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman joins NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. in helping to lead the 57-year-old space agency.


agency. She’s spent her career conducting spaceflight experiments, with four flown in space since 1992. DAVA NEWMAN The first, on shuttle mission STS-42, POSITION: Deputy administrator investigated how microgravity affects of NASA astronauts’ short-term memory and LOCATION: NASA headquarters, physical body. Washington, D.C. The next two experiments used smart EDUCATION: B.S., aerospace engineering, sensors embedded into handholds and foot University of Notre Dame; M.S., aerospace restraints (on STS-62 and on NASA-Mir engineering; M.S., technology and policy; missions) to measure the reaction load of Ph.D., aerospace biomedical engineering, astronauts and their motor control strateMassachusetts Institute gies as they moved around the payload of Technology bay. The research gauged how long it took Has worked at NASA since May 2015 astronauts to fully adapt to the microgravity environment. Another one of her projects, the Gravity-Loading Countermeasure Dava Newman has always been an Skinsuit, is slated to fly in September on the explorer at heart, fascinated with travel by ISS. land, sea and air. As a child, she roamed the Though her appointment ends when wide-open spaces of her native Montana President Obama leaves office in 2017, and was amazed by the Apollo 11 mission Newman has her gaze fixed on Mars. she watched at age 5. “I’m specifically con“It told me everycentrating on technology thing was possible: and innovation (related exploration, space travel, “(The Apollo to the journey to Mars),” Americans landing on Mission) was very she said. “I’m equally the moon,” she said. passionate about educa“It was very influential influential in opening tion and outreach and in opening up my eyes inspiring and engaging and my mindset to say … my mindset to say the next generation of anything is possible.” anything is possible.” engineers and scientists, She left Big Sky designers and artists.” Country to study In fact, Newman does what lay beyond the a lot of education, speaking to groups sky, embarking on a career in aerospace and schools regularly about NASA and engineering and teaching. Just prior to the journey to Mars. She often shares assuming the role as deputy administrator one of her favorite quotations, by Eleanor of NASA (“The shorter title is ‘No. 2,’” she Roosevelt: “The future belongs to those joked), she served as the Apollo Program who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Professor of Astronautics at MIT — a The line is meant to not only inspire position named for the very mission that others — especially young people — to first captured her imagination and inspired follow their dreams, but also to encourage her career in space. “It’s one of those us to reflect on what happens when we do: wonderful full-circle things,” she said. “It kind of summarizes where I’m at, and Although Newman is a relatively new what I get to do on a daily basis,” she said. NASA employee, she’s no stranger to the


POSITION: Flight operations directorate assistant director for International Space Station LOCATION: Johnson Space Center, Houston EDUCATION: B.S., physics; M.S., physics, Texas Tech University; pursuing M.B.A. from University of Houston-Clear Lake Has worked at NASA since 1991 Ginger Kerrick was 5 when she decided she wanted to be an astronaut. It was during the era of Skylab, NASA’s first space station, and she was awestruck by the astronauts’ work and dedication aboard the craft. The fascination continued: She collected astronaut Snoopy figurines and stopped in the local library every Friday to check out the same book about astronomy and astronauts. And while her friends received cars as high school graduation gifts, she got a trip to visit Johnson, Kennedy and Marshall space centers. It was then she determined she wanted to work at Johnson, in her home state of Texas. Kerrick realized that dream in 1991 when she began working as a paid intern/ co-op just after graduating from Texas Tech University. But the goal to become an astronaut — the plan Kerrick had so carefully crafted for herself from the time she was a child — didn’t pan out the way she’d hoped. In 1995, Kerrick made it through the astronaut application and interview process, but a medical exam found kidney stones, which she didn’t know she had.

She was immediately disqualified from ever being an astronaut because of it. The disappointment, she said, was “tragic.” Impressed by Kerrick, the head of the astronaut selection office helped her figure out a way to turn a temporary position, in which she instructed astronauts about environmental control and life-support systems aboard the ISS, into a permanent one. “That’s what sealed the deal for me,” Kerrick said. “Even if I couldn’t be an astronaut, at least teaching them (made me feel) like I was contributing to their success.” From there, her star rose quickly. She accumulated a list of groundbreaking “firsts.” Handpicked by Capt. William Shepherd, commander of the ISS Expedition-1 crew, Kerrick filled a brand-new position training the first crew of Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts about the life-support systems aboard ISS. In 2001, Kerrick was selected as the first non-astronaut to serve as the capsule communicator at mission (CAPCOM) control. Later, she thought she’d also like to try her hand at being a flight director. “I applied, and I got in,” she said. “Not only was I the first CAPCOM to do that, but I was also the first female Hispanic flight director.” Eventually, she added another Snoopy to her longtime collection: the prized NASA Silver Snoopy award, which is given to NASA employees by astronauts in recognition of outstanding achievement related to mission success or human flight safety. Kerrick said she is most proud of this award. “I thought, ‘Whoa, this is a sign I’m really supposed to be here,” she said. “They give away Snoopys!’” CO N T I N U E D



WHAT’S YOUR BEST ADVICE TO YOUNG WOMEN WHO HAVE AN INTEREST IN SPACE? “Find someone who’s living your dream. Find out what they did so you can do the same things. Even find out the mistakes they made so you can try to avoid those mistakes. When you see someone already living your dream, it inspires you and encourages you that you can do it.” — Tiffaney Miller Alexander “Go for it. I get to talk to a lot of children and try to make sure they dream big and they know that NASA exploration and what we do on a daily basis is for them.” — Dava Newman


As a principal investigator at NASA Ames Research Center in California, Sharmila Bhattacharya studies fruit flies and yeast cells to better understand how spaceflight and changes in gravity may alter human biological systems.


POSITION: Senior discipline scientist and principal investigator LOCATION: NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. EDUCATION: B.S., biological chemistry, Wellesley College; M.S., and Ph.D., molecular biology, Princeton University; post-doctoral research in neurobiology and molecular biology, Stanford University Has worked at NASA since 1999

To most people, fruit flies are nothing more than annoying little bugs that turn up when the bananas on the kitchen counter get too ripe. But for Sharmila Bhattacharya, those tiny insects are important vessels of information about the human body and what happens to it during spaceflight. You might even say she owes her career to the critters. Bhattacharya’s doctoral and post-doctoral research revolved around yeast cells and fruit flies, respectively. One day, while browsing job ads in the news-

“Sometimes if you send it on a rocket and paper, she found a listing for a molecular it’s going around the sun or going into deep biologist who had experience working with space, you won’t get the power to turn it yeast cells and fruit flies. The employer? on for four to six months before you can NASA Ames. “I couldn’t believe it,” she do your experiment,” said. “It was really she said. “Most other specific. I almost thought biological systems are to myself, ‘How do they “I remember just not hardy enough to know I’m reading this?’” tolerate that.” At NASA Ames, being amazed at Bhattacharya Bhattacharya runs two the complexity of credits her high school laboratories where she biology teacher in and her colleagues use biological systems.” India for her interest fruit flies and yeast cells in the field. “She was to understand how the a wonderful teacher, spaceflight environment and she clearly loved the subject herself and altered gravity affect a human being’s and infected us with that enthusiasm when immune, cardiovascular and other biologishe taught,” she said, “so much so that I cal systems. Why those organisms? Fruit can even remember graphics from my high flies, Bhattacharya said, may not resemble school biology textbook that showed how humans, but their genomic profile is the human inner ear works. I remember actually an almost 77 percent match to a just being amazed at the complexity of mammal’s. Plus, they’re lightweight and biological systems.” Bhattacharya’s own super-small, so a sample of thousands can enthusiasm for science is apparently just fly to space in a tiny box that takes up very as catching. “I have one daughter, who’s little room on the spacecraft. 17,” she said. “I started working at NASA Yeast, too, has a similar cell structure to a when she was 1 year old. She’s interested human’s, and it has the advantage of being in biology as well, so I’m excited.” able to be kept dry for long periods of time.

“Most people associate NASA with (the saying) ‘Failure is not an option.’ Failure actually is an option and, frankly, it’s inevitable. But if you’re going to be a good leader of yourself and other people, it’s how you respond to that failure that determines your fate and whether or not people will want to continue to follow you.” — Ginger Kerrick “Work hard. Research and read about topics that interest you. Look for internships and get real-world experience when you can. Be patient when things don’t go the way you want them to go. Know that obstacles are part of every journey, so don’t let them get you down. Most of all, remember that science is really fun. It’s never dull or boring.” — Sharmila Bhattacharya








Sheriff’s deputies inspect the wreckage of the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo after it broke apart during a test flight over the Mojave Desert in California on Oct. 31, 2014. Co-pilot Michael Alsbury, a veteran test pilot who had flown on SpaceShipTwo before, was killed. Pilot Peter Siebold survived but suffered serious injuries when his seat was ejected.



Commercial spaceflight experts remain optimistic despite recent mishaps By Rachel Nuwer


HE PAST 12 MONTHS have not been kind to several leading companies in the commercial spaceflight industry. Last October, the Orbital ATK Antares rocket, loaded with cargo and supplies bound for the International Space Station (ISS), exploded in a cloud of fire and smoke on the launchpad. Several days later, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo craft, designed for human spaceflight, crashed during a test flight in California, killing one pilot and injuring the other. And in June, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket — also bound for the ISS and carrying 5,200 pounds of food, supplies and scientific gear — disintegrated about two minutes into its flight. While these highly publicized events TERRY ZAPERACH/NASA might seem like catastrophic setbacks Bound for the International Space Station and filled with more than 5,000 pounds of food, scientific experiments and other supplies, for the commercial space travel industry, Orbital ATK Antares rocket exploded just seconds after launching from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Oct. 28, 2014. experts do not expect that they will affect either the companies’ overall progress or SpaceX and Orbital currently fulfill. (NASA part, those ventures have had an impressuccessfully,” he added. NASA’s relationship with them. Reports has contracts with SpaceX and Boeing to sively successful track record. Prior to Eric Stallmer, president of the Commerindicate that a broken strut led to Falcon develop commercial crew vehicles.) the Antares failure, Orbital ATK had three cial Spaceflight Federation, a Washington, 9’s mishap, while pilot error caused Rather than select a single company to successful missions with its Cygnus spaceD.C.-based trade association that focuses on SpaceshipTwo’s deadly incident. What take care of its transportation needs, NASA craft in addition to a successful Antares private spaceflight, agreed. “I hate to say it, went wrong with Antares is still in dispute. chooses to partner with two companies for demonstration launch, while SpaceX has but it happens,” he said, adding that while Though accidents, especially such tragic both cargo and crew to guard against the enjoyed 18 successes with Falcon 9. failures are always a shock, ones, are unfortunate, potential impacts should one vehicle fail. “People forget that 13 years ago, SpaceX they are an inevitable part they’re not unusual on “These are complex systems, and none of wasn’t even a company,” Stallmer said. of spaceflight and rocketry. the path to discovery. “These are them are 100 percent reliable,” McAlister “Now it’s the leading (commercial) launch Despite the recent As industry experts said. “We want to have multiple ways to provider in the U.S.” events, “no one has point out, all modes of complex systems, re-supply the International Space Station.” In mid-September, Amazon founder closed up shop, and it transportation, from and none of them For industry experts, it’s still all systems and CEO Jeff Bezos announced that his hasn’t deterred investors bicycles to spaceships, go. Through its Commercial Crew Program, private space company Blue Origin will from investing in these suffer failures. are 100 percent NASA is looking forward to seeing Ameribuild rockets and launch them from Cape commercial companies,” “Every launch service reliable.” can astronauts flying to ISS on SpaceX’s Canaveral. He said the pad could support a Stallmer said. has its problems, so in Dragon spacecraft in 2016. launch by the end of the decade. NASA is carrying out the overall scheme of — Phil McAlister, NASA’s McAlister is confident that the country’s In 2014 NASA chose a dozen technoloindependent reviews things they’re not that director of commercial decision to turn over low-Earth orbit gies as payloads for the first SpaceShipTwo of the accident, and the unusual,” said Scott spaceflight development spaceflight to private companies will prove flight, but those plans are now on hold. companies cannot fly the Pace, director of the a boon for all involved parties. It has had substantially more business problem vehicles again Space Policy Institute at “There are a lot of innovative companies with SpaceX and Boeing. SpaceX’s Falcon until the Federal Aviation The George Washington out there with cool business plans that and Dragon have been up to the ISS to Administration issues new launch licenses. University. will eventually increase the number of deliver satellites, and both companies have In the meantime, the ISS will not be Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of high-tech jobs and new economic opportucontracts with NASA to develop commerstranded without supplies, thanks to other commercial spaceflight development, said nities,” he said. “Right now, the transition is cial crew vehicles. spaceflight partners, including the Russians they hope for the best and plan for the a little difficult, but we think this is going to In November, NASA is expected to and Japanese. worst. “Failures are not expected, but they be a very positive thing for NASA and the announce the winners of a second contract Last year was one of the busiest years are something we feel like we can respond U.S.” for its commercial cargo program, which for commercial launches, and for the most to and be able to still move forward from





Retired NASA astrophysicist Fred Espenak has witnessed 27 total eclipses from all seven continents, including Antarctica.

‘Mr. Eclipse,’ an expert on solar eclipses, pinpoints when, where and how to watch America’s first in nearly 40 years By Matt Alderton


N THE SAME WAY most people remember their first kiss, Fred Espenak remembers his first total solar eclipse. Although the event was scholarly, not salacious, it was an adventure not unlike other adolescent rites of passage — profound, titillating and completely, instantly addictive. “It was 1970, and it was the first total eclipse that had passed through the United States since 1963,” recalled Espenak, a selfdescribed “geeky science-nerd kid” who’s now known by the nickname “Mr. Eclipse.”

“I was already an amateur astronomer, so I had known about the eclipse for a handful of years. I’d just gotten my driver’s license and managed to convince my parents to let me take the car 600 miles from home in Staten Island, N.Y., to North Carolina so I could be in the path of the eclipse.” Because he’d read about eclipses, he thought he knew what to expect. Nothing could have prepared him for the real thing, however. “It was the most spectacular thing I had ever seen,” continued Espenak, who now resides in Portal, Ariz. “As soon as it was over I began planning for my next

one. That was the start of it.” By “it” Espenak means his lifelong obsession with eclipses. Like storm chasers who stalk severe weather, he’s spent his life pursuing eclipses — especially total eclipses, which he’s witnessed 27 times from all seven continents, including Antarctica. “There are two types of eclipses: lunar eclipses, where the moon passes into the Earth’s shadow, and solar eclipses, where the sun is completely blocked by the moon,” explained Espenak, 63, a retired astrophysicist who, in 2009, concluded a 31-year career at NASA’s Goddard Space




eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov) contain descriptions Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Total and maps for 5,000 years’ worth of lunar eclipses are quite beautiful to look eclipses, from 2,000 B.C. to 3,000 A.D. at, but there’s not a lot of science that we Although the solar volume alone can learn from them. Total solar eclipses, encompasses 11,898 eclipses, the eclipse on the other hand, we can learn a lot of du jour is the total solar eclipse that will physics from.” take place on Aug. 21, 2017. Dubbed Astronomers often study total solar “The Great American Eclipse” on its own eclipses because they offer superior views website (greatamericaneclipse.com), it will of the sun’s outer atmosphere, called the be the first total solar eclipse visible from corona, which creates solar wind capable the continental United States since 1979. of producing space weather events, aurora (An eclipse visible from Hawaii in 1991 effects and even satellite interference. was partially blocked by What interests cloudy weather.) Espenak most, however, “The 2017 eclipse will aren’t the effects. Rather, “Many people pass diagonally from the it’s when and where the would not be able Pacific Northwest down eclipses occur. Because to the Southeast, right he wants to spend as to experience this through the heart of much time as possible marvelous physical the country,” forecasted basking in their fleeting, Espenak, who said the ethereal glow, his lifelong event without eclipse will be visible hobby has been writing his guidance and from Oregon, Idaho, software that predicts Wyoming, Nebraska, the times and places of insights.” Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, future eclipses. — Michael Mumma, founding Kentucky, Tennessee, “When I went to director of the Goddard Georgia and the college, I had access Center for Astrobiology Carolinas. “All of North to big science libraries America will get a partial where I tried to research eclipse that day, but upcoming eclipses. There the path for the total eclipse is relatively weren’t a lot of good books published, narrow — only about 70 miles wide.” so I decided to learn how to calculate the The closer you can get to the middle physics myself,” Espenak said. “I’ve been of the eclipse path the better, according writing computer programs for eclipse to Espenak, who said the eclipse will last predictions ever since.” longest — up to 2 minutes and 41 seconds To make his predictions, Espenak uses — along the event’s “central line,” which complex equations that take into account is the path the axis of the moon’s shadow the position of the moon and sun relative travels on the Earth’s surface. to the center of the Earth, and the size and “Personally, I’ll be in Casper, Wyo.,” he shape of the moon’s shadow on the Earth’s curved surface. From these, he determines when eclipses will occur, at what time they’ll start, how long they’ll last and from where on Earth they’ll be visible. “Fred is known for his care and the accuracy of the predictions he makes,” said Michael Mumma, founding director of the Goddard Center for Astrobiology and senior scientist in charge of NASA’s Solar System Exploration Division. Espenak’s former boss, Mumma gave the go-ahead in 1978 for NASA to publish Espenak’s predictions, even though eclipses weren’t part of his job description. Since then, NASA has published 13 “eclipse bulletins” co-authored by Espenak and meteorologist Jay Anderson, each containing detailed predictions, maps and meteorology for future eclipses. “I can’t overestimate Fred’s importance in developing solar eclipses as true events,” Mumma said. “Many people would not be The Great American Eclipse on able to experience this marvelous physical Aug. 21, 2017, will be the first total event without his guidance and insights.” solar eclipse viewable from the Espenak also publishes predictions on his personal website (mreclipse.com) and continental United States in nearly in book form. His largest technical publica40 years. Make sure you see it by tions, the 680-page Five Millennium Canon following astrophysicist and eclipse of Lunar Eclipses and the 648-page Five expert Fred Espenak’s four tips: Millennium Canon of Solar Eclipses (both available through NASA at



Thousands gather in March to watch the moon partially block out the sun as a 100-milewide “totality” shadow made its way across the Faroe Islands and Svalbard in Norway. said, noting that he’ll drive up to 1,000 miles at a moment’s notice if the forecast threatens his view. “There’s no way to predict the weather any more than 24 to 48 hours before the eclipse itself, but generally speaking, west of the Mississippi River tends to be sunnier than east, and eastern Oregon probably has some of the most promising weather prospects.” If you miss it, don’t fret. “We don’t have to wait quite as long for the next total solar


Visit eclipsewise.com/ solar/SEnews/TSE2017/ TSE2017.html to find Espenak’s map of the eclipse path. Choose a spot you’d like to visit with your family, preferably near the center of the path, where the eclipse will last longest. v GET GLASSES

Purchase a pair of eclipse glasses — inexpensive cardboard glasses with solar filters, which typically cost only a few dollars. Because you shouldn’t look directly at the sun, you’ll need these to watch the partial phase of the eclipse. NASA’s website recommends purchasing shade number 14 welder’s glasses from

eclipse,” said Espenak, who noted that the next total solar eclipse will be in 2024, cutting diagonally across the United States in the opposite direction — from Texas to New England. “I recommend trying to see both 2017 and 2024, because you never know when you will be clouded out, and a total eclipse is something everyone should witness. It’s the most spectacular natural phenomenon you can see with the naked eye.”

welding supply outlets. Many online retailers, such as Rainbow Symphony (rainbowsymphonystore. com), left, sell inexpensive paper or plastic eclipse glasses. v PACK A JACKET Temperatures can drop by up to 15 degrees during the totality phase of an eclipse, so dress in layers. v DON’T FORGET

YOUR CAMERA OR SMARTPHONE A smartphone is good enough for most people who want to capture the eclipse in pictures or video. A useful tip from Espenak’s site: “Virtually any camera can be used to photograph the phenomenon, but automatic cameras must

have their flashes turned off because this would otherwise obliterate the pinhole images.” A good smartphone tip is to use a tripod in combination with your smartphone camera’s “time-lapse” feature, which allows you to take multiple still pictures of the eclipse during its various phases. You can also purchase an accessory lens for your smartphone (like an olloclip lens) that gives your smartphone a sort of telescopic lens, which is recommended for photographing an eclipse. Some people advise using a solar filter; you can buy one online and place it over your camera to protect the lens from the bright light. RAINBOW SYMPHONY




Pick the perfect spot to view the solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017 By Alexa Rogers NASHVILLE


Jackson Hole, Wyo.


v Hotels Hutton Hotel, Omni Nashville Hotel, Union Station v Restaurants Little Octopus, Arnold’s Country Kitchen, Pinewood Social v Attractions Bluebird Café, The Johnny Cash Museum, Nashville Farmers Market

Nashville is the largest U.S. city completely within the path of the eclipse totality, so Music City is going to be the place for your perfect eclipse soundtrack. From the Country Music Hall of Fame to The Listening Room Café, constant entertainment will keep visitors engaged before, during and after the solar eclipse. The Adventure Science Center in Nashville is just beginning to plan events for the eclipse. With an emphasis on education, the center is working on programming that looks at the science behind eclipses and why they happen. Also sure to be a big hit with visitors is the Sudekum Planetarium, where viewings combine the power of an optical star projector that fills the room with more than 6.5 million stars and a high-definition dome system. One major effort will be to inform visitors about safe viewing practices and proper eye protection during the eclipse. Jeff Krinks, the center’s director of marketing and communications, said special solar filters and viewing techniques will be important during the times that the eclipse is not in its totality. A large-scale event is in the works. adventuresci.org | visitmusiccity.com



v Hotels

Hotel Jackson, Amangani and the Lexington at Jackson Hole v Restaurants

Persephone Bakery, Snake River Brewing Co., Snake River Grill v Attractions Aerial tram to Rendezvous Peak, country swing dancing at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, the National Museum of Wildlife Art


Visitors can expect dramatic views of the shadows crossing the wide open spaces of Jackson Hole Valley and the surrounding mountains, whether they’re at a private viewing party or settled in at a public campground. Wyoming Stargazing, an educational nonprofit dedicated to astronomy and creating a public observatory and planetarium in Jackson, will host numerous events in and around the town on the day of the eclipse. The group is collaborating with the community-focused Center for the Arts in downtown Jackson for a large public event; Wyoming Stargazing founder Samuel Singer promises that the location will offer great views of the sky. The group also plans to host private events for select locations, including Spring Creek Ranch and Teton Springs. Attendees will have the opportunity to look through the group’s solar telescopes to learn more about sunspots and solar flares in the sun’s upper atmosphere in addition to receiving assistance with prepping their own cameras to get the best shots. In the event of bad weather, Wyoming Stargazing is researching other ways to ensure a spectacular view. wyomingstargazing.org

Stop by Kansas City, Mo., where the city’s lively jazz and art scene and numerous farm-to-table restaurants are sure to dazzle vacationers. The city, which is on the very edge of the path of totality, is expected to experience only about 30 seconds to one minute of totality during the eclipse (the farther north in the city and suburbs you go, the better), but it may prove to be a popular choice for residents between Wyoming and southern Illinois who want to be in the direct path. While in Kansas City, visitors can navigate through the city with the new Downtown Streetcar or spend a night on the town at the Mutual Musicians Foundation. Want to make this a stop on a summer vacation through the Midwest? The city is about a four-hour drive from St. Louis. Check back with the city for more updates on eclipse-related events. visitkc.com

Kansas City

v Hotels Kansas City Marriott Downtown, Southmoreland on the Plaza, The Raphael Hotel v Restaurants Danny’s Big Easy, Bristol Seafood Grill, Avenues Bistro v Attractions KC Live!, American Jazz Museum, LEGOLAND Discovery Center GETTY IMAGES






Spanning the U.S., the 2017 total solar eclipse is already causing excitement and prompting towns in its direct path to begin planning. Here are several locations where you can make the most of being in the dark.

Eola Hills Wine Cellars ANDREA JOHNSON


The eclipse shadows that fall across the U.S. will first be cast along the coastline, valleys and mountains of Oregon, with Salem one of several cities in the path of totality. Eola Hills Wine Cellars in neighboring Eola-Amity Hills is planning to offer a scenic view of the eclipse and a weekend filled with wine country activities. The winery has three tasting rooms in Rickrell, Legacy Vineyard and McMinnville and is arranging to work with other nearby wineries to offer tasting deals. For those who dream of biking through wine country, the winery will offer its own “Tour D’Eclipse,” where participants can bike up to 40 miles through the valley while stopping at wineries along the way. Eola Hills will also partner with nearby Polk County Fairgrounds to host RV and tent lodging for visitors staying for the entire weekend. A giant country barbecue following the totality on Monday morning will help close the celebrations. The winery is still planning for the eclipse weekend but don’t let that stop you from planning your trip soon. Kristi Reed of The Grand Hotel in Salem says the hotel is almost completely booked for the eclipse. eolahillswinery.com | grandhotelsalem.com | travelsalem.com v Hotels The Grand Hotel, Red Lion Hotel Salem v Restaurants Wild Pear, table FIVE 08, Roberts Crossing v Attractions Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gordon House, Chachalu Tribal Museum & Cultural Center, Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge


The eclipse reaches Oregon at 10:15 a.m. PDT and leaves the state at 10:27 a.m. Salem will experience totality for approximately 1 minute and 52 seconds.


Longer eclipse viewing! v KANSAS CITY, MO.

The eclipse will reach Missouri at 1:04 p.m. CDT and leave at 1:22 p.m. Kansas City will experience totality for up to approximately 1 minute.



The eclipse reaches Wyoming at 11:34 a.m. MDT and leaves the state at 11:49 a.m. Jackson will experience totality for approximately 2 minutes and 17 seconds. National Park and valley times vary depending on your location but run as long as 2 minutes and 21 seconds.

v CARBONDALE, ILL. The eclipse reaches Illinois at 1:17 p.m. CDT and leaves the state at 1:25 p.m. Carbondale will experience totality for approximately 2 minutes and 35 seconds.

LAND BETWEEN THE LAKES NATIONAL RECREATION AREA Within the vast recreation area, totality times will differ but will approach 2 minutes and 40 seconds in the northern area. v

HOPKINSVILLE, KY. The eclipse reaches Kentucky at 1:21 p.m. CDT and leaves the state at 1:30 p.m. Hopkinsville boasts totality that’s slated to last for approximately 2 minutes and 41 seconds. v


The eclipse reaches South Carolina at 2:36 p.m. EDT and leaves the state at 2:49 p.m. Columbia will experience totality for approximately 2 minutes and 30 seconds.


The eclipse reaches Tennessee at 1:24 p.m. CDT and leaves at 1:36 p.m. CDT. Nashville will experience totality for approximately 1 minute and 57 seconds.

SOURCE: Great American Eclipse. All eclipse duration times vary depending on where you are in the region. Discover more at Great American Eclipse, greatamericaneclipse.com/eclipse-2017.





South Carolina State Museum


You’ll get some of the longest views in these three locations



Seek the solar eclipse at Southern Illinois University, which is celebrating with festivities at the football field at Saluki Stadium. A certified sweet spot for eclipse watching will be in the area of the country where Illinois meets Kentucky. The following locations are expected to have some of the greatest duration times.

allows viewers to experience a longer eclipse. Planning for the eclipse festivities will continue over the next two years. eclipse.siu.edu


In Hopkinsville, eclipse planning has been years in the making. Hoping to be a hub of family fun, the town is planning a number of signature events, including headline entertainment and a chili cookoff with eclipse-related activities. To appeal to the academic community, the local community college is planning to host guest speakers for a weekendlong series of seminars focused on the science behind eclipses and other topics in astronomy. Mayor Carter Hendricks said the focus is now on certifying proper viewing areas within the community and working with emergency management teams to secure traffic management volunteers. One small kink to be worked out involves the city’s automatic-sensor lighting system, which flips on in the dark. The city is working with electric

The city is near where the eclipse can be viewed in its greatest duration. Carbondale has already formed an eclipse committee in conjunction with Southern Illinois University to coordinate planning for the expected increase in tourism. The university will host the headlining festivities for the city, including tailgating, live entertainment and activities on the football field at Saluki Stadium. Committee co-chairman Bob Baer said the charge, if any, for these events will be minimal. Volunteers with the Citizen Cate Experiment will also be welcome — Baer, who is the project’s state coordinator, said the goal is to place small telescopes along the eclipse path and equip them with cameras to capture images before, during and after totality. The footage will then be used to create a movie that


companies to ensure they’re not a problem during the eclipse. For those who can’t get enough of space-related events, the county’s Green Man Festival, featuring live entertainment and activities that celebrate the 62nd anniversary of a reported extraterrestrial sighting nearby, is planned for the same weekend. Also on the schedule is a sci-fi movie marathon at a historic local cinema. visithopkinsville.com


The Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, which manages over 170,000 acres of forest, wetlands and open lands, is situated between Kentucky and Barkley lakes in Western Kentucky and Tennessee. Home of the Golden Pond Planetarium and Observatory (which is open to the public for regular shows and astronomical viewings), the recreation area is planning activities for visitors who want to experience the eclipse in a natural setting. Activities at Land Between the Lakes include camping, hiking and boating. landbetweenthelakes.us


Stop by Columbia for the last best look at the eclipse before it leaves the country. The South Carolina State Museum is preparing to be the main East Coast viewing spot, with an approximate totality of 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The museum’s observatory features a vintage 1926 Alvan Clark refracting telescope that offers beautiful views and will be open for nightly viewings in the days leading up to the eclipse. And because pointing a giant mirror at the sun before an eclipse isn’t the best idea, the museum is also designing its own solar viewers to hand out to guests prior to the big day. Historians will love this location, too, for its tours of an antique telescope gallery that, according to Tom Falvey, museum director of education, features one of the world’s best collections of early American telescopes. For visitors with a passion for astronomy, Falvey suggests making an appointment to peruse the astronomical texts at the University of South Carolina’s library, which date back to 1540. The museum is also planning to sponsor educational, eclipse-related events in the months leading up to the totality. columbiacvb.com | museum.state.sc.us | scmuseum.org/explore/observatory v Hotels Hilton Columbia Center, Columbia Marriott, Hyatt Place Columbia/Downtown/ The Vista v Restaurants Cafe Strudel, Terra, The Southern Belly BBQ v Attractions Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, Soda City Market, Columbia Museum of Art







Did you know NASA had a hand in developing these lifeimproving products? By Joseph Bennington-Castro


HROUGHOUT NASA’S LONG AND industrious history, the space agency’s cutting-edge technologies have been adopted or adapted to suit various needs on Earth. For instance, the ear thermometer sitting in your medicine cabinet relies on the same infrared technology used by NASA to measure the temperature of stars. The memory foam in your pillow and mattress was initially developed by NASA to absorb shock in airplane seats. NASA technology has even found widespread use outside the home in anti-corrosion coatings, firefighting equipment, highway safety grooves and the video-enhancing and analysis systems used in law enforcement and security. Many of these technology transfers are well-known, but numerous others slide in under the radar. Here are 10 recent examples of how NASA research is benefiting the rest of us.

Warning systems for aircraft cabin depressurization sometimes fail to monitor pressure changes that cause a slow, inconspicuous development of hypoxia, or oxygen deficiency, which can lead to unconsciousness. Based on NASA pressuremonitoring technology, Alt Alert is a compact altitude pressurization monitoring system that acutely tracks aircraft cabin pressure. Great for private and recreational pilots. aviationtechnologyinc.com



Using a rotating vessel-wall bioreactor (which replicates microgravity conditions experienced in Earth’s orbit), NASA scientists have produced regenerative biomolecules from adult skin cells. The molecules have quickly found a use in advanced reparative skin-care products. A new cream from Rejuvel Bio-Sciences uses them to increase skin moisture and elasticity while reducing wrinkles and dark blemishes. rejuvel.com



NASA-funded research has found that the body’s balance-regulating vestibular system induces sleep when subjected to low-amplitude vibration (similar to rocking a baby). With this in mind, the mobile app Sleep Genius works with a stereo system or sleep-safe headphones to help the user fall asleep easier — and sleep better throughout the night — by stimulating the vestibular system with specially designed audio tracks. sleepgenius.com




Soon to be installed on the International Space Station, a new, highly precise and rugged 3-D printer will be able to produce about 30 percent of the station’s small parts and tools, as well as miniaturized research satellites (nanosatellites). Though it’s the first 3-D printer able to work in microgravity, the NASA-funded device may also find use in submarines, deserts and other remote areas here on Earth. The Made In Space 3-D printer, above, was tested in simulated microgravity aboard Zero G Corporation’s modified Boeing 727 in 2013.





NASA’s airtight spacesuits use liquidcooling technology to protect astronauts from heat and humidity. Using this technology, Vasper Systems now makes compression exercise cuffs that improve exercise efficiency and reduce sweat and post-workout aches and fatigue. A specialized workout routine produces similar physiological results as exercises that last more than twice as long. vasper.com



The UVA+B SunFriend is a wearable device that monitors UV exposure, helping you get enough UV light to stimulate vitamin D production without damaging your skin. The device is made possible thanks to wide-bandgap semiconductors. NASA developed the semiconductors as a way to measure extreme UV radiation that could send its Solar Dynamics Observatory careening into Earth. sunfriend.com



Comet EnFlow, a new NASA-funded statistical model, accurately predicts how high- and low-frequency vibrations travel in and around structures. Automobile and aircraft manufacturers currently employ the technology. It even comes in handy on the International Space Station’s U.S. Destiny Laboratory, above, where it’s used to detect leaks that produce inaudible ultrasonic sounds.



Surgeons working with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have developed the first brain surgery endoscope — a tiny, lit, tubelike instrument with an attached camera — that’s capable of not only steering its lens, but also producing 3-D video images. In addition to improving surgical visibility for safer, faster and cheaper procedures, the new device may someday allow NASA to obtain 3-D views of otherworldly geological features.



NASA’s defunct Space Shuttle program utilized fluidics-based shock absorbers to safely remove the fuel and electrical “umbilicals” from spacecraft during launch. The technology behind these powerful tools is now used to absorb seismic energy, protecting buildings and bridges from earthquakes. None of the more than 550 structures outfitted with the fluidics-based seismic dampers has suffered from quakerelated damage.



Sony swapped the blowout-preventing dampers in its slim speakers and SRS-BTV5 Bluetooth wireless mobile speakers, above, with ferrofluids, which are fluids magnetized with fine particles of iron oxide. The chemical allows speakers to increase sound amplitude while reducing distortion. The technology, born decades ago at NASA, originally moved fuel into spacecraft engines without the aid of gravity. Solid rocket propulsion later replaced it.



NO LIMITS NASA works to develop drones that will offer a greater glimpse of the galaxy

The Extreme Access Flyer is powered by steam jets and acts as a small spacecraft that can access remote areas and terrain on a planet or an asteroid.

By Erik Schecter


NMANNED VEHICLES ARE NOTHING new to NASA. The U.S. space agency has been building assorted satellites, probes and rovers for decades now. However, the idea of using unmanned aerial vehicles called UAVs (and commonly known as drones) to fly through alien atmospheres or dart across a lunar surface is still in its infancy, said Jim Adams, deputy chief technologist at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. The challenge is getting the functionality of, say, the New Horizons spacecraft in a tiny package. But as advances in materials and other technologies such as 3-D printing come online, UAVs will become smaller, more capable and faster, Adams said. “In 20 years from now, any destination we go, we might take a UAV-type probe with us,” he said.


Rovers can only reach so many places. Deep craters, for example, are off-limits to these wheeled explorers. And to put a lander on an asteroid is no easy thing. Last year’s bumpy touchdown of the European Space Agency’s Philae probe on the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko demonstrated that. So UAVs offer a way to see more of the galaxy with fewer restraints. With that goal in mind, NASA is exploring a number of concepts. The Swamp Works lab team at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida has been leading a proof-of-concept effort to develop quadcopter-like vehicles that may one day operate in space and on planets. But don’t call these multi-armed flying bots “drones.”


To Robert Mueller, senior technologist for advanced projects development at Swamp Works, that term makes people think of remote-controlled aerial vehicles with propellers. The Extreme Access Flyers being developed by his team will be autonomous and employ cold-gas reaction system jets. “These are not drones,” he said. “They are small spacecraft.”

The vehicles are expected to jump off rovers or landers and prospect for scientific samples using small percussive drills. The Flyers will also be able to do pneumatic sampling. “With a puff of gas, they can ingest a sample of soil and then collect it in a canister,” Mueller said. The hope is that these Extreme Access Flyers will be powered by steam jets that make use of the water and ice on the

surface of the planet or asteroid. “We can mine the water. You can do that on Mars,” Mueller explained, referring to ice water found beneath the surface of the planet. “You can also do that at the lunar poles. You superheat the water, and as soon as that heated water is ejected out a nozzle, it turns into steam, and now you have steam propulsion.” In late July, the team successfully tested the altitude control system of the Extreme Access Flyer that is meant to operate in zero gravity. Next on the agenda is to test the low-gravity vehicle. Testing will take place next July.


Another concept being explored by NASA is the windbot, a lightweight UAV meant to stay aloft in the atmosphere of Jupiter for up to two years. During that time, the UAV would collect data and send it to an orbiting spacecraft via radio — all without the benefit of a nuclear-powered



The challenge is getting the functionality of, say, the New Horizons spacecraft in a tiny package. But as advances in materials and other technologies such as 3-D printing come online, UAVs will become smaller, more capable and faster.


The Prandtl-m (Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars) could be the first plane to ever fly across the surface of Mars. The project kicked off in June.


Although just an artist’s concept so far, a lightweight UAV like the windbot is meant to float in the atmosphere by harnessing winds. Its main job is to send data it collects to orbiting spacecraft.

engine or liquid fuel. The specific shape of the vehicle and its scientific mission have yet to be determined. However, in May, a team from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., received a $100,000 grant from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program to explore the possibilities. Broadly speaking, the windbot will maintain altitude by harnessing winds that whip at up to hundreds of miles per hour. The UAV will run computers and sensors, such as spectrometers for taking atmospheric measurements, by converting wind energy into electricity. “The concept is for it to live off the land,” said Adrian Stoica, a robotics engineer and principal investigator for the windbots study. To make that happen, the team first needs to understand the wind dynamics and atmospheric pressure on Jupiter. In 1995, the Galileo probe entered the planet’s atmosphere and transmitted data for 57 minutes before it was destroyed. Spacecraft conducting flybys have collected remote sensing data. But the well of knowledge is shallow. “We have a single point of entry for the Galileo probe and other remote measurements, but they are the equivalent of (taking) samples 10,000 kilometers apart and not at the same time,” Stoica said To fill these gaps in data, the JPL team will use a computer model developed by a computational physicist at the University of California-Berkeley. The model has been used to understand the Great Red Spot of Jupiter, a massive storm that spans the equivalent of two to three Earths. In terms of how the UAV will look, concepts differ from a floating polyhedron made of carbon fiber or a similarly strong material to a spinning windmill, turbinelike vehicle. It may even have wings that change in flight. But no matter the design, multiple UAVs will be sent, said Stoica. “We see them operating as a swarm,” he said.


The concept looks similar to the small delta-wing drones used on Earth, but if successfully developed and launched, the Prandtl-m (Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars) would be the very first plane, unmanned

or otherwise, to fly across the surface of the Red Planet. On Mars, its main mission would be to capture images of the terrain. The Prandtl-m glider could cover more ground than the Curiosity rover, which cautiously travels at just 0.09 mph, and it could produce far more detailed geographical imagery than the 1-meter resolution maps created by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. “By flying at a much lower altitude with our little airplane, we can see the resolution down into inches,” said Al Bowers, Prandtl-m program manager and chief scientist at NASA’s Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. “We would like to have it do reconnaissance for the manned landing sites that will happen in the 2030s.” The drone project kicked off this June with funding from NASA educational outreach. A small team at Armstrong is readying the Prandtl-m for a high-altitude balloon test drop to see how the vehicle will perform in a thin atmosphere. “The atmosphere at 100,000 feet here on the Earth is the same as that on the surface of Mars,” Bowers explained. On lower gravity Mars, the Prandtl-m will weigh less than it does on Earth (.76 pounds versus 2 pounds). Yet the mass of the drone is still there, which will make for some weird handling. “The banking has to be much steeper (to turn the plane), and the turn rate is very, very slow,” he said. The Prandtl-m will be fully autonomous because radio waves can’t provide realtime command and control over a distance of 140 million miles. Likewise, the UAV will have to do without GPS guidance, navigating instead by landmarks and an onboard pattern recognition system. This isn’t the first time NASA has attempted to build a Martian plane. Between 1975 and 1982, three prototype Mini-Sniffer UAVs were developed. In 1998, the ill-fated Mars Climate Orbiter launched; it disintegrated after a close encounter with the planet less than a year later. And in the early 2000s, a team out of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., proposed the Aerial Regional-Scale Environmental Survey, but it was eventually passed over for another mission. Still, Bowers is undaunted: “We’re an easy fit on any planned mission, so I believe we’ve got a shot,” he said.





NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr., right, visits Bally Ribbon Mills in Bally, Pa., which will provide woven components for NASA’s Orion crew capsule.



NASA goes above and beyond to help small businesses help the agency By Ann C. Logue


ASA NEEDS COMPANIES THAT have specialized technology and manpower to do complex tasks, but sometimes the businesses that would be perfect for the work are too small to attract the attention of NASA’s procurement officers. That’s where NASA’s Office of Small Business Programs comes in: to assist businesses with the complex task of getting and

navigating government contracts. The agency, in partnership with the Small Business Administration (SBA), has set a goal to award 19.71 percent of prime contracts and 36 percent of subcontracts to small businesses, defined as having fewer than 500 employees. In 2014, the SBA reported that NASA awarded small businesses 14,445 contracts worth $2.5 billion, no small change. NASA offers several programs to assist these companies.

The mentor-protégé program pairs up small businesses and university researchers with prime contractors. The goal is to help small businesses learn how to refine products to meet the needs of the space program and navigate the contract process. Some of these protégés become incubators. For instance, in 2014, NASA developed a mentor-protégé program for Historically Black Colleges and Universities CO N T I N U E D



Bally Ribbon Mills, a small manufacturing facility that partners with NASA, creates the advanced woven thermal protection systems used on the agency’s Orion spacecraft. and Minority-Serving Institutions to help them discover and commercialize products and services that could be used in the space program. At Alabama State University (ASU) in Montgomery, Ala., NASA prime contractor Teledyne Brown Engineering worked with the computer science department to develop a Web-based training system for astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is helping ASU find ways to apply this unique technology to the NASA project, as well as commercialize it for other clients. The program is in the developmental stage, and the ASU students who NASA needs earned summer jobs at the Marcompanies that shall Space Flight have specialized Center as part of the program technology and are thrilled to be manpower to do guinea pigs. “They cannot complex tasks. believe that what they’re working on might be used in the space station,” said Kennedy Wekesa, dean of the College of Science, Mathematics and Technology at ASU. The program has several goals: to create genuine experiences for the students, to make employers aware of talented graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and to eventually grow a business affiliated with ASU. NASA expects the students to contribute through internship work. In January, Glenn Delgado, associate administrator in NASA’s Office of Small Business Programs, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. traveled to Bally, Pa., to honor Bally Ribbon Mills, another small-business partner. The company creates woven material that NASA uses for parachutes, cargo and recovery netting, seats and seat belts. “They are critical,” Delgado said of the company, which will contribute materials to the Orion spacecraft’s insulation system. The visit not only recognized the contribution of Bally’s employees, but also brought attention to the company’s expertise, which could lead to future business opportunities. Another way NASA encourages small CO N T I N U E D






Arcata employees at Armstrong Flight Research Center celebrate NASA’s last shuttle mission, STS-135, in front of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and the F-15D chase plane.


“Thirty years ago, we were the folks with five people working out of my parents’ garage. Who knew that small start would lead to Mars?” — Tim Wong, president and CEO of Arcata


Alabama State University students worked with NASA contractor Teledyne Brown Engineering to develop a Webbased training system for astronauts aboard the International Space Station.


Arcata Associates and Rayotek Scientific Inc. are among the small businesses included in NASA’s joint effort to land the Orion spacecraft on Mars.

business partners is by publishing case studies. Reports about NASA’s big projects describe the way small businesses contributed to each of them (see an example at osbp.nasa.gov/publications.html). One firm is Arcata Associates, a small business that provided supply-chain, quality and subcontract data management services in the operation of the Orion program. Tim Wong, president and CEO of Arcata, said the company received a few inquiries after the report was published. “There are so many small companies across the country that are part of this huge project to send people to Mars. For small companies that don’t have big budgets for marketing publications, publications like this help showcase us,” he said. Arcata Associates, founded in 1979 by Wong’s father to work on a polar satellite launch project at Dryden Flight Research Center, now has 300 employees. Wong and his staff give back by helping other small businesses work with NASA. The company introduced the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, a minority-serving institution, to a mentor-protégé relationship with Teledyne Brown. “Thirty years ago, we were the folks with five people working out of my parents’ garage,” he said. Who knew that small start would lead to Mars?”





Glass products manufacturing company Rayotek Scientific Inc. is behind the Orion spacecraft’s 11 windows. The windows must withstand intense heat, debris and meteorites. The company has been working with NASA since 2012.


Small businesses help NASA missions take flight By Ann C. Logue


TRIP TO MARS DOESN’T just happen. It involves years of research and experimentation to develop the equipment, training and materials necessary to take flight. NASA, after all, doesn’t take on easy tasks, and it doesn’t operate as a one-man band. The huge, world-changing projects tackled by the agency couldn’t happen without the contributions of dozens of companies. And though major aerospace manufacturers (Boeing and Lockheed Martin among them) play a huge role in many NASA missions, small businesses are an important part of the NASA story, too. They bring specialized knowledge to the task and can devote their full attention to the small but missioncritical details that move projects off the page and into reality. Consider California-based Rayotek Scientific Inc. The

“It’s world-changing to be able to go out in space to see the rest of the universe. It’s exciting to be part of the team that’s doing that.” — Bill Raggio, president of Rayotek Scientific Inc.

company makes glass that can withstand extreme conditions such as a rocket launch or a journey to Mars. “We brought a lot of technology that no company, big or small, had,” said Bill Raggio, the company’s president and chief technology officer. “We beat out Fortune 500 companies.” To encourage NASA centers to consider businesses like these when contracting large needs, the agency runs an annual awards program to honor small players, in addition to the centers and administrators that work with them. “We know there’s technology we can use that they have,” said Glenn Delgado, NASA’s associate administrator of Small Business Programs. The collaborative program, created in 2008, has been a great way to draw attention to the work of CO N T I N U E D





small businesses. Each of NASA’s 10 centers has its own awards program, which includes a bonus for employees who are recognized in their advocacy of small businesses. “We encourage our contracting officers, our program people and our small-business contractors at each center,” Delgado said.

Award categories include small-business prime contractors, small-business subcontractors and large business prime contractors that work with small businesses. In 2015, a new category was added to honor participants in mentor-protégé programs that pair prime contractors with small businesses.



FOUNDED: 2011 LOCATION: Raleigh-Durham, N.C. INFO: adv-aero.com Advanced Aerospace conducts testing and human factors research on new technologies. The company has 12 employees with diverse backgrounds, from test pilots to engineers and scientists. The group ran test flights for NASA’s Traffic Aware Strategic Aircrew Requests (TASAR) system, a program that determines the optimal path between two airports. The program will eventually be used on commercial airliners as part of the FAA’s NextGen Air Transportation System to make air travel faster and more fuel-efficient. “It’s incredibly futuristic,” said John Maris, the company’s CEO. Advanced Aero conducted flight tests and evalutions of the TASAR program using a Piaggio P180 Avanti advanced flight test aircraft and flight test team. For that work, the company received NASA’s Small Business Subcontractor of the Year for 2014.


FOUNDED: 1979 LOCATION: Las Vegas; Huntsville, Ala. INFO: arcataassoc.com This engineering and technical services firm supports America’s ventures in space by performing systems engineering, IT services and other behind-the-scenes tasks. The company has 300 employees in six states, and all of them are thrilled to be contributing to the space program, said Arcata president and CEO Tim Wong. Small businesses like Arcata, he said, have to be efficient and responsive to the customer, which makes them valuable to NASA. In turn, he believes that NASA is valuable to the nation. “This is important work to do. A strong piece of our economy and our future is the space program,” he added. Arcata’s most recent award was the NASA-Armstrong Flight Research Center Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year in 2013, for work that included support of the Endeavor Ferry Flight.


FOUNDED: 2003 LOCATION: Greenbelt, Md., and Silver Spring, Md. INFO: innovim.com INNOVIM has 120 employees and provides data services for studies of the Earth and its climate. The company uses advanced technology to understand data and create computing solutions. Work includes building a model that predicts the most likely locations for invasive species outbreaks on Earth using satellite observations. Another important project involves processing satellite data to predict the weather. “Almost everything INNOVIM does is directly or indirectly related to weather,” said Cindi Brown, the company’s president and chief operating officer. The company is often called upon to collect and analyze data to verify a hypothesis, calibrate sensors on spacecraft or convert geospatial data into custom maps. INNOVIM was awarded the NASAGoddard Small Business Contractor of the Year for 2014.


Arcata Associates’ president and CEO Tim Wong, second from left, was among those gathered when the company received the 2011 NASA Small Business Prime Contractor award. For its work on the Piaggio P180 Avanti advanced flight test aircraft, Advanced Aero received NASA’s Small Business Subcontractor of the Year award for 2014.


FOUNDED: 1992 LOCATION: Torrey Pines, Calif. INFO: rayotek.com With only 25 employees, Rayotek produces a critical product for NASA missions: glass that can withstand high pressure, high temperatures and extreme cold. Its sapphire-based glass products are used for sight windows on rocket launchers, windshields on the Orion crew capsule and camera housings on launch pads. After all, mission control can’t monitor a launch and astronauts can’t explore space if they can’t see, right? “It’s world-changing to be able to go out in space to see the rest of the universe. It’s exciting to be part of the team that’s doing that,” said Bill Raggio, the company’s president. “It’s out of the movies, in a way.” Rayotek was the Johnson Space Center Small Business Subcontractor of the Year for 2014.


INNOVIM’s president and COO Cindi Brown received the NASA-Goddard Small Business Contractor of the Year for 2014 from Chris Scolese, director of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.






NASA’s support of higher education encourages experts of tomorrow By Jaime Netzer



Multiple universities launch a suborbital payload rocket at the Wallops Flight Facility in April as part of NASA’s RockSat-X Program, which provides flight experiences for students.

RYCE EDWARDS WAS SO young when he decided he wanted to become an astronaut, he can’t remember the exact moment. It was certainly influenced by living near an airstrip in Kansas City, Mo. His parents took him to air shows, and he attended Space Camp as a kid. Eventually, Edwards selected Purdue University to get him closer to his goal of going to space. The school has strong aerospace and aviation programs, and it certainly didn’t hurt that Neil Armstrong went there, too. Today, the 24-year-old Edwards works as a flammability certification engineer for commercial aircraft company Belcan Engineering Group and continues to reach for the stars. “My dream is the same,” Edwards said. “I want to be an astronaut; I want to go into space, whether that’s with NASA or SpaceX. The way our industry is right now, with smaller companies that are on the up and up in terms of space development, my opportunities are widening.” To ensure the next generation maintains an interest in space exploration, NASA

“I want to be an astronaut. The way our industry is right now ... my opportunities are widening.” — Bryce Edwards, flammability certification engineer and Purdue University alumnus

does what it can to facilitate dreams just like Edwards’ at universities all over the country. The agency offers grants, fellowships and academic programs designed to inspire and support a potential future workforce. “Humankind’s journey to Mars begins in the classroom, and we are committed to working with educators as they inspire students to pursue studies and careers in the STEM disciplines,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. “We need all kids to have the opportunity to dream CO N T I N U E D






Chief Dull Knife College Rocket Team members pose under the Saturn V rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Aug. 25. The team won NASA’s First Nations Launch high-powered rocket competition in May.

big and be the leaders in STEM careers our nation needs.” During fiscal year 2014, NASA awarded $1.7 billion to educational and other nonprofit institutions. NASA has a long history of such generous giving. Sometimes, those efforts are collaborative. NASA works with the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), which establishes partnerships between government, higher education and industry. NASA provides awards through EPSCoR for NASA-related research and also supports efforts to fly university research projects onboard the International Space Station. In 2015, NASA awarded about $9.9 million to universites in 28 states. Another collaborative effort is the Space Technology Mission Directorate, which awards cooperative agreements to universities for two-year projects. In collaboration with NASA, universities develop and then demonstrate small spacecraft technologies, and students work with NASA engineers and scientists throughout the process. In 2015, NASA funded eight of these projects, including ones at Utah State, Purdue and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. NASA also supports the National Space Grant College and Fellowship program. Started in 1989, Space Grant is a national network of colleges and universities working to help students understand and CO N T I N U E D


Chief Dull Knife College students and Rocket Team members, top and bottom, prepare a rocket for takeoff in May at the First Nations Launch in Wisconsin. The NASA-sponsored event gives students experience with engineering and aeronautics.





A student at a robotics event makes adjustments to a Lego robot she built. The event was sponsored by the National Science Foundation Iowa Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) at the University of Northern Iowa.


resource that it represents for the state.” participate in NASA’s aeronautics and And when you bring attention to the space programs. Currently, more than 850 excellence of your university, the president affiliates (schools, agencies, museums and might just show up. more) throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico And then there are NASA’s efforts to participate. The group offers fellowships promote diversity in STEM education. and scholarships for students. Because NASA’s Minority University Research and the program is state-specific, individiual Education Project (MUREP) awards affiliates have the ability to address each $6 million to minority-serving institutions. state’s unique economic and demographic From Baltimore County Community College profile, explained Edward Duke, director of in Maryland to Texas State University in the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium. San Marcos, Texas, schools receive grants In South Dakota, the program pays off. to increase the number Ninety-one percent of of STEM classes. As a students receiving NASA result of such funding, for Space Grant fellowship “The rocket club example, North Dakota support went on to emrevealed that we State University is the ployment in STEM fields first historically black or to seek advanced all have hidden college or university to STEM degrees after offer a Ph.D. in optics, college graduation. The talents. This propreparing its students program has awarded 40 gram showed us for high-level research in percent of its fellowships academia, industry and to female students and that we can be so national laboratories. 25 percent to minority much more than Another diverse students, mostly Native school, Chief Dull Knife Americans. we ever thought, College in Lame Deer, Lake Area Technical and all we needed Mont., recently received Institute (LATI), in funds. With only 150 Watertown, S.D., is an was support.” students and more than active affiliate of the — Jade Three Fingers, 250 miles away from South Dakota Space Chief Dull Knife any research-oriented Grant Consortium. The College student four-year college, the school has increased two-year school particiSTEM efforts so much pated in NASA’s RockOn (and has improved on its program, which requires students to build two-year graduation rate to be more than a payload and launch it on a rocket. twice the national average) that President “The rocket club revealed that we all Obama spoke at the college’s 2015 have hidden talents,” said Chief Dull Knife graduation. student Jade Three Fingers. “We were Duke said that NASA’s support has been exposed to so much, from programming critical to these efforts. “(The program) has electronics to learning about aerodynamhighlighted the critical role that technical ics, as well as learning how to use cominstitutes like LATI have in an overall puter simulation software. This program STEM education strategy, as well as in showed us that we can be so much more workforce development,” he said. “(It also) than we ever thought, and all we needed focused attention on the excellent quality was support.” of training provided by LATI and the great


Through the Oklahoma Space Grant Consortium, Southwestern Oklahoma State University competes in a Rover Challenge in April at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.


A Montana Space Grant Consortium education enhancement grant gives chemistry students at Carroll College in Helena, Mont., an opportunity to work in sophisticated labs.









Number of astronauts graduated: 21 Why it’s exceptional: NASA’s Ames Research Center is located just seven miles away from campus, allowing students like Stephen Robinson — a co-op student who received his master’s and Ph.D. from Stanford before becoming an astronaut in 1994 — to work for the organization before they’ve even completed their education. Astronaut alums say the institution’s interdisciplinary approach, athletic opportunities and breadth of educational opportunities contribute to the school’s consistent presence in astronautics and space exploration.

Number of astronauts graduated: 52 Why it’s exceptional: Established in 1845, no other institution has graduated as many astronauts as the Naval Academy. Meant to establish the careers of future officers in the Marines and Navy, the academy’s resources around naval science are unparalleled. Majors for future astronauts include physical science, aerospace engineering and mathematics.

Charles Bolden Jr.


COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. Number of astronauts graduated: 39 Why it’s exceptional: Another government institution, the academy trains future Air Force officers. Established in 1955, graduates are commissioned into the Air Force as second lieutenants. Strong programs in engineering are buttressed by military studies, social sciences and physical education, and all cadets are required to participate in either intercollegiate or intramural athletics. The same combination of physical and mental skills that prepares students for the Air Force also prepares them for a career with NASA.

Sally Ride



Number of astronauts graduated: 38 Why it’s exceptional: Consistently ranked one of the best universities in the country, MIT offers an unmatched education in STEM subjects. More astronauts have come from MIT than any other non-military educational institution; four of the 12 astronauts who walked on the moon were MIT alumni.

Kjell Lindgren

TJ Creamer

Alan Shepard

Eileen Collins

Jim Lovell

Buzz Aldrin

Susan Helms


Number of astronauts graduated: 23


Number of astronauts graduated: 18


Number of astronauts graduated: 14 Neil Armstrong, Purdue University PHOTOS BY NASA


Number of astronauts graduated: 20









The fictional worlds out there inspire creativity down here The fictional worlds out there inspire creativity down here Matt Damon portrays an astronaut stranded on Mars in The Martian. TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

By Hollie Deese and Elizabeth Neus


A strong affection for Star Wars has spurred Nashville resident Chris Lee to build a fullscale reproduction of the Millennium Falcon, the ship piloted by Han Solo and Chewbacca.

HRIS LEE DEFINES HIS life by one date: May 25, 1977, the date a certain galaxy far, far away permanently embedded itself into the national consciousness. “I think of my life as BSW and ASW (Before Star Wars and After Star Wars),” said Lee, 50. “It was like the point on the graph where everything pivoted in my life. It was not that I wanted a lightsaber and to be a Jedi; I wanted to know what made that robot look so real, how they make those spaceships look like they actually flew.” Obsessed with space exploration from that moment on, he kept up with every space shuttle launch and visited Cape Canaveral with his parents. He evolved from building model Vikings out of milk cartons to working

in the world of real-life tech and robot construction. He’s given TEDx talks on building robots and spaceships, and the Nashville resident is currently in the midst of an estimated $500,000 project — a life-size reproduction of the film’s iconic Millennium Falcon (fullscalefalcon.com). “I am still a huge fan,” he said. “Even 38 years later, I can still sit down with Star Wars and be completely taken in. Whenever I watch that movie, I am 12 years old again.” The intrigue of space is an integral part of American pop culture, from the first moon landing seen on black-and-white TV sets across the country to the nail-biting wait for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh installment of the nine-film series, opening Dec. 18. Here are some other current other-worldly obsessions: CO N T I N U E D





Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (four-time Emmy winner Jim Parsons) are brilliant physicists who rock in the lab but nowhere else. Their beautiful, street-smart neighbor Penny (Kaley Cuoco) teaches them a thing or two about life; actress Mayim Bialik, who has an actual Ph.D. in neuroscience, rounds out the cast. The top-rated CBS sitcom, in its ninth season, gives voice to the role-playing, self-professed geeks of the world, including Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy. The late Nimoy, who played Spock, was a huge fan of the show — in which the fictional Sheldon is a huge fan of Nimoy’s. Nimoy provided a voiceover for one of Sheldon’s dreams before his death earlier this year.



In theaters Oct. 2, the perfectly cast Matt Damon stars in a Ridley Scott movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars. Based on a best-selling (and originally self-published) book by Andy Weir, the accessible story follows Damon’s character as he overcomes obstacle after obstacle, including learning how to grow food and survive for four years, while he awaits rescue after his crew mates were forced to evacuate their habitat and blast off for Earth. NASA experts lent a real-life hand to the movie’s makers. “These NASA guys are such film-philes,” Scott said. “They were all great enthusiasts of the book, so they were incredibly helpful.”



While you wait for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which harkens back to the style of the 1977 original, using real props and explosions to create its effects rather than computer-generated imagery (as the not-entirely-beloved prequels did) there’s plenty of material available now. Disney XD’s Star Wars Rebels, a 3-D CGI animation set between the prequels and the original trilogy, begins its second season in October. And for those who want to know what happens between Return of the Jedi and the new film, author Chuck Wendig’s novel Star Wars: Aftermath offers clues as it follows pilot Wedge Antilles and former rebel fighter Norra Wexley.



Before Star Wars, there was, of course, Star Trek, and nearly 50 years after its television premiere, the captain and navigator of the original USS Enterprise still command a place in science-fiction society. Both @williamshatner and @georgetakei — Captain Kirk and Lt. Sulu, respectively — are active on social media. The irascible Shatner promotes current sci-fi shows and interacts regularly with fans (and astronauts: His tweet to fellow Canadian Chris Hadfield, and Hadfield’s Starfleet-fluent response from the International Space Station, catapulted the astronaut to fame). Takei, a merrier presence, posts jokes, memes and his opinions on serious issues including gay marriage (Takei married his partner, Brad, in 2008).





A Carl Sagan for the 21st century, astrophysicist Tyson follows his late predecessor’s lead in bringing space down to Earth without erasing its wonder. His longtime radio program StarTalk (startalkradio.net) evolved into a National Geographic Channel show, and his appearances on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report boosted his profile even further. His recent revival of Sagan’s television series Cosmos brought together celebrities, comedians and scientists to talk about space travel and aliens, perfectly combining pop culture and science.




A Steven Spielberg offering, this TNT show begins six months after the world is invaded by aliens who neutralized the world’s power grid and technology, destroyed all major cities and took out most of the population. The reasoning for the alien takeover isn’t revealed until the fourth season (sorry, no spoilers here!) and those left behind banded together and fought back. The fifth season ended in August, but episodes are available for streaming at tntdrama.com as well as on Amazon.com and iTunes.


Peter Capaldi’s second season as the planet-hopping Twelfth Doctor is underway on BBC America, and hello sweetie, there’s a surprise coming for fans of the timey-wimey, TARDIS-traveling, groundbreaking BBC classic in the Christmas episode: the return of the Doctor’s wife, River Song. Who is a difficult show to drop into — with more than 50 years of backstory and often-convoluted timelines, it’s not for a casual fan — but it’s inspired the imaginations of Whovians for decades. And the rangy Capaldi, at 57 one of the oldest actors to play the Doctor, is worth watching.




Oscar winner Halle Berry stars in this thriller about astronaut Molly Woods, who after a year living alone in space returns to Earth — pregnant. She discovers that she has unwittingly put the human race on a path to destruction, and her experiences out of this world could change the course of history. Former ER actor Goran Visnjic plays Woods’ husband and Looper kid Pierce Gagnon portrays their android son. The show, from executive producer Steven Spielberg, ended its second season in September, but you can still see it at cbs.com/all-access.


In 1953, Arthur C. Clarke wrote the iconic science-fiction novel of Earth’s first encounter with aliens, a work that has influenced every first-contact book since. At first, everything seems peaceful, but it becomes clear that the arrival of the mysterious “Overlords” came with a cost. Daisy Betts and Mike Vogel play a married couple whose lives are turned upside down. SyFy begins the three-night, six-hour miniseries on Dec. 15 — the first-ever film adaptation of the book — starring Under the Dome’s Mike Vogel and Orange is the New Black’s Yael Stone.





This is what happens when you give an astronaut a camera


By Elizabeth Neus

NCE UPON A TIME, astronauts were stern and serious heroes, icons admired at arm’s length. These days, they’ve become far more accessible to the public. Social media gives us all a glimpse into their unique personalities and senses of humor, sometimes displayed in the form of photos. Check out these great shots shared by some fun-loving astronauts.





1 | Astronaut Leland Melvin (@ Astro_Flow) snuck his dogs into the studio for his official NASA portrait, although the space agency uses a dog-less photo on his bio page. 2 | The most famous of the official mission posters created by NASA astronauts might be Expedition

45’s Jedi Knight, but they’ve also celebrated the Beatles’ Abbey Road (complete with barefoot astronaut Catherine Coleman) and Pirates of the Caribbean (or rather, Pilots Over the Caribbean). Expedition 42 honored The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with its poster. In the cult classic, the answer to the ultimate

question of life is “42,” to which the NASA team would probably agree. 3 | Nothing is simple in space. Terry Virts cuts European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti’s hair while Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov mans the vacuum cleaner. “I think

@AstroTerry’s preflight training paid off, right?” @AstroSamantha tweeted later. 4 | Astronaut Terry Virts (@ AstroTerry) honors the memory of actor Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek’s Spock, with the trademark “live long and prosper” Vulcan hand

salute. Virts tweeted the photo while flying over Nimoy’s home state of Massachusetts the day after the beloved actor died in February 2015. 5 | What it looks like before astronauts clean up. Alexander Gerst (@Astro_Alex) called it “space suit salad.”





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