This Month in Space: May 2020

This month, history was made as SpaceX and NASA launched astronauts to the ISS from US soil for the first time in 9 years, but that’s not the only exciting space news that happened in May!

NASA will pay people to spend 8 months in lockdown to simulate missions

Are you enjoying your time in quarantine? NASA wants to pay you for it. According to Fox News, before NASA sends astronauts to Mars, it is looking for six people to isolate for eight months in Moscow, Russia, to help the space agency understand “the physiological and psychological effects of isolation and confinement on humans in preparation for Artemis exploration missions to the Moon and future long-duration missions to Mars.”

However, in order to apply for this unique opportunity, you’ll have to meet NASA’s criteria. You must be a U.S. citizen between 30 and 55 years old, proficient in Russian and English, and have a college degree, preferably a master’s, doctorate or medical degree, as well as completion of military officer training. The six individuals chosen will head to the NEK facility in Moscow, Russia where they will spend 8 months in a mock spacecraft conducting experiments 

Crew members of the Scientific International Research in a Unique terrestrial Station (SIRIUS)-19 completed a similar four-month analog mission back in 2019. According to former Crew member, Anastasia Stepanova the key to the four months in isolation was a strong team, support for each other, optimism, and inner peace.


SpaceX’s sleek spacesuits are a departure from the space shuttle era

When astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley flew to space aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon, one thing was different from past missions: the spacesuits. Instead of the ubiquitous pumpkin orange NASA suits, the astronauts wore sleek, one-piece, white suits designed by Jose Fernandez. 

If the suits look like they come from the latest blockbuster movie, it’s because Fernandez is a legendary costume designer whose pieces have been featured in “Wonder Woman,” “Wolverine,” “Batman vs. Superman” and “Captain America: Civil War.”

SpaceX’s spacesuit “is designed to be functional, lightweight, and to offer protection from potential depressurization,” NASA added. The protection against depressurization would be similar to the ACES suit, which had an emergency breathing system and the ability to fully pressurize if the cabin suddenly lost oxygen. In addition, a single connection point on the suit’s thigh attaches life support systems, including air and power connections. The helmet is custom manufactured using 3D-printing technology and includes integrated valves, mechanisms for visor retraction and locking, and microphones within the helmet’s structure.

However, despite the new suits, the astronauts will not be using them for spacewalks. For the foreseeable future, astronauts will continue to use the shuttle-era Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), which is designed to work for 8-10 hours or so for microgravity activities in a full vacuum, while providing protection against radiation. 

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex offers STEM activities and experiments for family fun at home

Looking for new activities to do with your kids? Kennedy Space Center as you covered! KSC is bringing the fun world of STEM at home during the coronavirus.

KSC’s Education Program has been posting new videos to their Facebook that demonstrates easy activities and experiments parents can do with their children such as how to build an air rocket or how to make a chemical rocket launch.

Lead by Program Manager, Dee Maynard new videos are released Monday through Friday. Maynard stated that their favorite part about running this program is being able to hear kids’ experiences from all over the world, “They post their responses in the comments. We get to see the things they’re making and the things that they’re doing so it comes full circle. I get goosebumps just talking about it because I really love hearing back from everybody,” said Maynard.

Every STEM experiment and demonstration video released so far can be viewed here.


NASA Renames Next-Generation Telescope after Nancy Grace Roman

NASA has announced that it has renamed its Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) after the “Mother of Hubble” astronomer, Nancy Grace Roman. Roman became NASA’s first chief of astronomy in 1960 and was the first woman to hold an executive position at NASA.

Set to launch in 2025, the Nancy Grace Roman telescope will aid astronomers to answer some of the biggest questions of cosmology. With a 7.9-foot  primary mirror, the new telescope is roughly the same size as the Hubble Space Telescope. It will be able to capture deep-space images with the same resolution as Hubble, but its field of view is 100 times wider, allowing it to image more of the sky in a shorter amount of time.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, “It is because of Nancy Grace Roman’s leadership and vision that NASA became a pioneer in astrophysics and launched Hubble, the world’s most powerful and productive space telescope.”

Sadly, Roman will not be able to see her namesake telescope. She passed away in 2018 at the age of 95.