NASA Administrator George Mueller (b.1918) died on October 12. Mueller helped create the test process for the Apollo program, helped design Skylab, and advocated for the space shuttle program. Following his work at NASA, Mueller worked for a variety of aerospace contractors.
NASA scientists announced today that they have found evidence of liquid water on Mars. A series of Recurrent Slope Lineae on the sides of some canyons, which darken seasonally, have shown evidence of salt deposits, leading scientists to believe that in certain seasons, there is some briny seepage that runs down the striations.
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The Smithsonian Institute has announced that it has successfully raised $550,000 via Kickstarter in order to preserve the spacesuit worn by Neil Armstrong during the first moonwalk. The Smithsonian is planning another Kickstarter to raise $700,000 to preserve the suit worn by Alan B. Shepard, Jr. on the first American manned launch.
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The New Horizons spacecraft made its closest approach to the planet Pluto today, following a nine year voyage. New Horizons has been sending back a stream of pictures of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, over the past week and will resume sending out more images over the next couple of months.
Jack King (b.1931) died on June 11. King served as the Kennedy Space Center’s Chief of Public Information from 1960-71 and as NASA’s Public Affairs Officer from 1971-5. During that time, he was the voice of Mission Control, announcing the launch of Apollo 11, among others.
The first flight of Orion, delayed a day, successfully launched, orbited, and splashed down on Friday, December 5. Orion completed two orbits of the Earth, including one at a distance of 3600 miles, more than 15 times higher than the International Space Station orbits. This is the first time a spaceship designed for humans has traveled that far from Earth since the Apollo missions. A little over four hours after launch, Orion splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.
An Antares rocket exploded during launch at 6:22 EDT at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The unmanned rocket was meant to carry supplies to the International Space Station. Its launch was postponed from October 27 because a sailboat had entered the restricted area down range of the launchpad. Initial reports indicate that damage only occurred to the rocket and launchpad.
Three NASA spacecraft in orbit around Mars, the Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and MAVEN, were sent signals to remain in orbit on one side of Mars while comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring passed within 88,000 miles of the planet. NASA feared that particles from the comet could endanger or damage the orbiters during the cometary flyby on October 20. The satellites were also used to gather data on the flyby, as were the rovers currently on the Martian surface.
NASA has signed contracts with SpaceX and Boeing for the companies to provide transportation for astronauts from the US to the International Space Station. Since July 2011, when Atlantis last docked with the ISS, astronauts have been flying to the ISS on Russian spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. SpaceX and Boeing will be ready for launch in 2017.
NASA engineer Jack Kinzler (b.1920) died on March 4. Kinzler built the full sized models of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft used in preflight tests and created the flags and plaques left on the Moon by Apollo astronauts. When the Skylab heatshield failed, Kinzler created a fix using fishing poles that meant the astronauts would not have to do a spacewalk.