By Joey Roulette
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The coronavirus has dealt a blow to NASA’s plan to return Americans to the moon by 2024, as the space agency chief on Thursday ordered the temporary closure of two rocket production facilities after an employee tested positive for the illness.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement he was shutting down the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and the Stennis Space Center in nearby Hancock County, Mississippi, due to a rise in coronavirus cases in the region.
“We realize there will be impacts to NASA missions, but as our teams work to analyze the full picture and reduce risks we understand that our top priority is the health and safety of the NASA workforce,” Bridenstine said.
The closures marked the latest in a series of setbacks NASA has faced in the development of its next-generation rocket, dubbed the Space Launch System, or SLS, and its Orion crew vehicle, envisioned for human missions to the moon and Mars.
Bridenstine did not say how long the shutdown might last but acknowledged it would require NASA to “temporarily suspend production and testing of Space Launch System and Orion hardware.”
Work on the SLS, led by Boeing (NYSE:) Co as the prime contractor, has been dogged by years of delays and nearly $2 billion in cost overruns. The work stoppage in the face of the coronavirus pandemic comes as engineers raced to complete preparations for the rocket’s first all-engine ground test this summer.
On Tuesday, all 11 NASA centers were placed at Stage 3 of the agency’s coronavirus contingency plans, requiring staff to work remotely except for those assigned to “mission-essential” projects, including the Space Launch System.
But NASA’s Stennis center and the Michoud Assembly Facility were elevated on Thursday to Stage 4, the highest level calling for a temporary shutdown, after an employee was diagnosed with the virus.
The orders essentially put the brakes on NASA’s accelerated timetable for returning astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024, an achievement viewed as a stepping stone to human exploration of Mars.
The U.S. Apollo program, NASA’s forerunner to the current lunar effort, accomplished the world’s first six and only manned missions to the moon between 1969 and 1972.
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PHOTOS: Here are some of Kelowna's best photos of last night's Pink Full Moon – KelownaNow
posted Apr 8, 2020 @ 01:30pm by
Last night’s Pink Full Moon was a hit, with people across the Okanagan and beyond capturing the sight on camera.
The full moon was also a supermoon – the brightest supermoon of the year – making it an even more exciting celestial event.
Here are just a few of the photos that Kelowna residents shared with us!
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ISS Crew Blasts Off From Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome Despite Virus-Hit Build-Up – The Moscow Times
A three-man crew docked successfully at the International Space Station Thursday, leaving behind a planet overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Russian space agency Roscosmos said the Soyuz MS-16 capsule “docked successfully” in a statement on its website.
Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos and NASA’s Chris Cassidy reached the ISS at 1413 GMT, just over six hours after blasting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, where COVID-19 caused changes to pre-launch protocol.
Usually the departing crew faces questions from a large press pack before being waved off by family and friends.
Neither was possible this time round because of travel restrictions imposed over the virus, although the crew did respond to emailed questions from journalists in a Wednesday press conference.
Cassidy, 50, admitted the crew had been affected by their families not being unable to be in Baikonur, Russia’s space hub in neighboring Kazakhstan, for their blastoff to the ISS.
“But we understand that the whole world is also impacted by the same crisis,” Cassidy said.
Astronauts routinely go into quarantine ahead of space missions and give a final press conference at Baikonur from behind a glass wall to protect them from infection.
That process began even earlier than usual last month as the trio and their reserve crew hunkered down in Russia’s Star City training centre outside Moscow, eschewing traditional pre-launch rituals and visits to the capital.
The next crew to return to Earth from the ISS will be flying to their home countries on April 17 via Baikonur, rather than Karaganda in central Kazakhstan as usual, as part of new travel measures related to the pandemic.
Tips on self-isolation
The ISS typically carries up to six people at a time and has a livable space of 388 cubic meters (13,700 cubic feet) — larger than a six-bedroom house according to NASA.
Those dimensions will sound enviable to many residents of Earth, more than half of whom are on various forms of lockdown as governments respond to Covid-19 with drastic measures.
In recent weeks, astronauts and cosmonauts on the ISS and on Earth have been sharing tips on coping with self-isolation.
In a piece for the New York Times last month, NASA’s Scott Kelly said his biggest miss during almost a year in space was nature — “the color green, the smell of fresh dirt and the feel of warm sun on my face.”
During his time aboard the ISS he “binge-watched ‘Game of Thrones’ — twice” and enjoyed frequent movie nights with crewmates, he wrote.
Two-time cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy has become the face of a 10-week challenge that will see participants post videos of themselves completing physical exercises as part of a competition aimed at both youth and adults.
The initiative that Roscosmos is backing aims “to support people in a situation of isolation, instil a healthy lifestyle and thoughts through regular sports, without going out in public places,” Ryazanskiy said in a video promoting the “Cosmos Training” challenge.
The launch of Ivanishin, Vagner and Cassidy marks the first time a manned mission has used a Soyuz-2.1a booster to reach orbit, after Roscosmos stopped using the Soyuz-FG rocket last year.
The newer boosters have been used in unmanned launches since 2004.
The upgraded rocket relies on a digital flight control system rather than the analogue equipment used in prior Soyuz models.
Russia and Baikonur have enjoyed a near decade-long monopoly on manned missions to the ISS since NASA wound up its Space Shuttle program in 2011.
But that may change as early as next month when Elon Musk’s SpaceX could be ready to launch a two-man crew to the orbital lab, NASA said in March.
NASA said that the tech entrepreneur’s company and the space agency are targeting “mid-to-late May” for a test launch that will transport NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule.
The International Space Station — a rare example of cooperation between Russia and the West — has been orbiting Earth at about 28,000 kilometers per hour (17,000 miles per hour) since 1998.
Tuesday's super pink moon lit up the Okanagan night sky – Kelowna News – Castanet.net
If you’ve had your fill of COVID-19 news for the time being the moon put on quite a show last night.
This photo sent to us by Dale Sitar shows the super pink moon in all its glory Tuesday night.
Tuesday’s full moon was the biggest, brightest supermoon of 2020 and the second of three supermoons this year. April’s supermoon came the closest to our planet – and thus appeared the largest.
Turns out we are currently in the midst of a series of supermoons according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the first happened on March 9, April’s was Tuesday night and the last occurs on May 7, 2020.
April’s full moon is called the “Pink Moon” as it’s the first to occur after the March equinox and heralds the appearance of the “moss pink,” or wild creeping phlox—one of the early spring flowers.
Historically, full moon names were used to track the seasons and, for this reason, often relate closely to nature. The moon names that we use today stem from Native American and Colonial-era sources. Traditionally, each full moon name was applied to the entire lunar month in which it occurred, rather than just the full moon itself.
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