To protect the health and safety of the NASA workforce as the nation responds to coronavirus (COVID-19), agency leadership recently completed the first assessment of work underway across all missions, projects, and programs. The goal was to identify tasks that can be done remotely by employees at home, mission-essential work that must be performed on-site, and on-site work that will be paused.
“We are going to take care of our people. That’s our first priority,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Technology allows us to do a lot of what we need to do remotely, but, where hands-on work is required, it is difficult or impossible to comply with CDC guidelines while processing spaceflight hardware, and where we can’t safely do that we’re going to have to suspend work and focus on the mission critical activities.”
The agency has defined mission-essential work as that which must be performed to maintain critical mission operations to ensure the schedule of time-sensitive mission-critical launches, or work to protect life and critical infrastructure. This includes work to support America’s national security and mission-essential functions for the nation. NASA leadership will continually assess all activities as the situation evolves.
NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, which includes the Perseverance Rover and Mars Helicopter, remains a high priority for the agency, and launch and other mission preparations will continue. Much of the work is being done by employees and contractors who work remotely across the agency. Assessments by agency leadership are underway for anyone required to work in areas under restriction, such as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, especially after the recent announcement by California’s governor.
The James Webb Space Telescope team, also in California, is suspending integration and testing operations. Decisions could be adjusted as the situation continues to unfold over the weekend and into next week. The decision was made to ensure the safety of the workforce. The observatory remains safe in its cleanroom environment.
Also in California, work continues by Lockheed Martin on X-59 NASA’s first large-scale, piloted X-plane in more than 30 years, while NASA oversight and inspections will be conducted almost exclusively virtually.
Work on the agency’s Artemis program continues with limited production of hardware and software for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. SLS and Orion manufacturing and testing activities at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility and Stennis Space Center are temporarily on hold. The Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft will be shipped from the agency’s Glenn Research Center to its Kennedy Space Center where it eventually will be attached on top of SLS for the Artemis I lunar mission. Assembly and processing work is continuing on the Artemis II Orion spacecraft at Kennedy.
Since the Human Landing System program leverages capabilities across the agency, it already functions as a virtual team to conduct engineering analysis and other work, and it has seen minimal impact from the requirement for mandatory telework. Most development work on the Gateway program continues and can be done remotely, however, any on-site activity beyond securing hardware is temporarily suspended until further notice.
NASA’s Ames Research Center is keeping the agency’s supercomputing resources online, as well as the NASA IT Security Operations Center and in-flight spacecraft operations.
All work associated with supporting International Space Station operations continues. Flight controllers are working in the Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center in Houston, where a number of additional measures went into effect in early March to reduce the risk of exposure to the team.
Astronaut training continues, as do preparations for the launch April 9 of NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and two Russian cosmonauts. NASA and its international and commercial partners always take steps to prevent the crew from bringing illnesses like the cold or flu to the International Space Station. As with all crewed launches, crews must stay in quarantine for two weeks before they launch. This process ensures that they aren’t sick or incubating an illness when they get to the space station and is called “health stabilization.”
Work also continues on the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, a critical element to maintaining safe operations on the International Space Station and a sustained U.S. presence on the orbiting laboratory. Commercial resupply activities and future missions also will go on as scheduled in order to keep the space station crew fully supplied and safe.
NASA also is supporting mission-essential operations for all spacecraft. This encompasses the Hubble Space Telescope and space communications network, as well as satellite missions that support the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and Department of Defense, including those that provide critical weather and GPS data.
Most of the agency remains under a Stage 3 status, with mandatory telework for all employees with limited exceptions for on-site work. Ames, Michoud, and Stennis are at Stage 4 with personnel on-site to protect life and critical infrastructure. NASA leadership continues to monitor developments regarding COVID-19 around the nation and follow the guidance from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and local and state health officials in order to keep the NASA community safe.
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New Spinoff publication shares how NASA innovations benefit life on Earth
Pasadena CA (JPL) Mar 19, 2020
As NASA pushes the frontiers of science and human exploration, the agency also advances technology to modernize life on Earth, including drones, self-driving cars and other innovations.
NASA’s diverse missions spur the creation and improvement of thousands of new products that make life better for people around the world. Dozens of the latest examples are featured in the newest edition of NASA’s Spinoff publication, including several from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, an … read more
NASA taps SpaceX for future cargo deliveries to the lunar Gateway – SlashGear
In an announcement on Friday, NASA revealed the first private American space company to receive a Gateway Logistics Services contract under the Artemis program: SpaceX. Under this new deal, SpaceX will eventually deliver various experiments, supplies, and other cargo to the planned lunar Gateway. The space agency has described this as a ‘significant step forward’ in its Artemis program, which is aiming for a manned return to the Moon by 2024.
Under a Gateway Logistics Services contract, NASA will be able to order missions for as long as 12 years, it explained on Friday. The space agency is working on making the lunar Gateway outpost a reality — it will be a small spaceship that remains in lunar orbit, serving as a living space for astronauts, a space lab for scientific work, and more.
As with the International Space Station today, the future Gateway will require regular shipments of cargo and other goods. SpaceX has worked extensively with NASA over the years to launch cargo deliveries, among other things, and it makes sense that the space agency would continue its work with the private space company.
In a statement, NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Deep Space Logistics manager Mark Wiese said:
This is an exciting new chapter for human exploration. We are bringing the innovative thinking of commercial industry into our supply chain and helping ensure we’re able to support crews preparing for lunar surface expeditions by delivering the supplies they need ahead of time.
At this point in time, NASA says that it is planning supply missions to the Gateway that will involve a cargo spacecraft spending between six and 12 months at the outpost each time. SpaceX plays an important role in NASA’s Artemis program and future Mars ambitions, but it isn’t the only private American space company working with the space agency. Among others, Boeing also has considerable involvement with the Artemis program.
Astronaut tips to survive lockdown: Talk, teamwork, treats – The Jakarta Post – Jakarta Post
Stick to a daily routine, stay connected with family and treat yourself occasionally – those are some of the tips German astronauts gave for surviving lockdown during the coronavirus crisis, which they said was much like their time in space.
Thomas Reiter, 61, who was the first German astronaut to perform a spacewalk, recalled during a Skype conversation with other astronauts on Thursday how he had a tight daily routine in space.
“I think it’s important to follow a conscious routine in such a situation … keeping that routine all week,” said Reiter, now retired.
But weekend treats were important to look forward to.
“During the week we picked out the things from the food container that each person liked the most for a Friday or Saturday evening and then had a bit better food,” he said.
Reiter recalled using Skype to connect with his family from the International Space Station. Sitting in front of a bookshelf, he recommended using lockdown to catch up on reading.
“You have to be able to retreat,” he said, but added that in confinement with others, people must put the group first. “You work together as a crew, you have to think of the others.”
Matthias Maurer, 50, the newest addition to the European Space Agency’s astronaut corps, said it was important to address any niggles before they blow up into arguments.
“Everyone of us has a quirk which we are comfortable with but which can annoy others,” he said, recalling how his taste for bananas annoyed a colleague who couldn’t stand their smell.
“If he hadn’t said that so politely and clearly, I would have continually annoyed him,” said Maurer.
Alexander Gerst, 43, who commanded the International Space Station, addressed the anxiety people may feel during the coronavirus epidemic.
Before a mission, astronauts think about the worst that could happen and then train how to respond.
“Then you have the feeling not that you are losing control, but that you have some control over the situation,” he said.
“Now the situation is similar. We have a very effective means of limiting this illness – that is that we stay at home.”
Reiter urged people to act likes astronauts going into quarantine before a mission – a protocol to prevent illness in space.
“Some people take the attitude ‘I’m young, I’m not at danger, I have no symptoms, so I don’t need to pay attention’,” he said. “It is up everyone to behave appropriately now, just like for us in quarantine.”
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Uranus has started leaking gas, NASA scientists confirm – Happy Mag
As if 2020 couldn’t get any more cursed, NASA scientists looking back through decades-old data from the Voyager 2 spacecraft have discovered a mysterious gas escaping from Uranus.
The data showed some mysterious force sucking the atmosphere straight out of the planet and into space.
Highly detailed and scientific NASA research can confirm that something massive is coming out of Uranus.
Buried data reveals that when the spacecraft flew past the gas giant in 1986, it passed through something called a plasmoid that escaped and stole a big old cloud of the planet’s atmosphere along with it.
NASA have learnt from Voyager 2’s gassy expedition that the plasmoid itself was about 127,000 miles long and twice as wide. The data, first published in August in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, will be able to give NASA a much more detailed understanding of Uranus’ atmospheric composition, however won’t be able to tell them everything.
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