Record-breaking NASA astronaut Frank Rubio provides the agency’s first Spanish-language video tour of humanity’s home in space – the International Space Station.
Rubio welcomes the public aboard the microgravity science laboratory in a behind-the-scenes look at living and working in space recorded during his 371-day mission aboard the space station, the longest single spaceflight in history by an American.
The station tour is available to watch on the agency’s NASA+ streaming platform,NASA app, NASA Television, YouTube, and the agency’s website.
Continuously inhabited for more than 23 years, the space station is a scientific platform where crew members conduct experiments across multiple disciplines of research, including Earth and space science, biology, human physiology, physical sciences, and technology demonstrations that could not be performed on Earth.
The crew living aboard the station are the hands of thousands of researchers on the ground conducting more than 3,300 experiments in microgravity. During his record-breaking mission, Rubio spent many hours contributing to scientific activities aboard the orbiting laboratory, conducting everything from human health studies to plant research.
Rubio returned to Earth in September, having completed approximately 5,936 orbits of the Earth and a journey of more than 157 million miles during his first spaceflight, roughly the equivalent of 328 trips to the Moon and back.
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NASA Scientific Balloons Ready for Flights Over Antarctica
4 min read
NASA Scientific Balloons Ready for Flights Over Antarctica
A scientific balloon payload is being prepared for launch in McMurdo Station, Antarctica.
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility
NASA kicks off its annual Antarctic Long Duration Balloon Campaign around Dec. 1, which includes three scientific balloon flights planned for launch from the long-duration balloon (LDB) Camp near McMurdo Station, Antarctica. NASA’s stadium-sized, zero-pressure balloons will support a total of five missions on the long-duration flights with one mission vying to break NASA’s heavy-lift, long-duration balloon flight record, which stands at 55 days, 1 hour, and 34 minutes.
“The annual Antarctic long-duration balloon campaign is the program’s flagship event for long-duration missions,” said Andrew Hamilton, acting chief of NASA’s Balloon Program Office (BPO). “The environment and stratospheric wind conditions provide a unique and valuable opportunity to fly missions in a near-space environment for days or weeks at a time. The BPO team is excited to provide support to all our missions this year.”
Headlining this year’s campaign is the Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory (GUSTO) mission. This Astrophysics mission is managed by NASA’s Explorers Program Office at Goddard Space Flight Center. The mission is led by principal investigator Christopher Walker from the University of Arizona with support from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. GUSTO will aim for 55-plus days in flight above the southernmost hemisphere’s skies to map a large part of the Milky Way galaxy, including the galactic center, and the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud. The GUSTO telescope is equipped with very sensitive detectors for carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen emission lines. Measuring these emission lines will give the GUSTO team deep insight into the full lifecycle of the interstellar medium, the cosmic material found between stars. GUSTO’s science observations will be performed from Antarctica to allow for enough observation time aloft, access to astronomical objects, and solar power provided by the austral summer in the polar region.
Additional missions set to fly during the Antarctic LDB campaign include:
Anti-Electron Sub-Orbital Payload (AESOP-Lite): The mission, led by a team from the University of Delaware and University of California Santa Cruz, will measure cosmic-ray electrons and positrons. These electron measurements will be compared to Voyager I and II, which reached interstellar space and have been measuring cosmic ray electrons since 2012 and 2018, respectively. AESOP-Lite will fly on a 60 million cubic feet balloon, a test flight set to qualify the balloon for reaching altitudes greater than 150,000 feet, which is higher than NASA’s current stratospheric inventory.
Long durAtion evalUation solaR hand LAunch (LAURA): This engineering test flight, led by NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, will utilize solar panels to extend the science capability of the hand launch platform from a few days in flight to long-duration flights. Hand-launched balloons are about 40 times smaller in volume than the heavy-lift balloons and have limited time aloft due to the amount and weight of batteries used for powering the science and balloon instruments.
Anihala (Antarctic Infrasound Hand Launch): This piggyback payload on the AESOP-Lite launch, a cooperative mission between the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and Sandia National Lab, aims to measure natural background sound in the stratosphere over a continent where human-generated sound is largely absent.
Zero-pressure balloons feature open ducts that allow gas to escape and prevent an increase in pressure from inside the balloon. Gas expansion occurs as it heats during the balloon’s rise above Earth’s surface or by temperature increases from a rising Sun. These balloons, which typically have a shorter flight duration due to the loss of gas from the cycle of day to night, can only fly long-duration missions during the constant daylight of summer in polar regions, where the balloon stays in constant sunlight.
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia manages the agency’s scientific balloon flight program with 10 to 15 flights each year from launch sites worldwide. Peraton, which operates NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) in Texas, provides mission planning, engineering services, and field operations for NASA’s scientific balloon program. The CSBF team has launched more than 1,700 scientific balloons over some 40 years of operations. NASA’s balloons are fabricated by Aerostar. The NASA Scientific Balloon Program is funded by the NASA Headquarters Science Mission Directorate Astrophysics Division.
NASA Administrator to Travel to India, UAE; Discuss Space Cooperation
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson gives remarks after Indian Ambassador to the United States Taranjit Sandhu signed the Artemis Accords, Wednesday, June 21, 2023, at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson will travel to India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a series of meetings beginning Monday, Nov. 27, with key government officials.
Nelson also will meet with space officials in both countries to deepen bilateral cooperation across a broad range of innovation and research-related areas, especially in human exploration and Earth science.
The visit to India fulfills a commitment through the United States and India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology spearheaded by President Joe Biden. Nelson will visit several locations in India, including the Bengaluru-based facilities where the NISAR spacecraft, a joint Earth-observing mission between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), is undergoing testing and integration for launch in 2024. NISAR is short for NASA ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar.
As the first satellite mission between NASA and ISRO, NISAR is a revolutionary Earth-observing instrument, the first in the Earth System Observatory, that will measure Earth’s changing ecosystems, dynamic surfaces, and ice masses providing information about biomass, natural hazards, sea level rise, and groundwater, key information to guide efforts related to climate change, hazard mitigation, agriculture, and more.
While in the UAE, Nelson will participate in the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, highlighting NASA’s role as a global leader in providing decisionmakers with critical Earth-science data. It will be the first time a NASA administrator will have attended the conference.
Students in each country also will have the opportunity to meet with Nelson to discuss science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and their roles as members of the Artemis Generation.
For more information about NASA’s international partnerships, visit:
Students of the 2022 SaSa class stand in a cockpit, learning from a NASA airman as part of a training module.
The first module starts with a two-week introductory summer workshop at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and Howard University Beltsville Campus research facility in Beltsville, Maryland
Immediately after the workshop, there is a one-week, hands-on training on remote sensing/satellite application to disaster monitoring (ex. smoke from forest fires, volcanic plumes, desert dust storms, chemical spills, tornadoes and hurricanes, etc.) using the Direct Broadcast System Antenna Receiving and Data Analyses System at Hampton University.
Students participate in a three-week field deployment based out of the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, where participants will be involved in all aspects of a scientific field campaign; from detailed planning for achieving mission objectives to flying on NASA aircraft and assisting in instrument operation and field validation at selected sites.
The final module is focused on processing and analyzing the collected field data and presenting early results to peers, mentors, and other stakeholders based at UMBC.
Participants are provided academic advisement and mentorship support until graduation, to help improve student retention and assure timely progress to graduation.
NASA Uses Two Worlds to Test Future Mars Helicopter Designs
6 min read
NASA Uses Two Worlds to Test Future Mars Helicopter Designs
Engineers will go beyond the ends of the Earth to find more performance for future Mars helicopters.
For the first time in history, two planets have been home to testing future aircraft designs. On this world, a new rotor that could be used with next-generation Mars helicopters was recently tested at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, spinning at near-supersonic speeds (0.95 Mach). Meanwhile, the agency’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has achieved new altitude and airspeed records on the Red Planet in the name of experimental flight testing.
“Our next-generation Mars helicopter testing has literally had the best of both worlds,” said Teddy Tzanetos, Ingenuity’s project manager and manager for the Mars Sample Recovery Helicopters. “Here on Earth, you have all the instrumentation and hands-on immediacy you could hope for while testing new aircraft components. On Mars, you have the real off-world conditions you could never truly re-create here on Earth.” That includes a whisper-thin atmosphere and significantly less gravity than on Earth.
The next-generation carbon fiber rotor blades being tested on Earth are almost 4 inches (more than 10 centimeters) longer than Ingenuity’s, with greater strength and a different design. NASA thinks these blades could enable bigger, more capable Mars helicopters. The challenge is, as the blade tips approach supersonic speeds, vibration-causing turbulence can quickly get out of hand.
To find a space big enough to create a Martian atmosphere on Earth, engineers looked to JPL’s 25-foot wide, 85-foot-tall (8-meter-by-26-meter) space simulator – a place where Surveyor, Voyager, and Cassini got their first taste of space-like environments. For three weeks in September, a team monitored sensors, meters, and cameras as the blades endured run after run at ever-higher speeds and greater pitch angles.
“We spun our blades up to 3,500 rpm, which is 750 revolutions per minute faster than the Ingenuity blades have gone,” said Tyler Del Sesto, Sample Recovery Helicopter deputy test conductor at JPL. “These more efficient blades are now more than a hypothetical exercise. They are ready to fly.”
At around the same time, and about 100 million miles (161 million kilometers) away, Ingenuity was being commanded to try things the Mars Helicopter team never imagined they would get to do.
Fourth Rock Flight Testing
Ingenuity was originally slated to fly no more than five times. With its first flight entering the mission logbook more than two-and-a-half years ago, the helicopter has exceeded its planned 30-day mission by 32 times and has flown 66 times. Every time Ingenuity goes airborne, it covers new ground, offering a perspective no previous planetary mission could achieve. But lately, Team Ingenuity has been taking their solar-powered rotorcraft out for a spin like never before.
“Over the past nine months, we have doubled our max airspeed and altitude, increased our rate of vertical and horizontal acceleration, and even learned to land slower,” said Travis Brown, Ingenuity’s chief engineer at JPL. “The envelope expansion provides invaluable data that can be used by mission designers for future Mars helicopters.”
Limited by available energy and motor-temperature considerations, Ingenuity flights usually last around two to three minutes. Although the helicopter can cover more ground in a single flight by flying faster, flying too fast can confuse the onboard navigation system. The system uses a camera that recognizes rocks and other surface features as they move through its field of view. If those features whiz by too fast, the system can lose its way.
So, to achieve a higher maximum ground speed, the team sends commands for Ingenuity to fly at higher altitudes (instructions are sent to the helicopter before each flight), which keeps features in view longer. Flight 61 established a new altitude record of 78.7 feet (24 meters) as it checked out Martian wind patterns. With Flight 62 Ingenuity set a speed record of 22.3 mph (10 meters per second) – and scouted a location for the Perseverance rover’s science team.
The team has also been experimenting with Ingenuity’s landing speed. The helicopter was designed to contact the surface at a relatively brisk 2.2 mph (1 mps) so its onboard sensors could easily confirm touchdown and shut down the rotors before it could bounce back into the air. A helicopter that lands more slowly could be designed with lighter landing gear. So, on Flights 57, 58, and 59 they gave it a whirl, demonstrating Ingenuity could land at speeds 25% slower than the helicopter was originally designed to land at.
All this Martian Chuck Yeager-ing is not over. In December, after solar conjunction, Ingenuity is expected to perform two high-speed flights during which it will execute a special set of pitch-and-roll angles designed to measure its performance.
“The data will be extremely useful in fine-tuning our aero-mechanical models of how rotorcraft behave on Mars,” said Brown. “On Earth, such testing is usually performed in the first few flights. But that’s not where we’re flying. You have to be a little more careful when you’re operating that far away from the nearest repair shop, because you don’t get any do-overs.”
More About Ingenuity
Ingenuity began its life at Mars as a technology demonstration. It first flew on April 19, 2021, hovering 10 feet (3 meters) for 30 seconds. Four more flights in as many weeks added 499 seconds and saw the helicopter flying horizontally over the surface for 1,171 feet (357 meters). After proving flight was possible on Mars, Ingenuity entered an operations demonstration phase in May 2021 to show how aerial scouting could benefit future exploration of Mars and other worlds.
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by JPL, which also manages the project for NASA Headquarters. It is supported by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, provided significant flight performance analysis and technical assistance during Ingenuity’s development. AeroVironment Inc., Qualcomm, and SolAero also provided design assistance and major vehicle components. Lockheed Space designed and manufactured the Mars Helicopter Delivery System.
At NASA Headquarters, Dave Lavery is the program executive for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter.