Saturday, August 4, 2018

Commercial spaceflight crews announced and testing for return to Moon as NASA celebrates its 60th anniversary

Happy birthday, NASA!  The U.S. space agency is celebrating its 60th birthday this year, as Sunday marked the 60th anniversary of President Eisenhower signing the National Aeronautics and Space Act, while the agency began operations on October 1, 1958.  NASA posted a video to observe the occasion this week, NASA 60th: How It All Began.

Congress passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, on July 16 and President Eisenhower signed it into law on July 29, 1958. NASA opened for business on Oct. 1, 1958, with T. Keith Glennan as our first administrator. Our history tells a story of exploration, innovation and discoveries. The next 60 years, that story continues.
All of that serves as a look into the past of NASA.  For a look at the future, I return to NASA committed to return to the Moon for National Moon Day 2018 for an update.  The same day I posted that entry, NASA uploaded Successful Parachute Test for Orion on This Week @NASA – July 20, 2018.

Another successful parachute test for Orion, how we’re getting back to the Moon, and an Apollo 11 virtual experience … a few of the stories to tell you about – This Week at NASA!
After watching this video, I can recycle what I wrote to conclude U.S. Space Corps and Orion -- rejected ideas for Moon Day.
The kinds of things that NASA has been doing with Orion this year, testing the escape rockets and parachutes in case of a launch abort, along with practicing how to exit the command module after it splashes down, are necessary, but not very exciting looking.  On the other hand, a test launch next year looks like exactly the kind of event that I would enjoy blogging about on the next National Moon Day.  I'm looking forward to it already.
The video above shows progress, but still no test launch for the Orion/Space Launch System (SLS) this year.  Darn.  I will have to be satisfied with a video showing Exploration Mission-1 – Pushing Farther Into Deep Space for now.

In the next eight minutes, you’ll experience a twenty-five-and-a-half-day mission from roll-out to recovery of the first integrated flight test of NASA’s Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System rocket, launching from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This uncrewed mission will be the first in a planned series of exploration missions beyond the moon, signaling what astronauts who dare to operate in deep space will experience on future flights.
When that mission takes place in either December 2019 or June 2020, I'll cheer, but it will take place after the next National Moon Day and no crew will be on board.  However, I should have a different crewed mission to applaud by July 20, 2019, as NASA Announced Astronaut Crews for First Commercial Vehicle Flights yesterday.

NASA announces the men and women who will be on board the first flights of the new spaceships built by Boeing and SpaceX when Americans are once again launched into space from the USA.
The nine astronauts targeted to make the first flights on the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon share their thoughts about the assignment and the importance of this new capability to support the International Space Station as part of the nation’s overall space exploration plan.
The news release has more including the rosters of the four flights, but not their dates.  For that, I have to quote SciNews on YouTube: "The first crewed launches are currently targeted for April 2019 (SpaceX Demo-2) and mid-2019 (Boeing Crew Flight Test)."  I've been waiting for this news since July 2011, which was the end of an era, the last space shuttle mission.  If all goes well, I'll be able to report that the United States once again has a crewed space capacity after eight long years of depending on Russia at the next National Moon Day.  Yay!

I conclude with a quote from the news release.
“Today, our country’s dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight. Today’s announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation’s leadership in space.”
I couldn't have said it better myself.

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