NASA Gets Record Numbers for Astronaut Training

Last Thursday ended the application process for those looking to be a part of NASA’s 2017 class. The process started on December 14th and after two months of accepting applications, NASA received 18,300 applicants. This number shattered the 2012 application pool record of 6,300. Unfortunately for the record breaking number of applicants, NASA will only be able to accept 14 or fewer applicants.

NASA’s astronaut-selection board will have their work cut out for them over next 18 months, as they will review applications and narrow them down. The best applicants will be interviewed in Houston, at Johnson’s Space Center. After interviews with the cream of the crop, NASA will select a final set of eight to fourteen astronauts to begin training.

The training process, according to a NASA official, will include “training on spacecraft systems, spacewalking skills and teamwork, Russian language and other requisite skills.” Those who make it through the intense training process will be receiving different assignments, which include the International Space Station, NASA’s Orion spacecraft, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner or the SpaceX Crew Dragon. These are all incredible opportunities that each person who applied would be honored to apart of. The goal for NASA’s Orion spacecraft is to hopefully launch in the early 2020’s. This specific assignment will be able to sustain a crew of four astronauts for three weeks. Both the Starliner and Crew Dragon are in development aided by NASA’s commercial crew program to bring four astronauts to the space station at a time.

Brian Kelly, the director of Flight Operations at Johnson Space Center had a few words to say about this record breaking application number: “it’s heartening to know so many people recognize what a great opportunity this is to be part of NASA’s exciting mission. I look forward to meeting the men and women talented enough to rise to the top of what is always a pool of incredible applicants.”  In the end, this will be an exciting but difficult time for NASA as they will be deciding what the future will entail for the NASA space program.

Remembering the Space Shuttle Challenger

Today, marks 30 years since the devastating explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger that took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The shuttle exploded exactly 73 seconds after takeoff, killing all seven on board. It was one of the most tragic accidents in our nation’s history and it marked the first time that a tragedy like this was broadcasted on live television.  Millions of people all over the world,  tuned in to watch what was supposed to be a remarkable achievement performed by these astronauts turn into horrific nightmare in a matter of seconds. There was also a lot of buzz generated about this launch because of one the crew members on board, Christa McAuliffe. Christa was a teacher and first regular citizen to have the opportunity fly into space. This was a dream of her’s that was cut too short.

Once this accident occurred everyone wondered why and how this  horrific incident occurred. President Ronald Regan wanted to get to the bottom of it and after forming the Rogers Commission and working with physicist Richard Feynman they found out what really happened on that cold January day. According to Feynman the reason was because the  O-ring seal in the right solid rocket booster failed, which let pressurized burning gas escape and breach the external fuel tank, and led to the breakup of the spacecraft.   NASA had no way of finding out that the O-ring wouldn’t survive a launch in frigid temperatures. However, there were two engineers, Roger Boisjoly and Bob Ebeling that tried and failed to get NASA to postpone the launch.  Ten years after the explosion, CBS had an interview with these two men on the 60 minute broadcast. In a interview, Ebeling said that the night before the launch he tried to stop NASA from launching the Challenger. Both Ebeling and Boisjoly believed that the O-rings could be effected in the cold weather and sadly they were right.

After the challenger took off, Bob whispered in Roger’s ear saying  “We dodge a bullet” thinking everything  would be fine but seconds later everything changed. This will always be a day of remembrance for the innocent people who lost their lives on that tragic day.

Pluto’s Closeup


 

Earlier this month, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made headlines. July 14th marked the first time that a spacecraft successfully explored the dwarf planet Pluto up close.

After hurtling through our solar system for over a decade at a speed of over 30,000 miles per hour, New Horizons finally reached its closest approach to Pluto, approximately 7,750 miles from the surface on July 14th. This was the first-ever space mission that successfully explored a world so distant from Earth.

New Horizons gathered data as it approached the planet, but by Wednesday, the information made its way back to Earthbound scientists and the rest of the world.

According to Jeff Moore of New Horizons’ Geology, GGI Team,

“The mountains likely formed no more than 100 million years ago — mere youngsters relative to the 4.56-billion-year age of the solar system — and may still be in the process of building”.

This information means that a small percentage of Pluto’s surface is in fact active to this day! This coupled with the seemingly unblemished nature of the surface of the planet imply that Pluto is fairly young compared to the other systems that we’ve been able to observe within our solar system.

Pluto is not heated through gravitational interactions with a larger planetary body so scientists believe that another process is responsible  for creating Pluto’s mountainous terrain. Presumably the mountains are composed of a water-ice “bedrock.”

Both methane and nitrogen ice cover a large portion of Pluto’s surface, but these materials aren’t durable enough to be responsible for the mountains. It’s more likely that the stronger material of water ice created these mountains.  Because Pluto is so cold, water maintains properties that are more similar to rock than to ice.

Scientists have already gleaned a lot of information from these first images of Pluto, and in 16 months a cache of computer data from New Horizons will make it’s way back to our planet.  It will be exciting to see what we glean from that.

 

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