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NASA Commits to Future Artemis Moon Rocket Production

NASA has finalized its contract with Boeing of Huntsville, Alabama, for approximately $3.2 billion to continue manufacturing core and upper stages for future Space Launch System (SLS) rockets for Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond.

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NASA and Space Launch System stages prime contractor Boeing are in various states of production on core stages for future Artemis missions. Together with its twin solid rocket boosters, the Space Launch System core stage will produce 8.8 million pounds of thrust to send NASA’s Orion spacecraft, astronauts, and supplies beyond Earth’s orbit to the Moon. A powerful upper stage will be incorporated into the rocket beginning with Artemis IV. NASA joined the Space Launch System rocket’s core stage forward assembly, seen here, with the 130-foot liquid hydrogen tank in March 2022.
Credits: NASA/Eric Bordelon

NASA has finalized its contract with Boeing of Huntsville, Alabama, for approximately $3.2 billion to continue manufacturing core and upper stages for future Space Launch System (SLS) rockets for Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond.

Under the SLS Stages Production and Evolution Contract action, Boeing will produce SLS core stages for Artemis III and IV, procure critical and long-lead material for the core stages for Artemis V and VI, provide the exploration upper stages (EUS) for Artemis V and VI, as well as tooling and related support and engineering services.

In October 2019, NASA provided initial funding and authorization for Artemis III core stage work and targeted long-lead materials and cost-efficient bulk purchases. The finalization of this contract extends production activities and preparations for future work through July 2028. As part of the contract NASA may order up to 10 core stages and eight exploration upper stages total to support future deep space exploration missions.

“NASA’s Space Launch System rocket is the only rocket capable of sending large cargos and soon, astronauts to the Moon,” said John Honeycutt, SLS Program manager. “The SLS core stage is the backbone of NASA’s Moon rocket, producing more than 2 million pounds of thrust at launch, and the addition of the exploration upper stage will enable NASA to support missions to deep space through the 2030s.”

The SLS rocket delivers propulsion in stages and is designed to evolve to more advanced configurations to power NASA’s deep space missions. Each SLS rocket configuration uses the same 212-foot-tall core stage to produce more than 2 million pounds of thrust to help propel the mega rocket off the launch pad.

For the first three Artemis missions, SLS uses an interim cryogenic propulsion stage with one RL10 engine to send NASA’s Orion spacecraft to the Moon. Beginning with Artemis IV, the SLS Block 1B rocket configuration will be propelled by the more powerful EUS with larger fuel tanks and four RL10 engines to send a crewed Orion and large cargos to the Moon. All the structures for the rocket’s core stage and EUS are manufactured at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. 

The contract comes as NASA optimizes manufacturing capabilities as Boeing will use Kennedy Space Center in Florida to perform some core stage assembly and outfitting activities beginning with the Artemis III rocket. In tandem, teams will continue all core stage manufacturing activities at Michoud.

Teams continue to make progress assembling and manufacturing core stages for Artemis II, III, and IV. The Artemis II stage is scheduled to be completed and delivered to Kennedy in 2023. The engine section for Artemis III was recently loaded onto NASA’s Pegasus barge for delivery to Kennedy, where it will be outfitted and later integrated with the rest of the rocket.

With Artemis, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface and establish long-term exploration at the Moon in preparation for human missions to Mars. SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, along with the commercial human landing system and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration.

For more information about the Space Launch System, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/sls

Source: NASA

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The Return of the Giant Pandas: A Symbol of Renewed Diplomacy Between China and the United States

China’s plan to send a new pair of giant pandas to the San Diego Zoo signifies a renewed era of wildlife diplomacy and friendship with the United States.

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photo of panda and cub playing
Photo by Diana Silaraja on Pexels.com

In a gesture reflecting the enduring bond between China and the United States, the China Wildlife Conservation Association has announced plans to send a new pair of giant pandas to the San Diego Zoo. This move marks a significant renewal of friendship after the recall of iconic bears on loan to U.S. zoos amid strained relations between the two nations.

The recent signing of cooperation agreements with zoos in San Diego and Madrid, along with ongoing discussions with zoos in Washington, D.C., and Vienna, underscores a fresh round of collaboration on panda conservation. This initiative not only highlights the importance of protecting these beloved creatures but also serves as a symbol of unity and shared commitment to wildlife preservation.

San Diego Zoo officials have expressed great anticipation for the arrival of the two pandas, a male and a female, expected to reach the zoo by the end of summer. Megan Owen, Vice President of Wildlife Conservation Science at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, shared her excitement, stating, “They’ve expressed a tremendous amount of enthusiasm to re-initiate panda cooperation starting with the San Diego Zoo.”

As these gentle giants prepare to make their return to the San Diego Zoo, the significance of this gesture extends beyond conservation efforts. It serves as a testament to the power of wildlife diplomacy in fostering understanding and goodwill between nations, transcending political differences to focus on shared values and a common goal of protecting our planet’s biodiversity.

The upcoming arrival of the giant pandas symbolizes a renewed era of collaboration, friendship, and hope for a future where conservation efforts transcend borders and unite us in our shared responsibility to safeguard the natural world.

Source: Associated Press

https://apnews.com/article/pandas-san-diego-zoo-california-china-6976587ee9992c861d9a56db0cb1ff89?user_email=f874bd3cdce5fc878ed0ce94463be80ee9571a2ee483e46a76da589edb9944a0&utm_medium=APNews_Alerts&utm_source=Sailthru_AP&utm_campaign=NewsAlerts_0222_US_Panda&utm_term=AP%20News%20Alerts

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Unlocking the Next Frontier: Odysseus Lunar Lander’s Historic Mission

“Odysseus lunar lander aims to make history with first U.S. spacecraft touchdown on moon in 50 years. A testament to human ambition and innovation.”

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In the vast expanse of space, where dreams of exploration meet the harsh realities of technology and finance, Thursday marks a potential landmark moment in the annals of space exploration. The Odysseus lunar lander, a testament to human ingenuity and perseverance, stands on the precipice of making history as it aims to achieve what no U.S.-made spacecraft has done in five decades: a controlled touchdown on the lunar surface.

Intuitive Machines-1 Lunar Landing (Official NASA Broadcast)

After a breathtaking lift-off from Florida, Odysseus embarked on its journey towards the moon, capturing awe-inspiring images of our planet Earth along the way. Now, as it hurtles closer to its destination, the anticipation mounts for what could be the most perilous test yet – a soft landing on the moon’s surface.

Intuitive Machines, the pioneering force behind Odysseus, dares to tread where no private company has ventured before. If successful, this endeavor would mark the resurgence of American-made spacecraft landing on the moon since the final Apollo mission in 1972.

However, the road to lunar exploration is fraught with challenges, both technical and financial. While the Apollo program once commanded a budget exceeding 4% of all U.S. government spending, today’s NASA operates on a fraction of that, a mere 0.4%. To stretch resources further, NASA has turned to outsourcing robotic lunar landings to commercial entities like Intuitive Machines, aiming to achieve ambitious goals like the Artemis program’s lunar return with reduced costs.

But cost isn’t the only hurdle. The technical feat of landing a spacecraft precisely on a celestial body a quarter of a million miles away is akin to hitting a golf ball from New York to Los Angeles and landing it in a specific hole – a daunting task even with today’s advanced technology. Compounding the challenge is the time delay of roughly three seconds for signals to travel between Earth and the moon, leaving little room for error during critical maneuvers.

Moreover, the legacy of Apollo-era expertise has waned over the decades, leaving a gap that new technology alone cannot bridge. As Dr. Scott Pace of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute aptly notes, “These are people doing it for the first time, and there’s no substitute for that experience.”

Yet, amidst these challenges, there’s an undeniable sense of optimism and determination. As Lisa Altemus of Intuitive Machines emphasizes, success in lunar exploration requires collective resilience, collaboration, and a willingness to learn from failures. It heralds not just a scientific achievement but the dawn of a new era – an emerging lunar economy where the moon’s resources could unlock boundless opportunities for humanity.

If Odysseus achieves its mission, it will not only mark the first U.S. spacecraft landing on the moon in half a century but also pave the way for future lunar endeavors, including the exploration of the moon’s south pole, a region rich in potential resources like ice and water.

As we stand on the brink of this historic moment, let us marvel at the audacity of human ambition, the tenacity of scientific endeavor, and the boundless possibilities that lie beyond Earth’s confines. The journey to the moon may be fraught with challenges, but with each step, we inch closer to unlocking the mysteries of our celestial neighbor and forging a new chapter in the saga of space exploration.

https://www.azfamily.com/app/2024/02/22/us-company-attempts-first-moon-landing-thursday-since-1972/

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NASA Astronaut Available for Interviews Prior to Space Station Mission

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NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson poses for a portrait at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Credits: NASA

NASA astronaut Tracy C. Dyson is available in limited opportunities to discuss her mission beginning at 8 a.m. EST on Monday, Feb. 26. The interviews will take place ahead of Dyson launching to the International Space Station in March.

The virtual interviews will stream live on NASA+, NASA Television, and the agency’s website. Learn how to stream NASA TV through a variety of platforms including social media.

Interested media must submit a request to speak with Dyson no later than 12 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23, to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston newsroom at 281-483-5111 or jsccommu@mail.nasa.gov.

Dyson is scheduled to launch aboard the Soyuz MS-25 spacecraft Thursday, March 21, and will spend approximately six months aboard the space station. She will travel to the station with Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy and spaceflight participant Marina Vasilevskaya of Belarus, both of whom will spend approximately 12 days aboard the orbital complex.

During her expedition, Dyson will conduct scientific investigations and technology demonstrations that help prepare humans for future space missions and benefit people on Earth. Among some of the hundreds of experiments ongoing during her mission, Dyson will continue to study how fire spreads and behaves in space with the Combustion Integrated Rack, as well as contribute to the long-running Crew Earth Observations study by photographing Earth to better understand how our planet is changing over time.

After completing her expedition, Dyson will return to Earth this fall with Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub on the Soyuz MS-25 spacecraft.

Learn more about International Space Station research and operations at:

https://www.nasa.gov/station

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