Steps taken by NASA, the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, and Caltech, to put the Psyche mission on track for an October 2023 launch have been outstanding, according to an independently appointed review board. NASA and JPL convened the board last summer after the Psyche mission team requested to delay the spacecraft’s August 2022 launch to a metal-rich asteroid of the same name.
In its November 2022 report, the independent review board made extensive recommendations to address both project and JPL institutional issues that contributed to the launch delay. After thorough follow-up reviews with the Psyche project, JPL, and Caltech, the board’s May 30 report finds the actions taken since November exceeded expectations. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
“I am pleased with the independent review board’s resoundingly positive assessment of JPL’s hard work in correcting the issues outlined in the board’s original report,” said Nicola Fox, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “We know the work is not over. As we move forward, we will work with JPL to ensure these implemented changes continue to be prioritized to position Psyche and the other missions in JPL’s portfolio for success.”
Led by retired aerospace executive A. Thomas Young, the Psyche independent review board concluded in its initial report that while JPL workforce issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the launch delay, additional factors, ranging from staffing to communication to management oversight, contributed as well.
In response to the review board’s recommendations, JPL moved to directly address the concerns regarding the Psyche project as well as the laboratory as an institution. The Psyche mission added experienced team members, reorganized a large part of its workforce, and adopted comprehensive metrics to monitor progress toward launch and operational readiness. The report also noted improvements to senior management’s oversight of the mission.
“The independent review board is extraordinarily impressed by the accomplishments of the total JPL organization and Caltech,” the report authors noted. “Engagement in and leadership of the overall response process by the JPL director and senior leadership is deemed ‘world class.’”
Institutionally, JPL moved rapidly to update its hybrid work policy to increase the number of days team members spend together onsite each week to improve collaboration and communication. The laboratory, according to the report, was also “exceptional” in its efforts to attract and retain experienced engineering staff, with the Psyche mission being among the beneficiaries.
In addition, JPL leadership focused on clarifying roles, responsibilities, and technical skillsets within its engineering organization while ensuring flight project team members were aware of pathways to raise concerns. Lessons learned from the Psyche mission also are applicable to other flight projects, including Europa Clipper and Mars Sample Return. JPL also revamped monthly project status reviews to ensure risks are well understood at all levels of the organization.
“We convened this board weeks after I stepped in as director and addressing the issues it raised has been a central focus in my first year as director of JPL. The results are gratifying,” said JPL Director Laurie Leshin. “Our goals went beyond getting Psyche to the launch pad to improving JPL across the board as we work on missions that will help us better understand Earth, explore the solar system and the universe, and search for signs of life. Our strong response to the board’s findings reinforces the notion that JPL can solve any problem with the right focus and attention.”
The board also determined in its report NASA and its management centers need to more clearly define the responsibilities of its standing review boards, which help ensure appropriate program and project management oversight to increase the likelihood of mission success.
The spacecraft will reach asteroid Psyche in August 2029, orbiting it for 26 months to gain insights into planetary formation, better understand the interior of terrestrial planets like Earth, and examine a world that is made largely of metal.
Read the report, as well as NASA’s response, on the agency’s website:
United States Space Force: Protecting America’s Interests in Space
“Learn about the United States Space Force: its formation, purpose, and role in protecting national security and space assets.”
The United States Space Force (USSF) is the newest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, established to protect American interests in space. It was formed on December 20, 2019, when President Donald Trump signed the United States Space Force Act, making it the first new independent military service in over 70 years.
While the concept of a Space Force had been discussed since the 1950s, the need for a dedicated space-focused military branch became increasingly evident with the growing importance of space in national security and defense. The USSF operates under the Department of the Air Force, similar to how the Marine Corps operates under the Department of the Navy. It is led by the Secretary of the Air Force and its military heads are the Chief of Space Operations and the Vice Chief of Space Operations.
The Space Force’s primary purpose is to ensure the freedom of operation in space and protect U.S. space assets. It is responsible for organizing, training, and equipping space forces, which are then deployed to the unified combatant commands, particularly the United States Space Command. The Space Force operates various programs and systems, including GPS, the Space Fence, military satellite communications constellations, X-37B spaceplanes, the U.S. missile warning system, the U.S. space surveillance network, and the Satellite Control Network.
The USSF’s formation marked a significant recognition of the critical role space plays in national security, communication, and technological advancement. As the world becomes increasingly reliant on space-based assets for navigation, communication, and intelligence gathering, the Space Force aims to protect these capabilities, deter aggression, and maintain superiority in space.
By establishing the Space Force, the United States has demonstrated its commitment to safeguarding its interests in space and maintaining its position as a global leader in space capabilities. As technology continues to advance and more nations venture into space, the United States Space Force will play a vital role in ensuring the security and resilience of American assets in this final frontier. Kindly click on the link for further details: https://www.spaceforce.mil/
Join Metro in Clearing the Air on California Clean Air Day
“Go Metro for FREE on California Clean Air Day! Clear the air by taking the bus, train, bike, or walking. Join us!”
Metro is excited to announce its support for California Clean Air Day and invites you to join us in our efforts to combat air pollution. On Wednesday, October 4, 2023, Metro is offering FREE rides on buses, trains, and bikes, encouraging everyone to take part in this important initiative. By choosing Metro as your mode of transportation, you can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality in our region. Let’s take action together and make a positive impact on the health of our communities.
Air pollution affects us all, and it’s essential that we work collectively to address this issue. California Clean Air Day serves as a call to action, inspiring us to adopt sustainable transportation alternatives. Metro offers a range of options for you to participate in this day of action.
Choose the Bus or Train:
By taking the bus or train, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint and help clear the air. Metro’s extensive network covers various destinations throughout the region, making it a convenient and eco-friendly choice. Enjoy a stress-free commute while actively contributing to a cleaner environment.
Walk or Ride a Bike:
For shorter distances, consider walking or riding a bike. Metro not only supports these active modes of transportation but also offers free rides on California Clean Air Day for Metro Bike Share and Metro Micro. Redeem your free rides using the provided codes and enjoy emissions-free travel while exploring your city.
Plan Your Trip:
To make your journey seamless, Metro provides a trip planner on metro.net. This tool helps you find the best routes, schedules, and connections, ensuring a smooth travel experience. Take advantage of this resource to optimize your trip and make the most of California Clean Air Day.
On October 4, let’s take a break from traffic and pollution by choosing Metro as our preferred mode of transportation. Together, we can make a difference in our communities and pave the way for cleaner air. Visit metro.net/cleanair to learn more about this initiative and how you can contribute. Join us in taking the pledge to clear the air and embrace sustainable transportation options. Remember, every journey counts towards a greener and healthier future. Visit Metro for more info: https://www.metro.net/about/california-clean-air-day-2023/
Record-Setting NASA Astronaut, Crewmates Return from Space Mission
After spending an American record-breaking 371 days in space, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio safely landed on Earth with his crewmates Wednesday.
Rubio departed the International Space Station, along with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, at 3:54 a.m. EDT, and made a safe, parachute-assisted landing at 7:17 a.m. (5:17 p.m. Kazakhstan time), southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.
“Frank’s record-breaking time in space is not just a milestone; it’s a major contribution to our understanding of long-duration space missions,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Our astronauts make extraordinary sacrifices away from their homes and loved ones to further discovery. NASA is immensely grateful for Frank’s dedicated service to our nation and the invaluable scientific contributions he made on the International Space Station. He embodies the true pioneer spirit that will pave the way for future exploration to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.”
Rubio launched on his first spaceflight on Sept. 21, 2022, alongside Prokopyev and Petelin. Rubio’s spaceflight is the longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut, breaking the record previously held at 355 days by NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei.
During his mission, Rubio completed approximately 5,936 orbits and a journey of more than 157 million miles, roughly the equivalent of 328 trips to the Moon and back. He witnessed the arrival of 15 visiting spacecraft and the departure of 14 visiting spacecraft representing crewed and uncrewed cargo missions.
Rubio’s extended mission provides researchers the opportunity to observe the effects of long-duration spaceflight on humans as the agency plans to return to the Moon through the Artemis missions and prepare for exploration of Mars.
Rubio, Prokopyev, and Petelin launched aboard the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft but, due to a coolant leak, returned to Earth aboard the Soyuz MS-23. The affected Soyuz MS-22 capsule returned without its crew after the Soyuz MS-23 capsule launched as a replacement on Feb. 23, 2023.
Following post-landing medical checks, the crew will return to Karaganda, Kazakhstan. Rubio will then board a NASA plane bound for his return to Houston.
During his record-breaking mission, Rubio spent many hours on scientific activities aboard the space station, conducting a variety of tasks ranging from plant research to physical sciences studies.
With the undocking of the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft, Expedition 70 officially began aboard the station. NASA astronauts Loral O’Hara and Jasmin Moghbeli remain aboard the orbital outpost alongside ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Andreas Mogensen, who became station commander Sept. 26, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Konstantin Borisov, Oleg Kononenko, and Nikolai Chub.
Mogensen, Moghbeli, Furukawa, and Borisov will return to Earth in February 2024, after a short handover with the crew of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 mission. O’Hara is scheduled to return to Earth in March 2024, while Kononenko and Chub will spend a year aboard the station, returning in September 2024.
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