THIS WEEK @NASA: Launching America on Commercial Spacecraft, New Close-Up Imagery of Asteroid Bennu

By  //  June 5, 2020

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Latest Happenings around NASA

ABOVE VIDEO: Launching America on a commercial spacecraft, a NASA astronaut is headed back to the space station, and new close-up imagery of asteroid Bennu … a few of the stories to tell you about – This Week at NASA!

NASA Astronauts Launch from America on Historic Test Flight

A new era of American spaceflight got underway on May 30 with the historic launch of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight to the International Space Station, from our Kennedy Space Center, in Florida.

Launch Commentator:
“Liftoff of the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon. Go NASA. Go SpaceX. Godspeed Bob and Doug!”

Our Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley rode to orbit aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, which the astronauts named, Endeavour. It was the first launch of Americans on an American spacecraft from the U.S. in almost nine years. Other firsts during the journey included the first on-orbit tour inside the Crew Dragon …

Bob Behnken/NASA Astronaut:
“I think I was requested to do a backflip. I’m going to kind of do a side spin, which is a little bit of a permutation on that request.”

The first in-flight maneuvering of the spacecraft by astronauts onboard …

Doug Hurley/NASA Astronaut:
“It really worked out well. And was a joy to fly. And, I’m guessing it was the first time a space vehicle was flown with a touchscreen.”

And one of the crew’s first views of Earth from Crew Dragon.

Mission Control:
“Good morning Dragon. We hope your evening aboard Endeavour was restful …”

The next day, several hours after the first crew wakeup call on Crew Dragon …

“Dragon’s coming up on just one hundred meters away from the space station.”

The spacecraft made its final approach to the station – docking at 10:16 a.m. EDT while flying over the northern border of China and Mongolia. A few hours later, Hurley and Behnken were welcomed aboard the space station by fellow NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and others on the station crew.

Jim Bridenstine/NASA Administrator:
“We are so grateful for the service of, not just our two astronauts that embarked on this mission, but the hundred thousand plus people that participated in this mission.”

The astronauts are scheduled for an extended stay at the space station. The mission is an end-to-end test flight to eventually certify SpaceX for regular crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Astronaut Kate Rubins Assigned to Expedition 63/64 Space Station Crew

Astronaut Kate Rubins has been assigned to a six-month mission as a member of the International Space Station’s Expedition 63/64 crew. She is scheduled to launch with two Russian cosmonauts Oct. 14 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. This will be her second spaceflight. In 2016 she spent 115 days in space as a member of the station’s Expedition 48/49 crew.

OSIRIS-REx Swoops over Backup Sample Site Osprey

Our OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured images seen in this mosaic during a reconnaissance pass over Osprey – the mission’s backup sample collection site on asteroid Bennu. The spacecraft passed just 820-feet above the site, the closest from which Osprey has been imaged. OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to make its first sample collection attempt at primary site Nightingale on Oct. 20.

236th American Astronomical Society Meeting

A virtual meeting of the American Astronomical Society featured several items of note about the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. This included some insight from our Hubble Space Telescope about a cataclysmic explosion there about 3.5 million years ago, a new virtual reality experience based on data from several telescopes – including our Chandra X-ray Observatory, and new research from the SOFIA airborne observatory about how materials at the center of the Milky Way are affected by magnetic fields at play there.