THIS WEEK @NASA: Cargo Dragon Undocks from ISS and Returns to Earth, Green Run Hot Fire Test

By  //  January 16, 2021

Latest Happenings around NASA

ABOVE VIDEO: The annual assessment of global temperatures, a first-of-its-kind undocking from the space station, and a look at what goes into the Green Run hot fire test … a few of the stories to tell you about – This Week at NASA!

NASA Analysis: 2020 Tied for Warmest Year on Record

A NASA analysis found that our planet’s global average surface temperature last year tied 2016 as the warmest year on record.

This continues a long-term global warming trend during which the last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record.

In a separate, independent analysis using a different baseline period and methodology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that 2020 was the second-warmest year on record, behind 2016. Tracking global temperature trends provides a critical indicator of the impact of human activities on the climate and quality of life on Earth.

Cargo Dragon Undocks from Station and Returns to Earth

On Jan. 12, an upgraded SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft performed the first undocking of a U.S. commercial cargo craft from the International Space Station, and then headed back to Earth. Previous cargo Dragon spacecraft were attached to and removed from the space station using the station’s robotic Canadarm2.

This upgraded Dragon also gets some science back into the hands of researchers sooner than previous Dragon spacecraft by splashing down off the coast of Florida instead of in the Pacific Ocean.

What Goes into the Green Run Hot Fire Test

The Green Run test series with our Space Launch System or SLS rocket’s core stage ends with the hot fire test, currently targeted for Jan. 16. While the highlight of the test is the full-blast firing of all four of the rocket’s engines, an online video available at explains just how much more really goes into the test. The test series is a comprehensive assessment of the rocket’s core stage prior to SLS launching Artemis missions to the Moon.

Missions Highlighted at Super Bowl of Astronomy

NASA highlights during the Jan. 10-15 virtual meeting of the American Astronomical Society included news that data from our Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS and ground-based telescopes helped confirm the presence of an exoplanet in a multiple-star system that was initially identified as a planet candidate in 2009 by our Kepler mission.

Meanwhile, astronomers are considering the scientific potential of a possible “ultra-deep field” image of the cosmos from our upcoming Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, which can image an area of the sky at least 100 times larger than the Hubble Space Telescope. Such an observation could teach us even more about the universe.

And new findings from the SOFIA flying observatory about the physics of the Cigar galaxy indicate that, in addition to powerful forces created by the birth of stars, magnetic fields also help eject enriched, life-supporting gas, dust and other cosmic material from galaxies into intergalactic space. The findings offer clues about how galaxies form and how cosmic matter is distributed in space.

NASA Provides Ground Support for COVID-19 Aid Work

On Jan. 11, our Armstrong Flight Research Center in southern California provided landing assistance and ground support for a specially-configured DC-8 cargo jet flown in by aid organization Samaritan’s Purse, loaded with supplies to help care for COVID-19 patients at an area field hospital. NASA also operates a highly-modified DC-8 at Armstrong that is used as a flying science laboratory. There are only a few operational DC-8s left in the world – so having both of these on the same flight line presented a rare photo opportunity.

That’s what’s up this week @NASA