WASHINGTON - NASA and a Texas company are exploring the possibility of using a "3D printer" on deep space missions in a way where the "D" would stand for dining.
NASA has awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract to Systems and Materials Research Consultancy of Austin, Texas to study the feasibility of using additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, for making food in space. Systems and Materials Research Consultancy will conduct a study for the development of a 3D printed food system for long duration space missions. Phase I SBIR proposals are very early stage concepts that may or may not mature into actual systems. This food printing technology may result in a phase II study, which still will be several years from being tested on an actual space flight.
As NASA ventures farther into space, whether redirecting an asteroid or sending astronauts to Mars, the agency will need to make improvements in life support systems, including how to feed the crew during those long deep space missions. NASA's Advanced Food Technology program is interested in developing methods that will provide food to meet safety, acceptability, variety, and nutritional stability requirements for long exploration missions, while using the least amount of spacecraft resources and crew time. The current food system wouldn't meet the nutritional needs and five-year shelf life required for a mission to Mars or other long duration missions. Because refrigeration and freezing require significant spacecraft resources, current NASA provisions consist solely of individually prepackaged shelf stable foods, processed with technologies that degrade the micronutrients in the foods.
Additionally, the current space food is selected before astronauts ever leave the ground and crew members don't have the ability to personalize recipes or really prepare foods themselves. Over long duration missions, a variety of acceptable food is critical to ensure crew members continue to eat adequate amounts of food, and consequently, get the nutrients they need to maintain their health and performance.
NASA is funding this phase I six-month $125,000 study on 3D printing of foods to determine the capability of this technology to enable nutrient stability and provide a variety of foods from shelf stable ingredients, while minimizing crew time and waste. NASA selected this proposal because the research team, subcontractors and consultants included premier food rheology and flavor expertise that would be required for a novel product development system. The work plan for this feasibility study also was well laid out and the technology offers the potential to meet some of the food requirements using basic food components for long duration missions.
NASA recognizes in-space and additive manufacturing offers the potential for new mission opportunities, whether "printing" food, tools or entire spacecraft. Additive manufacturing offers opportunities to get the best fit, form and delivery systems of materials for deep space travel. This's why NASA is a leading partner in the president's National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and the Advanced Manufacturing Initiative.
3D printing is just one of the many transformation technologies that NASA is investing in to create the new knowledge and capabilities needed to enable future space missions while benefiting life here on Earth.
Systems and Materials Research Consultancy proposal abstract is available online at http://sbir.gsfc.nasa.gov/SBIR/abstracts/12/sbir/phase1/SBIR-12-1-H12.04-9357.html?solicitationId=SBIR_12_P1
PASADENA - Saturn's moon Titan might be in for some wild weather as it heads into its spring and summer, if two new models are correct. Scientists think that as the seasons change in Titan's northern hemisphere, waves could ripple across the moon's hydrocarbon seas, and hurricanes could begin to swirl over these areas, too. The model predicting waves tries to explain data from the moon obtained so far by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Both models help mission team members plan when and where to look for unusual atmospheric disturbances as Titan summer approaches.
"If you think being a weather forecaster on Earth is difficult, it can be even more challenging at Titan," said Scott Edgington, Cassini's deputy project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We know there are weather processes similar to Earth's at work on this strange world, but differences arise due to the presence of unfamiliar liquids like methane. We can't wait for Cassini to tell us whether our forecasts are right as it continues its tour through Titan spring into the start of northern summer."
Titan's north polar region, which is bejeweled with sprawling hydrocarbon seas and lakes, was dark when Cassini first arrived at the Saturn system in 2004. But sunlight has been creeping up Titan's northern hemisphere since August 2009, when the sun's light crossed the equatorial plane at equinox. Titan's seasons take about seven Earth years to change. By 2017, the end of Cassini's mission, Titan will be approaching northern solstice, the height of summer.
Given the wind-sculpted dunes Cassini has seen on Titan, scientists were baffled about why they hadn't yet seen wind-driven waves on the lakes and seas. A team led by Alex Hayes, a member of Cassini's radar team who is based at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., set out to look for how much wind would be required to generate waves. Their new model, just published in the journal Icarus, improves upon previous ones by simultaneously accounting for Titan's gravity; the viscosity and surface tension of the hydrocarbon liquid in the lakes; and the air-to-liquid density ratio.
“We now know that the wind speeds predicted during the times Cassini has observed Titan have been below the threshold necessary to generate waves," Hayes said. "What is exciting, however, is that the wind speeds predicted during northern spring and summer approach those necessary to generate wind waves in liquid ethane and/or methane. It may soon be possible to catch a wave in one of the solar system’s most exotic locations.”
The new model found that winds of 1 to 2 mph (2 to 3 kilometers per hour) are needed to generate waves on Titan lakes, a speed that has not yet been reached during Titan's currently calm period. But as Titan's northern hemisphere approaches spring and summer, other models predict the winds may increase to 2 mph (3 kilometers per hour) or faster. Depending on the composition of the lakes, winds of that speed could be enough to produce waves 0.5 foot (0.15 meter) high.
The other model about hurricanes, recently published in Icarus, predicts that the warming of the northern hemisphere could also bring hurricanes, also known as tropical cyclones. Tropical cyclones on Earth gain their energy from the build-up of heat from seawater evaporation and miniature versions have been seen over big lakes such as Lake Huron. The new modeling work, led by Tetsuya Tokano of the University of Cologne, Germany, shows that the same processes could be at work on Titan as well, except that it is methane rather than water that evaporates from the seas. The most likely season for these hurricanes would be Titan's northern summer solstice, when the sea surface gets warmer and the flow of the air near the surface becomes more turbulent. The humid air would swirl in a counterclockwise direction over the surface of one of the northern seas and increase the surface wind over the seas to possibly 45 mph (about 70 kilometers per hour).
"For these hurricanes to develop at Titan, there needs to be the right mix of hydrocarbons in these seas, and we still don't know their exact composition," Tokano said. "If we see hurricanes, that would be one good indicator that there is enough methane in these lakes to support this kind of activity. So far, scientists haven't yet been able to detect methane directly."
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency. The mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif.
PASADENA - Kepler Status Report - Following the apparent failure of reaction wheel 4 on May 11, 2013, engineers were successful at transitioning the spacecraft from a Thruster-Controlled Safe Mode to Point Rest State at approximately 3:30 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. The spacecraft has remained safe and stable in this attitude and is no longer considered to be in a critical situation.As part of a normal spacecraft response to a pointing error, redundant electronics were automatically powered off to isolate them as a possible cause. However, once the team recovered the spacecraft to Point Rest State (PRS) and exonerated those systems, they were turned back on, providing full redundancy to the spacecraft. The reaction wheels remain offline. The photometer, which was turned off to reduce the power load, will be turned back on in the near future to keep thermal conditions of the spacecraft within nominal operating parameters. Kepler is not in science data collection.PRS was developed in order to preserve fuel for an eventual recovery effort once a second wheel failed. This state uses thrusters to control the pointing of the spacecraft, tipping it towards the sun and letting the solar pressure tip it back away, resembling the motion of a pendulum. This is a very fuel-efficient mode, and it also provides an on-demand telemetry link to allow engineers to monitor and command the spacecraft. With nearly a week of PRS operations, the fuel usage appears to be on the low end of our estimates, allowing time for recovery planning. The operations staff at Ball Aerospace did a wonderful job at developing and implementing PRS. As a result, the spacecraft is not in an emergency condition, and work can be conducted at a more deliberate pace. For the next week or so, we will contact the spacecraft on a daily basis to ensure PRS continues to operate as expected.Over the coming weeks, an anomaly response team (ART) will evaluate wheel recovery options. The ART includes members from NASA Ames, Ball Aerospace, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and UTC, the wheel manufacturer. This team has access to a broader reach of experts throughout NASA and industry, and will manage the wheel recovery efforts. The team will continue to analyze recent telemetry received from the spacecraft. This analysis, and any planned recovery actions, will take time, and will likely be on the order of weeks, possibly months. Any planned commanding will first be vetted on the spacecraft test bed to validate command operability. For now, PRS is working very well and keeping Kepler safe. We will provide updates on significant changes as the plan develops.We are grateful to all our followers for their well wishes and support!
WASHINGTON - Scientists, engineers, educators, physicians and space explorers from around the world are convening this month at Rice University in Houston at the annual International Space Medicine Summit. This summit provides an opportunity for space professionals in the international community to identify space medicine research goals and national policies that foster collaboration, communication and cooperation between spacefaring nations. This year's summit occurs at an ideal time, as the International Space Station partnership moves forward with its plan to put an American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut in space for an entire year.
Between 1987 and 1995, four Russian cosmonauts spent a year or more consecutively in space. Now, for the first time, an American astronaut, Scott Kelly, will be joining that exclusive club, as he and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko inhabit the space station for an entire year beginning in 2015. These two explorers will live on the space station for twice as long as a typical space station crew member. Researchers expect the one-year mission to yield beneficial knowledge on the medical, psychological and biomedical challenges explorers may face as they venture to an asteroid, Mars and beyond. This mission will also provide an additional opportunity for cooperation between research teams around the world.
To gain knowledge about how humans live and work in space from a one-year mission, NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) are evaluating a long list of potential investigations. Their goal is to determine which studies provide the most value in the joint effort to reduce the human risks of space exploration. Other international space agencies have the opportunity to weigh in as well, including participation in implementation and joint working groups where mutual strategy sharing contributes toward a more robust expedition. Collectively, these bilateral and multilateral efforts are expected to create a collaborative template for future exploration and lead to strengthened international partnerships.
"The International Space Station is the most advanced and well-equipped research laboratory ever put into orbit," says Dr. John Charles, chief of the International Science Office of NASA's Human Research Program at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "But its full utilization requires the combined efforts of [its entire] member partners. No single partner nation has all of the resources needed, but through their combined efforts, they can assure that enough crew members can participate in the most appropriate investigations with the minimum amount of effort and without duplicating instrumentation."
Charles explains, "Only in this way can the International Space Station be successful in reducing the risks to human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit by the end of its useful lifetime."
Between the U.S. and Russia, there are three approaches for bilateral collaboration: joint investigations with co-principal investigators from both nations, where the crew members perform the same investigations; cross-participation, where the crew members participate in the other nation's investigations; and data sharing, where crew members participate in their own national investigation, but the data are shared with the other nation. The chosen investigations, in this case, had to include a focus on exploration -- a criterion that all U.S. human research investigations on the space station currently meet. Additionally, NASA sought studies that were modifiable and easily ready for flight. Consideration was also given to previously flown investigations, preferably conducted by Kelly, who has already logged more than 180 days in space.
The evaluation of candidate investigations for the one-year mission began in 2012, when NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) and its Russian counterpart in Moscow, the Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP), began exchanging lists of potential research opportunities. Charles reported that, starting with a pool of 33 U.S. and Russian studies, approximately half had been flown before and approximately one-third had been previously performed by Kelly, thus permitting a direct comparison of the effects of six months in space versus one year.
Final selections from Russia will include up to 24 investigations and NASA HRP will select up to 18 investigations. For comparison, a typical U.S. Operating Segment crew member has 9 to 10 HRP studies that are planned for a six-month mission on the space station. Other possible partner investigations are being assessed.
The specific investigations are still under evaluation for flight-readiness and mutual compatibility, but each investigation selected will be in one or more of these categories:
The investigations performed on this one-year space station mission will provide results that further our knowledge of human health and performance in space and on Earth. The opportunity to share those findings with research teams from around the world and at conferences, such as the annual International Space Medicine Summit, will demonstrate the achievement of the one-year mission and strengthen international partnerships through continued innovative collaboration. Courtney Barringer
Human Research Program Education and Outreach
PASADENA - Scientists have created the first global topographic map of Saturn's moon Titan, giving researchers a valuable tool for learning more about one of the most Earth-like and interesting worlds in the solar system. The map was just published as part of a paper in the journal Icarus.
Titan is Saturn's largest moon - with a radius of about 1,600 miles (2,574 kilometers), it's bigger than planet Mercury - and is the second–largest moon in the solar system. Scientists care about Titan because it's the only moon in the solar system known to have clouds, surface liquids and a mysterious, thick atmosphere. The cold atmosphere is mostly nitrogen, like Earth's, but the organic compound methane on Titan acts the way water vapor does on Earth, forming clouds and falling as rain and carving the surface with rivers. Organic chemicals, derived from methane, are present in Titan's atmosphere, lakes and rivers and may offer clues about the origins of life.
"Titan has so much interesting activity – like flowing liquids and moving sand dunes – but to understand these processes it's useful to know how the terrain slopes," said Ralph Lorenz, a member of the Cassini radar team based at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md., who led the map-design team. "It's especially helpful to those studying hydrology and modeling Titan's climate and weather, who need to know whether there is high ground or low ground driving their models."
Titan's thick haze scatters light in ways that make it very hard for remote cameras to "see" landscape shapes and shadows, the usual approach to measuring topography on planetary bodies. Virtually all the data we have on Titan comes from NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft, which has flown past the moon nearly 100 times over the past decade. On many of those flybys, Cassini has used a radar imager, which can peer through the haze, and the radar data can be used to estimate the surface height.
"With this new topographic map, one of the most fascinating and dynamic worlds in our solar system now pops out in 3-D," said Steve Wall, the deputy team lead of Cassini's radar team, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "On Earth, rivers, volcanoes and even weather are closely related to heights of surfaces – we're now eager to see what we can learn from them on Titan."
There are challenges, however. "Cassini isn't orbiting Titan," Lorenz said. "We have only imaged about half of Titan's surface, and multiple 'looks' or special observations are needed to estimate the surface heights. If you divided Titan into 1-degree by 1-degree [latitude and longitude] squares, only 11 percent of those squares have topography data in them."
Lorenz's team used a mathematical process called splining – effectively using smooth, curved surfaces to "join" the areas between grids of existing data. "You can take a spot where there is no data, look how close it is to the nearest data, and use various approaches of averaging and estimating to calculate your best guess," he said. "If you pick a point, and all the nearby points are high altitude, you'd need a special reason for thinking that point would be lower. We're mathematically papering over the gaps in our coverage."
The estimations fit with current knowledge of the moon – that its polar regions are "lower" than areas around the equator, for example – but connecting those points allows scientists to add new layers to their studies of Titan's surface, especially those modeling how and where Titan's rivers flow, and the seasonal distribution of its methane rainfall. "The movement of sands and the flow of liquids are influenced by slopes, and mountains can trigger cloud formation and therefore rainfall. This global product now gives modelers a convenient description of this key factor in Titan's dynamic climate system," Lorenz said.
The most recent data used to compile the map is from 2012; Lorenz says it could be worth revising when the Cassini mission ends in 2017, when more data will have accumulated, filling some of the gaps in present coverage. "We felt we couldn't wait and should release an interim product," he says. "The community has been hoping to get this for a while. I think it will stimulate a lot of interesting work."
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and ASI, the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The radar instrument was built by JPL and the Italian Space Agency, working with team members from the United States and several European countries.
PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's senior Mars rover, Opportunity, is driving to a new study area after a dramatic finish to 20 months on "Cape York" with examination of a rock intensely altered by water.
The fractured rock, called "Esperance," provides evidence about a wet ancient environment possibly favorable for life. The mission's principal investigator, Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., said, "Esperance was so important, we committed several weeks to getting this one measurement of it, even though we knew the clock was ticking."
The mission's engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., had set this week as a deadline for starting a drive toward "Solander Point," where the team plans to keep Opportunity working during its next Martian winter.
"What's so special about Esperance is that there was enough water not only for reactions that produced clay minerals, but also enough to flush out ions set loose by those reactions, so that Opportunity can clearly see the alteration," said Scott McLennan of the State University of New York, Stony Brook, a long-term planner for Opportunity's science team.
This rock's composition is unlike any other Opportunity has investigated during nine years on Mars -- higher in aluminum and silica, lower in calcium and iron.
The next destination, Solander Point, and the area Opportunity is leaving, Cape York, both are segments of the rim of Endeavour Crater, which spans 14 miles (22 kilometers) across. The planned driving route to Solander Point is about 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers). Cape York has been Opportunity's home since the rover arrived at the western edge of Endeavour in mid-2011 after a two-year trek from a smaller crater.
"Based on our current solar-array dust models, we intend to reach an area of 15 degrees northerly tilt before Opportunity's sixth Martian winter," said JPL's Scott Lever, mission manager. "Solander Point gives us that tilt and may allow us to move around quite a bit for winter science observations."
Northerly tilt increases output from the rover's solar panels during southern-hemisphere winter. Daily sunshine for Opportunity will reach winter minimum in February 2014. The rover needs to be on a favorable slope well before then.
The first drive away from Esperance covered 81.7 feet (24.9 meters) on May 14. Three days earlier, Opportunity finished exposing a patch of the rock's interior with the rock abrasion tool. The team used a camera and spectrometer on the robotic arm to examine Esperance.
The team identified Esperance while exploring a portion of Cape York where the Compact Reconnaissance Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter had detected a clay mineral. Clays typically form in wet environments that are not harshly acidic. For years, Opportunity had been finding evidence for ancient wet environments that were very acidic. The CRISM findings prompted the rover team to investigate the area where clay had been detected from orbit. There, they found an outcrop called "Whitewater Lake," containing a small amount of clay from alteration by exposure to water.
"There appears to have been extensive, but weak, alteration of Whitewater Lake, but intense alteration of Esperance along fractures that provided conduits for fluid flow," Squyres said. "Water that moved through fractures during this rock's history would have provided more favorable conditions for biology than any other wet environment recorded in rocks Opportunity has seen."
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Project launched Opportunity to Mars on July 7, 2003, about a month after its twin rover, Spirit. Both were sent for three-month prime missions to study the history of wet environments on ancient Mars and continued working in extended missions. Spirit ceased operations in 2010.
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. For more about Opportunity, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/rovers and http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov . You can follow the project on Twitter and on Facebook at: http://twitter.com/MarsRovers and http://www.facebook.com/mars.rovers .
GREENBELT, MD - NASA's first mission to sample an asteroid is moving ahead into development and testing in preparation for its launch in 2016.
The Origins-Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) passed a confirmation review Wednesday called Key Decision Point (KDP)-C. NASA officials reviewed a series of detailed project assessments and authorized the spacecraft's continuation into the development phase.
OSIRIS-REx will rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in 2018 and return a sample of it to Earth in 2023.
"Successfully passing KDP-C is a major milestone for the project," said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "This means NASA believes we have an executable plan to return a sample from Bennu. It now falls on the project and its development team members to execute that plan."
Bennu could hold clues to the origin of the solar system. OSIRIS-REx will map the asteroid's global properties, measure non-gravitational forces and provide observations that can be compared with data obtained by telescope observations from Earth. OSIRIS-REx will collect a minimum of 2 ounces (60 grams) of surface material.
"The entire OSIRIS-REx team has worked very hard to get to this point," said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "We have a long way to go before we arrive at Bennu, but I have every confidence when we do, we will have built a supremely capable system to return a sample of this primitive asteroid."
The mission will be a vital part of NASA's plans to find, study, capture and relocate an asteroid for exploration by astronauts. NASA recently announced an asteroid initiative proposing a strategy to leverage human and robotic activities for the first human mission to an asteroid while also accelerating efforts to improve detection and characterization of asteroids.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., will provide overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance. The University of Arizona in Tucson is the principal investigator institution. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver will build the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages New Frontiers for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE - Sierra Nevada Corporation's (SNC) Space Systems Dream Chaser flight vehicle arrived at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., Wednesday to begin tests of its flight and runway landing systems.
The tests are part of pre-negotiated, paid-for-performance milestones with NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP), which is facilitating U.S.-led companies' development of spacecraft and rockets that can launch from American soil. The overall goal of CCP is to achieve safe, reliable and cost-effective U.S. human access to and from the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit.
Tests at Dryden will include tow, captive-carry and free-flight tests of the Dream Chaser. A truck will tow the craft down a runway to validate performance of the nose strut, brakes and tires. The captive-carry flights will further examine the loads it will encounter during flight as it is carried by an Erickson Skycrane helicopter. The free flight later this year will test Dream Chaser's aerodynamics through landing.
Meanwhile, on the east coast, several NASA astronauts will be at the agency's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., this week to fly simulations of a Dream Chaser approach and landing to help evaluate the spacecraft's subsonic handling. The test will measure how well the spacecraft would handle in a number of different atmospheric conditions and assess its guidance and navigation performance.
"Unique public-private partnerships like the one between NASA and Sierra Nevada Corporation are creating an industry capable of building the next generation of rockets and spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the scientific proving ground of low-Earth orbit," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations in Washington. "NASA centers around the country paved the way for 50 years of American human spaceflight, and they're actively working with our partners to test innovative commercial space systems that will continue to ensure American leadership in exploration and discovery."
The Dream Chaser Space System is based on Langley's Horizontal Lander HL-20 lifting body design concept. The design builds on years of analysis and wind tunnel testing by Langley engineers during the 1980s and 1990s. Langley and SNC joined forces six years ago to update the HL-20 design in the Dream Chaser orbital crew vehicle. In those years SNC has worked to refine the spacecraft design. SNC will continue to test models in Langley wind tunnels. Langley researchers also helped develop a cockpit simulator at SNC's facility in Louisville, Colo., and the flight simulations being assessed at the center.
NASA is partnered with SNC, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and The Boeing Company to meet CCP milestones for integrated crew transportation systems under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative. Advances made by these companies under their funded Space Act Agreements ultimately are intended to lead to the availability of commercial human spaceflight services for government and commercial companies.
While NASA works with U.S. industry partners to develop commercial spaceflight capabilities, the agency also is developing the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS), a crew capsule and heavy-lift rocket to provide an entirely new capability for human exploration. Designed to be flexible for launching spacecraft for crew and cargo missions, SLS and Orion will expand human presence beyond low-Earth orbit and enable new missions of exploration in the solar system.
PASADENA - Kepler Status Report - At our semi-weekly contact on Tuesday, May 14, 2013, we found the Kepler spacecraft once again in safe mode. As was the case earlier this month, this was a Thruster-Controlled Safe Mode. The root cause is not yet known, however the proximate cause appears to be an attitude error. The spacecraft was oriented with the solar panels facing the sun, slowly spinning about the sun-line. The communication link comes and goes as the spacecraft spins.
We attempted to return to reaction wheel control as the spacecraft rotated into communication, and commanded a stop rotation. Initially, it appeared that all three wheels responded and that rotation had been successfully stopped, but reaction wheel 4 remained at full torque while the spin rate dropped to zero. This is a clear indication that there has been an internal failure within the reaction wheel, likely a structural failure of the wheel bearing. The spacecraft was then transitioned back to Thruster-Controlled Safe Mode.
An Anomaly Review Board concurred that the data appear to unambiguously indicate a wheel 4 failure, and that the team’s priority is to complete preparations to enter Point Rest State. Point Rest State is a loosely-pointed, thruster-controlled state that minimizes fuels usage while providing a continuous X-band communication downlink. The software to execute that state was loaded to the spacecraft last week, and last night the team completed the upload of the parameters the software will use.
The spacecraft is stable and safe, if still burning fuel. Our fuel budget is sufficient that we can take due caution while we finish our planning. In its current mode, our fuel will last for several months. Point Rest State would extend that period to years.
We have requested and received additional NASA Deep Space Network communication coverage, and this morning the Anomaly Review Board approved the transition to Point Rest State later today. Because this is a new operating mode of the spacecraft, the team will closely monitor the spacecraft, but no other immediate actions are planned. We will take the next several days and weeks to assess our options and develop new command products. These options are likely to include steps to attempt to recover wheel functionality and to investigate the utility of a hybrid mode, using both wheels and thrusters.
With the failure of a second reaction wheel, it's unlikely that the spacecraft will be able to return to the high pointing accuracy that enables its high-precision photometry. However, no decision has been made to end data collection.
Kepler had successfully completed its primary three-and-a-half year mission and entered an extended mission phase in November 2012.
Even if data collection were to end, the mission has substantial quantities of data on the ground yet to be fully analyzed, and the string of scientific discoveries is expected to continue for years to come. SOURCE: NASA
MOSCOW - Expedition 35 Commander Chris Hadfield and Flight Engineers Tom Marshburn and Roman Romanenko landed their Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft in southern Kazakhstan at 10:31 p.m. EDT Monday. Russian recovery teams were on hand to help the crew exit the Soyuz vehicle and adjust to gravity after 146 days in space.
Soyuz TMA-07M lands with the Expedition 35 crew. Photo Credit: Roscosmos
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The trio launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in December and spent 144 days living and working aboard the International Space Station.
Romanenko was at the controls of the spacecraft as it undocked at 7:08 p.m. Monday from the Rassvet module. › Watch the Expedition 35 welcome ceremony› Watch the Soyuz landing› Watch the crew farewell and Soyuz undocking
The undocking marked the end of Expedition 35 and the start of Expedition 36 under the command of Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, who is scheduled to remain on the station with Flight Engineers Chris Cassidy and Alexander Misurkin until September. Hadfield ceremonially handed command of the station over to Vinogradov on Sunday. Vinogradov, Cassidy and Misurkin arrived at the station aboard the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft in March 2013.
Vinogradov, Cassidy and Misurkin will remain aboard the orbiting complex as a three-person crew until the May 28 launch and docking of Expedition 36 Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg, Fyodor Yurchikhin, Luca Parmitano.
Hadfield, Marshburn and Romanenko spent their final morning aboard the station Monday packing some final items for return to Earth aboard their Soyuz spacecraft. Marshburn removed a sample canister from a Japanese protein crystal growth experiment and handed it off to his Russian crewmates to stow inside the Soyuz.
With the successful completion of the Binary Colloid Alloy Test-6, or BCAT-6, Hadfield stowed the experiment hardware in the Zarya module. BCAT-6 took a look at how gasses and liquids come together and separate in space. Results from this experiment may lead to improvements in the shelf-life of household products, food and medicine.
Hadfield also assisted Cassidy with a periodic fitness evaluation as flight surgeons keep track of the crew’s health during these long-duration missions. Cassidy exercised on the station’s exercise bike -- the Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization – while Hadfield collected blood pressure measurements.
Cassidy also installed a new HD camera in the Destiny lab and upgraded a video encoder card in an associated computer.
Astronaut Shannon Walker, who served as an Expedition 24/25 flight engineer in 2010, talked about the preparations crew members make before leaving the station during a Space Station Live interview on Monday. › Watch the interview
The spare Pump and Flow Control Subassembly (PFCS) box installed Saturday by Cassidy and Marshburn during their 5-hour, 30-minute spacewalk continues to be checked out by flight controllers, but is showing no signs of ammonia leakage at this point and is functioning normally.