Marshall space flight center map

Photo, Print, Drawing 7. MARSHALL SPACE FLIGHT CENTER, GENERAL SITE MAP, JULY 1960. MSFC MASTER PLANNING OFFICE. – Marshall Space Flight Center, East Test Area, Dodd Road, Huntsville, Madison County, AL Photos from Survey HAER AL-129-E

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    Cite This Item

    Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

    Chicago citation style:

    Historic American Engineering Record, Creator. Marshall Space Flight Center, East Test Area, Dodd Road, Huntsville, Madison County, AL . Alabama Huntsville Madison County, 1968. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph.

    APA citation style:

    Historic American Engineering Record, C. (1968) Marshall Space Flight Center, East Test Area, Dodd Road, Huntsville, Madison County, AL . Alabama Huntsville Madison County, 1968. Documentation Compiled After. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

    MLA citation style:

    Historic American Engineering Record, Creator. Marshall Space Flight Center, East Test Area, Dodd Road, Huntsville, Madison County, AL . Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, .

    UAH – ESSC – News – UAH staff, students answer call for help after hurricanes

    UAH staff, students answer call for help after hurricanes

    UAH scientists Lori Schultz, left, and Jordan Bell used satellite data to track Puerto Rico’s recovery after Hurricane Maria hit in September.

    For almost two months after Hurricane Maria came ashore in Puerto Rico and threw the island into darkness, UAH’s Lori Schultz and Jordan Bell watched the lights come back on.

    Satellite images of Puerto Rico at night from before the hurricane showed an island with lights blazing from its cities and towns, with smaller clusters of light sparkling up from the island’s rural areas.

    Images taken shortly after the hurricane hit on Sept. 20 showed a black shadow in the Caribbean Sea, with a handful of generator-powered lights sparsely speckled across the landscape.

    UAH graduate student Thai Munroe was part of a “map-a-thon” after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. Munroe, other students and UAH scientists were part of a team analyzing satellite data to help emergency responders in Texas map and track flooding caused by the hurricane.

    Schultz and Bell used images taken by several satellite instruments to report to officials involved in Puerto Rico’s recovery where the lights were on last night, and how that compared to the night, week and months before. Officials from FEMA and the National Guard (among others) used that information to see where power had been restored and where they needed next to focus their resources and efforts.

    At last report, electricity has been at least partially restored and the lights are back on for a little more than two thirds of the people who live on the island. Both Bell and Schultz have returned to a somewhat more normal routine (which is to say, frantically getting ready for a pair of scientific conferences).

    During the 2017 hurricane season, however, spanning the landfalls of hurricanes Harvey in Texas, Irma in Florida and Maria in Puerto Rico, Schultz and Bell were two of more than a dozen University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) students and employees who were assigned or who volunteered their time, and their satellite remote sensing and data analysis expertise to help in recovery efforts, joining NASA and partnering scientists from across the U.S.

    Hurricane Harvey “was such a major flooding event, (emergency responders) just needed to understand where the water was,” said Schultz, a UAH research associate working with NASA’s Earth Science Disaster Response Team at Marshall Space Flight Center.

    After Harvey, “FEMA and the National Guard were both very interested in knowing where there was standing water,” said Eric Anderson, a research scientist in UAH’s Earth System Science Center who supports SERVIR, a joint initiative of NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development. “But there was a gap in analyzing data after hurricane Harvey, so we asked for help and we got a big response.”

    “Jordan asked Eric if we could help,” said Thai Munroe, an M.S. student in Earth system science who was working with SERVIR. “It was really bad, so they asked, ‘Is there anyone free who has some remote sensing experience?'”

    “Some SERVIR students were told, ‘This is your task for the week,'” said Garrett Layne, also an M.S. student in UAH’s Earth system science program. “This was the first time I’ve ever done feature identification. It was new to me, but it’s something I want to do, so it was a good skill for me to learn.”

    The team used data and images from two European Space Agency satellites, Sentinel 1 and 2, as well as data provided by a Canadian satellite, Japan’s ALOS II satellite and Russian multispectral data, as well as images from U.S. commercial satellites. These datasets were provided through the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hazards Data Distribution System, which helps to gather disaster-related imagery for use, processing and decision making in collaboration with domestic and international partners.

    The extent of flooding from Harvey was so great, the team was forced to use higher resolution commercial imagery and other techniques to help map the affected areas. The process of merging all of the data and images into information useful to people on the ground in Texas was both intense and difficult to automate, several team members agreed, especially given the need for rapid analysis.

    “It takes a lot of human eyes and filtering,” Anderson said.

    “In a case like this, speed is essential and the end product doesn’t have to be perfect,” Schultz said. “Our clients would say, ‘Horseshoes and hand grenades are good enough.’ Many of the decisions that need to be made, they need to act upon immediately. We were balancing the desire to get it research-grade perfect with the near real-time needs of the response teams.

    “FEMA used some of our data as a check against what their models were saying,” Schultz said. “We got some word during Harvey that they also were using our maps to see if people asking for aid, if their address was under water.”

    “They needed the data in a timely manner, so you had to weigh timely versus perfection,” said Layne. “It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect if you get it to them a week late. Usually, 85 to 90 percent was good enough.”

    “I don’t think this could have been done by a computer,” said Munroe. “There was no real way to automate the process, which is why we needed a big team and it took so long.”

    Some of the satellite images showed areas larger than Madison County, Layne said. The goal, he said, was to “translate the image into definitely water and definitely not water, plus no data or not sure.”

    “It’s not the same for every image,” he said. “They’re not going to be perfect. Cloud shadows look like water; they’re both dark and cool. You have to look at the image in some detail to see, ‘This is a field. It’s not supposed to be under water.’ You can zoom in and see a road that’s under water.

    “You would analyze the whole thing at once, then go back and scan it little chunks at a time.”

    One of the highlights for the team, Bell said, was when “the first group of images went to FEMA and, within a couple of hours we got the word back, ‘These are matching our models.’ We knew we could ship it off, because you knew your products were working.

    “We knew we were on the right track, being able to provide data in a timely, meaningful way. It has been a blur since then. Our team didn’t miss a beat.”

    For the volunteers, the next weeks involved long hours of analysis, flipping back and forth between new images showing flooding after Harvey and older images showing where rivers, ponds and other water was supposed to be under normal conditions.

    “There were several 12 and 14-hour days mixed in there, and some weekends,” Bell said.

    “We all had a kind of map-athon, basically,” Munroe said. “A lot of us were working from home, and at night and over the weekends. I think the reason we were all working through the night was that it felt so important.

    “We were all really eager to help,” she said. “The fact you knew there was someone who was going to get immediate use from your work meant it was important to do the very best you could, because there wasn’t a chance to go back and edit it.”

    “The SERVIR grad students all got to roll up their sleeves and produce something they knew FEMA was looking at,” Anderson said. “They knew their work was seen.”

    “It makes you want to do a good job,” Layne said. “It gives you more motivation, although it’s tough to get over that perfectionist attitude. The fact I knew I was doing something useful made it more intense and more interesting than doing a project for class.”

    “I know from reading rescue stories that what we did could have helped people,” Munroe said. “Knowing I could help a community so far away wasn’t a small thing to me. It was pretty big. It felt good to be part of something so important.

    In addition to providing useful data to emergency responders, the hurricane response helped FEMA and other agencies recognize the value of the information available through remote sensing. As the NASA/UAH team gained experience working with emergency responders, they were able to improve their products, Schultz said. That led to other opportunities to support disaster relief.

    Recently, she has been downloading short-wave infrared satellite data to prepare maps of fast-moving forest fires in California. “Before, this was exploratory,” she said. “Now it’s, ‘Send me data.'”

    Efforts by UAH team members in support of NASA’s hurricane recovery efforts were vital, said Dr. Andrew Molthan, a research meteorologist in NASA’s Earth Science Branch, and one of two coordinators of disaster response activities at Marshall. “By my count, our NASA and UAH team members worked over 60 consecutive days, nights, weekends and holidays to support response to the three storms. With the overwhelming amount of data available, the need for rapid response, and coordination with our end user partners, help from our SERVIR and UAH team members was crucial in supporting NASA’s efforts.”

    During the Puerto Rico recovery effort, the NASA Earth Science Disaster Response Team at Marshall Space Flight Center used images taken by the NASA/NOAA Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership satellite and the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer suite instrument, plus products from VIIRS generated by colleagues at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, to map the loss and recovery of electric lights throughout Puerto Rico.

    Other UAH students who participated in the “map-athon” included Kelsey Herndon and Ronan Lucey.

    Other UAH ESSC employees who participated included Kel Markert, Rebekke Muench, Emily Adams, Emil Cherrington, Africa Flores and Amanda Weigel.

    Team Redstone – A message from our NASA – s Marshall Space, Facebook


    Team Redstone

    (bldg. 4203 is accessible to everyone on base – google “nasa 4203 redstone arsenal” for a map/direction.
    4203 Cafeteria – If you haven’t tried the new cafeteria food – please make a point to try it sometime. The fresh salads, new menu items, and new sandwiches are getting rave reviews. And the entire serving area has been upgraded! Please go to the link below for menus, nutritional info, and promotions (click on left side of the page).

    Chick-fil-A on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4663 (Space Station building) Food Trucks – Go out there and enjoy the truck’s various flavors of the day from 11am-1pm daily at the corner of Martin Road and Rideout. There’s always good food available and you can check out who’s actually there at 11am each day by going to the NASA Food Truck Corral page on Facebook.
    Note: Dallas Mill Deli truck at 4600 will be serving at 11:30am on Mondays for the next month.

    Food truck Rally week will be April 2-6….it’ll be fun! Lots of trucks daily, live music, car show and we are looking at a celebrity look-a-like contest! Sign up starts next week – but tell your friends…

    Honey Baked Ham for Easter
    It is spring time and Easter is around the corner – April 1st. Don’t forget to place your order from Honey Baked Ham. When placing your order you get discounted pricing as well as convenient pick up! The sale has already started and will continue until 5:00 pm, Tuesday, March 27th, with order pickup on Thursday, March 29th. Pick up is at the west parking lot of building 4315 from 3pm – 5pm. Go to the link for more delivery information and to place your orders: Caution- or, if you prefer, you can order with cash, check or gift card at the Space Shop in building 4203.

    Six Flags Spring Break Offer
    Do you (or your kids) need something to do during spring break? Six Flags may have just the thing for you! Six Flags Over Georgia is now open and they have a special to offer to Marshall Employees. For a limited time (ends 4/17), one day admission purchased on-line is only $31.99+tax! Use the link to order or search their website to learn about new attractions: Six Flags. Make sure to use the discount code SPRING8 in the upper right hand corner of the page to get the special offers.

    NASA Wellness 5K run – sign up now!
    It is that time of the year again. – The annual Wellness Run (formerly SHE-Day run) is scheduled for April 18th at 9am. This is a fantastic, well organized, safe, fun event – join us! Make sure you get an awesome t-shirt – these are always very popular! See attachment for complete info.

    Did you know…? We have a Tennis Club?
    Suitable for all ages, abilities and fitness levels. The MARS Tennis Club is a fun, social way to burn calories, keep your heart healthy, lose weight, tone and strengthen muscles, help develop critical thinking and problem solving and help relieve stress. Join the Tennis Club at their open house event on April 7th, 10am-noon. Contact Ronda Moyers for questions about the club or the event. Caution-

    Don’t forget that we now have two barbers at the shop in the lobby of 4203 – see below for hour’s info.

    @SpaceShop (4203) – Open from 7:45am to 4:00pm.
    • We have a bunch of new products arriving daily so always come and see what’s new!
    • Discount tickets for AMC and Cinemark Movie theaters – $8 for Monaco (Cinemark) and $8.50 for AMC • Discount tickets for the Space and Rocket Center- adult $24, Kids $16 (includes a movie)

    Don’t forget about our Exchange partners • Auto Shop (4678) – get your car serviced right on-site by the Auto Service Shop 256-881-7640.
    • Barber Shop (4203) – Call Gene for an appointment Monday –Friday, 8am – noon. Or call Tanya, Tuesday – Friday, 9am-4:00pm. 544-2140. Walk-ins are welcome too!
    • C&C Espresso (4203) – open daily 8am – 3pm • Nuova Espresso (4610) – Open daily from 7am-2pm • Smartphone Medics (4203) – IPhone repair services, accessories, and more. 256-414-1199. Monday, Wed, Friday 10am-2pm inside the barber shop • The UPS Store (4203) – store hours vary, but usually Mon-Thu 10:30am – 1:00pm • Therapeutic Bodywork – to set up a massage appointment call Katherine HarrisGay, 256-783-7908 or Lisa Kipker, 256-221-7907

    NASA s OSIRIS-REx mission will have a map for that

    NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission will have a map for that

    On Sept. 8, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is scheduled to launch for terra incognita: the unknown surface of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu. Like expeditions of old, OSIRIS-REx’s mission includes mapping the exotic terrain it explores.

    Bennu is part of the debris left over from the formation of the solar system and is pristine enough to hold clues to that very early history. OSIRIS-REx – which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer – will study Bennu in detail and collect a sample to send to Earth for in-depth analysis. The mission also will investigate how pressure from sunlight influences the path of this traveling asteroid.

    “I like to say the first thing any explorer does upon reaching a new land is to start making maps,” said Ed Beshore, deputy principal investigator of OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

    For OSIRIS-REx, mapping is mission-critical. It’s one of the primary science goals and an integral part of spacecraft operations. The spacecraft will spend a year flying in close proximity to Bennu – its five instruments imaging the asteroid, documenting its lumpy shape, and surveying its chemical and physical properties.

    This information will be used to produce four top-level maps for identifying the site where sample will be collected. These maps will indicate which sites are scientifically most valuable, where the spacecraft can touch the asteroid safely, where navigation can deliver the spacecraft, and where there is enough loose rock that can be collected.

    About a dozen potential sampling sites will be chosen to start. Once this list has been winnowed down, reconnaissance maps will provide detailed views of the few remaining candidates. Later, after the sampling is done, the team will refine some maps to provide context for laboratory analysis of the material and to aid future studies of asteroids.

    “Each map will pull together different kinds of data to answer an independent question,” said Lucy Lim, OSIRIS-REx assistant project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    One top-level map will deal with the safety of the spacecraft. The team has to make sure OSIRIS-REx won’t encounter hazards as it approaches Bennu and executes its touch-and-go – or TAG – maneuver. A mechanical arm that functions like a pogo stick will be extended from the spacecraft. The spacecraft will slowly approach the asteroid until the sample head at the end of the arm “kisses” the surface. Then, OSIRIS-REx will move away from the asteroid.

    The target area for TAG will be a circle that measures 164 feet (50 meters) across.

    “We have to be able to say with a high degree of confidence that the spacecraft will be safe if it touches the surface anywhere within that circle,” said David Lorenz, OSIRIS-REx TAG lead at Goddard.

    To determine that, the team will look at the tilt of the landscape, temperature readings, and whether plumes of material are coming off the asteroid. Another consideration will be the amount of light reflected by the surface. That’s important because OSIRIS-REx will bounce laser signals off the surface. If an area is too dark, there won’t be enough return signal; an area that’s too bright will blind the detector.

    Hazards such as large boulders and steep cliffs will be identified at a different stage.

    Another top-level map will address the ability to deliver OSIRIS-REx to its target. This is primarily a navigation question: Can the spacecraft be brought to a target site at the correct speed? (Both vertical speed and sideways speed matter.) If not, the spacecraft will be in danger of crashing or tipping over in a so-called stubbed-toe scenario.

    Bennu’s mass makes navigating a particular challenge. The asteroid will be one of the smallest objects ever visited by a planetary spacecraft. Bennu has very little gravity – so little that pressure from sunlight on OSIRIS-REx will almost equal the force of Bennu’s gravity. To stay in orbit, the spacecraft will have to remain within a mile and a half (about 2.4 kilometers) of Bennu. Any farther than that, and the pressure from sunlight will push it away from the asteroid.

    “The bottom line is that we’re paying a lot more attention to modeling very small accelerations, such as those exerted by solar radiation pressure, than previous missions have had to do,” said Michael Moreau, OSIRIS-REx flight dynamics system manager at Goddard.

    The third of these maps will determine where the right kind of surface material is located. The sample head, which looks like a big automotive air filter, can take in dirt, dust and bits of gravel measuring less than three-fourths of an inch (2 centimeters). At least 2 ounces (60 grams) of material needs to be collected, but the sample head can hold up to 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms).

    “Our goal is to maximize the amount of sample for OSIRIS-REx,” said Kevin Walsh, an OSIRIS-REx co-investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “We have tested the sample head in the lab and know how it performs, and we will hunt for the right sort of environment on Bennu.”

    To find that, the team will look at images, tilt measurements and thermal information, which reveals how the material on the surface stores and releases heat. Coarser, rockier grains will absorb more heat from the sun and give it off slowly during the asteroid’s night. Fine-grained particles will lose heat very quickly once they are out of the sunlight.

    The fourth top-level map will evaluate the scientific value of the surface on Bennu. From remote observations, the team assumes that Bennu should contain water and organic – or carbon-rich – material, but they don’t know yet how this material is distributed across the surface.

    “Some of the most interesting sites will be those that offer fresh material – perhaps exposed by an impact, a crack or plume activity like comets have – and those with diverse material,” said Keiko Nakamura-Messenger, OSIRIS-REx sample site scientist and the deputy lead for curation at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We also believe the coldest place has higher science value, because that is where organics are likely to be better preserved.”

    To figure this out, the team will look at geological features, mineralogy, chemical composition and temperature.

    All of these maps will be built on a 3-D shape model of Bennu. The team is already using a preliminary shape model, produced from radar observations of the asteroid. But a new shape model with much higher resolution will be made once OSIRIS-REx surveys Bennu.

    “The shape model is the framework – the one piece every map needs to have,” said Eric Palmer, an OSIRIS-REx collaborator at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson. “It also provides a way of correcting scientific observations so that you can make apples-to-apples comparisons.”

    The team has two ways of deriving the detailed shape of Bennu. One is to make precise measurements of the round-trip distance from the spacecraft to the asteroid using the on-board laser altimeter. The other is the so-called shape-by-shading technique – or stereophotoclinometry – which deduces the 3-D lay of the land from multiple images taken from different angles under a range of lighting conditions.

    Beshore pointed out one more reason to put all this effort into mapping. “These maps of Bennu are going to be beautiful,” he said.

    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission’s principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is building the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages New Frontiers for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    Launch management is the responsibility of NASA’s Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

    NASA Centers to Visit for an Out of This World Vacation, Space

    NASA Centers to Visit for an Out of This World Vacation

    NASA Centers to Visit for an Out of This World Vacation

    Wondering what to do for summer vacation? Why not visit NASA?

    NASA has multiple centers located across the United States, many of which provide tours or host visitor centers that are open to the public. Most of these visitor centers have space-injected science museums, and they can make fantastic vacation stops.

    Click through this countdown to learn about opportunities to visit a NASA center or visitor center. Our list includes details about visiting Johnson Space Center, Kennedy Space Center, Marshall Space Flight Center, Langley Research Center, Stennis Space Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Goddard Space Flight Center, Wallops Flight Facility, Glenn Research Center (and Plum Brook Station), Ames Research Center and Armstrong Flight Research Center. We’ve also included three facilities that serve as NASA visitor centers but that are not close to NASA facilities.

    We’ve included a brief description of each NASA center, and details about what visitors can expect, including what you can see at the visitor center, and whether or not tours of the facility are available.

    We’ve included details about each center’s operational hours and cost of admission, but please check the center’s website before planning your trip. Most NASA centers are closed on major holidays.

    NEXT: Johnson Space Center and Space Center Houston

    Johnson Space Center and Space Center Houston

    NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston is home to mission control, the contact point for astronauts in space. (Hence the phrase, “Houston, we have a problem.”)

    Space Center Houston is the visitor center associated with Johnson, and is located right next door to the NASA facility. It’s a massive science museum with tons of artifacts, interactive exhibits and live events. In June 2018, the science and space exploration learning center also became the first of its kind to be designated as a Certified Autism Center by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards, according to their website. The museum recently opened a new exhibit about aerospace innovations, called “Above and Beyond,” which runs this summer until Sept. 9.

    Space Center Houston is a great day-trip location for space fans, but there’s enough going on there to fill multiple trips. [Space Center Houston: A Tour in Photos]

    In addition, there are tram tours from the center through Johnson. Visitors get to see the current mission-control room, which is responsible for operations on the International Space Station. They’ll also see the historic mission-control room, where NASA monitored its Apollo missions, as well as nine Gemini missions. Also on the tour are the Saturn V Rocket Park, home to a real “mighty and massive” Saturn V rocket, as the tour web page notes. Finally, the tour stops at Building 9, which provides a glimpse into some of the science and tech being developed for human spaceflight.

    Tram tours run year-round but can be canceled due to bad weather or other unforeseen circumstances. You can buy timed tickets ahead of time. The Space Center Houston is open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. all summer long, and closes at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday after Sept. 4. Entry tickets are $29.95 for adults, and $24.95 for children ages 4-11. Children ages 3 and under are free.

    NEXT: Kennedy Space Center

    Kennedy Space Center and Visitor Complex

    Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Titusville, Florida (just outside Orlando), is NASA’s human spaceflight launch facility. From Gemini through the space shuttle, Kennedy was the place where all of NASA’s astronauts would bid a (temporary) farewell to Earth.

    To take a tour of KSC, head over to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, a massive, amusement-park-like area.

    There are two types of tours. The KSC Bus Tour gives a “drive-by view of a launch pad” and other sites on the KSC campus, including the Apollo 8 launch site. The tours are 45 minutes long, but allow an additional 2 hours to view the Apollo/Saturn V Center and to allow for the return ride, which lasts about 20 minutes, according to their website. Tours leave from the visitor center every 15 minutes, from 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. The tour is included in the cost of admission to the center, which is $50 for adults, and $40 for children ages 3-11. [Photos: The Kennedy Space Center, NASA’s Historic Spaceport]

    But visitors who want a closer view of KSC should consider the “Explore Tour or the Cape Canaveral Early Space Tour. These tours go beyond the regular bus tour and allow guests to learn about specific aspects of KSC. Keep in mind that rocket launches are once again taking place from Launch Complex 39A, and therefore, “safety protocols require an alternate tour bus route during days leading up to a launch,” according to the website. To learn more about each tour, go to the ticket section of the KSC website, and scroll down to see a description of each tour. The “Cape Canaveral Early Space Tour” is only available Thursday through Sunday. To find out if a tour is available on a particular day, select the number of tickets you’d like for the tour, and click “Next.” You’ll be taken to a page that will show you the dates and times that are available for the tour.

    The KSC Bus Tour is the only one included in the admission ticket; the other tours cost an additional $25 for adults and $19 for children ages 3-11. KSC recommends buying tickets ahead of time.

    In addition to the KSC tour, the visitor center has plenty to offer. The Rocket Garden is home to multiple NASA rockets, some of which tower more than 100 feet high. There are also replicas of the tiny capsules that flew the first humans to space during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo eras. There’s also the Saturn V rocket center, a tribute to the largest rocket ever made. Kennedy is also home to the space shuttle Atlantis, and we challenge space fans not to get a little teary-eyed during the video that plays at the entrance of the shuttle exhibit.

    NEXT: Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is one of NASAs most active facilities when it comes to building and operating unmanned space probes. It’s the home base of a swarm of NASA’s scientific missions, including the completed Cassini mission to Saturn, the Dawn mission to Ceres, the Juno mission to Jupiter, the InSight mission to Mars and the OCO-2 mission studying Earth’s climate change.

    JPL offers free tours of its facilities to members of the public, which includes a stop by the visitor center, home to a beautiful display tracing the history of NASA’s exploration of the various planets, moons and other major bodies in the solar system. Visitors may also see the Space Flight Operations Facility and the Spacecraft Assembly Facility.

    Keep in mind that tours must be reserved at least three weeks in advance, and that tours fill up two to three months in advance. The JPL tour website advises guests to check back in early August for tour availability in January 2019. Tours can be booked for individuals and small groups, large groups over 20 people, and school groups. Tours are generally held at 1 p.m. and last between 2 and 2.5 hours. JPL also opens its doors to the public for special events.

    You might also consider stopping in on one of JPL’s free lecture series, which bring “the excitement of the space program’s missions, instruments and other technologies” to JPL employees and the public. These free lectures are open to the public and no reservations are required, but seating is limited, so arrive early. Each talk is delivered twice — once on Thursday night and once on Friday night, typically at 7 p.m. The talks take place at different locations, so be sure to check the website.

    Visitors can also stop by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which founded JPL. The two institutions work closely together on NASA missions, and Caltech is home to five NASA facilities, including those that manage the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR).

    Check the Caltech tours page for information about self-guided campus tours, as well as architectural tours, and high school student and prospective student tours. The school also hosts public events. Check the public events calendar to find out about other events.

    JPL is about an hour outside Los Angeles, which is home to the California Science Center, a massive science museum with lots of hands-on exhibits and space-related attractions, including the space shuttle Endeavour. To find out more about seeing a space shuttle this summer, check out our list of best summer vacation destinations for space fans.

    JPL is also three hours away from Vandenberg Air Force Base, where you can see a rocket launch this summer.

    NEXT: Langley Research Center and the Virginia Air and Space Center

    Langley Research Center and the Virginia Air and Space Center

    The Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, was the first civilian spaceflight laboratory in the U.S. The lab played a crucial role in the Mercury and space shuttle programs.

    The Virginia Air and Space Center serves as Langley’s visitor center, and this interactive museum puts an emphasis on flight. In addition to NASA artifacts, there are multiple aircraft on display. There are lots of NASA-related exhibits, including a solarium that surrounds visitors in images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. There’s also “Engineer it! an Imagination Playground” that “allows families to have fun creating and learning together.”

    The center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. Tickets are $19.50 for adults, and $16.00 for children ages 3-18. Admission includes an IMAX movie.

    Unfortunately, there are no regular public tours of the Langley facility. Occasionally, NASA will open the facility for special events, but none are planned for 2018, according to Langley representatives.

    NEXT: Stennis Space Center and Infinity Science Center

    Stennis Space Center and the Infinity Science Center

    The John C. Stennis Space Center is in Hancock County, Mississippi, near the state border with Louisiana. Upon its construction in the 1960s, “the center’s primary mission was to flight-certify all first and second stages of the Saturn V rocket for the Apollo program,” according to NASA. In 1975, the space shuttle main engine was tested at Stennis, and testing on shuttle engines continued there until 2009. Stennis is now a “multidisciplinary facility comprised of NASA and more than 40 other resident agencies.”

    To see the Stennis Space Center, you’ll first go to the Infinity Science Center in Pearlington, Mississippi, where every admission ticket includes a “behind-the-scenes tour” of Stennis.

    Forty-minute bus tours of the Stennis Space Center happen Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Tours fill up on a first-come first-served basis.

    The Infinity Science Center is an interactive science center that features exhibits and attractions from which visitors can learn about spaceflight, aviation, ocean exploration and more. Check the center’s website to learn about special events and programs.

    In addition to the indoor attractions, visitors can stroll down Possum Walk Trail. From the center’s website: “Markers along the way present the history of Possum Walk, a now deserted African-American community, as well as Logtown, an old logging community relocated in the wake of the 1960’s Space Program. Interpretive signs along the trail point out some of the plants and animals native to this part of Hancock County.” The trail is closed between Oct. 15 and Feb. 15. During the rest of the year, the trams run Tuesday through Saturday at 10 p.m., 11 p.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

    The Infinity Science Center is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $18 for adults, and $11 for children ages 4 to 13, and includes a bus tour of Stennis. The Possum Walk Tram is an additional $3.

    NEXT: Marshall Space Flight Center and the US Space and Rocket Center

    Marshall Space Flight Center and the US Space and Rocket Center

    NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, has a spaceflight history that precedes the formation of NASA. Early rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun and a group of German scientists worked at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville in the 1950s, before the agency’s formation. The work contributed to the first launch of a U.S. satellite into space, and since then, Marshall has performed a variety of functions for NASA’s human spaceflight program. The facility has tested rocket hardware, as well as scientific hardware and instruments.

    Marshall’s official visitor center is the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, home to Space Camp. (For more information about attending Space Camp, check out our recommendations for the best summer vacations for space lovers.)

    The Rocket Center “has one of the largest collections of rockets and space memorabilia anywhere in the world,” according to the center’s website. That includes a display of a Saturn V rocket and the world’s only fully stacked Space Transportation System (a space shuttle stacked on top of a rocket in the configuration that would be assembled for a real launch). Check the website for information about featured exhibits.

    The Rocket Center offers bus tours of the Marshall Space Flight Center that includes multiple stops in the facility. Tickets for the tour are $20 for visitors ages 5 and up. Tour buses depart the Rocket Center daily at 12:30 p.m. The tour takes between 2 and 2.5 hours.

    Admission to the Space and Rocket center is open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults, and $17 for kids ages 5-12. Tickets to the center’s IMAX or National Geographic movies are an additional $5 with the price of admission; without admission, the movies are $8 for adults and $7 for kids.

    NEXT: Wallops Flight Facility and Visitor Center

    Wallops Flight Facility and Visitor Center

    NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, is one of three large rocket launch locations in the contiguous U.S. In addition, Wallops is “NASA’s principal facility for management and implementation of suborbital research programs,” according to NASAs website.

    The Wallops Flight Facility Visitor Center “features exhibits about aeronautics, orbital and sub-orbital rockets, scientific balloons, current missions and the history of Wallops Flight Facility,” and much more, according to the center’s website. There are also lots of special events throughout the summer, including astronomy nights and a lecture series. Check the center’s events website for specific dates, event descriptions and other details.

    But perhaps the best reason to stop by the visitor center is to see a rocket launch. The center opens an hour before a launch takes place, even if the launch is taking place outside normal visitor center hours (this is subject to change for national security reasons). Sound from the control room is piped into the center, so guests can hear the preparations for launch, and the countdown. And, the center is nicely positioned to give a clear view of the launch pad. For large rocket launches (such as an Orbital ATK Antares rocket, which is used to send supplies to the International Space Station, among other things), it is recommended that guests arrive about 3 hours before launch to get a good spot. For smaller rocket launches (like sounding rockets), 1 hour is usually sufficient. Check out our guide to seeing a launch for more details, including launch dates.

    The visitor center is free to the public, and is open daily from July 1 to Aug. 31, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. From September to June, the center is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    Tours of Wallops Flight Facility are available for groups of eight to 20 people, and can be booked by calling the Events and Outreach Coordinator: 757-824-2298. There are no tours of the facility for individuals and small groups.

    NEXT: Glenn Research Center

    Glenn Research Center and Great Lakes Science Center

    NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland was originally called the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory. “Glenn excels in researching and developing innovative technologies for both aeronautics and space flight,” according to NASA’s website. “A multitude of NASA missions have included elements from Glenn, from the Mercury and Gemini projects to the Space Shuttle Program and the International Space Station.”

    The center’s main campus, Lewis Field, is on 350 acres. Glenn’s Plum Brook Station is located 50 miles west, in Sandusky, Ohio, and rests on 6,400 acres. Plum Brook “has large, unique facilities that simulate the environment of space,” according to the website.

    The center hosts tours of its facilities, which are offered one day each month, from April through October. Most of these tours require preregistration at least 30 days before the tour. Unfortunately, tours at Glenn Research Center are restricted to “U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.” If you wish to visit a NASA center with family or friends that don’t meet these requirements, NASA centers like Kennedy Space Center in Florida are more amenable.

    The official visitor center for Glenn is the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland. The center hosts an OMNIMAX theater, and a wide range of exhibits and artifacts, including a moon rock brought back by the Apollo 15 mission, the 1973 Skylab 3 Apollo Command Module and real NASA spacesuits. Check the website to find out more about what the center has to offer, including a schedule of special events.

    NEXT: Ames Research Center and Visitor Center

    Ames Research Center and Visitor Center

    NASA’s Ames Research Center, in Moffett Field, California (between Mountain View and Sunnyvale), is involved in a wide range of NASA missions. Ames is the lead center for the Kepler Space Telescope, which hunts for exoplanets, and a partner on the Mars Science Laboratory aboard the Curiosity Rover, and for the International Space Station.

    There is a free public visitor center at Ames where guests can learn about “what we’re doing at this amazing NASA facility,” according to NASA’s website. The center includes a Science on a Sphere Visualization System, which projects the surface of a planet onto a spherical surface — a very different view compared with seeing those surfaces in flat 2D. There’s also various exhibits relating to some of the missions that Ames is involved with, a real moon rock on display, and a “Living and Working in Space” exhibit.

    The Ames Visitor Center is much smaller than some of the other NASA visitor centers, and the average stay at the Ames center only about an hour, according to the center’s website. NASA recommends that visitors hungry for more exhibits should visit the Moffett Field Historical Society Museum, which features exhibits and artifacts from local spaceflight and aviation history.

    Ames does not offer public tours of its facilities.

    The visitor center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and noon to 4 pm. Saturday and Sunday. The center is closed Mondays. Be sure to check the website for directions to the visitor center.

    NEXT: Armstrong Flight Research Center and Edwards Air Force Base

    Armstrong Flight Research Center

    Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, is NASA’s “primary center for atmospheric flight research and operations,” according to the agency website. The facility was involved with testing technologies for the space shuttle, and is currently responsible for space-to-ground communications support for the International Space Station. Armstrong is a testing ground for advanced aeronautics, space and related technologies, including doing testing and integration for the launch-abort system for the Orion crew vehicle, NASA’s next human spaceflight vehicle.

    Unfortunately, NASA no longer offers tours of Armstrong. However, public tours are available of Edwards Air Force Base, where Armstrong is located. Check the Edwards tour page for more information. Individuals and small groups can sign up for monthly tours of the base, and the minimum age for children is 4 years. More frequent tours can be arranged for groups of at least 15 and no more than about 42 people.

    Representatives from Edwards told that for small groups or individuals, it’s best to send an e-mail to [email protected] to reserve a tour spot. To make reservations for large groups, calling is best. You can arrange a tour by calling 661-277-3824.

    The tour includes a visit to the Air Force Flight Test Museum as well as a windshield tour of the main base, according to Edwards’ website.

    NEXT: Other NASA Visitor Centers

    Test Stands of the Marshall Space Flight Center, National Air and Space Museum

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    Test Stands of the Marshall Space Flight Center

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    The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission — to meet President John F. Kennedy’s challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

    In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize “…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation.” More important, the episode convinced the administrator that “…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events” of the American space program.(2)

    In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined “a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching,” as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. “The important thing,” he concluded, “is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy….” The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation’s capital.

    Webb’s memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency’s Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how “…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program.”(3)

    David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

    An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

    While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that “the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind,” Walker believed that “every possible method of documentation …be used.” Artists should be expected “…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race.” He urged quick action so that “the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost,” and hoped that “the past held captive” in any paintings resulting from the effort “will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company.”(4)

    Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as “the top artist in the U.S. today,” headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

    The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth’s brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as “the best of his pupils”; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as “America’s top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

    The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

    The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency’s step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

    “Since we …began,” Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive “press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports.” The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. “The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs.” While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that “our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too.”(5)

    For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to “defend” the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: “Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program.”(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, “where it can be properly cared for.”(7)

    In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

    The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world’s great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum’s first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

    (1) Stevenson’s portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

    (2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb’s preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

    (3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

    (4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

    (5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

    (6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

    (7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

    New – Fermi – gamma-ray telescope makes first sky map, New Scientist

    New ‘Fermi’ gamma-ray telescope makes first sky map

    (Image: NASA/DOE/International LAT Team)

    NASA’s recently launched GLAST gamma-ray observatory has made its first map of the sky, and now the agency has given it a new name: the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. It was named in honour of Nobel-laureate Enrico Fermi, who described how charged particles in space could be accelerated to high speeds.

    The $700 million telescope launched on 11 June from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

    It is expected to operate for 10 years, observing high-energy gamma-ray photons from violent supermassive black holes and mysterious cosmic explosions called gamma-ray bursts. It may even help pin down the nature of the dark matter that pervades the universe.


    As sometimes occurs after the successful launch and check-out of a space observatory, the telescope has been renamed.

    It was christened after the high-energy physicist Enrico Fermi (1901 – 1954). He won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1938 for inducing radioactivity in matter by slamming neutrons into atoms.

    Bright sky

    Fermi also devised a theory to explain how shock waves and magnetic fields can accelerate charged particles. The accelerated particles, called cosmic rays, produce gamma rays when they strike clouds of gas in space.

    “His theory provides the foundation for understanding the new phenomena his namesake telescope will discover,” says Paul Hertz of NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.

    At a press conference on Tuesday, project scientists released the telescope’s first map of the sky at gamma-ray wavelengths. The map (pictured) is built up from 95 hours of observations and was made with an instrument called the Large Area Telescope, which can scan the entire sky once every 3 hours.

    “This is like the night sky at a Fourth of July celebration, but we’re seeing it on a cosmic scale,” says Peter Michelson of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. A previous instrument called the Energetic Gamma Ray Experiment Telescope, which flew on NASA’s Compton Gamma-ray Observatory until it was de-orbited in 2000, took more than a year to build a similar map, Michelson said.

    Annihilating particles

    Bright spots in the map include the Crab Nebula, which hosts a radiation-spewing stellar corpse called a pulsar, and several blazars, violent active galaxies where colossal black holes accelerate particles to more than 99% the speed of light.

    But the maps’ main feature is a long swath of gamma rays emitted by the disc of our Milky Way galaxy. Most of the gamma rays come from cosmic rays hitting interstellar gas.

    But astronomers hope that some may come from the annihilation of weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs), a class of particles that may make up dark matter.

    Astronomers expect WIMPS to accumulate close to the centre of the galaxy. When two of them collide, they annihilate and produce gamma rays. So it is possible that observations of the Milky Way could reveal such a concentration of dark matter.

    Wide field

    But picking out that signal from the gamma-ray light emitted by garden-variety astronomical objects will likely take a year or more.

    “Being able to pull that signal out from all the other busy activity that is going on, all the other gamma-ray traffic, is going to take some time,” says project scientist Steve Ritz of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    Fermi’s other instrument, the GLAST Burst Monitor (GBM), is already detecting gamma-ray bursts on a daily basis, Chip Meegan of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, told reporters.

    These bursts, which have been detected in large numbers by NASA’s Swift telescope, are fleeting explosions thought to be caused when massive stars die or when neutron stars merge.

    Fermi’s two instruments will allow the telescope to observe the bursts at a wide – and largely unexplored – range of the energy spectrum of gamma rays, from 8000 to 30 million eV.

    Fermi also boasts a wide field of view, which should enable astronomers to catch bursts when they start and follow them as they peak and dim, seconds to minutes later.

    NASA to Map Surface of Asteroid – Parabolic Arc

    NASA to Map Surface of Asteroid

    By Sarah Schlieder
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will launch September 2016 and travel to a near-Earth asteroid known as Bennu to harvest a sample of surface material and return it to Earth for study. The science team will be looking for something special. Ideally, the sample will come from a region in which the building blocks of life may be found.

    To identify these regions on Bennu, the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) team equipped the spacecraft with an instrument that will measure the spectral signatures of Bennu’s mineralogical and molecular components.

    Known as OVIRS (short for the OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer), the instrument will measure visible and near-infrared light reflected and emitted from the asteroid and split the light into its component wavelengths, much like a prism that splits sunlight into a rainbow.

    “OVIRS is key to our search for organics on Bennu,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for the OSIRIS-REx mission at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “In particular, we will rely on it to find the areas of Bennu rich in organic molecules to identify possible sample sites of high science value, as well as the asteroid’s general composition.”

    OVIRS will work in tandem with another OSIRIS-REx instrument — the Thermal Emission Spectrometer, or OTES. While OVIRS maps the asteroid in the visible and near infrared, OTES picks up in the thermal infrared. This allows the science team to map the entire asteroid over a range of wavelengths that are most interesting to scientists searching for organics and water, and help them to select the best site for retrieving a sample.

    In the visible and infrared spectrum, minerals and other materials have unique signatures like fingerprints. These fingerprints allow scientists to identify various organic materials, as well as carbonates, silicates and absorbed water, on the surface of the asteroid. The data returned by OVIRS and OTES will actually allow scientists to make a map of the relative abundance of various materials across Bennu’s surface.

    “I can’t think of a spectral payload that has been quite this comprehensive before,” said Dennis Reuter, OVIRS instrument scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    OVIRS will be active during key phases throughout the mission. As the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft approaches Bennu, OVIRS will view one entire hemisphere at a time to measure how the spectrum changes as the asteroid rotates, allowing scientists to compare ground-based observations to those from the spacecraft. Once at the asteroid, OVIRS will gather spectral data and create detailed maps of the surface and help in the selection of a sample site.

    Using information gathered by OVIRS and OTES from the visible to the thermal infrared, the science team will also study the Yarkovsky Effect, or how Bennu’s orbit is affected by surface heating and cooling throughout its day. The asteroid is warmed by sunlight and re-emits thermal radiation in different directions as it rotates. This asymmetric thermal emission gives Bennu a small but steady push, thus changing its orbit over time. Understanding this effect will help scientists study Bennu’s orbital path, improve our understanding of the Yarkovsky effect, and improve our predictions of its influence on the orbits of other asteroids.

    But despite its capabilities to perform complex science, OVIRS is surprisingly inexpensive and compact in its design. The entire spectrometer operates at 10 watts, requiring less power than a standard household light bulb.

    “When you put it into that perspective, you can see just how efficient this instrument is, even though it is taking extremely complicated science measurements,” said Amy Simon, deputy instrument scientist for OVIRS at Goddard. “We’ve put a big job in a compact instrument.”

    Unlike most spectrometers, OVIRS has no moving parts, reducing the risk of a malfunction.

    “We designed OVIRS to be robust and capable of lasting a long time in space,” Reuter said. “Think of how many times you turn on your computer and something doesn’t work right or it just won’t start up. We can’t have that type of thing happen during the mission.”

    Drastic temperature changes in space will put the instrument’s robust design to the test. OVIRS is a cryogenic instrument, meaning that it must be at very low temperatures to produce the best data. Generally, it doesn’t take much for something to stay cool in space. That is, until it comes in contact with direct sunlight.

    Heat inside OVIRS would increase the amount of thermal radiation and scattered light, interfering with the infrared data. To avoid this risk, the scientists anodized the spectrometer’s interior coating. Anodizing increases a metal’s resistance to corrosion and wear. Anodized coatings can also help reduce scattered light, lowering the risk of compromising OVIRS’ observations.

    The team also had to plan for another major threat: water. The scientists will search for traces of water when they scout the surface for a sample site. Because the team will be searching for tiny water levels on Bennu’s surface, any water inside OVIRS would skew the results. And while the scientists don’t have to worry about a torrential downpour in space, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft may accumulate moisture while resting on its launch pad in Florida’s humid environment.

    Immediately after launch, the team will turn on heaters on the instrument to bake off any water. The heat will not be intense enough to cause any damage to OVIRS, and the team will turn the heaters off once all of the water has evaporated.

    “There are always challenges that we don’t know about until we get there, but we try to plan for the ones that we know about ahead of time,” said Simon.

    OVIRS will be essential for helping the team choose the best sample site. Its data and maps will give the scientists a picture of what is present on Bennu’s surface.

    In addition to OVIRS, Goddard will provide overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission’s principal investigator at the University of Arizona. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages New Frontiers for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    For more information about OSIRIS-REx, visit:

    Curious things you can find in NASA facilities with Google Maps

    Marshall space flight center map

    Among the many things you can do with the famous Google maps application is to observe from the air the impressive facilities of the US space agency, NASA.

    The largest installation of NASA: the Marshall Space Flight Center

    In this post I will show you some curious things that you can find in those facilities. I’ll start with NASA’s largest center, the Marshall Space Flight Center, located near Huntsville, Alabama. Created in 1960, here is Building 4550, also known as the Saturn V Dynamic Test Stand, a huge construction 111 meters high located at coordinates 34°37′50.97″N 86°39′40.13″W. This building has a great importance in the history of the Humanity, because here the greatest and most powerful of the rockets of NASA was tested, the Saturn V, that was the used one in the mission Apollo 11 that took to the man for the first time The Moon in 1969. This tower also tested the first prototype of NASA’s space shuttles, the Enterprise.

    Nearby, at coordinates 34°37’47.6″N 86°40’21.7″W, there is a strange building whose surroundings seem to have burned for years: it is Building 4670, also known as the S-IC Test Stand.

    The reason why their surroundings look so devastated is that here they tested the F-1 engines of the Saturn V rockets, as you can see in this video from the Marshall Space Flight Center:

    The Kennedy Space Center: the conquest of the Moon began here

    Let’s go now to the most famous NASA facility: the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, also known as Cape Canaveral because of where it is located. Here, at the coordinates 28°35′11″N 80°39′5″W is one of the largest and most famous buildings in the world: the Vehicle Assembly Building, 130 meters high.

    This is where the Apollo Saturn V rockets and space shuttles were prepared for launch. That is, from here the conquest of the Moon began.

    The launching platforms of the USAF in Cape Canaveral

    Without leaving the Kennedy Space Center, further east, near the sea and in the coordinates 28°36′30.23″N 80°36′15.64″W, is the Launch Complex 39, from which they have been carried out 160 NASA rocket launches since 1969. Below these lines we see Launch Pad 39A:

    A little further north is Launch Pad 39B, very similar to the previous one. If you follow the coast line to the south, you will see that there are two smaller launching pads, which are outside the boundaries of the Kennedy Space Center. What do they paint there? What was it for? Well, in this case, they are not NASA facilities. Below these lines you can see the Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) of the United States Air Force (USAF), and if you go a little further down the map you will see another similar complex, the SLC-40. The Titan III-C, Titan IIIE, Titan IV and Atlas V rockets have been launched from these facilities since 1965. Currently, the USAF has leased the SLC-40 to SpaceX for the launch of the Falcon 9 rockets.

    The spectacular aircraft of the NASA center in Edwards AFB

    Let’s go now to California, but not to the beaches, but to the Mojave Desert, specifically to the Rogers dry lake. There is the Edwards Air Base, belonging to the USAF and whose perimeter is the Armstrong Flight Research Center (formerly known as the Dryden Flight Research Center).

    The most striking of the image is a Lockheed SR-71B, a two-seater training example of the famous Blackbird, specifically the 61-7956/NASA 831. This aircraft is unique, as only two SR-71B were made, and the other was lost in an accident in 1968. In this 1991 video we can see this plane taking off from Edwards Air Base. She made her last flight from there on Saturday, October 9, 1999.

    Next to the SR-71B we can also see a curious version of a famous fighter: the F-15B ACTIVE (61-7956/NASA 831), a version of the interceptor Eagle with canard planes, made in the 1990s to test a system of intelligent flight.

    Displayed at the Armstrong Flight Research Center we see other jewels of aviation. From left to right we see a F-104N (NASA 826, one of the three Starfighters used by NASA), a Grumman X-29 (82-0049/NASA 849, is the second of two experimental aircraft based on the F-5 fighter and with curious inverted arrow wings), and two Vought F-8 Crusader fighters (the F-8 Digital, NASA 802, and the curious F-8 Supercritical Wing, NASA 810, equipped with narrower wings and of greater importance). Near the exit is the Northrop HL-10 Lifting Body (NASA 804), a 1966 prototype that was the predecessor of space shuttles.

    Here “Houston”: the two jewels of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center

    There is another NASA facility where we can see another jewel of aviation using Google Maps: the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston (Texas). From here, many space missions have been controlled since 1961. This center became world famous during the Apollo missions for its “Houston” radio call sign. Atention to what they have exposed next to Space Center Houston, in the Independence Plaza:

    It is one of the two Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) used by NASA, the N905NA / NASA 905, used during 1977 and 2012 to transport space shuttles. Above she we see the Independence, a full-scale replica of space shuttles built in 1993 and that until 2012 was exposed at the Kennedy Space Center.

    Main photo: NASA. The only remaining prototype of the two-seater SR-71B when she was still flying. It currently rests outside the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Base (California).

    Proposed NASA budget good for Huntsville and Marshall Space Flight Center – City of Huntsville

    Proposed NASA budget good for Huntsville and Marshall Space Flight Center

    Published on May 24, 2017

    The support for NASA in the proposed federal budget is both a sign of approval and a cause for optimism, believes Todd May, director of Marshall Space Flight Center.

    “Our brand is strong and what we do at NASA resonates on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue,” May said, referring to support from both Congress and President Trump, as reflected in the budget.

    NASA has been allocated $19.1 billion in President Trump’s budget, “which reflects the president’s confidence in our direction and the importance of everything we’ve been achieving,” acting NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot said.

    Some $2.7 billion is budgeted to the Marshall Space Flight Center, with $1.9 billion of that directed toward the SLS deep-space launch program.

    That’s fairly comparable to budgets in recent years, so jobs remain safe and, as May noted, there will be a continuing need for workers on the SLS/Orion program and with the International Space Station payload operation, where there will be double the demands on the staff this year.

    “It’s a very stable budget,” May said.

    What’s good for Marshall Space Flight Center is obviously good for its hometown.

    Marshall Space Flight Center has been a great partner for the City of Huntsville,” Mayor Tommy Battle said. “What happens at Marshall, and all over Redstone Arsenal, is a huge driver for our economy.

    “What impresses me is that NASA seems to be the one thing they can agree on in Washington. This sort of bipartisan support is an overwhelming endorsement of the work that NASA is doing and where it’s headed. It’s exciting times ahead for America’s space program and I’m proud that Huntsville will continue to take a lead role.”

    Battle says he looks forward to working with Alabama’s congressional delegation during the appropriations process to ensure NASA has all of the resources it needs to accomplish the mission.

    May called Marshall employees “a uniquely skilled workforce (with) a fierce commitment” to space exploration.”

    “I think Marshall is in great shape with this budget,” May said. “We can’t spell Marshall without Mars … We believe that the SLS and Orion that we are working on today is what’s going to really expand humankind’s frontier.”

    Photo caption: Marshall Space Flight Center Director Todd May addresses media on the proposed NASA budget.

    May said there were no “major cuts,” and though the Office of Education might be eliminated, he said the commitment to education and the involvement with local schools will not cease. He said NASA and Marshall realize the need to continue outreach in the STEM areas of education to assure its future workforce.

    Overall, the budget is “a validation of the work we’ve been doing,” May said.

    “We’re making history once again at Marshall Space Flight Center.”