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NASA to Provide Coverage of SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch Escape Test

January 15th, 2020

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen at sunset on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continued for the Demo-1 mission, Friday, March 1, 2019.
Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky

NASA will provide coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the SpaceX Crew Dragon launch escape demonstration, as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which is working with U.S. companies to launch American astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil.

NASA and SpaceX are targeting 8 a.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 18, for launch of the company’s In-Flight Abort Test, which will demonstrate Crew Dragon’s ability to safely escape the Falcon 9 rocket in the event of a failure during launch. The abort test has a four-hour launch window.

The test launch, as well as other activities leading up to the test, will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon will launch from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX will intentionally trigger Crew Dragon to perform the launch escape prior to 1 minute, 30 seconds into flight. Falcon 9 is expected to aerodynamically break up offshore over the Atlantic Ocean. The spacecraft is planned to land under parachutes offshore in the ocean.

Full coverage is as follows. All times are EST:

Friday, Jan. 17

  • 1 p.m. – Pre-test briefing at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Benji Reed, director, Crew Mission Management, SpaceX
    • Mike McAleenan, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron

Saturday, Jan. 18

  • 7:45 a.m. – NASA TV test coverage begins for the 8 a.m. liftoff
  • 9:30 a.m. – Post-test news conference at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • Jim Bridenstine, administrator, NASA
    • SpaceX representative
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Victor Glover, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Mike Hopkins, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program

The deadline for media to apply for accreditation for this launch has passed, but more information about media accreditation is available by emailing ksc-media-accreditat@mail.nasa.gov.

The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station, which could allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s orbiting testbed for exploration.

For more information on coverage, go to: NASA, SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test Briefings, Events and Broadcasts

NASA Named Best Place to Work in Federal Government for 8th Straight Year NASA employees

January 4th, 2020

For the eighth consecutive year, NASA has been selected by the Partnership for Public Service as the Best Place to Work in Government. The rankings, announced Tuesday, reflect NASA’s unified focus and dedication to sending humans farther into space than ever before, and the agency’s highest employee satisfaction results since this index was developed.

“NASA’s selection as the Best Place to Work in Government for the eighth year in a row is a testament to the excellence of our workforce and their determination to maintain America’s leadership in space exploration,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Throughout this year as I have visited each of our centers, I have personally witnessed their unparalleled commitment to accomplishing our mission. The daily devotion of our employees makes them well deserving of this award. I am honored to lead such a dedicated team. They are what makes NASA the Best Place to Work in Government.”

The Best Places to Work rankings are based on responses from almost 883,000 at 490 federal agencies and subcomponents to the Office of Personnel Management’s annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. This is the 16th edition of the Best Places to Work rankings since the first in 2003.

NASA has led the charge in space exploration for more than six decades. Through its Artemis program, the agency is charting America’s return to the Moon and human exploration of Mars. As the agency strives toward sending the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024, the employees at NASA are a crucial component to the mission’s success.

Boeing Starliner completes crucial abort system test

December 1st, 2019

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft completed a critical safety milestone on Nov. 11 in an end-to-end test of its abort system. The Pad Abort Test took place at Launch Complex 32 at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The test was designed to verify each of Starliner’s systems will function not only separately, but in concert, to protect astronauts by carrying them safely away from the launch pad in the unlikely event of an emergency prior to liftoff. This was Boeing’s first flight test with Starliner as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to return human spaceflight launches to the International Space Station from American soil.

“Tests like this one are crucial to help us make sure the systems are as safe as possible,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager. “We are thrilled with the preliminary results, and now we have the job of really digging into the data and analyzing whether everything worked as we expected.”

During the test, Starliner’s four launch abort engines, and several orbital maneuvering and attitude control thrusters simultaneously ignited to rapidly push the spacecraft away from the test stand. Five seconds into flight, the abort engines shut off as planned, transferring steering to the control thrusters for the next five seconds.

A pitcharound maneuver rotated the spacecraft into position for landing as it neared its peak altitude of approximately 4,500 feet. Two of three Starliner’s main parachutes deployed just under half a minute into the test, and the service module separated from the crew module a few seconds later. Although designed with three parachutes, two opening successfully is acceptable for the test perimeters and crew safety. After one minute, the heat shield was released and airbags inflated, and the Starliner eased to the ground beneath its parachutes.

The demonstration took only about 95 seconds from the moment the simulated abort was initiated until the Starliner crew module touched down on the desert ground.

“Emergency scenario testing is very complex, and today our team validated that the spacecraft will keep our crew safe in the unlikely event of an abort,” said John Mulholland, vice president and program manager of Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. “Our teams across the program have made remarkable progress to get us to this point, and we are fully focused on the next challenge—Starliner’s uncrewed flight to demonstrate Boeing’s capability to safely fly crew to and from the space station.”

Boeing’s next mission, called Orbital Flight Test, will launch an uncrewed Starliner spacecraft to the station on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. The launch is targeted for Dec. 17.

NASA’S FIRST ALL-WOMAN SPACEWALK

November 1st, 2019

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch are inside the Quest airlock preparing the U.S. spacesuits and tools they used on their first spacewalk together. The Expedition 61 flight engineers are holding the pistol grip tools they used to swap out a failed power controller, also known as a battery charge-discharge unit, that regulates the charge to batteries that collect and distribute power to the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

Astronauts Koch, Meir make first all-woman spacewalk

Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir completed NASA’s first all-woman spacewalk on Friday, Oct. 18.

During the 7-hour, 17-minute spacewalk, the pair replaced a failed power controller and completed several other tasks in preparation for future spacewalks.

It was the first spaceflight for both women, who were selected as astronaut candidates in 2013 as part of the first class, of which 50% were women.

Meir was the 15th woman to spacewalk, and the 14th U.S. woman. It will be the 43rd spacewalk to include a woman. Women have been performing spacewalks since 1984, when Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya spacewalked in July and NASA astronaut Kathryn Sullivan conducted a spacewalk in October.

Lockheed wins contract for Orion Moon missions

September 25th, 2019

Jim Bridenstine

By Mary Alys Cherry

NASA has awarded Lockheed Martin a contract to build the Orion spacecraft for up to 12 lunar missions, with the work to be managed here at Johnson Space Center.

Value of the initial contract is $2.7 billion, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in announcing plans for as many as a dozen Artemis, or lunar, missions, including the mission that will carry the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024.

“This contract secures Orion production through the next decade, demonstrating NASA’s commitment to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon to bring back new knowledge and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars,” Bridenstine said. “Orion is a highly-capable, state-of-the-art spacecraft, designed specifically for deep space missions with astronauts, and an integral part of NASA’s infrastructure for Artemis missions and future exploration of the solar system.”

Spacecraft production for the Orion program will focus on reusability and building a sustainable presence on the lunar surface, he added.

“This is a great day for the men and women at Johnson Space Center. They are crucial to our national space program, and have an undeniable legacy and record of success in advancing America’s leadership in the human exploration of space,” said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

“I am pleased that Administrator Bridenstine has heeded my calls and is taking significant steps to ensure that Johnson continues to grow with the exciting future of manned exploration that lies ahead. More needs to be done, and I look forward to production ramping up in the weeks and months to come and to more opportunities with NASA.”

The contract with Lockheed includes a commitment to order a minimum of six and a maximum of 12 Orion spacecraft, with an ordering period through Sept. 30, 2030. Production and operations of the spacecraft for six to 12 missions, NASA said, will establish a core set of capabilities, stabilize the production process, and demonstrate reusability of spacecraft components.

“This contract secures Orion production through the next decade, demonstrating NASA’s commitment to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon to bring back new knowledge and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars,” Bridenstine said. “Orion is a highly-capable, state-of-the-art spacecraft, designed specifically for deep space missions with astronauts, and an integral part of NASA’s infrastructure for Artemis missions and future exploration of the solar system.”

With this award, the space agency explained that it is ordering three Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions III through V for $2.7 billion. The agency also plans to order three additional Orion capsules in fiscal year 2022 for Artemis missions VI through VIII, at a total of $1.9 billion.

NASA Satellite Spots a Mystery That’s Gone in a Flash

September 9th, 2019

Pops of bright blue and green in this image of the Fireworks galaxy (NGC 6946) show the locations of extremely bright sources of X-ray light captured by NASA’s NuSTAR space observatory. Generated by some of the most energetic processes in the universe, these X-ray sources are rare compared to the many visible light sources in the background image. A new study, published in the Astrophysical Journal, offers some possible explanations for the surprise appearance of the green source near the center of the galaxy, which came into view and disappeared in a matter of weeks.

The primary objective of the NuSTAR observations was to study the supernova — the explosion of a star much more massive than our Sun — that appears as a bright blue-green spot at upper right. These violent events can briefly produce enough visible light to outshine entire galaxies consisting of billions of stars. They also generate many of the chemical elements in our universe that are heavier than iron.

The green blob near the bottom of the galaxy wasn’t visible during the first NuSTAR observation but was burning bright at the start of a second observation 10 days later. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory later observed that the source — known as an ultraluminous X-ray source, or ULX — had disappeared just as quickly. The object has since been named ULX-4 because it is the fourth ULX identified in this galaxy. No visible light was detected with the X-ray source, a fact that most likely rules out the possibility that it is also a supernova.

“Ten days is a really short amount of time for such a bright object to appear,” said Hannah Earnshaw, a postdoctoral researcher at Caltech in Pasadena, California, and lead author on the new study. “Usually with NuSTAR, we observe more gradual changes over time, and we don’t often observe a source multiple times in quick succession. In this instance, we were fortunate to catch a source changing extremely quickly, which is very exciting.”

Possible Black Hole

The new study explores the possibility that the light came from a black hole consuming another object, such as a star. If an object gets too close to a black hole, gravity can pull that object apart, bringing the debris into a close orbit around the black hole. Material at the inner edge of this newly formed disk starts moving so fast that it heats up to millions of degrees and radiates X-rays. (The surface of the Sun, by comparison, is about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or 5,500 degrees Celsius.)

Most ULXs are typically long-lived because they’re created by a dense object, like a black hole, that “feeds” on the star for an extended period of time. Short-lived, or “transient,” X-ray sources like ULX-4 are far more rare, so a single dramatic event — like a black hole quickly destroying a small star — might explain the observation.

However, ULX-4 might not be a one-off event, and the paper’s authors explored other potential explanations for this object. One possibility: The source of ULX-4 could be a neutron star. Neutron stars are extremely dense objects formed from the explosion of a star that wasn’t massive enough to form a black hole. With about the same mass as our Sun but packed into an object about the size of a large city, neutron stars can, like black holes, draw in material and create a fast-moving disk of debris. These can also generate slow-feeding ultraluminous X-ray sources, although the X-ray light is produced through slightly different processes than in ULXs created by black holes.

Neutron stars generate magnetic fields so strong they can create “columns” that channel material down to the surface, generating powerful X-rays in the process. But if the neutron star spins especially fast, those magnetic fields can create a barrier, making it impossible for material to reach the star’s surface.

“It would kind of be like trying to jump onto a carousel that’s spinning at thousands of miles per hour,” said Earnshaw.

The barrier effect would prevent the star from being a bright source of X-rays except for those times when the magnetic barrier might waver briefly, allowing material to slip through and fall onto the neutron star’s surface. This could be another possible explanation for the sudden appearance and disappearance of ULX-4. If the same source were to light up again, it might support this hypothesis.

“This result is a step towards understanding some of the rarer and more extreme cases in which matter accretes onto black holes or neutron stars,” Earnshaw said.

NuSTAR is a Small Explorer mission led by Caltech and managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. NuSTAR was developed in partnership with the Danish Technical University and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The spacecraft was built by Orbital Sciences Corp. in Dulles, Virginia. NuSTAR’s mission operations center is at the University of California Berkeley, and the official data archive is at NASA’s High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center. ASI provides the mission’s ground station and a mirror archive. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

To read more about NASA’s NuSTAR mission, go here: https://www.nustar.caltech.edu/

NASA Marshall to Lead Artemis Program’s Human Lunar Lander Development

August 16th, 2019

On Aug. 16, 2019, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will lead the Human Landing System Program. Bridenstine was joined by Representatives Mo Brooks and Robert Aderholt of Alabama and Representative Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee. NASA will rapidly develop the lander for safely carrying the first woman and the next man to the Moon’s surface in 2024. The Artemis missions will start with launch by the world’s most powerful rocket, NASA’s Space Launch System, also managed by Marshall. Bridenstine made the announcement in front of the 149-foot-tall SLS liquid hydrogen structural test article, currently being tested to help ensure the structure can safely launch astronauts on the Artemis lunar missions.
Credits: NASA Television

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was joined Friday by U.S. Representatives Mo Brooks and Robert Aderholt of Alabama and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to announce the center’s new role leading the agency’s Human Landing System Program for its return to the Moon by 2024.

“Marshall Space Flight Center is the birthplace of America’s space program. It was Marshall scientists and engineers who designed, built, tested, and helped launch the giant Saturn V rocket that carried astronauts on the Apollo missions to the Moon,” Brooks said. “Marshall has unique capabilities and expertise not found at other NASA centers. I’m pleased NASA has chosen Marshall to spearhead a key component of America’s return to the Moon and usher in the Artemis era. Thanks to Administrator Bridenstine for travelling here to share the great news in person.”

Bridenstine discussed the announcement in front of the 149-foot-tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket liquid hydrogen tank structural test article currently being tested.

“We greatly appreciate the support shown here today by our representatives in Congress for NASA’s Artemis program and America’s return to the Moon, where we will prepare for our greatest feat for humankind – putting astronauts on Mars,” Bridenstine said. “We focus on a ‘One NASA’ integrated approach that uses the technical capabilities of many centers. Marshall has the right combination of expertise and experience to accomplish this critical piece of the mission.”

Informed by years of expertise in propulsion systems integration and technology development, engineers at Marshall will work with American companies to rapidly develop, integrate, and demonstrate a human lunar landing system that can launch to the Gateway, pick up astronauts and ferry them between the Gateway and the surface of the Moon.

“Marshall Space Flight Center, and North Alabama, have played a key role in every American human mission to space since the days of Mercury 7. I am proud that Marshall has been selected to be the lead for the landers program,” said Aderholt. “I am also very proud that Marshall has designed and built the rocket system, the Space Launch System, which will make missions to the Moon and Mars possible. We look forward to working with our industry partners and our NASA partners from around the country.”

NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, which manages major NASA human spaceflight programs including the Gateway, Orion, Commercial Crew and International Space Station, will oversee all aspects related to preparing the landers and astronauts to work together. Johnson also will manage all Artemis missions, beginning with Artemis 1, the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems.

The trip to Marshall came the day after Bridenstine visited NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where he viewed progress on the SLS core stage that will power NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar mission. With the start of testing in June on the liquid hydrogen tank article, and the recent arrival of the liquid oxygen tank at Marshall, which manages the SLS Program, NASA is more than halfway through SLS structural testing.

“The Tennessee Valley, including Huntsville and stretching across Middle Tennessee, is a dynamic, exciting region, home to thousands of men and women – working at both public and private institutions – who are leading the United States into the next age of space exploration,” said DesJarlais. “As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am thrilled to visit one of our country’s premier facilities, near Arnold Air Force Base and others, developing the latest spaceflight technology. NASA’s Artemis program will help our country to create another American Century. We can be proud of our achievements, especially here at the Marshall Space Flight Center.”

NASA recently issued a draft solicitation and requested comments from American companies interested in providing an integrated human landing system – a precursor to the final solicitation targeted for release in the coming months. The agency’s human lunar exploration plans are based on a two-phase approach: the first is focused on speed – landing on the Moon within five years, while the second will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028. The agency will use what we learn on the Moon to prepare for the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.

For more on NASA’s Artemis program, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/artemis/

NASA announces U.S. industry partnerships to advance Moon, Mars technology

August 1st, 2019

Illustration of a human landing system and crew on the lunar surface with Earth near the horizon. Credits: NASA

As NASA prepares to land humans on the Moon by 2024 with the Artemis program, commercial companies are developing new technologies, working toward space ventures of their own, and looking to NASA for assistance. NASA has selected 10 U.S. companies for 19 partnerships to mature industry-developed space technologies and help maintain American leadership in space.

NASA centers will partner with the companies, which range from small businesses with fewer than a dozen employees to large aerospace organizations, to provide expertise, facilities, hardware and software at no cost. The partnerships will advance the commercial space sector and help bring new capabilities to market that could benefit future NASA missions.

“NASA’s proven experience and unique facilities are helping commercial companies mature their technologies at a competitive pace,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). “We’ve identified technology areas NASA needs for future missions, and these public-private partnerships will accelerate their development so we can implement them faster.”

The selections were made through NASA’s Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity(ACO) released in October 2018. They will result in non-reimbursable Space Act Agreements between the companies and NASA. The selections cover the following technology focus areas, which are important to America’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

Advanced Communications, Navigation and Avionics

  • Advanced Space of Boulder, Colorado, will partner with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to advance lunar navigation technologies. The collaboration will help mature a navigation system between Earth and the Moon that could supplement NASA’s Deep Space Network and support future exploration missions.
  • Vulcan Wireless of Carlsbad, California, also will partner with Goddard to test a CubeSat radio transponder and its compatibility with NASA’s Space Network.

Advanced Materials

  • Aerogel Technologies of Boston will work with NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland to improve properties of flexible aerogels for rocket fairings and other aerospace applications. The material can result in 25% weight savings over soundproofing materials currently used in rocket fairings.
  • Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado, will work with NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, to test materials made from metal powders using solid-state processing to improve the design of spacecraft that operate in high-temperature environments.
  • Spirit AeroSystem Inc. of Wichita, Kansas, will partner with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to improve the durability of low-cost reusable rockets manufactured using friction stir welding. This welding method, already being used for NASA’s Space Launch System, results in a stronger, more defect-free seal compared to traditional methods of joining materials with welding torches.

Entry, Decent and Landing

  • Anasphere of Bozeman, Montana, will partner with Marshall to test a compact hydrogen generator for inflating heat shields, which could help deliver larger payloads to Mars.
  • Bally Ribbon Mills of Bally, Pennsylvania, will perform thermal testing in the Arc Jet Complex at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. The facility will be used to test a new seamless weave for a mechanically deployable carbon fabric heat shield.
  • Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, will collaborate with NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and Goddard to mature a navigation and guidance system for safe and precise landing at a range of locations on the Moon.
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation of Sparks, Nevada, will work with NASA on two entry, decent and landing projects. The company will partner with Langley to capture infrared images of their Dream Chaser spacecraft as it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere traveling faster than the speed of sound.
  • For the second collaboration, Sierra Nevada Corporation and Langley will mature a method to recover the upper stage of a rocket using a deployable decelerator.
  • SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, will work with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to advance their technology to vertically land large rockets on the Moon. This includes advancing models to assess engine plume interaction with lunar regolith.

In-Space Manufacturing and Assembly

  • Maxar Technologies of Palo Alto, California, will work with Langley to build a breadboard – a base for prototyping electronics – for a deployable, semi-rigid radio antenna. In-orbit assembly of large structures like antennae will enhance the performance of assets in space. Such capabilities could enable entirely new exploration missions that are currently size-constrained and reduce launch costs due to improved packaging.

Power

  • Blue Origin will partner with Glenn and Johnson to mature a fuel cell power system for the company’s Blue Moon lander. The system could provide uninterrupted power during the lunar night, which lasts for about two weeks in most locations.
  • Maxar will test lightweight solar cells for flexible solar panels using facilities at Glenn and Marshall that mimic the environment of space. The technology could be used by future spacecraft to provide more power with a lower mass system.

Propulsion

  • Aerojet Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, California, and Marshall will design and manufacture a lightweight rocket engine combustion chamber using innovative processes and materials. The goal of the project is to reduce manufacturing costs and make the chamber scalable for different missions.
  • Blue Origin, Marshall and Langley will evaluate and mature high-temperature materials for liquid rocket engine nozzles that could be used on lunar landers.
  • Colorado Power Electronics Inc. of Fort Collins, Colorado, will partner with Glenn to mature power processing unit technology that extends the operating range of Hall thrusters, which are primarily used on Earth-orbiting satellites and can also be used for deep space missions. By integrating their technology with NASA and commercial Hall thrusters, the company expects to provide a propulsion system that can significantly increase mission payload or extend mission durations.
  • SpaceX will work with Glenn and Marshall to advance technology needed to transfer propellant in orbit, an important step in the development of the company’s Starship space vehicle.

Other Exploration Technologies

  • Lockheed Martin will partner with Kennedy to test technologies and operations for autonomous in-space plant growth systems. Integrating robotics with plant systems could help NASA harvest plants on future platforms in deep space.

Through ACO, NASA helps reduce the development cost of technologies and accelerate the infusion of emerging commercial capabilities into space missions. As the agency embarks on its next era of exploration, STMD is focused on advancing technologies and testing new capabilities for use at the Moon that also will be critical for crewed missions to Mars.

For more information about NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/spacetech

America Loses a Legend With Death of Chris Kraft

August 1st, 2019

By Mary Alys Cherry

Those were the words of NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein as he announced the passing of the legendary Chris Kraft, who was not only NASA’s first flight director, but a man who played a key role in helping build the Johnson Space Center and create the concept of Mission Control, which is housed in the building aptly named the Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center.

Kraft died Monday, July 22, just two days after America celebrated the 50th anniversary of the landing on the moon, which he helped direct. He was 95.

“Chris was one of the core team members that helped our nation put humans in space and on the Moon, and his legacy is immeasurable,” Bridenstein said. His engineering talents were put to work for our nation at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, before NASA even existed, but it was his legendary work to establish mission control, as we know it, for the earliest crewed space flights that perhaps most strongly advanced our journey of discovery.

“Chris was flight director at some of the most iconic moments of space history, as humans first orbited the Earth and stepped outside of an orbiting spacecraft. For his work, he was awarded the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal by President John F. Kennedy. Chris later led the Johnson Space Center, known then as the Manned Spacecraft Center, as our human exploration work reached for new heights following the Apollo Program. We stand on his shoulders as we reach deeper into the solar system, and he will always be with us on those journeys.”

Christopher Columbus Kraft Jr. joined the NASA Space Task Group in November 1958 as NASA’s first flight director, with responsibilities that immersed him in mission procedures and challenging operational issues.

During the Apollo program, he became the director of Flight Operations, responsible for all human spaceflight mission planning, training and execution. After serving as deputy director of the center for three years, he was named JSC director in January 1972 – a post he held until his retirement in August 1982, playing a vital role in the success of the final Apollo missions, the Skylab crewed space station, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and the first flights of the space shuttle.

Kraft was born Feb. 28, 1924 in Hampton, Va. After high school, he enrolled at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI, now Virginia Tech) and enrolled in mechanical engineering in 1941 but later decided to major in aeronautical engineering. In 1944, he graduated with one of the first degrees in that field awarded by the Institute and was hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the predecessor organization to NASA. He worked for over a decade in aeronautical research before being asked in 1958, when NASA was formed, to join the Space Task Group, a small team entrusted with the responsibility of putting America’s first man in space.

Kraft was invited by Robert Gilruth to become a part of a new group that was working on the problems of putting a man into orbit. Without much hesitation, he accepted the offer. When the Space Task Group was officially formed on Nov. 5, Kraft became one of the original 35 engineers to be assigned to Project Mercury, America’s man-in-space program.
As a member of the Space Task Group, Kraft was assigned to the flight operations division, which made plans and arrangements for the operation of the Mercury spacecraft during flight and for the control and monitoring of missions from the ground.

Since his retirement from NASA, Kraft has consulted for numerous companies including IBM and Rockwell International, served as a Director-at-Large of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, and as a member of the Board of Visitors at Virginia Tech. In 2001, he published an autobiography entitled “Flight: My Life in Mission Control.” His book is a detailed discussion of his life through the end of the Apollo program, and was a New York Times bestseller.

He has received numerous awards and honors for his work, including the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal; four NASA Distinguished Service Medals; the Distinguished Alumnus Citation from Virginia Tech, in 1965; and the John F. Kennedy Astronautics Award for 1996. In 1999, he was presented the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement for which he was cited as “A driving force in the U.S. human space-flight program from its beginnings to the Space Shuttle era, a man whose accomplishments have become legendary.”

Chris Kraft married his high school sweetheart, Betty Anne Turnbull, in 1950. They have a son and a daughter, Gordon and Kristi-Anne.

Business Buzz

August 1st, 2019

Port Houston Commission Chairman Ric Campos, second from left, arrives at the Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership reception in his honor at the Marriott Hotel on the Gulf Freeway. Among those welcoming him were, from left, BayTran Chairman Carl Joiner and Lockwood Andrews Vice President Steve Gilbreath and Facilities Engineer Jack Drake.

BayTran welcomes new port chairman
Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership members got a rare treat when they hosted a reception recently for the new chairman of the Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority, Ric Campo.

BayTran President Theresa Rodriguez and Chairman Carl Joiner introduced him to the crowd.

The event was held at the Houston Marriott South, where Campo made his way around the room during a Meet and Greet, after which he updated the crowd on Port activities.
Campo, who is chairman and CEO of the Camden Property Trust, was appointed by Harris County and the Houston City Council earlier this year to replace Janiece Longoria, who was term limited.

NASA selects 142 proposals
Managing pilotless aircraft and solar panels that could help humans live on the Moon and Mars are among the technologies NASA is looking to develop with small business awards totaling $106 million. In all, NASA has selected 142 proposals from 129 U.S. small businesses from 28 states and the District of Columbia to receive Phase II contracts as part the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research program.

NASA selected the proposals based on a range of criteria, including technical merit and feasibility, as well as the organizations’ experience, qualifications, and facilities. Additional criteria included effectiveness of proposed work plans and the commercial potential of the technologies.

Three Kuraray facilities win safety awards
Three of Kuraray America, Inc.’s Texas facilities received top honors from the Texas Chemical Council at its annual award banquet June 6. They are:

  • Septon Plant, Pasadena: Best in Texas, Caring for Texas, Distinguished Safety Service, Zero Incident Rate, Zero Process Safety Incidents.
  • Bayport Plant, La Porte: Zero Incident Rate, Distinguished Safety Service, Zero Contractor Incident Rate.
  • La Porte Plant: Caring for Texas, Zero Process Safety Incidents.

TCC’s awards program recognizes member companies for their demonstrated commitment and exemplary results toward safe operations, community awareness, emergency response, security and pollution prevention. Applications are anonymous and judged by a group of industry peers and community members.

“At Kuraray, safety is at the cornerstone of everything we do,” said Tom Abrey, Kuraray’s director of health, safety, environment & security. “We are committed to providing a safe working environment for not only our employees but contractors and visitors alike.”

Kuraray America, Inc. took home 10 awards, including top honor – Best in Texas – for the Septon plant.

Area chamber is a winner
Pasadena Chamber’s website, Chambergram, took first prize honors at the Texas Chamber of Commerce Executives annual convention in El Paso June 17-20.

Not far behind were its entry in the newsletter competition, which took second place in the state competition, and the chamber’s Resource Guide, which also was a second place winner.

The conference provides chamber professionals an opportunity to network, attend educational sessions and take an in-depth look into issues related to leadership, workforce development, membership and how Texas communities fared following the legislative session.