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The Art of Healing Through Space Exploration

January 2nd, 2019

Astronaut Kate Rubin sports ‘Courage’ at the International Space Station Center (ISS).

By Sumer Dene

The SpaceSuit Art PROJECT is a global collaboration of hospitals, volunteers, and the International Space Station aimed to help children battling cancer. The Spacesuit Art Project was founded by artist and writer Ian Cion, retired astronaut Nicole Stott, and the NASA ISS Program Communications team. Nicole Stott is deemed “The Artistic Astronaut,” as she is the first astronaut to watercolor in space. Stott has flown on two spaceflights and spent 104 days living and working in space on the ISS and Space Shuttle. Ian Cion was the founder and director of the Arts in Medicine program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, where he created a series of large-scale public works in collaboration with patients, families, staff, and community partners. Cion is now the exhibition and program manager at Rice University, Moody Center for the Arts. He coordinates and develops program initiatives for the arts center and supports development and implementation of exhibits. Stott and Cion are co-founders of the Space for Art Foundation, and recently concluded their 2nd Space for Art World Tour, which traveled to pediatric oncology hospitals in four countries – The Moscow Institute for Pediatric Oncology in Moscow, Russia; Gustave Roussy in Paris, France; Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, Great Britain; and University Hospital Pediatric Oncology Clinic, Cologne, Germany. Children use their imagination to paint patches of inspirational artwork, which is later stitched together by volunteers at spacesuit company ILC Dover to form a spacesuit. The art spacesuits – Hope, Courage, Unity and Victory; and the two suits currently in work, Exploration and Dreamer, tell the stories of pediatric patients around the world.

The Spacesuit Art Project has partnerships with hospitals in over 30 countries and includes participation with all 5 ISS agencies; spacesuit companies in both the U.S. and Russia; creative artists such as Projekt Postcard founder Loli Lanas and Russian partner and founder of Unity Movement Foundation, Alena Kuzmenko; and more than 45 NASA and international astronauts. This support offers amazing opportunities for kids to reach their highest potential, even in the most dire of circumstances. The positive, interactive experience builds a community among patients, healthcare workers, creative artists, families, and offers children a sense of purpose, hope, and fulfillment. The Spacesuit Art Project wants to increase awareness of pediatric cancer, inspire space-theme art therapy programs around the world, and understand the profound connection between space exploration, technology, art, healing, unity, and the human spirit.

The Spacesuit Art project is partners with many organizations that integrate art, science and technology through education, collaboration, and innovation. “We’d like to bring pediatric cancer research to the ISS and create more arts and medicine programs in hospitals around the world. We’d also like to start additional art projects to continue the positive relationships we’ve built along the way,” Stott explains. The Spacesuit Art Project inspires creative new ideas globally, such as The Space for Art Foundation in the U.S. and the Unity Movement Foundation in Russia, formed to develop space-inspired art therapy programs, exhibits, and research. It has also led to Postcards to Space, artistic messages created by children and sent via an electronic art compilation to astronauts at the ISS, and Earthrise projects, a network of educational and research centers with a variety of space-related activities for all ages. Children at partnering hospitals were even able to visit mission control in Houston to ask questions to astronauts while in space. This encourages children to ask meaningful, imaginative questions and think beyond their circumstance to look forward to the future.

The Spacesuit Art project wants to raise awareness of pediatric cancer. According to the National Pediatric Cancer Society, cancer is the No. 1 cause of death by disease among children, but only 4% of federal government research funding goes to study it. We still don’t really know why children get cancer, although much of what we have learned to treat adult cancers, such as combination chemotherapy, was discovered from childhood cancer research.

Pediatric research has developed groundbreaking new therapies, interventions, vaccines, and diagnostic tests that have improved lives worldwide. Researchers are beginning to understand genetic mutations that might cause certain types of pediatric cancer. Immunotherapy and genomic medicine are inspirational fields of study dedicated to find individualized treatment methods for all cancer types. The Childhood Cancer Data Lab (CCDL) is accelerating the path to a cure by empowering health professionals to harness the power of large-scale collections of harmonized data. The mission is to find the cure for childhood cancer by allocating data and resources sufficiently.

“We can shift the role an artist plays by building interdisciplinary teams to utilize art in the field of health and exploration. As an explorer, it’s not just one path. It only matters how we communicate and integrate information to get to the same destination. Art gives kids [and adults] a sense of purpose, wonder and accomplishment. There is a commonality between astronauts and children who are battling cancer, they both require incredible strength and courage to overcome isolation, risk, and medical procedures. These spacesuits are made as a prayer for the kids and a celebration of life.” Cion adds.

The mission of the Spacesuit Art Project could not have been accomplished without the wonderful volunteers, such as the many space professionals like ILC Dover, NASA’s space suit engineers since the beginning of project Apollo, and Zvezda, the Russian space agencies spacesuit manufacturer.

ILC Dover and Zvezda generously donated time and talent to build the Hope and Unity and Victory suits for the Spacesuit Art Project. David Graziosi and many other engineers volunteered time and effort to work with children at hospitals and put together a cutting-edge spacesuit with paintings from thousands of pediatric patients around the world. “Interacting with the children at the hospital was life-changing. It showed me what’s important in life and also how short life can be.” Graziosi explained. Many people are inspired to join the Spacesuit Art Project and the other work of the Space for Art Foundation because of its impact on youth and the opportunity it gives to children and their families. Children recognize the universe and humankind as a whole, interconnected system. They are curious about the mysteries of life and naturally innocent. There’s no borders, boundaries or limits when everyone works together, there’s only opportunities to overcome obstacles in search for a cure.

NASA History Overview

November 1st, 2018

A new era in space flight began on April 12, 1981, when Space Shuttle Columbia, or STS-1, soared into orbit from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is responsible for unique scientific and technological achievements in human spaceflight, aeronautics, space science, and space applications that have had widespread impacts on our nation and the world.

Forged in response to early Soviet space achievements, NASA was built on the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and other government organizations, as the locus of U.S. civil aerospace research and development.

When NASA opened for business on Oct. 1, 1958, it accelerated the work already started on human and robotic spaceflight. NASA’s first high profile program was Project Mercury, an effort to learn if humans could survive in space. This was followed by Project Gemini, which used spacecraft built for two astronauts to perfect the capabilities needed for the national objective of a human trip to the Moon by the end of the 1960s.

Project Apollo achieved that objective in July 1969 with the Apollo 11 mission and expanded on it with five more successful lunar landing missions through 1972. After the Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz Test Projects of the mid-1970s, NASA’s human spaceflight efforts again resumed in 1981 with the Space Shuttle program that continued for 30 years. The shuttle was not only a breakthrough technology, but was essential to our next major step in space, the construction of the International Space Station.

Over the last 60 years NASA has continued to push the boundaries with cutting edge aeronautics research that has dramatically changed the way we build and fly airplanes. NASA has also completed the reconnaissance of our solar system, with intense investigation of all the planets. Using orbital spacecraft like the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA has also dramatically changed our understanding of the universe around us, as well as our own planet.

NASA’s early work on launch vehicles, communication satellites, and weather satellites has fundamentally changed daily life and created whole new industries. As a catalyst for international cooperation, NASA has also changed how and why humanity conducts space exploration. Now, NASA is preparing to take humankind farther than ever before, as it helps to foster a robust commercial space economy near Earth, and pioneers further human and robotic exploration as we venture into deep space.

The NASA History Office Program publishes a quarterly newsletter, as well as an array of books (print and digital), hosts social media, provides fellowships, and runs the Historical Reference Collection (our version of an archive) to assist the public in finding more information on aeronautical and space history. In addition, the staff produces the Aeronautics and Space Report of the President.

The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 directs NASA to produce an annual report that includes a “comprehensive description of the programmed activities and the accomplishments of all agencies of the United States in the field of aeronautics and space activities” during the preceding year.

Apollo 7: The race heats up

November 1st, 2018

The Apollo 7 prime crew, from left to right, are astronauts Donn F. Eisele, command module pilot, Walter M. Schirra Jr., commander; and Walter Cunningham, lunar module pilot. Photo: NASA

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

On Oct. 11, 1968, three American astronauts launched to Earth orbit aboard Apollo 7. It was the first piloted mission of the spacecraft designed to meet President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to land on the lunar surface.

The 11-day flight took place as the race to the Moon was heating up between the United States and the Soviet Union. A month earlier, the Soviets launched the unpiloted Zond 5, a simplified version of their Soyuz spacecraft designed for cosmonauts. The capsule became the first to circle around the Moon and return safely to Earth.

Both nations also were recovering from tragic losses. Three Apollo 1 astronauts perished in a launch pad fire on Jan. 27, 1967. That same year, the lone cosmonaut aboard Soyuz 1 died when the spacecraft crashed on April 24.

Following almost two years of Apollo spacecraft redesign and testing, Paul Donnelly, Launch Operations manager at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, expressed confidence in the men and women who worked tirelessly to prepare for the flight.

“We have a great group of specialists from government and industry trained to work as a team,” he said. “Just as the astronauts are ready to fly to orbit, we are ready to get them there.”

COMMANDER
Serving as commander of Apollo 7 was NASA veteran Wally Schirra, a U.S. Navy aviator and captain. He flew Mercury 8 on Oct. 3, 1962, and commanded Gemini VI on Dec. 15-16, 1965.

Schirra was joined by two members of the third astronaut class, both making their first spaceflight.

Command module pilot Donn Eisele was a U.S. Air Force colonel and test pilot. Walt Cunningham had been a colonel and fighter pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Although there was no lunar module on this flight, as the third member of the crew, Cunningham was designated LM pilot.

Following a flawless liftoff atop a Saturn 1B rocket from Launch Complex 34 at Cape Kennedy (now Cape Canaveral) Air Force Station, the command-service module (CSM) separated from the second stage. Eisele then practiced a simulated LM docking. During launch with a LM, it would have been housed inside the adapter between the second stage and the CSM.

KEY OBJECTIVE
A key objective of Apollo 7 was testing spacecraft systems, especially the crucial service propulsion system (SPS) engine at the base of the spacecraft. On lunar missions, the SPS would be used to place the spacecraft in lunar orbit and later, fire the crew on a trajectory back home. On Earth orbital flights, the SPS would be fired to slow Apollo for reentry.

The first test of the powerful SPS took place on flight day two. When it fired with 20,500 pounds of thrust, Schirra radioed that it was a real kick.
“Yabbadabbadoo,” he exclaimed in a favorite saying of the television cartoon character Fred Flintstone. “That’s like a ride and a half!”

George Low, manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center (now Johnson Space Center) in Houston, later noted that all eight firings of the SPS went extremely well.

“We had a tremendous workout of the service propulsion system,” he said. “I believe that is more than any space propulsion system has ever been used in any one flight”

WORLD WATCHES
Another goal was broadcasting live television from the spacecraft. Three days after liftoff, the Apollo 7 camera was turned on, allowing Mission Control and viewers around the world to watch the crew in orbit.

“I can see Eisele there,” said spacecraft communicator Tom Stafford, a fellow astronaut. “He’s holding a sign and it says, ‘From the lovely Apollo room, high atop everything.’ “

The crew fired the SPS engine on Oct. 22, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean eight miles from the recovery aircraft carrier, the USS Essex.
After the flight, Schirra described the Apollo CSM as “a magnificent flying machine.”

Lt. Gen. Samuel Phillips, director of NASA’s Apollo Program Office, considered Apollo 7 a perfect mission.

“We were able to accomplish a major step in our progress toward the lunar landing,” he said. “I have every confidence that the progress of this mission will let us accomplish that by the end of next year.”

One Giant Leap For Mankind

November 1st, 2018

Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong working at an equipment storage area on the lunar module.

Official crew photo of the Apollo 11 Prime Crew

July, 1969.

It’s a little over eight years since the flights of Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard, followed quickly by President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon before the decade is out.

It is only seven months since NASA’s made a bold decision to send Apollo 8 all the way to the moon on the first manned flight of the massive Saturn V rocket.

Now, on the morning of July 16, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins sit atop another Saturn V at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The three-stage 363-foot rocket will use its 7.5 million pounds of thrust to propel them into space and into history.

OFF TO THE MOON
At 9:32 a.m. EDT, the engines fire and Apollo 11 clears the tower. About 12 minutes later, the crew is in Earth orbit. After one and a half orbits, Apollo 11 gets a “go” for what mission controllers call “Translunar Injection” — in other words, it’s time to head for the moon. Three days later the crew is in lunar orbit. A day after that, Armstrong and Aldrin climb into the lunar module Eagle and begin the descent, while Collins orbits in the command module Columbia. Collins later writes that Eagle is “the weirdest looking contraption I have ever seen in the sky,” but it will prove its worth.

ALARMS SOUND
When it comes time to set Eagle down in the Sea of Tranquility, Armstrong improvises, manually piloting the ship past an area littered with boulders. During the final seconds of descent, Eagle’s computer is sounding alarms.

It turns out to be a simple case of the computer trying to do too many things at once, but as Aldrin will later point out, “unfortunately it came up when we did not want to be trying to solve these particular problems.”

When the lunar module lands at 4:18 p.m EDT, only 30 seconds of fuel remain. Armstrong radios “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Mission control erupts in celebration as the tension breaks, and a controller tells the crew “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, we’re breathing again.” Armstrong will later confirm that landing was his biggest concern, saying “the unknowns were rampant,” and “there were just a thousand things to worry about.”

FIRST STEP
At 10:56 p.m. EDT Armstrong is ready to plant the first human foot on another world. With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbs down the ladder and proclaims: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Aldrin joins him shortly, and offers a simple but powerful description of the lunar surface: “magnificent desolation.” They explore the surface for two and a half hours, collecting samples and taking photographs.

They leave behind an American flag, a patch honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew, and a plaque on one of Eagle’s legs. It reads, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

HEADING HOME
Armstrong and Aldrin blast off and dock with Collins in Columbia. Collins later says that “for the first time,” he “really felt that we were going to carry this thing off.”

The crew splashes down off Hawaii on July 24. Kennedy’s challenge has been met. Men from Earth have walked on the moon and returned safely home.

In an interview years later, Armstrong praises the “hundreds of thousands” of people behind the project. “Every guy that’s setting up the tests, cranking the torque wrench, and so on, is saying, man or woman, ‘If anything goes wrong here, it’s not going to be my fault.’”

In a post-flight press conference, Armstrong calls the flight “a beginning of a new age,” while Collins talks about future journeys to Mars.

Over the next three and a half years, 10 astronauts will follow in their footsteps. Gene Cernan, commander of the last Apollo mission leaves the lunar surface with these words: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace, and hope for all mankind.”