Here’s what 2020 could bring to spaceflight

But as 2020 begins, the rosy promise of those developments could quickly be overruled by gravity and engineering issues. Already, NASA finds itself struggling with a technical problem – a software issue that marred the maiden flight of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft just before Christmas and prevented it from reaching the International Space Station. It is a reminder of the many things that can go wrong when attempting to punch through the atmosphere.

Read more about this year in space exploration.


UNC alumna, astronaut Zena Cardman could be first woman to walk on Moon

In the 1997 film Contact, based on the book by Carl Sagan, Ellie Arroway played by Jodie Foster comments on her view of the cosmos: “They should have sent a poet.” NASA has that chance now in UNC Chapel Hill alumna Zena Cardman.

Born in Urbana, Illinois, Zena Cardman calls Williamsburg, Va. home today. She graduated from UNC in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in biology, honors in poetry and minors in marine science, creative writing, and chemistry. She also earned a master’s degree in marine science from UNC in 2014. She was selected to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate class from more than 18,000 applicants. Her research has focused on microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep sea sediments. Cardman’s field experience includes multiple Antarctic expeditions, work aboard research vessels as both scientist and crew, and NASA analog missions in British Columbia, Idaho and Hawaii.

Read more about Cardman’s accomplishments and journey at NASA.

Shooting for the moon with NASA

Freshman chemical engineering major Jacob Hewes describes himself as a self-starter.

“I’m always challenging myself to work harder and be the best at what I do,” he says. “When all my friends were looking for jobs in retail or customer service, I wanted to do something that I knew would be valuable to my development as a chemical engineer.”

During the summer entering his senior year of high school, Hewes was accepted into the UD-K12 Engineering Internship Program, which paired students with 10-week research projects.


Read more about Jacob Hewes’ journey here.

NASA mission catches nearby asteroid ejecting material into space

(CNN)NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission arrived at near-Earth asteroid Bennu a year ago, and the spinning top-shaped space rock has been full of surprises. The latest findings now classify it as an active asteroid with observable events happening on the surface.

OSIRIS-REx and Bennu got to meet face-to-face on December 3 of last year. OSIRIS-REx has been orbiting the asteroid, which is 70 million miles from Earth, since December 31, 2018. It’s a “rubble pile” asteroid, a grouping of rocks held together by gravity rather than a single object.

Future moon landing will leave U of M ‘footprint’

Physicist Keith Goetz developing instruments for new lunar investigations

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (07/17/2019) — The University of Minnesota will contribute instruments to a series of 12 new NASA investigations on the moon in preparation for landing astronauts there in 2024. The payloads will be delivered aboard three landers as part of NASA’s Artemis lunar program. Seven will be devoted to planetary science and heliophysics, five to demonstrating new technologies. Launches are tentatively set to begin in 2021.

The U of M project, led by physicist Keith Goetz, will be part of the Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment (LuSEE), which will carry out extensive measurements of electromagnetic phenomena on the lunar surface. The principal investigator for LuSEE is U of M College of Science and Engineering alumnus Stuart Bale (M.S. Physics ’92, Ph.D. ’94), now a professor at the University of California Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory.

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SpaceX Dragon Heads to Space Station With NASA Science

A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station after launching at 12:29 p.m. EST today (Dec. 5). Dragon will deliver more than 5,700 pounds of NASA cargo and science investigations, including studies of malting barley in microgravity, the spread of fire, and bone and muscle loss.

The spacecraft launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and is scheduled to arrive at the orbital outpost on Sunday, Dec. 8. Coverage of the spacecraft’s approach and arrival at the space station will begin at 4:30 a.m. EST on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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Thwaites Glacier: Antarctica’s wild card

Nearly 100 scientists and staff from around the world, including CIRES scientist Ted Scambos, departed last month to conduct fieldwork in one of the most remote and inhospitable areas on Earth: Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica. Their aim? To investigate how and when climate change might affect the glacier, including a possible runaway collapse, which would raise global sea levels by up to two feet over the next century and put coastal cities and communities around the world at risk.

“We have been studying this area for many years, but mostly through satellites because it is so difficult to get to,” said Scambos, lead American scientific coordinator for the mission. “This is the biggest effort by far where we’ve actually placed scientists on the ground to study Thwaites Glacier.”

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Mexican Students Launch a Small Satellite to the International Space Station

The first satellite built by students in Mexico for launch from the International Space Station is smaller than a shoebox but represents a big step for its builders.

The project is part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, which offers universities, high schools and non-profit organizations the opportunity to fly small satellites. Innovative technology partnerships keep down the cost, providing students a way to obtain hands-on experience developing flight hardware.

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Reaching new heights with North Dakota youth

Near-Space Balloon Challenge hosts middle and high school student teams at UND to send experiments miles above Earth

It can’t be snowing. It can’t be too windy. Ideally, it shouldn’t even be cold, because freezing temperatures complicate things, too.

To launch a weather balloon, conditions need to be right, in other words. That means making the launch in North Dakota in the middle of November is a dicey proposition at best.

And when close to 100 students from around the state are descending on campus to see their weeks and months of hard work — in the form of balloon payloads — ascend through the Earth’s atmosphere, that pumps up the pressure on organizers, too.

But on the weekend of Nov. 22 and 23, sunshine, a breeze and above-zero temperatures meant it was “all systems go” for the Near-Space Balloon Challenge, whose coordinators, UND graduate students and middle and high school students worked together to launch a variety of experiments.

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