NASA says it’ll formulate a plan to assess the safety of suborbital spacecraft — such as Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket ship or Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane — so that astronauts, researchers and other space agency personnel can be cleared for takeoff.
The effort will be spearheaded by a suborbital crew office within NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which has been overseeing the development of SpaceX and Boeing spacecraft for orbital trips to and from the International Space Station.
Virgin Galactic says it has signed an agreement with NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas to develop a new readiness program for private-sector astronauts heading to the International Space Station.
Theoretically, such astronauts could include the likes of Tom Cruise, who is looking into making a movie at the space station, according to NASA. “I’m all for that,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said last month. “We’re going to do what we can to make that happen.”
Virgin Galactic declined to comment on which customers or companies it might be partnering with, but the company said the newly established program would identify candidates interested in purchasing a ride to the space station, procure their transportation to orbit, and arrange for on-orbit resources as well as resources on the ground.
Astronauts on the International Space Station get thick calluses on the tops of their feet instead of the bottoms, but today students tried out ways to make the final frontier a little friendlier for feet.
Not only did they get a chance to talk with NASA astronaut Jessica Meir about socks in space, over a video link between the space station and Seattle’s Museum of Flight, but they also ran their own experiment as part of an Astro Socks Challenge created by NASA and Microsoft Education.
The challenge, and the Earth-to-space chat, made a teachable moment out of a fact of life for long-duration spacefliers.
Over the course of six decades, NASA has celebrated the selection of its astronauts in groups ranging from the Mercury 7 of 1959 to the Turtles of 2017 — but there’s never been much of a public celebration for their graduation from astronaut training. Until today.
The 11 astronaut candidates selected in 2017, plus two Canadian astronauts who joined them in training, received a grand send-off at Johnson Space Center in Texas from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and other VIPs to mark their eligibility for assignment to future space missions.
NASA raised the graduation ceremony’s public profile in part to build up enthusiasm for this year’s expected debut of U.S.-built commercial space taxis, as well as the drive to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 — a campaign known as Artemis.
Last December’s test flight, piloted by Mark “Forger” Stucky and Rick “CJ” Sturckow in the SpaceShipTwo Unity rocket plane, was nearly as historic. It rose to an altitude of 51.4 miles, exceeding the 50-mile benchmark that’s used by the U.S. military and the Federal Aviation Administration for conferring astronaut wings.
You think it’s hard to get into Harvard? Try making an impression when you’re among the record-high group of 18,300 people who applied to be an astronaut.
NASA says that tally is three times as high as the number who applied the last time the space agency put out the call, for the Class of 2013. And it far exceeds the previous record of 8,000 applications, set in 1978 during the buildup to the space shuttle program.
Now that the application deadline has passed, NASA’s Astronaut Selection Board will have to winnow through the pile. The space agency expects to choose somewhere between eight and 14 astronaut candidates for the Class of 2017. That means the acceptance rate will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.05 percent, compared to a 6 percent rate for Harvard.