On March 21, President Trump signed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017. The bipartisan legislation reaffirms Congress’ commitment to the agency and directs it to pursue a balanced portfolio for space exploration and space science, including continued development of the Space Launch System, Orion, and Commercial Crew Program; space and planetary science missions, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope, and Europa mission; and ongoing operations of the International Space Station and Commercial Resupply Services Program.
In a statement, acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot, who attended the signing, along with two astronauts and members of Congress, thanked the president and Congress for supporting the agency and its mission.
On March 24, NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet of ESA conducted the first in a series of three planned spacewalks outside the International Space Station — to prepare it for the future arrival of U.S. commercial crew spacecraft and upgrade station hardware. This spacewalk included work to prepare for installation of a docking port for future commercial crew vehicles, maintenance on the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm, inspection of a radiator and replacement of several cameras. The two remaining spacewalks in the series are targeted in the next couple of weeks.
On March 19, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was un-berthed and released from the space station almost a month after delivering nearly 5,500 pounds of supplies to the station. Hours later, the Dragon splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean about 200 miles southwest of Long Beach, California. It brought back a variety of experiments, the results of which could help researchers develop better medical treatments for humans on Earth and in space. This was the company’s tenth contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA.
Jeff Williams Visits Washington Area
NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, who returned to Earth last September from the space station, made several appearances in the Washington area the week of March 20. Williams shared experiences from his mission during a video presentation March 23 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, and earlier in the week he presented NASA’s Silver Snoopy Award to Information Technology Specialist, Ann Marie Keim, at NASA headquarters. Astronauts present the award to recognize employees for their outstanding performance and contribution to flight safety and mission success.
On March 23, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Space Technology, Steve Jurczyk and Ames Research Center Director Eugene Tu visited Bally Ribbon Mills in Bally, Pennsylvania. A tour of the company’s facility included a first-hand look at work being done on a new advanced woven thermal protection system being developed for potential NASA planetary exploration missions.
Lunar and Planetary Science Conference
NASA scientists discussed findings and perspectives on a range of topics during the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, March 20-24 near Houston. Several NASA briefings were held during which representatives from the agency’s Planetary Science Division updated the community on the status of NASA’s fleet of planetary missions and programs. The annual event brings together international specialists to present the latest results of research in planetary science.
And that’s what’s up this week @NASA …