space exploration

Fifty years ago, two astronauts became the first humans to set foot on the moon. Like many explorers, they documented their accomplishment in photographs. The images they took are some of the most enduring of the 20th century, traveling from Life magazine to MTV to Twitter.

For most of us, the photos brought back by Apollo 11 are iconic and a little difficult to comprehend. But for astronauts, they represent something more: hours of training, risks taken and the many people on the ground who worked to make the journey possible.

NASA

On the morning of July 16, dozens of technicians and flight controllers piled into the firing room at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to count down the launch of Apollo 11’s Saturn V rocket. Among the sea of people was JoAnn Morgan –KSC’s first female engineer and the only woman in that firing room.

As NASA was testing its rockets during the Apollo program, it was standard policy to actually lock technicians and launch directors inside the firing room block houses for the hours-long tests.

There was one problem.

Updated at 1:49 p.m. ET

Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company founded by billionaire Richard Branson, is preparing to enter the stock market by the end of 2019, through a merger with an existing company.

It would be the first spaceflight company to be publicly owned; Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX are both privately held.

When a rocket carrying the first module of the International Space Station blasted off from Kazakhstan in November of 1998, NASA officials said the station would serve as an orbiting home for astronauts and cosmonauts for at least 15 years.

NASA's Moon Capsule Safety Test 'Successful'

Jul 2, 2019
NASA

NASA has successfully tested a key safety system on a new space capsule designed to take humans to the moon. The space agency tested the launch abort system of the Orion spacecraft — which is meant to save astronauts should something go wrong during launch. 

The test lasted only about three minutes, launching Tuesday from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 46. A modified Northrop Grumman Peacekeeper ICBM launched the uncrewed test capsule to an altitude of about six miles, simulating the high-stress aerodynamic conditions expected during an actual liftoff.

Americans are less interested in NASA sending humans to the moon or Mars than they are in the U.S. space agency focusing on potential asteroid impacts and using robots for space exploration. That's according to a poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released Thursday, one month before the 50th anniversary of the first walk on the moon.

House.gov

Congress is asking NASA to provide an updated budget request for the next fiscal year. The ask comes after Vice President Mike Pence charged the agency with landing humans on the moon in 2024 — four years sooner than planned.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine says the agency has what it needs to put humans on the moon. That includes a new rocket, crew capsule, launch pad and plans for a space-station around the moon.

Updated at 12:30 p.m. ET

That is not one small step for women.

History was supposed to be made Friday when, for the first time, two female astronauts were scheduled to do a spacewalk together outside the International Space Station. However, one of the astronauts was switched out this week because of a lack of "spacesuit availability."

NASA's Space Launch System Beset By Delays

Mar 20, 2019
NASA / WMFE

NASA’s next-generation rocket, the SLS, is over-budget and behind schedule. The rocket, which is taller than the Statue of liberty, was scheduled to launch the agency’s Orion capsule on a test-mission around the moon back in 2017 but has since been delayed multiple times.

The most recent launch target is 2020 ], but that is likely to slip, too.

Speaking to a Senate committee last week, NASA’s Administrator Jim Bridenstine floated a new idea for the Orion mission: launch it on a commercial rocket.

Humans have entered SpaceX's Crew Dragon while in orbit for the first time, just hours after the commercial spacecraft docked at the International Space Station on Sunday morning.

Florida Sets Its Sights On A New Era In Space

Feb 24, 2019
SPACEX via WMFE

Could Florida be the base for a new branch of the military to handle threats in space?

Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis asked President Trump to place the headquarters for the new Space Force Combatant Command in Cape Canaveral, tweeting that it would be “a logical fit” for the state.

WMFE’s Space Reporter Brendan Byrne said Friday on The Florida Roundup that having Space Command headquarters in the state would indeed be a natural progression for a fast growing space industry in Florida.

Historic preservationists are hoping that the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing this summer will persuade the United Nations to do something to protect Neil Armstrong's footprints in the lunar dust.

DeSantis: Bring Space Force To Florida

Feb 20, 2019
WMFE

President Trump signed plans Tuesday to create a scaled-back version of a Space Force. Governor DeSantis is asking the President to place the headquarters in Florida.

In a tweet, DeSantis asked the President to make Kennedy Space Center the headquarters of the Space Force Combatant Command. The Governor says space is part of Florida’s storied history, and is a logical fit for the state.

Opportunity lost.

NASA has officially declared an end to the mission of the six-wheeled rover on Mars. Opportunity lost power in a dust storm last June, and all efforts to make contact have failed.

"Our beloved Opportunity remained silent," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said Wednesday at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "With a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude," he added, "I declare the Opportunity mission as complete."

That's one giant leap for China.

China state television announced Thursday that China's Chang'e 4 lunar explorer, which launched in early December, "became the first ever probe to soft-land on the far side of the moon." The probe touched down at 10:26 Beijing time, the China Global Television Network said.

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