October 22, 2013
After A Long Two-Week Shutdown, NASA Is Back In Business
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
NASA has finally reopened its doors after being closed up for a few weeks due to the government shutdown.The US space agency said that while it was waiting for the conflicts in Washington to be resolved, a few of its on-going missions achieved significant milestones.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission entered lunar orbit on October 6th and is now preparing to begin studying the moon's atmosphere. The spacecraft took off from Wallops Island on September 6th aboard a Minotaur 5 rocket.
The Juno spacecraft made its closest approach to Earth on October 9th while making its five-year journey to Jupiter. NASA said this close approach gave the space agency the opportunity to take some stunning pictures of Earth, as well as confirm that Juno is operating as expected.
Crew members aboard the International Space Station (ISS) will be having a busy few weeks coming up. The European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle-4 is set to undock on October 28th after four months at the station. On November 1, the Expedition 37 crew members Karen Nyberg, Luca Parmitano and Fyodor Yurchikhin will be relocating their Soyuz vessel from one station docking port to another.
NASA said that on November 7, three future crew members will be launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and dock to the station about six hours later.
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) is still on track for a November 18th launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The government shutdown had led to some worry that the new spacecraft would be delayed until 2015, when the orbital paths line-up properly again for the mission. However, MAVEN was placed under some special circumstances in order to ensure it would be able to make its launch window.
MAVEN is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. The spacecraft will be orbiting the planet in an elliptical orbit that allows it to pass through and sample the entire upper atmosphere on every orbit.
NASA also said that sadly, it learned of the passing of Scott Carpenter on October 10. Carpenter became the second American to orbit Earth in 1962, and was one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts who helped establish America's leadership in space.
"We will miss his passion, his talent and his life-long commitment to exploration," NASA said in a statement. "As we power back up, we draw inspiration from the legacy of Carpenter and so many others who overcame every obstacle to keep NASA flying high."