CORONAVIRUS:

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Science

    On Friday, the White House said that President Trump will be traveling to Florida to witness the historic SpaceX launch next Wednesday. The Demo 2 mission will be a manned one in which NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will be in the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket. The rocket is scheduled to launch at 4:33 p.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center and carry them to the International Space Station. This will be the first launch into space from U.S. soil since 2011. It will also be the first time NASA astronauts get to test the spacecraft's systems in orbit.  Tune in to News 96.5 WDBO on Wednesday, May 27th and we will bring you live team coverage leading up to the launch.
  • Thanks to some bad rain and wind, the United Launch Alliance now has its eyes on Sunday morning to launch its Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral.  The rocket which had the U.S. Air Force's X-37B space plane on board originally planned to launch at 8:24 a.m., but the violations of the cumulus cloud and ground wind constraints caused them to try the second window at 10:13 a.m. With roughly 1 minute and 40 seconds left before it was scheduled to take off, the ULA declared a scrub for Saturday's launch.  The next launch attempt will be possible Sunday at 9:14 a.m EST. However, on Sunday, SpaceX also had a planned Falcon 9 rocket launch for the eighth Starlink mission from the SLC-40. The company tweeted that due to a conflict on the Range, they now have their eyes set on Monday, May 18h at 3:32 a.m. for that launch.
  • NASA confirmed that despite the work-from-home order and even a confirmed case of COVID-19 or coronavirus at Kennedy Space Center, they are still on target to launch astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in May. If all goes as planned, a Crew Dragon capsule will carry NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS, it will be the first flight from American soil in nearly a decade. App users click here to see the animation. The test mission, dubbed Demo-2, will pave the way for future launches from U.S. soil, but the launch, approach, dock and re-entry must be successful.  In a press release, NASA defined mission-essential work as “ that which must be performed to maintain critical mission operations to ensure the schedule of time-sensitive mission-critical launches, or work to protect life and critical infrastructure.” The Commercial Crew Program is considered a critical element to maintain safe operations at the ISS. In the meantime, NASA Astronaut Chris Cassidy is also continuing to prepare for an April 9th launch to the ISS, he is safe from contamination in pre-flight quarantine in Star City near Moscow.  He will launch aboard a Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.  App users click here to see the interview. Most of the agency remains under a Stage 3 status, with mandatory telework for all employees with limited exceptions for on-site work,  but NASA maintained they would continue to assess the rapidly changing situation.  
  • Work is underway at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT,  to protect the planet from a massive space rock that is expected to fly so close to Earth that it could knock it off it’s trajectory. This would make an impact more possible when the asteroid returns in 2036 (which some still say won’t happen.) Take a breath, the so-called ‘planet killer’ is not expected until  April 13, 2029 (of course, it’s a Friday the 13th) giving scientists time to develop a plan to divert the killer away. SciTechDaily reports the icy mass is wider than the Eiffel Tower is tall and is called 99942 Apophis, or the Egyptian God of Chaos. It will fly by faster than 67,000 miles per hour. Whether or not the asteroid actually returns on course to impact Earth, scientists are working on a solution in the case of an impending impact. Researchers have mapped out a plan to nudge the rock off course using a projectile or several, which some say would work kind of like space billiards. There is questions on whether one or possibly several scouts will have to be sent to measure the asteroid first, these findings were published this month in the journal Acta Astronautica. 
  • A historic launch from Cape Canaveral is scheduled to take place on Sunday, February 9th at 11:03 pm EST.  The Solar Orbiter, which is a collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency, will be launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V Rocket which if successful, will use gravity from Earth and Venus to swing itself towards the Sun's equator, where all planets orbit.  This mission will use the Orbiter's bird's eye view to give the first ever pictures of the Sun's north and south poles. In order to endure all that heat, the Orbiter has a custom designed titanium shield with a calcium phosphate coating that can deal with temperatures of over 900 degrees Fahrenheit. The Orbiter will work together with the Parker Solar Probe, which was launched in August of 2018. As Parker gets a close up sample of solar particles, the Orbiter will be farther away getting observational pictures. They will also align occasionally to measure the same magnetic field lines or solar wind streams.  This mission will last about seven years with the closest approach being within 26 million miles of the Sun.  You can learn more about this mission by checking out this video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=46&v=eDDhPeCI5Po&feature=emb_title
  • You may want to duck or at least look up at 6:39:35 p.m. this evening. That’s the exact moment two defunct satellites will zip past each other at 32,800 mph.  A satellite-tracking company predicts the two satellites, one dating back to 1967,  will pass between 50 and 100 feet apart but,  they are NOT expected to collide.  Click here for the link to track the satellites. LeoLabs, says if they do crash,  there would be thousands of pieced of new debris that would stay in orbit for decades and it could threaten and satellites operating near the collision. Furthermore, the pieces would spread out and form a debris belt around the Earth.  The near-miss is expected to happen over Pittsburgh.  Click here for an animated simulation of the two satellites. 
  • It may not have gone as planned today for NASA and SpaceX, but they are not giving up on their in flight Crew Dragon launch escape test. The test was supposed to take place Saturday morning at 8 a.m., but sustained winds and rough seas in the recovery area forced them to cancel and re-schedule the test for Sunday morning at 8 a.m. The test will demonstrate the capsule's ability to keep the astronauts safe during a launch emergency.  For the test, a Falcon 9 rocket will follow a similar path that a real Crew Dragon mission would take to the International Space Station. Roughly a minute and a half later, they will trigger a launch escape so that the capsule can safely separate itself from the rocket. Ten minutes after that, the Crew Dragon will splash down at the recovery site, which will earn its certification from the Commercial Crew program.  Last weekend, the company had a successful static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket that will used during this demonstration. If things go as planned this time, we will be one step closer to launching astronauts back into space.  You can watch the live broadcast, which starts 20 minutes before liftoff here:  https://www.spacex.com/webcast
  • Space X has it eyes on the skies Monday night for the launch of its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket on Pad 40 will carry the JCSAT-18/Kacific 1 communications satellite into orbit, which will provide mobile and broadband services for Japan and parts of southeast Asia. The satellite will be deployed 33 minutes after takeoff. This mission previously supported the CRS-17 mission back in May 2019 and the CRS-18 mission in July 2019.  Forecasters predict 90% favorable weather conditions for the launch. The launch window open at 7:10 pm and closes at 8:38 pm. If it doesn't work out Monday night, a backup launch window will be available on Tuesday, December 17 at the same time.  You can watch the launch if it goes off here:  https://www.spacex.com/webcast
  • At 4:10 a.m. EST this morning , NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir successfully captured Northrop Grumman's Cygnus spacecraft using the International Space Stations robotic arm. Cygnus launched Saturday and is carrying 8,200 pounds of research, supplies, and hardware  for the International Space Station. What may be the most delicious cargo is a specially-designed 'space oven' which is accompanied by cookie dough from Hilton's DoubleTree hotel chain.  Astronauts will try their hand at baking in space for the first time and will test what impact high heat and zero gravity have on the shape and consistency of the cookies. Hilton says the experiment is aimed at “making long-duration space travel more hospitable'. Back on Earth, a three-hour launch window  will open at 7 a.m. MST (9 a.m. EST; 1400 GMT)  when Boeing will conduct a pad abort test of its Starliner spacecraft.  The full-scale model will take off from a launch pad at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on fast-paced test of the capsule’s emergency escape system. If the test is a go, Starliner’s four launch abort engines and several orbital maneuvering and altitude control thrusters will fire, pushing the spacecraft approximately 1-mile into the air. The spacecraft’s crew module will use parachutes with landing airbags to touch down, then it will be recovered for analysis.  In just a couple of weeks, Boeing will roll out its Starliner at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station ahead of its unmanned test flight to the ISS on Dec. 17. Boeing is racing against SpaceX to begin ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station in the first half of next year. SpaceX has already completed its pad abort test for its Dragon space craft and also its an unmanned test flight to the ISS.   They are now gearing up for a ground test-firing of the Crew Dragon’s abort engines at Cape Canaveral as soon as this Wednesday, Nov. 6. 
  • Tuesday is the day that NASA plans to unveil the new gear that its future astronauts will wear as they get ready to touch down on the moon as well as other places, including Mars. As part of the agency's Artemis program, they hope to send crews to the Moon by 2024 with the new suits. Two spacesuits will be showcased from NASA's headquarters in Washington- one for launch and re-entry onboard the Orion spacecraft, and the other for exploring the Moon's South Pole.  These Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or xEMU suits improve on the current and Apollo era ones, which reportedly will cover a variety of astronaut sizes, as well as be more comfy and mobile for the surface of the moon.  The event will take place at 2 pm EDT, which can be seen live here:  https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive