NASA announced on Friday to launch its first SpaceX crewed flight to the International Space Station (ISS) on May 27.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will lift off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:32 p.m. EDT May 27, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida.
It will be the first time since 2011 that NASA astronauts launch on an American-made rocket from American soil, said NASA.
It will also be the first crewed mission for SpaceX since its founding 18 years ago.
The upcoming Crew Dragon mission, dubbed Demo-2, will be the final test for SpaceX, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit, according to NASA.
The mission duration will be determined once on station based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch, although the Crew Dragon being used for this flight test can stay in orbit about 110 days, said NASA.
Behnken and Hurley were among the first astronauts to begin working and training on SpaceX's next-generation human space vehicle, and were selected for their extensive test pilot and flight experience, including several missions on the space shuttle, according to NASA.
Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the mission, responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities while the spacecraft is docked to the ISS.
Hurley will be the spacecraft commander for the mission, responsible for activities such as launch, landing and recovery.
Lifting off atop a specially instrumented Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon will accelerate the two astronauts to about 27,200 kilometers per hour, and put it on an intercept course with the ISS.
In about 24 hours, Crew Dragon will be in position to rendezvous and dock with the ISS, according to NASA.
The ISS has continually hosted a rotating crew of astronauts from all over the world since 2000. Russia has been the only country capable of transporting astronauts to and from the ISS since 2011.
Chinese researchers have identified a key gene related to body height and bone development, providing a reference for treating people with short stature.
Genetic inheritance plays a major role in body height. However, the function and mechanism of genes that affect human height are still unclear.
Researchers from the East China Normal University identified the GPR126 as a key gene in regulating body height after conducting genome-wide association studies and doing experiments on mice.
They found that the gene Gpr126 in the osteoblast is a critical regulator of mouse body length and bone mass. Mouse model results indicated that the knockout of Gpr126 in osteoblast led to decreased body length and bone formation.
They also analyzed the mechanism of how Gpr126 regulates bone mass and found a type of parathyroid hormone that could help restore the reduction of body length and bone mass caused by loss of Gpr126 in osteoblast.
The research was published in the journal Science Advances.
After a months-long contest among U.S. students to name NASA's latest Mars rover, the agency will reveal the name of the rover Thursday, according to a release of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on Tuesday.
The Mars 2020 rover was the subject of a nationwide naming contest in 2019, which drew more than 28,000 essays by K-12 students from across the United States. Nearly 4,700 volunteer judges, consisting of educators, professionals and space enthusiasts helped narrow the pool down to 155 semifinalists.
A second round of judging selected nine finalist essays that were open to an online public poll before Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, made the final selection.
The Mars 2020 rover currently is at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida being prepared for launch this summer.
The rover is part of a larger exploration program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human missions to the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA's Artemis program.
The first CubeSat mission to fly past Mars has been completed, according to a recent release of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Contact with the twin Mars Cube One spacecraft, known collectively as MarCO, was lost in early January 2019 as the trajectories of the solar-powered CubeSats carried them farther from the Sun, according to JPL.
The team reattempted contacting the briefcase-sized pair this past September, when their orbits brought them closer to the Sun again. On Feb. 2, having been unable to detect any signals from them, the team declared the end of the mission.
The two CubeSats made history, not just for flying past Mars but also for relaying data from NASA's InSight lander, said JPL.
Designs derived from MarCO's radio, attitude control system and antenna will be in CubeSats that NASA will launch to the Moon with Artemis I, part of an effort to send humans back to the Moon in preparation for astronaut missions to Mars.
Data collected by each MarCO CubeSat will be published in the coming year, ensuring that future generations of small-satellite engineers can learn from these important pathfinders, according to JPL.
NASA has published a set of six papers this week describing its InSight lander's findings above and below the surface of Mars.
These findings reveal a planet alive with quakes, dust devils and strange magnetic pulses, according to a release of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Five of the papers were published in Nature. An additional paper in Nature Geoscience details the InSight spacecraft's landing site, a shallow crater nicknamed "Homestead hollow" in a region called Elysium Planitia.
InSight is the first mission dedicated to looking deep beneath the Martian surface. Among its science tools are a seismometer for detecting quakes, sensors for gauging wind and air pressure, a magnetometer, and a heat flow probe designed to take the planet's temperature.
The first results reported from the InSight mission on Mars include evidence for locally strong crustal magnetization, unexpected atmospheric processes, and marsquakes from distant, enigmatic sources. Some of the marsquakes detected by InSight's seismometer can be traced to Cerberus Fossae, a region that may be tectonically active, according to JPL.
Together, InSight's geophysical measurements provide information about Mars' interior structure and evolution, said the release.
InSight has two radios -- one for regularly sending and receiving data, and a more powerful radio designed to measure the "wobble" of Mars as it spins.
This X-band radio, also known as the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment, can eventually reveal whether the planet's core is solid or liquid. A solid core would cause Mars to wobble less than a liquid one would, said JPL.
This first year of data is just a start. Watching over a full Martian year (two Earth years) will give scientists a much better idea of the size and speed of the planet's wobble, said JPL.