In what came across as a combination pep rally and old-time revival, Vice President Mike Pence asked flight controllers, engineers and astronauts at the Johnson Space Center Thursday to “rededicate” themselves to carrying out the Trump administration’s drive to establish a permanent U.S. presence around the moon in the early 2020s before eventual voyages to Mars.
NASA’s $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope has completed critical end-to-end testing in a giant vacuum chamber at the Johnson Space Center, proving the telescope will work properly in the deep cold of space, bring starlight to a sharp focus and precisely track its astronomical targets when launched in 2019.
Extra testing of the James Webb Space Telescope and delays in assembling the powerful observatory will push back the $10 billion mission’s launch by at least six months to early 2019, officials announced last week as the telescope successfully completed an extensive performance test inside a cryogenic vacuum chamber in Houston.
The gates to the Johnson Space Center have been closed to all but essential personnel as heavy rains from Tropical Storm Harvey inundate the Houston area. Flight controllers are on lock down at the Mission Control Center but continue to monitor the health of the International Space Station as usual.
NASA has picked 12 engineers, scientists and pilots to begin basic training for future spaceflight assignments from more than 18,300 applicants, adding U.S. military combat veterans, two medical doctors, an MIT professor, an expert on submersibles, a SpaceX launch engineer, a field biologist and a planetary geologist to the agency’s astronaut ranks.