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Lockheed Martin's Flawed Comparison Between Orion and Dragon

By Keith Cowing on July 2, 2020 10:38 PM.

The right tool to go to the moon, op ed, Tony Antonelli (Lockheed Martin), Politico

"Contrary to the iconic scene from "Apollo 13," we don't aspire to dumping a box of parts on a table and trying to make it work. Let's take the Dragon. You could add more backup computers, strings of communications, the ability to fly for days after loss of air pressure, and the ability to navigate in deep space without GPS and return to the Earth without the help of Mission Control. But it would no longer be a Dragon. It would be some new, untested vehicle that is bigger, heavier, less understood, and less capable than Orion, which the best engineers and scientists from around the world have designed for the sole purpose of opening the Moon and Mars to humanity. Specific technologies are needed to go to deep space. NASA knew this when it designed Apollo more than 50 years ago; there's a reason it didn't send astronauts to the Moon in Gemini or Mercury spacecraft."

Keith's note: This is silly. A Lockheed Martin vehicle named "Orion" has flown once. Once. And when it flew it was a stripped down test vehicle with a fraction of the capabilities that the final version will have. An Orion has not flown since 2014. By the time it flies for a second time in 2021 (maybe) there will have been a gap 7 or more years. Humans will first fly on it in 2023 (maybe) - 9 years after the first flight. The SpaceX Crew Dragon has flown twice - once with a crew - and it will fly again (with a crew) in a few months and then 4 (or more) times before Orion carries its first crew. SpaceX will have vastly more operational experience with crewed Dragon vehicles before Lockheed Martin flies its second (uncrewed) Orion.

The Crew Dragon is based directly the fight-proven hardware developed for Cargo Dragon which has flown more than 20 times (reused on many of the flights) and will fly half a dozen more times before Orion carries a human crew. By the time Orion starts to fly SpaceX will already have an extensive body of cargo/crew flight experience upon which to draw for possible upgrades. Lockheed Martin will have virtually none. Unlike Orion, which is built along the standard old aerospace model wherein each vehicle is unique thus making upgrades more complex. Indeed it has already evolved from a cargo-only vehicle to a crewed vehicle (quite an increase in complexity). Indeed, SpaceX adopted classic consumer product thinking when it designed Dragon such that its spacecraft are designed - indeed expected - to be upgraded based on flight experience.

Stating that a theoretical Crew Dragon variant designed for lunar missions would be "bigger, heavier, less understood, and less capable than Orion" is something a big aerospace company PR shop wants you to say - hoping that readers (legislators) who do not know better will fall for it. If anything, when compared to the SpaceX Dragon family and its possible derivatives, Orion is "bigger, heavier, less understood, and less capable" than Dragon. Dragon is also much, much cheaper to fly than Orion and it always will be. And with regard to the difficulties of making new Dragon vehicles NASA has picked SpaceX's Dragon XL variant to service and supply the Gateway. NASA and SpaceX are already doing what Lockheed Martin's op ed is afraid of.

There seems to be some desperation amongst the SLS/Orion team these days. It is chronically over budget and years behind schedule and no one knows when it will actually fly. Indeed the SLS/Orion system is so problematic that the Artemis architecture it was supposed to be anchoring has been constantly changed to make up for its performance problems (Gateway, transfer stages) and delays (adding commercial launches and components). Just a few days ago the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration posted an op ed in The Hill which made some similarly misleading claims (see "You Can't Exert National Prestige With A Rocket That Does Not Fly"). As one NASAWatch reader aptly put it "SLS is a national liability, not a national asset." You can expect more op eds like these from big aerospace as the election nears, the pandemic rages, the economy dives, and SLS slips further to the right while its imaginary budget evaporates.

Oh yes - although it is not part of the SLS/Orion project the other capsule being made by big aerospace, Boeing's Starliner, did not exactly wow its customer on its first flight.

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About Those Political Ads On NASAWatch (Update)

By Keith Cowing on July 2, 2020 9:00 PM.

Keith's 1 July note: Ads appear on your browser based on your entire browsing history and other online habits such as Amazon, eBay, etc. Google Adsense often targets ads based on words they see on websites or websites are selected by advertisers to be deluged with advertisements. The post about Jeff DeWit and the Trump campaign caused these Trump ads to start to appear. If I type "Joe Biden" (as I now have) that will likely cause Biden ads to appear (and then we will block them). We block as many of these political ads as we can (over a hundred thus far). But the advertisers are insidious and unrelenting. You can also block these ads yourself by clicking the "Ad Choices" box on the upper right. Alas, advertising helps keep NASAWatch online. By supporting our donation effort we can delete them all together.

Notice to the Trump campaign - if you are going to use advertisements to try and annoy our readers and/or skew the appearance or direction of our coverage rest assured it will have the exact opposite effect..

Keith's 2 July update: Well the Trump campaign just put another ad on our site. We'll nuke it as we have all the others. Hopefully the latest block will prevent more of these from showing up again. But the Trump campaign advertises like the Borg i.e. they rotate their shield frequencies in terms of ad codes - so who knows. There is a certain desperation that goes with incessant placement of annoying and unwanted political ads on websites that simply do not want them. Maybe Trump's son's brother-in-law Kyle Yunaska who is now Deputy NASA Chief of Staff can pass on our request to the campaign.

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COVID-19 Cases Soar in Texas, Florida, Alabama, and California

By Keith Cowing on July 2, 2020 6:07 PM.

Coronavirus: Texas governor mandates wearing of face masks, CNN

"Texas Governor Greg Abbott has issued an executive order that all Texans don face coverings in public in counties with 20 or more Covid-19 cases. Texas has seen a surge of hospital admissions in recent days, hitting a record high of more than 8,000 virus cases in a single day on Wednesday. "Wearing a face covering will help us to keep Texas open for business," Mr Abbott said, announcing the order. After an initial warning, those who refuse will face a fine up to $250."

Coronavirus: Florida reports 10,109 new cases of COVID-19, WPLG

"Florida reported 10,109 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, breaking the state's one-day record yet again as leaders work to prevent further spread over the July 4 holiday weekend. The previous record for a single day was 9,585 cases reported Saturday. Just two weeks ago, the state's single-day record was 3,207 cases."

Coronavirus updates: California shuts down many indoor businesses ahead of July 4, Sacramento Bee

"Faced with infection and hospitalization figures worsening by the day for more than two weeks, California is beginning its first major reversal of economic reopening from the raging coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday ordered 19 counties with troubling COVID-19 trends to immediately close a wide slate of nonessential indoor businesses for at least three weeks. The group of counties, which includes Sacramento and Los Angeles, combine for about 70 percent of the state's population."

Alabama students throwing 'COVID parties' to see who gets infected: Officials, ABC

"Students in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 have been attending parties in the city and surrounding area as part of a disturbing contest to see who can catch the virus first, a city council member told ABC News on Wednesday."

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Former NASA CFO Jeff DeWit Joins Trump Campaign As COO

By Keith Cowing on July 1, 2020 9:03 AM.

Kushner shakes up Trump campaign team, Politico

"Kushner on Tuesday replaced chief operating officer Michael Glassner with [Former NASA CFO] Jeff DeWit, who held the same position in Trump's 2016 campaign. ... DeWit, a former Arizona state treasurer, is a Trump loyalist who played a key role in the president's 2016 win. Trump later nominated him to serve as chief operating officer at NASA, a position DeWit stepped down from earlier this year. DeWit had been in talks with Kushner for several weeks. In his new position, he will oversee everything from budgeting to the planning of events and rallies."

- There's A New "Make Space Great Again" Campaign Video From Team Trump, earlier post

"It is hosted by Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle who works on the Trump campaign. Her guests are former NASA Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWit and former astronaut and NASA GRC Center Director Janet Kavandi who is now a Senior Vice President at Sierra Nevada Corp."

- Eric Trump's Brother-In-Law Is The New Deputy NASA Chief Of Staff. Seriously., earlier post

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Joel Montalbano Is The New ISS Program Manager

By Keith Cowing on June 30, 2020 5:43 PM.

NASA Names Joel Montalbano International Space Station Program Manager

"Kathy Lueders, NASA's associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, has named Joel Montalbano as manager of the International Space Station Program. The appointment was effective June 29 following the June 26 retirement of Kirk Shireman, who held the position since 2015. ... Montalbano had served as deputy program manager for NASA's space station program since 2012, a role in which he shared responsibility with the program manager for day-to-day management, working across organizations and with NASA centers, other government agencies, and partners to ensure seamless and efficient space station integration."

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You Can't Exert National Prestige With A Rocket That Does Not Fly

By Keith Cowing on June 29, 2020 11:32 AM.

NASA's mission to the moon is about far more than cost, Op Ed, Mary Lynne Dittmar/Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, The Hill

"As a result, the role played by national assets in deep space cannot be fulfilled solely by privately owned systems. Bringing someone else's rocket and crew vehicle to the geopolitical table does not convey the same intent. A national presence, backed by the full faith and measure of Congress, focuses international attention and creates incentives for partnerships around the globe."

Keith's note: This is nonsense. In the case of the U.S. the "national asset" i.e. SLS/Orion is billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. Meanwhile SpaceX and other private companies could conduct the Orion/SLS plan for lunar exploration far more cheaply and flexibly than the SLS/Orion architecture ever could. Falcon 9/Heavy/Dragon work. SLS/Orion have not yet shown that they can.

It has apparently escaped Dittmar's notice that the original SLS/Orion plan - one that only used SLS and Orion has been continuously morphed into a program that uses more and more commercial capabilities to do the things that SLS/Orion cannot do - either for cost or capability reasons. Were NASA to have relied upon the SLS/Orion "national asset" alone it would have been impossible to meet this Administration's 2024 goal to land humans on the Moon. In fact, even with the shift toward enhanced commercial participation, chronic problems with SLS/Orion system now make it almost certainly incapable of doing its part in the current NASA plan to land humans on the Moon by 2024.

You cannot convey the intended political intent if the rocket you want to use to exert that intent has not flown and will not fly at the cost - or schedule - originally envisioned. Take a look at what European government-backed and Chinese-backed "commercial" companies are doing. They are copying SpaceX - they are not copying SLS/Orion. They learned from American successes - and failures. Can we?

Keith's update: NASA issued this press release today about initial authorization for the SRBs needed for 6 additional SLS flights - and that the eventual contract will "extend through Dec. 31, 2030". Yet nowhere in this release do they say when the first SLS launch will actually occur.

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COVID-19 Cases Soar in Texas, Florida, and California But NASA Status Remains Unchanged

By Keith Cowing on June 28, 2020 3:37 PM.

Florida breaks new daily record with 9,585 coronavirus cases, Orlando Sentinel

"The Florida Department of Health reported 9,585 new coronavirus cases Saturday, shattering the previous daily high for positive COVID-19 infections made just the day before. The state has now registered 132,545 positive cases to date. The previous record for a single-day increase of 8,942 cases was reported Friday, followed by 5,508 cases reported Wednesday."

Texas Gov. Orders Bars To Close, Reduces Restaurant Seating As COVID-19 Cases Surge, NPR

"The rollbacks come amid a statewide surge of new coronavirus infections. On Thursday, the state health department reported 5,996 new cases, the third day in a row of record-high new infections in the state. The rate of positive test results, as of Wednesday, is also approaching 12%. "As I said from the start, if the positivity rate rose above 10%, the state of Texas would take further action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Abbott said."

L.A. County faces 'critical moment' as coronavirus cases keep surging, LA Times

"Another day of big increases in both coronavirus cases and hospitalizations prompted health officials Saturday to warn Los Angeles County is entering a "critical moment" and that some of the easing of stay-at-home orders are in jeopardy unless the trend changes."

Keith's 28 June note: Infection rates are soaring in Florida, Texas, and California. Yet KSC, JSC, JPL, ARC, and Armstrong are still at Stage 3 - not stage 4. But other centers (GSFC, WFF, GISS) in states with declining infections surges are at stage 4 according to NASA. There seems to be an inconsistency.

Keith's 29 June update:

NASA issued this COVID-19 update today which really does not say much of anything other than confirmed cases are increasing and check the NASA website for updates.

June 29 Update on NASA's Response to Coronavirus

"The recent spike in COVID-19 cases in states where many of us work and live necessitates heightened vigilance and personal responsibility by all NASA employees and contractors."

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What Our Russian Partners In Space Are Doing Back On Earth

By Keith Cowing on June 26, 2020 8:58 PM.

Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says, NY Times

"American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan - including targeting American troops - amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter. ... The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House's National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options - starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said."

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The NASA Office of the Chief Information Officer Is Still Broken

By Keith Cowing on June 25, 2020 10:26 AM.

NASA OIG: Evaluation of NASA's Information Security Program under the Federal Information Security Modernization Act for Fiscal Year 2019

"NASA has not implemented an effective Agency-wide information security program. SSP documentation for all six information systems we reviewed contained numerous instances of incomplete, inaccurate, or missing information. We also performed a limited review of the Agency Common Control (ACC) system, which aggregates and manages common controls across all Agency information systems, and found that many controls were classified as "other than satisfied," indicating they had been assessed as less than effective. Moreover, the NASA Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) has not addressed these deficiencies in the ACC SSP. .

.. Of the six information systems reviewed, we found that four were operating without current contingency plans. While three of the four systems eventually updated their contingency plans in RISCS during the course of our evaluation, these systems had been operating under outdated plans for as long as 4 years. The fourth system is currently operating under a 2016 contingency plan.

... Moreover, the number of systems without a current or available contingency plan in RISCS puts NASA at an unnecessarily high risk by hindering the Agency's ability to recover information systems if needed in an effective and efficient manner, thus threatening the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of NASA information maintained in those systems. .

.. During our review of selected OCIO IT security handbooks and other related governance documents, we found that 27 of 45 documents had not been reviewed and approved in more than 1 year and 8 that not been reviewed in over 3 years. OCIO policy states that IT security handbooks shall be reviewed or updated on an annual basis or more frequently if appropriate. However, the OCIO policy management process does not provide adequate oversight of this process or a reliable list of policies requiring review."

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Rethinking How And Who NASA Honors

By Keith Cowing on June 25, 2020 9:41 AM.

Keith's note: Yesterday NASA named its headquarters building after Mary W. Jackson, the first African American female engineer at NASA. By coincidence Wil Pomerantz, Vice President of Virgin Orbit, started a Twitter effort to change the name of Stennis space Center - with some solid reasons based its namesake's segregationist past as to why it should be considered. I asked via Twitter why the bust of Nazi rocketeer Wernher von Braun stands in a place of honor at Marshall Spaceflight center - a center whose namesake George C. Marshall had issues with integrating troops during World War II.

At a time when everyone seems to be taking a hard look at commemorating past events with a light shone on racism and the denial of human rights, one would think that someone at NASA would reconsider having the heroic bust of a Nazi SS member who used slave labor to build his rockets as the way to greet people who arrive for work every day at NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center. NASA openly admits that von Braun used slave labor. Yes he was the first center director and led the Apollo effort that landed humans on the Moon. No one is suggesting that this be erased from the history books.

Campaign to Rename Stennis Space Center Kicks Off, SpacePolicyOnline

"In a statement, NASA responded that the agency is dedicated to advancing diversity, but did not agree or disagree with the idea of renaming the Center. 'NASA leadership is sensitive to the discussions of racism, discrimination and inequalities going on around the world. We are aware of conversations about renaming facilities and ae having ongoing discussions with the NASA workforce on this topic. NASA is dedicated to advancing diversity and we will continue to take steps to do so.' "

How Much Did Wernher von Braun Know, and When Did He Know It?, Smithsonian

"Michael Neufeld: I agree that he didn't have much, if any, power. And that to say very much of anything was dangerous for him personally. But, again, I would emphasize his personal responsibility for having gone along with this regime, in its aggressive war plans, in building weapons for Hitler, in being a loyal member of the Third Reich, and being a member of the party and the SS. And being personally responsible for using concentration camp labor."

Biography of Wernher Von Braun, NASA

"The V-2 assembly plant at the Mittelwerk, near the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp, used slave labor, as did a number of other production sites. Von Braun was a member of the Nazi Party and an SS officer, yet was also arrested by the Gestapo in 1944 for careless remarks he made about the war and the rocket."

Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp

"The inmates at Dora-Mittelbau were treated in a brutal and inhumane manner, working 14-hour days and being denied access to basic hygiene, beds, and adequate rations. Around one in three of the roughly 60,000 prisoners who were sent to Dora-Mittelbau died."

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NASA On Pause: COVID-19 Cases Soar In Space States

By Keith Cowing on June 24, 2020 9:33 PM.

Alabama sees second highest total for daily coronavirus cases, records 25 more deaths, Al,com

"Alabama added 954 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, a large increase over case counts from recent days, and the second highest single-day uptick since the start of the pandemic. The new cases pushed the state's 7-day rolling average up to almost 673, an 80-case increase over Tuesday's average."

New record: Florida sees all-time high of 5,511 newly reported COVID-19 cases, Click Orlando

"As Florida pushes forward on its path to reopening, state health officials continue to report what Gov. Ron DeSantis called an "explosion" of COVID-19 cases. Across the state, new cases of the novel coronavirus are reported by the thousands, with infection numbers surpassing those seen when the pandemic first caused the state to shut down. The Florida Department of Health reported a record-shattering 5,511 new cases of COVID-19 since approximately the same time the day before, as well as 43 new deaths and 258 more hospitalizations. This is the most cases reported in a single day since the pandemic hit Florida in early March."

Gov. Gavin Newsom prepared to 'revert back' to stringent COVID-19 restrictions as CA sees increase in cases, KABC

"Gov. Gavin Newsom says he is prepared to "revert back" to more stringent coronavirus restrictions, if necessary, as California continues to see a rise in cases. During a routine update Monday on COVID-19's impact throughout the state, Newsom stressed the importance for individuals to "mitigate the likelihood and need" to reverse course by being mindful of their actions as more aspects of the economy are reopened."

Gov. Greg Abbott recommends Texans stay home as coronavirus cases surge, Texas Tribune

"Unless you do need to go out, the safest place for you is at your home." Within hours, Abbott made two announcements to alter the reopening process. He scaled back a previous statewide order and gave local officials the ability to place restrictions on outdoor gatherings of over 100 people, a threshold he originally set at 500 people. And Abbott said the state would enact mandatory health standards for child care centers after prior rules became voluntary earlier this month."

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NASA HQ Named After Mary W. Jackson

By Keith Cowing on June 24, 2020 1:50 PM.

NASA Names Headquarters After 'Hidden Figure' Mary W. Jackson

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Wednesday the agency's headquarters building in Washington, D.C., will be named after Mary W. Jackson, the first African American female engineer at NASA. Jackson started her NASA career in the segregated West Area Computing Unit of the agency's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Jackson, a mathematician and aerospace engineer, went on to lead programs influencing the hiring and promotion of women in NASA's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers. In 2019, she was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal."

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Mike Griffin and Lisa Porter Are Out at The Pentagon

By Keith Cowing on June 24, 2020 12:40 PM.

Mike Griffin Departing DOD, SpacePolicyOnline

"In a joint email to colleagues today, Griffin and Porter said they were taking advantage of an opportunity in the private sector and will leave DOD on July 10. 'As has been our practice, this is from Mike's email, but equally from both of us. We want to inform you that we have submitted our resignations from our present positions, effective 10 July. A private-sector opportunity has presented itself to us, offering an opportunity we have decided to pursue together. It has been a pleasure leading this great team over the past few years. We greatly appreciate your hard work, diligence, integrity, and devotion to technical excellence and technical truth in furtherance of the R&E mission. We wish you all the very best.' "

The Pentagon's Research Chief and His Deputy Are Resigning, Defense One

"Less than a month on the job, Griffin boasted to a room of industry executives: "I really only care about people who can overrule me." ... Soon after Shank and Kennedy were dismissed, Inside Defense published a scathing report about Griffin's management style and his attempts to assume more power within the Pentagon."

'Smartest guy in the room': Pentagon R&D chief under fire after controversial firings, Inside Defense

"Former Capitol Hill staffers with knowledge of Griffin's confirmation process and subsequent dealings with defense committees said it is unsurprising that his office has been beset by disruptions and allegations of poor management. "This was always going to happen -- he's a toxic leader," one former staffer said. "He thinks he is the smartest person in the room, he is condescending, and he is incapable of hiding it. Now look -- he is a smart guy. But he doesn't play well with others."

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NASA Wants To Buy Suborbital Flights

By Keith Cowing on June 23, 2020 4:15 PM.

NASA Developing a Plan to Fly Personnel on Suborbital Spacecraft

"For the first time in the agency's history, NASA has initiated a new effort to enable NASA personnel to fly on future commercial suborbital spaceflights. NASA's Flight Opportunities program has successfully worked with emerging commercial suborbital transportation systems to fly research payloads to space for short periods of microgravity time. In addition, the Flight Opportunities program recently released a call that allows those non-NASA researchers to propose accompanying their payloads in suborbital space."

NASA Suborbital Crew Space Transportation Services

"In conjunction with a system qualification of suborbital transportation systems, NASA is considering acquisition of Suborbital Crew Space Transportation Services for NASA Astronauts and other NASA personnel from one or more U.S. providers through commercial services contracts. Depending on mission requirements, NASA may purchase single seats, multiple seats within one mission, or seats for an entire 'charter' mission. NASA is seeking pertinent information from industry which may be used to formulate one or more solicitations related to the SubC effort."

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The Breakthrough Listen Exotica Catalog

By Keith Cowing on June 23, 2020 1:43 PM.

One Of Everything: The Breakthrough Listen Exotica Catalog

"We present Breakthrough Listen's "Exotica" Catalog as the centerpiece of our efforts to expand the diversity of targets surveyed in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). As motivation, we introduce the concept of survey breadth, the diversity of objects observed during a program. ... As far as we are aware, this is the first object list in recent times with the purpose of spanning the breadth of astrophysics. We share it with the community in hopes that it can guide treasury surveys and as a general reference work. Accompanying the catalog is extensive discussion of classification of objects and a new classification system for anomalies. We discuss how we intend to proceed with observations in the catalog, contrast it with our extant Exotica efforts, and suggest similar tactics may be applied to other programs."

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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 1 July, 2020 - Spacewalk Completed

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 1 July, 2020 - Spacewalk Completed Video in Story

NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and Robert Behnken concluded their spacewalk at 12:14 p.m. EDT.

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