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UPDATE: NASA halted the August 29 Artemis I launch attempt at approximately 7:34 am Monday. According to a statement, the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft remain in a safe and stable configuration. Launch controllers were continuing to evaluate why a bleed test to get the RS-25 engines on the bottom of the core stage to the proper temperature range for liftoff was not successful, and ran out of time in the two-hour launch window. Engineers are continuing to gather additional data.

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In just a few days, NASA and its commercial partners are returning humans to the Moon in the first mission of the Artemis Program. All eyes will be on the rocket as it launches Monday, August 29.

Artemis I — the mission's first flight test of the NASA’s Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System rocket — is an uncrewed mission that will launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida before circling the moon. The SLS rocket is targeted to launch during a two-hour window that opens at 7:33 am on Monday, August 29, from Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy.

Coverage of the launch has already started, and viewers can tune into the livestream of the rocket and spacecraft at the launch pad on the NASA Kennedy YouTube channel. Additionally, live coverage of events has started on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

The launch countdown will begin at 9:23 am on Saturday, August 27. While launch is the main event, the broadcast will also include celebrity appearances by Jack Black, Chris Evans, and Keke Palmer, as well as a special performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Josh Groban and Herbie Hancock. It also will feature a performance of “America the Beautiful” by The Philadelphia Orchestra and cellist Yo-Yo Ma (star of the next Fort Worth Symphony Gala), conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

“The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight test that will provide a foundation to extend human presence to the Moon and beyond,” NASA reports in a news release. “The mission will demonstrate the performance of the SLS rocket and test Orion’s capabilities over the course of about six weeks as it travels about 40,000 miles beyond the Moon and back to Earth.”

A full itinerary of events — including press conferences, virtual social opportunities, and more — is available online. Interested parties can also follow NASA’s Artemis blog for updates.

Photo courtesy of NASA

NASA taps Texas companies to launch revolutionary new spacesuit project

top (flight) gear

Two startups — including Texas-based Axiom Space — have been tasked with helping NASA gear up for human space exploration at the International Space Station and on the moon as part of a spacesuit deal potentially worth billions of dollars.

NASA recently picked Axiom and Collins Aerospace to help advance spacewalking capabilities in low-earth orbit and on the moon by outfitting astronauts with next-generation spacesuits. While headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Collins has a significant presence in the Houston Spaceport; Axiom Space calls Houston home.

This deal will help support landing the first woman and the first person of color on the moon as part of NASA’s return to our lunar neighbor. The equipment also will help NASA prepare for human missions to Mars.

Under this agreement, NASA, Axiom, and Collins “will develop advanced, reliable spacesuits that allow humans to explore the cosmos unlike ever before,” Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, says in a news release. “By partnering with industry, we are efficiently advancing the necessary technology to keep Americans on a path of successful discovery on the International Space Station and as we set our sights on exploring the lunar surface.”

Axiom and Collins were chosen under an umbrella contract known as Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services (xEVAS). The contract carries a potential value of $3.5 billion.

Michael Suffredini, co-founder, president, and CEO of Axiom, says his company’s “innovative approach to xEVAS spacesuits provides NASA with an evolvable design that enables cost-efficient development, testing, training, deployment, and real-time operations to address a variety of EVA needs and operational scenarios for a range of customers, including NASA.”

NASA astronauts have needed updated spacesuits for years.

“The decades-old spacesuit designs currently in use on the International Space Station are well past their prime. NASA had been working on new suits and showed off a patriotic prototype of a moonwalking outfit — called the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or xEMU — back in 2019,” according to CNET.

A 2021 report from NASA’s Office of Inspector General called out delays in developing the spacesuits that would make a proposed 2024 human moon landing unfeasible, CNET says. Now, Axiom and Collins, instead of NASA, will create the spacesuits. Demonstration-ready spacesuits are supposed to be ready in 2025.

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This article originally ran on our sister site InnovationMap.

Photo courtesy of Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

Fort Worth museum reopens with new exhibits after 14 months of setbacks

Science for the Win

The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History will open its doors once again on Friday, June 25 after a series of setbacks have kept it closed for much of the past 14 months.

Like everything else, the museum closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It had plans to open in July 2020 that were pushed back a month due a high number of COVID-19 cases. Even then, the museum was only open on Saturdays and Sundays until another spike forced the complete closure of public hours for the museum in December 2020. And the brutal winter storm in February 2021 caused water damage from broken pipes, keeping them closed longer than anticipated.

According to a release, upon reopening, the museum will unveil several new and reimagined experiences that they have been working on throughout the closure.

In June, they will launch the Current Science Studio, a brand-new 2,500 square-foot exhibit sponsored by a $255,000 grant from Facebook. The new exhibit space will be anchored by Science On a Sphere, a giant global display system suspended from the ceiling developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Additionally, the museum will reopen the Children’s Museum, Noble Planetarium, Cattle Raisers Museum, DinoLabs, DinoDig, and the Heritage Gallery. The Omni Theater will remain closed indefinitely due to the water damage.

There will be a reopening preview for members of the museum on June 19 and 20 prior to the public reopening on June 25. The museum will then be open on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 am-5 pm, and on Sundays from 12-5 pm. Weekdays will be reserved for the museum’s Little Scholars Program.

The museum will continue to observe current public health and safety guidelines, including a mask requirement for all visitors, regardless of vaccination status.

Photo courtesy of Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

Fort Worth museum nabs new high-tech exhibit with help from Facebook

Science for the Win

The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History will open a new high-tech exhibit in spring 2021, linking science with current events like the upcoming Mars rover landing, tracking hurricanes, or marking COVID-19 cases worldwide.

According to a December 2 release, the Current Science Studio will include an array of low-touch interactive activities and cutting-edge media, including a dozen holograms and a giant orb floating from the ceiling that can display content from NASA and NOAA. Facebook sponsored the new 2,500-square-foot studio with a $255,000 grant.

“It’s important we partner with organizations with a forward-thinking view on the use of technology,” says Doug Roberts, an astrophysicist and the museum's chief public engagement officer, in the release. “This makes science relevant and accessible whether you are looking at big data or a physical object. And it aligns with what Facebook is doing to connect people around the world.”

Anchoring the new exhibit space will be Science On a Sphere, a giant global display system suspended from the ceiling developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Science On a Sphere presents images of Earth’s atmospheric storms, climate change, ocean temperatures, and outer space phenomena in a way that is both intuitive and captivating. The large, interactive sphere will be among the highest-resolution anywhere in the world.

“Our goal is to connect guests to relevant discoveries and news happening right now,” says Morgan Rehnberg, a planetary scientist and the museum's chief scientist. “We could conceptualize an exhibit on the science of vaccinations, for instance, and how the new COVID-19 vaccine compares to other vaccines throughout history. Or we could track a hurricane or wildfires on Earth or space events like the rover landing on Mars next year.”

The exhibit will react quickly to news events and change with the flip of a switch. All studio elements, including a dozen holograms, will be connected to one theme for either self-exploration or a tour with a museum guide.

The exhibit will also show history, acting like a time machine, they say. The museum will display some artifacts as holographic images, enabling visitors to superimpose holographic projection onto physical objects, enabling guests to make a deeper connection.

Photo by Ethan Tweedie Photography, McDonald Observatory/Facebook

Magical West Texas attraction reopens to the public for spectacular stargazing

Can't Close the Cosmos

After closing on March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory is reopening to the public on Friday, August 28.

The acclaimed West Texas observatory, named one of the best places in the U.S. to see stars, will require online reservations during this initial reopening phase. Tickets go on sale August 24, and all outdoor programs will be held at 25 percent capacity.

"It is a pleasure to welcome visitors back to McDonald Observatory for our iconic programs that immerse our guests in astronomy, our very dark night skies, and the visible cosmos," says director Taft Armandroff in a release. "Our team at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center is eager to host you."

Beginning with a "star party" on August 28, observatory visitors will be provided with scheduled entry tickets to allow time for cleaning between programs. Visitors will drive their own vehicles to the summit of Mount Locke for daytime guided tours; shuttle transportation will not be provided.

To ensure the safety of its visitors and staff, the observatory is taking additional steps:

  • Packaged food and drinks will be available for purchase, but no food will be prepared on site.
  • Frequently touched surfaces such as door handles and tabletops will be cleaned twice daily with bleach or alcohol-based solutions.
  • Hand-sanitizing stations will be provided.
  • Public restrooms will be treated as single occupancy.
  • New signs will be posted reminding everyone of best hygiene practices.

The observatory will continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and to heed the advice of national, state, and local health authorities. If the situation improves, the observatory may increase the capacity of public programs and start holding some programs indoors.

Since it closed to the public five months ago, the observatory has been livestreaming new programs to interact with astronomy lovers. These popular Deep Sky Tours, Moon Tours, and Solar Tours will continue once the visitors center reopens for onsite public programs.

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Giant sea creatures made of recycled beach trash wash onto Galveston Island in must-see new exhibit

inspiring sea change

A giant great white shark, massive bald eagle, oversized octopus, and more enormous sea life have invaded Galveston Island.

"Washed Ashore," a compelling traveling art exhibit of giant sea animal sculptures made of trash collected from beaches, is now on display across 19 locations in Galveston.

The clever showcase features more than 20 pieces — most more than six feet tall and as much as 17 feet wide — such as coral reefs, jellyfish, penguins, sunfish, and more.

Sculptures can be found at museums, hotels, parks, attractions, and popular outdoor spaces. Thanks to a partnership between Oregon-based non-profit Washed Ashore and the Galveston Park Board, the exhibit, which is open though March 5, is free.

This innovative, powerful exhibit is designed to educate the public about the hazards of plastic pollution in the world’s waterways and comes at a touchstone environmental moment. Some 35 million metric tons of plastic entered the global aquatic ecosystems in 2020, according to the Ocean Conservancy’s research partners.

Similar "Washed Ashore" exhibits have been displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, as well as zoos, aquariums, and botanical gardens across the nation. Notably, this Galveston debut marks the first time the exhibit will not be behind a paid gate, per press materials.

“The sculptures are impressive,” Visit Galveston Chief Tourism Officer Michael Woody says. “But they’re even more impressive when you look at them closely. The artists at Washed Ashore placed recognizable objects – like buckets and shovels – at a child’s eye view. This way, hopefully, they will learn to take with them what they bring to the beach.”

For more information on the exhibit, visit the official site.

Photo courtesy of Visit Galveston

Meet Greta the great white shark.

These are the 5 best food and drink events in Fort Worth this week

This week in gluttony

It’s a frigid start to February this week, but tasty events bring opportunities to warm up once the coldest weather passes. Get cozy with hand-made pasta and wine, a dim sum cooking class, two new Sunday brunch launches, and a complimentary educational class to watch online from the warmth of your own home.

Thursday, February 2

An Evening with Batasiolo Wine Dinner
Only 11 lucky individuals get to partake in this four-course dinner set to take place in il Modo’s intimate pasta-making room. Wines from Beni Di Batasiolo Winery will be paired with each course. Reservations are $199, plus tax and gratuity, and include valet parking. Dinner begins at 6 pm.

Saturday, February 4

Who Eats Cornbread? Who Eats Biscuits? Baking and Texas Identity Webinar by the TCU Center for Texas Studies
Curl up at home with hot biscuits or cornbread while watching this tasty and educational webinar led by Rebecca Sharpless, professor of history at TCU. She’ll talk through the history of baking in Texas and the American South, speaking from research conducted for her latest book, Grain and Fire. Learn who used white cornmeal, who used yellow, who used sugar, who didn’t, flour to fat ratios, and why it all matters. The free webinar begins at 10:30 am.

Jazz Brunch Launch at The Fitzgerald
The Camp Bowie Boulevard restaurant will channel New Orleans vibes with the launch of its new jazz brunch. The live jazz pianist will provide tunes on Fitzgerald’s heated patio both Saturday and Sundays from 11 am-2 pm. Plan for brunch dishes like crab cake Benedict, shrimp and grits, crawfish omelets, and bananas Foster banana pudding.

Dim Sum Time at Indulge Cooking Studio
The downtown cooking studio located inside Third Street Market hosts an array of classes regularly. This one will feature dim sum, the traditional Chinese meal made up of small plates featuring various dumplings and snacks. The menu will include chicken shumai, Chinese greens, spring rolls, and an egg custard tart. The class is $89 and will begin at 11 am.

Sunday, February 5

New Sunday Brunch at Craft & Vine
The Roanoke restaurant, wine bar, and craft cocktail lounge will launch Sunday brunch with new buffet-style stations. Enjoy eggs Benedict, a carving station, waffle bar, and more, as well as champagne flights, a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar, and even a bar cart for crafting Old Fashioneds. The price is $39 per person and $15 for kids 12 and under. Brunch service begins at 10 am and the live music starts at 11 am.

Luke Bryan trucks to Dallas-Fort Worth for 2 tour stops, including Dickies Arena

Country on

Luke Bryan fans, clear your calendars in late September 2023. The five-time Entertainer of the Year and American Idol judge is making not one but two stops in North Texas on his "Country On Tour."

He'll play Dallas' Dos Equis Pavilion on September 28, then scoot over to Fort Worth for a show at Dickies Arena on September 29. The only other Texas stop on his 36-city tour will be in Lubbock, on July 27. (So sorry, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio.)

Special guests throughout the tour will include up-and-coming country artists Chayce Beckham, Tyler Braden, Ashley Cooke, Jackson Dean, Jon Langston, Conner Smith, Alana Springsteen, Hailey Whitters, and DJ Rock.

According to the tour site, Beckham, Dean, Whitters, and DJ Rock will play the Dallas-Fort Worth shows.

Bryan has a history of investing in new artists by inviting them to join him on tour, a press release reminds.

“Artists get into the business to make music and perform it for the fans,” Bryan says in the release. “Leaving it all out on that stage is what it’s all about for me. I’m excited to support and have so many talented new artists along for the ride this year. It’s one of the most rewarding parts of our job.

The tour is named for Bryan's 30th No. 1 single, “Country On” - a celebration of farmers, truckers, military, first responders, and all of Americana that hit the top of the country singles charts around Christmas 2022. He has amassed a career tally of 56 total weeks at #1.

Bryan launches his 2023 headline dates at Resorts World Theatre in Las Vegas on February 1. He's also returning as a judge on ABC's American Idol this spring.

Bryan's "Country On Tour" kicks off June 15 in Syracuse, New York.

Tickets go on sale on at 10 am Friday, February 3 at Lukebryan.com.

Presale for Bryan's fan club members will run 8 am Tuesday, January 31 through 5 pm Thursday, February 2. For details, go HERE.

Citi cardmembers will have access to presale tickets from 10 am Wednesday, February 1 to 10 pm Thursday, Feb 2 through the Citi Entertainment program. For complete presale details visit www.citientertainment.com.