4 months ago

Alabama celebrates Artemis Day as final piece of hardware departs Marshall Space Flight Center for historic mission

Governor Kay Ivey has proclaimed Friday, July 17, as Artemis Day in the state of Alabama, honoring the Yellowhammer State’s incredible contributions to the historic space program that will return Americans to the surface of the moon and eventually take the first humans to Mars.

An official proclamation signed by Ivey earlier this week highlighted Huntsville’s famed contributions to space flight and exploration since last century.

The Rocket City’s signature work is continuing on the Space Launch System (SLS), which is the most powerful rocket in world history scheduled to power Americans back to the moon in 2024 through the Artemis program; the mission will include landing the first woman ever on the lunar surface.

SLS is part of NASA’s new backbone for deep space exploration, along with the Orion spacecraft and the Gateway in orbit around the moon. Indeed, it is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.

Alabama’s aerospace industry has led the effort to build the SLS, which stands 212 feet high and 27.6 feet in diameter.

Boeing is the core stage lead contractor, and Aerojet Rocketdyne is the RS-25 engines lead contractor. The SLS program is managed out of Marshall Space Flight Center, while Boeing’s Huntsville-based Space and Launch division manages the company’s SLS work.

A structural test campaign for the SLS was completed at Marshall in recent weeks.

RELATED: ‘Remarkable’: Marshall Space Flight Center completes largest test campaign since 1990

On Friday, Artemis Day, NASA released videos of the SLS launch vehicle stage adapter being loaded onto a barge en route to Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. According to Ivey’s proclamation, this is the final piece of hardware for Artemis I that will depart Marshall Space Flight Center.

NASA detailed that the launch vehicle adapter “was produced entirely” at Marshall by Huntsville-based Teledyne Brown Engineering. Ivey also highlighted this in her proclamation.

“The launch vehicle stage adapter for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket was the final piece of Artemis I rocket hardware built exclusively at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center,” stated Marshall director Jody Singer, a 2019 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact. “This milestone comes as Marshall teams just completed the structural test campaign of the SLS rocket that confirmed the rocket’s structural design is ready for Artemis missions to the Moon.”

“Great to see this. Very fitting on a day that [Governor Ivey] has declared Artemis Day in Alabama!” Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) said in a tweet.

“Alabamians are exceedingly proud of the Space Launch System achievements today, and the advances of tomorrow made possible by upcoming Artemis missions that will continue to demonstrate NASA’s benefit to all humanity,” Ivey’s proclamation concluded.

Artemis I, per NASA, will be the first integrated flight test of SLS and the Orion spacecraft. This will be an uncrewed test flight. Artemis II is slated to be the first crewed flight for the program.

“The primary operations goal of the [Artemis I] mission is to assure a safe crew module entry, descent, splashdown, and recovery. In addition to sending Orion on its journey around the Moon, SLS will carry 13 small satellites that will perform their own science and technology investigations. The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond prior to the first flight with crew on Artemis II,” NASA explained.

Alabama leads the way

In addition to Alabama spearheading the SLS for the Artemis program, the state is at the forefront of other major components of America’s space exploits.

For example, the Human Landing System (HLS) program, vital to Artemis’ ultimate success, is also managed out of Marshall Space Flight Center. Two of the three companies awarded prime contracts to compete to build the final HLS have Alabama ties.

Huntsville-based Dynetics was named earlier this year as one of these three prime contractors.

The company is developing the Dynetics Human Landing System, a single structure providing the ascent and descent capabilities that will launch on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan launch system.

The next-generation Vulcan rocket is being produced at the sprawling, world-class ULA production facility in Decatur.

Additionally, one of the other prime contractors is Blue Origin, which has proposed a three-stage lander to be launched on its own New Glenn Rocket System and the Alabama-built ULA Vulcan rocket.

Blue Origin earlier this year officially opened a 350,000-square-foot rocket engine production facility in Huntsville, where it will produce its heavy-lift BE-4 rocket engine.

North Alabama will additionally play a leading role with the lunar Gateway through Dynetics.

Overall, NASA has publicly highlighted how Marshall Space Flight Center is a pivotal engine behind Artemis and the future of human space exploration. You can read more from the agency on Marshall’s unprecedented contributions here.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News on Friday, Ivey said, “NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center continues to be at the forefront of technological advancement in support of our country’s space exploration initiatives.”

“The flight of Artemis I symbolizes the hard work of the Alabamians that made this significant accomplishment possible. Alabama is incredibly proud to have a strong partner that regularly showcases what our world class engineers are capable of in NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center,” she added.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

40 mins ago

This month marks 20 years since all humans were on Earth at the same time

NASA and its international partners — including the many in Alabama — this month marked a new milestone in human spaceflight. It has now been 20 consecutive years since the last time all humans were on the planet Earth at the same time.

Indeed, November 1, 2000, was the most recent day humans dwelled only on our planet. The Expedition 1 crew – NASA astronaut William Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko – launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on October 31 of that year, arriving to become the first crew to live aboard the orbiting laboratory on November 2.

NASA and its partners have successfully supported humans living in space aboard the ISS ever since, including Boeing — which has been the lead industry partner for the ISS since 1993.

Boeing has partnered with NASA to help design, build, integrate and — now — manage operations for the ISS. Just this summer, the company received a $916 million contract extension through September 2024 to continue supporting the space station.

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In Alabama, Boeing employees work closely with NASA at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center and perform sustaining engineering and manufacturing support for the ISS. This work is reportedly critical to proving deep-space technology for future NASA missions and providing a cornerstone for developing and operating commercial enterprises in low Earth orbit.

“Men and women have been working in space for 20 years, an accomplishment that speaks to Boeing and NASA’s commitment to crew safety and widening access to space,” stated John Mulholland, ISS vice president and program manager for Boeing. “The space station is the realization of a dream that has inspired countless generations to reach for the stars, and we will continue to increase its uses as our imaginations catch up with its extraordinary capabilities.”

In its history, the ISS has hosted more than 240 individuals from 19 different countries. Astronauts have conducted 231 spacewalks totaling more than 1,400 hours to build and maintain the station.

The scientific research performed aboard the ISS has come from and affected 108 nations around the world. More than 3,000 experiments have taken place aboard the space station so far.

In the present, the ISS is also newly receiving missions powered by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Boeing is one of two companies selected as prime contractors on this program. The Boeing Starliner spacecraft used for this program is powered by an Atlas V rocket built by United Launch Alliance in Decatur, Alabama. The Starliner was also designed at Boeing’s Huntsville operations.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Bruce Pearl: ‘I felt terrible’ telling players about self-imposed postseason ban

Auburn University head men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl spoke remotely to the media on Wednesday ahead of the team’s first game of the season.

The Tigers are scheduled to face Saint Joseph’s at 3:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving in the Fort Myers Tip-Off event.

However, the opening contest has been overshadowed this week by Sunday’s announcement that Auburn will forgo postseason competition this season.

Pearl on Wednesday revealed that his players were not made aware of this decision to self-impose a postseason ban before the public was informed.

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“We made them aware as we were announcing it,” he advised. “We just felt like it was something the university wanted to get out in front of. I was telling the players as it was being announced.”

“I had a zoom call set up with their parents for as soon as I finished up with my players. They probably had heard something about it, but they knew they had a call from me, so when they saw it, I’m sure they realized this is what the call was about. It all took place on Sunday afternoon,” Pearl continued.

He also commented on the team’s reaction to the news.

“It’s been a really difficult time. It was a difficult few weeks leading up to the announcement because it was something we had talked about,” Pearl said.

“If there was any comfort, it was their reaction. I got more guys coming up and hugging me because I felt terrible for them. We kept some things in perspective and reminded ourselves – I asked the question beforehand of why did you come to Auburn, and I got a lot of answers about graduating, being an Auburn Man, getting better, maybe have a chance to play professionally, wanting to be part of the Auburn Family – all those things. I was then able to say right before I gave them the information that they’re still going to be able to accomplish almost all of those things,” he added. “This year, we’re not going to be able to compete in the postseason. A couple years ago, after we won the regular season [SEC title], postseason was only a couple of games. Without minimizing it, because it is important and we all work and strive for it, I tried to keep their focus on what they’re trying to get accomplished and why they’re at Auburn as student-athletes. All I can tell you is, it was an amazing response from my players and their parents how we’re going to get through this together.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 hours ago

Spend Black Friday shooting clays at Selwood Farm

Play a round of 18 with the family over Thanksgiving weekend — but we’re not talking about golf. Selwood Farm is a family-owned hunting preserve in Alpine, Alabama, that has the state’s first sporting clay course. Thanksgiving weekend is a busy one for Selwood Farm (they’re closed on Thanksgiving Day), including its annual Black Friday event that has become a tradition for many.

For $60 per person, you’ll receive 100 sporting clays, a golf cart to take you through the 18-stand course (and eight additional stands for experienced shooters), and lunch from 2 Men And A Pig barbecue. You’ll also have the opportunity to participate in drawings for prizes including Orca Coolers, Russell Boots, Selwood swag, restaurant gift cards, Dirk Walker Shooting shirts exclusive to Selwood Farm, and more.

“Our Black Friday event is something we started several years ago after discovering that several of the same families made it a tradition to visit Selwood annually the day after Thanksgiving,” says Judith Jager, creative director of Selwood Farm. “We always joke that spending Black Friday at Selwood is much better than spending it at the mall — especially this year with COVID-19. We have loved being an outdoor escape for folks during this time.”

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shooting clay selwood farm
Craig Godwin/Contributed

If you can’t make it for the Friday event, Selwood Farm is open daily except Sundays and offers multiple activities. In addition to the sporting clay course, you can also shoot at the 5-stand, play the only Helice ring in Alabama (a European simulated live bird game), and hunt for quail and pheasant in the preserve’s 800 acres. Currently owned by Dell and Carolyn Hill, Selwood Farm has been a licensed hunting preserve since 1984.

The history of Selwood Farm began in 1834 when James Mallory moved from Virginia to Alpine and settled Selwood. He prospered as a farmer and community leader and the land remained in his family until 1948.

Dell’s father, O.V. Hill, purchased the property and raised cattle, sheep, poultry, and turkeys at Selwood. After Mr. Hill’s death, Dell and Carolyn continued the cattle operation and a smoked turkey mail-order business for more than thirty-five years. The Hills decided to turn the farm into a recreational space when the cattle business was no longer profitable. Selwood was officially designated as a hunting preserve in 1984 and the sporting clays course opened in 1990.

Selwood, which means “the king’s hunting forest,” has become a destination for those both in-state and out. Thousands of people visit Selwood Farm each year to shoot, hunt, host events, or take a vacation. If you’re looking for something to do with the family this Thanksgiving weekend, visiting Selwood Farm is a fun, socially distant outdoor activity that you can feel safe participating in. Plus, it’s something the whole family can enjoy.

“There truly is something for everyone,” says Jager, “even if it is just sitting on our front porch drinking a glass of sweet tea watching the sunset over the Selwood hills.”

clay shooting selwood farm
Selwood Farm/Contributed

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at julia@yellowhammernews.com.

5 hours ago

Saban to miss Iron Bowl after testing positive for COVID-19, has ‘very mild symptoms’

University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban is set to miss Saturday’s Iron Bowl after testing positive for COVID-19.

Team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson and UA Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine Jeff Allen made the announcement on Wednesday in a joint statement.

Saban experienced a false positive earlier in the season, but this situation is apparently different.

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“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19. He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a potential false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home,” stated Robinson and Allen.

The Iron Bowl is scheduled to be played in Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on CBS.

UPDATE 10:45 a.m.

Saban on an SEC teleconference told reporters that he is the only person within the Crimson Tide football program to have tested positive during this latest round of regular testing. The positive result reportedly came from a PCR test.

The legendary coach said he essentially only has a runny nose.

“I feel fine. I don’t really have anything significant. I don’t have a fever,” Saban added.

RELATED: Alabama No. 1, Auburn No. 22 in first College Football Playoff rankings of 2020

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 hours ago

Tommy Tuberville names Capitol Hill stalwart, Alabamian Stephen Boyd chief of staff

U.S. Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) on Wednesday announced that he has selected Stephen Boyd to serve as his chief of staff.

Boyd is a veteran of Capitol Hill with deep Alabama connections, currently serving as United States assistant attorney general.

Born in Birmingham, Boyd would go on to graduate from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Arts degree before earning his Juris Doctor from the University of Alabama School of Law.

His previous experience includes service as communications director for then-U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), as well as communications director for the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. He also formerly served as chief of staff to U.S. Representative Martha Roby  (AL-02).

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Boyd was confirmed by a voice vote of the U.S. Senate in August 2017 as assistant attorney general for Legislative Affairs, following his nomination by President Donald J. Trump. In this important role, Boyd manages the Department of Justice’s relationship with Congress and advances a legislative agenda in support of the DoJ’s vital law enforcement and national security missions.

In 2017, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) said Boyd “is well-respected across the state of Alabama and is known for his ability to reach across the aisle and get things done.” Alabama’s senior senator further praised Boyd’s “level of integrity and character.”

Roby, who chose not to seek reelection this year, previously noted that Boyd “possesses a keen intellect, conducts himself with the utmost professionalism and decorum, and he works extremely hard.”

Before being confirmed as assistant attorney general, Boyd served as chief of staff at the DoJ’s Office of Legal Policy.

“Stephen is a true conservative who has fought for our Alabama values since moving to Washington D.C. and I’m proud to announce him as my Chief of Staff,” Tuberville stated on Wednesday. “He is well-known throughout Alabama and knows how to get things done on Capitol Hill. Stephen is a leader of tremendous integrity and during my discussions with him, it became abundantly clear that he is the right person for the job.”

Boyd, as he previously announced, is set to resign from the DoJ effective December 11.

Tuberville, after drubbing U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) at the ballot box on November 3, will be sworn into office upon the beginning of the 117th Congress on January 3.

The incoming junior senator’s transition committee is being chaired by Stan McDonald of Huntsville. Boyd is the first announced hire for Tuberville’s staff, which Boyd is now expected to help shape moving forward.

RELATED: Tuberville vows to hire those with Alabama connections for U.S. Senate staff — ‘As many people as I can’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn