Deborah K. Fitzgerald announced today that she will step down as Kenan Sahin Dean of MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS), effective July 1, 2015. Provost Martin Schmidt shared the news in an email to the MIT community.

Fitzgerald, who has served as dean of SHASS since 2007, and in the two preceding years as associate dean and acting dean, will return to her faculty position as a professor of the history of technology in MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society. 


“Under Deborah’s inspired leadership, SHASS has maintained the highest standards of academic excellence throughout its departments, centers and programs and has become an increasingly important contributor to the Institute’s overall capacity for innovation in teaching and research,” Schmidt wrote in his letter. “In particular, she was devoted to strengthening the core undergraduate education requirements in the humanities, arts, and social sciences, and among her achievements was the recent restructuring of several academic units in the humanities.”

“Deborah Fitzgerald has been a tremendous leader for SHASS and an influential advocate for the humanities, arts, and social sciences well beyond our campus,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif says. “She understands that no matter how rigorously we educate our students in science and engineering, it is when we teach them about human culture and complexity that we truly equip them to change the world. For me personally, she has also been a wonderful colleague and counselor — wise, clear, candid, forward-looking, and deeply in tune with MIT.”

As dean, Fitzgerald has led a school of 170 faculty members in 13 fields of study: anthropology; economics; political science; global studies and languages; history; linguistics; literature; comparative media studies/writing; music, philosophy; theater arts; science, technology, and society; and women’s and gender studies. SHASS, which teaches all MIT undergraduates, is also home to seven graduate programs, and to many labs and centers, including the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab; Center for International Studies; HyperStudio (digital humanities); Security Studies Program; Knight Science Journalism Fellows; Game Lab; Open Documentary Lab; and Global Health and Medical Humanities Initiative.

“Serving as dean of this school, at this great Institute, has been a profound and humbling privilege,” Fitzgerald says. “It has been an enormous pleasure to collaborate with distinguished and dedicated colleagues from many disciplines, and with alumni from around the globe, to help advance MIT’s research and educational mission in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.” 

Boosting graduate and undergraduate education

During her tenure, Fitzgerald has been committed to strengthening resources for SHASS’s distinguished graduate program. She also initiated restructuring of MIT’s academic requirements in the humanities, arts, and social sciences (HASS), improving its approach to HASS core education; re-energized undergraduate education in SHASS, including a program for developing innovative new classes; and spearheaded restructuring of several SHASS academic units to create a single, stronger unit centered on media studies and writing. 


Fitzgerald has also strengthened the Institute’s offerings in international education. She was a member of the MIT Global Council that produced a 2009 report, “Mens et Manus et Mundi,” that explored goals for the future of global education and research at MIT. And she has supported the continued growth of the SHASS-based MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI), the Institute’s international education program, which prepares students to collaborate and lead around the globe. MISTI connects MIT students — some 5,500 to date — to fully funded internship, research, and teaching opportunities in 18 countries.  
 

The MISTI experience begins with preparatory coursework in the languages and cultures of the destination countries. “Giving MIT students deep knowledge of other languages and cultures, and the capacity to be global citizens and wise leaders, is vital to a 21st century education — and critical to the Institute’s leadership position,” Fitzgerald has said. 
 

Advancing the arts, empowering students

Fitzgerald also helped spur advances in MIT’s arts programming, including the launch of the MIT Center for Arts, Science, and Technology (CAST), a joint initiative between SHASS, the MIT Office of the Arts, and the School of Architecture and Planning. Established in 2012 with a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, CAST was founded to further MIT’s leadership in integrating the arts into the curriculum and research of institutions of higher learning. Recognizing the powerful place that the performing arts have in the creativity, growth, and success of MIT students and alumni, Fitzgerald championed plans for a performing arts facility in music and theater at MIT.

To further share significant ideas, news, and research from SHASS, Fitzgerald established an in-house communications effort, creating a feature-rich website; a monthly digest, “Said and Done”; a permanent exhibition — “Great Ideas Change the World” — in Building 14N; active social media channels, including the Twitter account @SHASS4Students; the Listening Room, a curated, free, web-based collection of MIT’s finest student and faculty music; and the Tour de SHASS, an annual event at which MIT students meet and talk with SHASS faculty and explore the school’s academic offerings through a travel-themed expo.

An MIT faculty member since 1988, Fitzgerald is a leading historian of American agriculture and author of the award-winning “Every Farm a Factory: The Industrial Ideal in American Agriculture” (Yale University Press, 2003). Fitzgerald is a past president and member of the Agricultural History Society, and a member of the Organization of American Historians and the Society for the History of Technology.

Speaking of her mission in returning to teaching MIT students, Fitzgerald said, “As educators, we know we cannot anticipate all the forms our students’ future challenges will take, but we can provide them with some fundamentals that will be guides for the ongoing process of exploration and discovery. We can help shape their resilience, and prepare them to analyze and problem-solve in both familiar and unfamiliar situations. Calling on both the STEM and HASS disciplines, we aim to empower our young students, thinkers, and citizens with superb skills, habits of mind, and experiences that help them serve the world well, with innovations, and lives, that are rich in meaning and wisdom.” 

In his email to the MIT community, Schmidt said that he intends to appoint a faculty committee in the near future to advise on the selection of the next dean of SHASS. He also asked for insights and suggestions from the MIT community to help identify the best candidates for the next SHASS dean. All correspondence sent by email (shass-search@mit.edu) or letter (Room 3-208) will be treated as confidential.

By News Office

Researchers at MIT say they have carried out a theoretical analysis showing that a family of two-dimensional materials exhibits exotic quantum properties that may enable a new type of nanoscale electronics.

These materials are predicted to show a phenomenon called the quantum spin Hall (QSH) effect, and belong to a class of materials known as transition metal dichalcogenides, with layers a few atoms thick. The findings are detailed in a paper appearing this week in the journal Science, co-authored by MIT postdocs Xiaofeng Qian and Junwei Liu; assistant professor of physics Liang Fu; and Ju Li, a professor of nuclear science and engineering and materials science and engineering.

QSH materials have the unusual property of being electrical insulators in the bulk of the material, yet highly conductive on their edges. This could potentially make them a suitable material for new kinds of quantum electronic devices, many researchers believe.

But only two materials with QSH properties have been synthesized, and potential applications of these materials have been hampered by two serious drawbacks: Their bandgap, a property essential for making transistors and other electronic devices, is too small, giving a low signal-to-noise ratio; and they lack the ability to switch rapidly on and off. Now the MIT researchers say they have found ways to potentially circumvent both obstacles using 2-D materials that have been explored for other purposes.

Existing QSH materials only work at very low temperatures and under difficult conditions, Fu says, adding that “the materials we predicted to exhibit this effect are widely accessible. … The effects could be observed at relatively high temperatures.”

“What is discovered here is a true 2-D material that has this [QSH] characteristic,” Li says. “The edges are like perfect quantum wires.”

The MIT researchers say this could lead to new kinds of low-power quantum electronics, as well as spintronics devices — a kind of electronics in which the spin of electrons, rather than their electrical charge, is used to carry information.

Graphene, a two-dimensional, one-atom-thick form of carbon with unusual electrical and mechanical properties, has been the subject of much research, which has led to further research on similar 2-D materials. But until now, few researchers have examined these materials for possible QSH effects, the MIT team says. “Two-dimensional materials are a very active field for a lot of potential applications,” Qian says — and this team’s theoretical work now shows that at least six such materials do share these QSH properties.

The MIT researchers studied materials known as transition metal dichalcogenides, a family of compounds made from the transition metals molybdenum or tungsten and the nonmetals tellurium, selenium, or sulfur. These compounds naturally form thin sheets, just atoms thick, that can spontaneously develop a dimerization pattern in their crystal structure. It is this lattice dimerization that produces the effects studied by the MIT team.

While the new work is theoretical, the team produced a design for a new kind of transistor based on the calculated effects. Called a topological field-effect transistor, or TFET, the design is based on a single layer of the 2-D material sandwiched by two layers of 2-D boron nitride. The researchers say such devices could be produced at very high density on a chip and have very low losses, allowing high-efficiency operation.

By applying an electric field to the material, the QSH state can be switched on and off, making possible a host of electronic and spintronic devices, they say.

In addition, this is one of the most promising known materials for possible use in quantum computers, the researchers say. Quantum computing is usually susceptible to disruption — technically, a loss of coherence — from even very small perturbations. But, Li says, topological quantum computers “cannot lose coherence from small perturbations. It’s a big advantage for quantum information processing.”

Because so much research is already under way on these 2-D materials for other purposes, methods of making them efficiently may be developed by other groups and could then be applied to the creation of new QSH electronic devices, Qian says.

Nai Phuan Ong, a professor of physics at Princeton University who was not connected to this work, says, “Although some of the ideas have been mentioned before, the present system seems especially promising. This exciting result will bridge two very active subfields of condensed matter physics, topological insulators and dichalcogenides.”

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the STC Center for Integrated Quantum Materials. Qian and Liu contributed equally to the work.

By David L. Chandler | MIT News Office

For its inaugural event, the recently formed MIT Global Health and Medical Humanities Initiative presented “Examining Ebola,” a panel that probed the current global public health emergency from multiple disciplinary perspectives. The gathering, held at MIT on Oct. 28, also encapsulated the goals of the new initiative, which is based in the Anthropology section of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

“We want to bring together scholars in different fields who don’t normally have a chance to talk to each other,” said Erica Caple James, associate professor of anthropology and director of the Global Health and Medical Humanities Initiative. “With this initiative, we hope to encourage more interdisciplinary collaboration on health matters — teaching together, researching together, and mobilizing the creativity of all five MIT schools, as the Institute continues to develop its future role in improving human health.”

Political, economic, and cultural determinants of health

In a series of planned panels and collaborative events, James says she aims to catalyze a “new kind of conversation” at MIT and beyond. “We want to look at illness and disease from a complex perspective, not simply as a matter of individual physiology,” she says. “This means also thinking through the political, economic, social, and cultural determinants of health.”

The six “Examining Ebola” panelists and moderator James provided a wide range of expertise and perspectives — from reports from the front lines of treatment in West Africa, to the latest laboratory advances in viral genetics and diagnostics, to analysis of the cultural and historical contexts for the current epidemic.

The impact of history

“The epidemic started at a crossroads where three countries meet in a forest region,” explained Adia Benton, assistant professor of anthropology at Brown University. “The history of war and transatlantic slave trade raiding in that region shaped movements of peoples across borders, and also explains some of the hostility that citizens there have toward health workers arriving in the region.”

Benton said such mistrust can grow in the face of “a military medicine intervention,” where there are forceful barriers to movement and when triage and treatment is prioritized according to established social hierarchies.

Referring to allegations that biological agents were used during the 1970s on members of the independence movement in what was then Rhodesia, Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga, associate professor of Science, Technology and Society at MIT, noted that, given that history, it is not surprising that in his home country of Zimbabwe “people are hesitant and suspicious of well-meaning scientific initiatives.” Mavhunga called for “scientific innovation diplomacy” to “lay the proper groundwork” for medical advances that could help arrest the Ebola outbreak.

Biomedical engineer works toward a field test for diagnosis

One such medical innovation potentially headed to West Africa is a new paper diagnostic test for Ebola from the laboratory of Boston University biomedical engineer James J. Collins, who has recently accepted an appointment to the MIT faculty. Collins, a MacArthur Award winner and member of the three national academies, described an Ebola diagnostic technique that resembles a simple pregnancy test: a paper strip changes color in reaction to the presence of microscopic samples of Ebola pathogen. The test requires no refrigeration, and Collins hopes this test, along with an inexpensive device that can transmit results digitally, can move to field testing in the near future.

Questions about the virus

Accurate diagnostics and treatment also depend on gaining more intimate knowledge of the Ebola virus itself, observed Stephen Gire, a research scientist with the Sabeti Lab, affiliated with the Eli and Edyth Broad Institute. The virus replicates so fast that “you literally have billions of viral particles in your body, which take a while to clear out,” Gire said. Researchers have discovered RNA fragments in different bodily fluids months after Ebola is cleared from the system, he continued, and “it’s unknown whether this is actually infected virus.”

Gire’s lab is helping to show “how the virus is changing in real time, and where the mutations fall.” With 10,000 reported cases in West Africa — which, Gire says, might actually “be more likely in the 25,000 range” due to underreporting — many samples of this prolific Ebola virus are available for analysis, revealing to scientists the emergence of different strains in human populations.

The role of government policy and public education

Jeanne Guillemin, a senior advisor in the MIT SHASS Security Studies Program, and an authority on outbreaks of exotic disease said that resolving public health crises like the current Ebola outbreak requires the collaboration of researchers and experts from several realms. As critical as science is, she said, “Science alone rarely has all the answers.” For effective control of dangerous epidemics, she explained, the best medical science must be accompanied by astute government leadership and an informed public.

Guillemin also noted that limitations in political cooperation, legislation, and policy can damage our ability to respond well to health crises. For example, due to partisan politics the U.S. currently lacks a surgeon general to handle the Ebola crisis, including public education. 

Although the past century saw dangerous anthrax and smallpox episodes, not enough lessons have been learned, Guillemin said. “We have been here before,” she said. “There is a litany of different outbreaks that more or less look like the one we’re having now.” Guillemin argues that large-scale public health emergencies can lead to policy changes that create long-term, meaningful structural solutions in the healthcare of developing nations, where outbreaks typically originate. “Deploying people to West Africa to help now is wonderful, but it’s a band aid,” she commented.

Transportation, media, and fear, unintended consequences

Yet given the scale of the current emergency, even such provisional aid is essential, said Jarrod Goentzel, the founder and director of the MIT Humanitarian Response Lab. Goentzel, who is engaged in helping move medical supplies to nations ravaged by Ebola, particularly Liberia, noted that “Africans are taking the lead on health care,” and he envisions that this crisis could eventually lead to strengthening health infrastructure in the affected African nations. 

Today, however, only three counties in Liberia have diagnostic laboratories, and many hospitals and clinics are closed for lack of adequate protective gear, trained staff, and sanitation workers. Moreover, several factors are thwarting the distribution of vital equipment. Not only are African ports, airports, and roads blocked by the rainy season, but actions in the U.S. are complicating the supply chain as well.

With media coverage fanning fear at home, said Goentzel, “a lot of politicians are taking action, and, as just one example, the state of Ohio recently decided to stockpile protective personal equipment.” Actions like this lead to misallocation of resources, he said, and essential equipment “is not getting into the parts of the world where we have the most cases.”

Out of the silos

In the panelists’ conversation, Erica Caple James found confirmation that scholars from disparate fields have much to offer each other and the public on health issues. As the Global Health and Medical Humanities Initiative gears up, she intends to spark more productive interactions among scholars in the humanities, social sciences, science, and engineering fields.   

“Conversations are happening all over MIT around different components of health and health care,” she says. “But they tend to take place in silos, with institutes and departments each focusing on their research specialties,” she said. “We would like to help generate more cross-school collaboration.”  

As a medical anthropologist, James traces how illness unfolds in the specific contexts of family, social network, and community, and brings to light “the human experience of health.” She has focused on mental health, and in particular the struggles of Haitians in the face of a series of natural disasters, disease outbreaks, and government-sponsored violence.

Medical humanities

Her field of medical and psychiatric anthropology is part of the larger, emerging discipline of “medical humanities,” a vein of study offered in medical schools that attempts, James said, to “provide greater insight into questions of human suffering, illness, and diseases, by situating them in historical and cultural contexts.”

Ethics, literature, the history of medicine, and the arts may all be featured in medical humanities programs. One goal is to give clinicians training in how “to think about a patient beyond being a constellation of symptoms on a checklist.”

James has seen that as medical schools “prepare clinicians of the future to encounter many different kinds of patients,” they are increasingly eager to add “cultural competency” to the portfolio of requirements for their graduates. With this in mind, James envisions an interdisciplinary Health Minor for MIT undergraduates who are pursuing medical and public health careers. In concert with the Institute of Medical Engineering and Science, she aims to help graduates and postdocs in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program who are seeking a global health course of study and research opportunities.

The “Examining Ebola” event was co-sponsored by the MIT Global Health and Medical Health Initiative, MIT SHASS Anthropology, and Prehealth Advising in the MIT Global Education & Career Development Office. 

_____________________________________________________________________________

Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications
Editorial and Design Director: Emily Hiestand
Writer: Leda Zimmerman

 

By School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

On Nov. 20, 2004, NASA’s Swift spacecraft lifted off aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., beginning its mission to study gamma-ray bursts and identify their origins. Gamma-ray bursts are the most luminous explosions in the cosmos. Most are thought to be triggered when the core of a massive star runs out of nuclear fuel, collapses under its own weight, and forms a black hole. The black hole then drives jets of particles that drill all the way through the collapsing star and erupt into space at nearly the speed of light.

Astronomers at NASA and Pennsylvania State University used Swift to create the most detailed ultraviolet light surveys ever of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, the two closest major galaxies. Nearly a million ultraviolet sources appear in this mosaic of the Large Magellanic Cloud, which was assembled from 2,200 images taken by Swift’s Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT) and released on June 3, 2013. The 160-megapixel image required a cumulative exposure of 5.4 days. The image includes light from 1,600 to 3,300 angstroms — UV wavelengths largely blocked by Earth’s atmosphere — and has an angular resolution of 2.5 arcseconds at full size. The Large Magellanic Cloud is about 14,000 light-years across.

Viewing in the ultraviolet allows astronomers to suppress the light of normal stars like the sun, which are not very bright at such higher energies, and provides a clearer picture of the hottest stars and star-formation regions. No telescope other than UVOT can produce such high-resolution wide-field multicolor surveys in the ultraviolet.

Pennsylvania State University manages the Swift Mission Operations Center, which controls Swift’s science and flight operations. Goddard manages Swift, which was launched in November 2004. The satellite is operated in collaboration with Penn State, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Orbital Sciences Corp. in Dulles, Va. International collaborators are in the United Kingdom and Italy, and the mission includes contributions from Germany and Japan.

Image Credit: NASA/Swift/S. Immler (Goddard) and M. Siegel (Penn State)
By nasa.gov

MSH 11-62 Supernova Remnant

November 21, 2014

A long observation with Chandra of the supernova remnant MSH 11-62 reveals an irregular shell of hot gas, shown in red, surrounding an extended nebula of high energy X-rays, shown in blue. Even though scientists have yet to detect any pulsations from the central object within MSH 11-62, the structure around it has many of the same characteristics as other pulsar wind nebulas. The reverse shock and other, secondary shocks within MSH 11-62 appear to have begun to crush the pulsar wind nebula, possibly contributing to its elongated shape. (Note: the orientation of this image has been rotated by 24 degrees so that north is pointed to the upper left.)

Image credit:  NASA/CXC/SAO/P. Slane et al.

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By nasa.gov

NASA’s green aviation project is one step closer to developing technology that could make future airliners quieter and more fuel-efficient with the successful flight test of a wing surface that can change shape in flight.

This past summer, researchers replaced an airplane’s conventional aluminum flaps with advanced, shape-changing assemblies that form seamless bendable and twistable surfaces. Flight testing will determine whether flexible trailing-edge wing flaps are a viable approach to improve aerodynamic efficiency and reduce noise generated during takeoffs and landings.

For the initial Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) flight, shown in this image, the experimental control surfaces were locked at a specified setting. Varied flap settings on subsequent tests will demonstrate the capability of the flexible surfaces under actual flight conditions.

ACTE technology is expected to have far-reaching effects on future aviation. Advanced lightweight materials will reduce wing structural weight and give engineers the ability to aerodynamically tailor the wings to promote improved fuel economy and more efficient operations, while reducing environmental impacts.

> More: NASA Tests Revolutionary Shape Changing Aircraft Flap for the First Time

Image Credit: NASA/Ken Ulbrich
By nasa.gov

Mixing Paints

November 21, 2014

Nature is an artist, and this time she seems to have let her paints swirl together a bit.

What the viewer might perceive to be Saturn’s surface is really just the tops of its uppermost cloud layers. Everything we see is the result of fluid dynamics. Astronomers study Saturn’s cloud dynamics in part to test and improve our understanding of fluid flows. Hopefully, what we learn will be useful for understanding our own atmosphere and that of other planetary bodies.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 25 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken in red light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Aug. 23, 2014.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 127 degrees. Image scale is 7 miles (11 kilometers) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org .

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
By nasa.gov

A new book released this week highlights how the view from space with Earth-orbiting sensors is being used to protect some of the world’s most interesting, changing, and threatened places. From space, Egmont National Park in New Zealand shows the benefits and limitations of protected areas. In this Landsat 8 image acquired on July 3, 2014, the park, with Mt. Taranaki at its center, was established in 1900. This isolated island of protected forest (dark green areas) is surrounded by once-forested pasturelands (light and brown green).

“Sanctuary: Exploring the World’s Protected Areas from Space,” published by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (Arlington, Virginia) with support from NASA, debuted at the 2014 World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia. In the book’s foreword, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden writes, “NASA and numerous other space agency partners from around the globe have used this view from space to make incredible scientific advances in our understanding of how our planet works. As a result, we can now better gauge the impact of human activity on our environment and measure how and why our atmosphere, oceans, and land are changing. As a former astronaut who has looked upon our beautiful planet from space, I hope that we can advance the use of space-based remote sensing and other geospatial tools to study, understand, and improve the management of the world’s parks and protected areas as well as the precious biodiversity that thrives within their borders.”

Image Credit: NASA/USGS
By nasa.gov

The Philae lander of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission is safely on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as these first two images from the lander’s CIVA camera confirm. One of the lander’s three feet can be seen in the foreground. The view is a two-image mosaic taken on Nov. 12, 2014.

The lander separated from the orbiter at 09:03 UTC (1:03 a.m. PST) for touch down on comet 67P seven hours later.

Rosetta and Philae had been riding through space together for more than 10 years. Philae is the first probe to achieve soft landing on a comet, and Rosetta is the first to rendezvous with a comet and follow it around the sun. The information collected by Philae at one location on the surface will complement that collected by the Rosetta orbiter for the entire comet.

Rosetta is a European Space Agency mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta’s Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by the German Aerospace Center, Cologne; Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Gottingen; French National Space Agency, Paris; and the Italian Space Agency, Rome. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the U.S. participation in the Rosetta mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.  Rosetta carries three NASA instruments in its 21-instrument payload.

For more information on the U.S. instruments aboard Rosetta, visit: http://rosetta.jpl.nasa.gov . For more information about Rosetta, visit http://www.esa.int/rosetta .

Copyright: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA
By nasa.gov

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the agency’s Orion spacecraft passes the spaceport’s iconic Vehicle Assembly Building as it is transported to Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. After arrival at the launch pad, United Launch Alliance engineers and technicians will lift Orion and mount it atop its Delta IV Heavy rocket. Orion began its journey to the launch pad at at the Launch Abort System Facility, where a 52-foot-tall protective fairing and the launch abort system were attached to the 10-foot, 11-inch-tall crew module. Resting atop a specialized Kamag transporter, Orion was moved to Space Launch Complex 37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The move began at 8:54 p.m. EST and concluded at 3:07 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 12.

Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. It will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. Orion is scheduled to launch Dec. 4, 2014 atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket in its first unpiloted flight test, and in 2018 on NASA’s Space Launch System rocket.

> More about Orion

Image Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
By nasa.gov