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Today’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. Speculation grows over House hearing on a human 2021 Mars flyby possibly using NASA’s Space Launch System heavy lift rocket. Making a distinction between risk and success in human exploration. Martian “blueberries” water standing questioned. Telescopes record major lunar impact. Sun unleashes brightest solar flare of 2014. Constellation Orion graces winter skies. Einstein pondered a steadily expanding universe. High ranking NASA official urges commercial successors to the International Space Station. Op-ed urges U.S. to meet China challenge to space high ground. NASA prepares for new round of U.S. commercial contracts to resupply the International Space Station. SpaceX adds legs to Falcon 9 for March flight test. Orbital Sciences’ Taurus upgraded. Op ed urges orbital debris strategy. U.S. solar system stamps close to premier.
Human Deep Space Exploration
Huntsville Times (2/24): A House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing scheduled for Thursday has Huntsville speculating on a 2021 Mars mission role for NASA’s Space Launch System heavy lift rocket. Marshall is leading SLS development.
Space News (2/24): An op-ed challenges the notion that avoiding risk is the nation’s highest priority in space exploration. Too much risk avoidance may preclude success in major new endeavors, writes Donald F. Robertson, a space industry journalist.
Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. (2/24): A set of phased array communications antennae produced by Ball Aerospace heads to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for installation aboard NASA’s Orion capsule. An unpiloted orbital test flight of the capsule, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., is planned for September.
Unmanned Deep Space Exploration
National Geographic (2/24): Some scientists say small bluish spherical rocks detected on Mars by NASA’s Opportunity rover in 2004 may be the remnants of a shattered meteor. Previous explanations linked the distinctive rocks to evidence for water on the red planet.
Wired.com (2/24): The moon may have experienced its largest recorded meteor impact on Sept. 11, 2013. Recorded by telescopes, the impact left a crater 40 meters wide. Establishing a modern lunar impact record could be an important requirement for future human lunar activity.
Discovery.com (2/24): The sun unleashes its most powerful solar flare of 2014. However, the ejection will likely miss the Earth.
Nature News (2/24): No Big Bang? Einstein pondered as much, according to a recently discovered manuscript from the famous physicist. Written in 1931, Einstein’s counter theory suggested the universe expands steadily and eternally. The roots of the Big Bang reach to the 2020s and the U.S. astronomer Edwin Hubble.
Low Earth Orbit
Spacepolicyonline.com (2/24): In remarks before a NASA Advisory Council panel on Monday, Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenmaier points to special purpose commercial space stations as possible successors to the International Space Station at some point after 2024. NASA would contract with the operators for designated research, he says. Meanwhile, demand for transportation of science gear to and from the current station is expected to exceed capacity next year.
Space News (2/24): China’s latest space achievements make the ultimate high ground all the more important to U.S. national security, according to U.S. Rep. Bill Posey in an op-ed. Posey’s Florida congressional district includes NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as well as Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
NASA (2/24): Astronauts aboard the International Space Station mix research with plans to deploy CubeSats.
Commercial to Low Earth Orbit
Space News (2/24): The space agency sounds out prospective U.S. bidders on second generation contracts to support the International Space Station with supplies and research gear between 2017 and 2024. SpaceX and Orbital Sciences have shouldered commercial re-supply duties since 2012. NASA intends to spend $1 to $1.4 billion annually on supply mission launches after 2017.
Discovery.com (2/24): SpaceX is preparing its third commercial Falcon 9/Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station for a March 16 lift off. This time, the first stage will be equipped with new landing legs as part of a SpaceX effort to develop a reusable first stage that can return to its launch site. The goal during the March 16 mission, however, is to achieve a soft water landing of the first stage by re-igniting rocket motors just before splash down.
Spaceflightnow.com (2/24): Orbital Sciences revamps its Taurus rocket with components from the Minotaur rocket and makes other changes for a new satellite launch agreement. The changes follow Taurus rocket mission failures in 2011 and 2009 with NASA science satellites, the website reports.
The Space Review (2/24): They are not rocket scientists, but IT professionals are leaving their brand on the New Space movement by developing ways to innovate and bring down costs with MacGyver-like solutions to technical issues.
The Space Review (2/24): The drama of the Oscar nominated film Gravity has prompted wider concerns for the proliferation of manmade space age debris accumulating in orbit around the Earth. Essayist Al Anzaldua proposes a strategy to remove, reuse and rehabilitate the debris as he looks at some novel approaches unfolding in Sweden and the U.S. The antennas and solar arrays on dying satellites could be salvaged with the proper legal framework, he writes. Other satellites could be refueled or repaired, or pushed below altitudes of 600 kilometers where they will re-enter on their own within a few years.
Collectspace.com (2/24): Release of U.S. Postal Service stamps emblazoned with the solar system should be available for sale later this year.
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