In Today’s Deep Space Extra… 2018 promises to bring more details about U.S. human lunar exploration, the future of the International Space Station beyond its current 2024 end date and efforts to returns samples of Mars to Earth.
Human Space Exploration
Houston Chronicle (12/24): For three years, the Human Exploration Research Analog, a modest three-story space habitat simulator at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, has served as a temporary home to growing numbers of volunteers who help NASA overcome the challenges of confinement and remoteness that will accompany future missions of deep space exploration.
Collectspace.com (12/22): Retired NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless, remembered for his dramatic shuttle-based test flight of the free-flying Manned Maneuvering Unit in 1984 and as a member of the shuttle crew that launched the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990, died December 21. McCandless, a Navy aviator, joined the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2005. He was selected by NASA for astronaut training in 1966.
Space News (12/26): Leaders of the recently created Moon Village Association, based in Vienna, suggest the association can serve as an effective non-governmental forum for government, industry, academia and the public in establishing a global strategy for coordinating future lunar surface activities. Moon Village is a concept proposed by the former European Space Agency director general Jan Woerner two years ago as a follow-on to the International Space Station.
Popular Science (12/21): A second copy of a Russian science and power module planned for launch to the International Space Station in the 2021-time frame could become a guest house for wealthy space adventurers. The price is estimated at $40 million for a one to two week stay, more for a longer stay with a spacewalk option.
Collectspace.com (12/26): NASA’s Exploration Mission-1, the first joint test flight of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule, now has an official logo and patch. Uncrewed, Orion is to journey around the moon and back to Earth for recovery over a three-week flight now targeted for late 2019.
Popular Mechanics (12/28): NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is designed to collect and cache surface rock and soil samples from Mars. The agency is still at work on a strategy and timeline to retrieve and return the samples back to Earth. A dedicated communications satellite in Mars orbit may be necessary. China, meanwhile, is planning an orbiter, rover and large lander/ascent vehicle that will require a large launch vehicle, the Long March 9, that is still in the planning/development stage. The success rate for red planet landings is about 50 percent, with only the U.S. successful over the long haul.
Washington Post (12/28): In a rebound from damages attributed to powerful Hurricane Maria in September, the National Science Foundation’s Arecibo Observatory returned to service with restored power in December. The recovery came just in time to scan the large asteroid 3200 Phaeton as it flew by the Earth at 6 million miles on December 16.
The Japan Times (12/23): In a public/private collaboration intended to reduce launch costs, the Japanese space agency demonstrated the deployments of two satellites with a single launch on December 23. The payloads included the Shikisai climate research satellite and Tsubame, a low altitude research satellite.
Spacepolicyonline.com (12/21): Prior to Christmas, Congress passed a continuing budget resolution that will keep U.S. federal agencies operating through January 19.
Space News (12/28): With commercial passenger carrying launch vehicles on the horizon, NASA’s Flight Opportunities program is open to allowing funded researchers to launch with their payloads. They do as much aboard NASA contracted Zero G airplane flights. The topic arose at the recent Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Broomfield, Colorado.
Florida Today (1/1): Commercial as well as government payloads could soon be launching into polar orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida, if equipped with automated flight termination systems. The U.S. Air Force has opened a “polar corridor” for Florida Space Coast launches for the first time since 1960. Polar launches have been limited to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. A 2016 wildfire episode near Vandenberg prompted the change.
Washington Post (12/22): NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are joining with Space Systems Loral to develop and demonstrate a telerobotic satellite servicing capability. The Restore L mission will attempt to demonstrate a satellite refueling of the Landsat 7 spacecraft launched in 1999.
Spaceflightnow (12/28): SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket was raised into launch position on leased Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on December 28. The company plans a test flight of the new heavy lift rocket in January.
GB Times of Finland (12/25): China launched three Yaogan reconnaissance satellites on Christmas Day. The Long March 2C rocket with the satellites launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre.
Spacepolicyonline.com (12/31): With 2018 off and running, Washington policy makers are expected to soon flesh out strategies for a human return to the lunar surface and what lies ahead for the International Space Station. The Trump administration is expected to present a proposed 2019 budget to Congress in early February. Meanwhile, the current budget continuing resolution expires on January 19. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program partners, Boeing and SpaceX, plan key test flights this year in hopes of restoring a U.S. capability to launch astronauts into space. SpaceX could attempt its first Falcon Heavy launch this month. Moon Express is vying to become the first commercial company to land on the moon. Year’s end should bring crucial congressional elections.
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