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Today’s Deep Space Extra

January 9th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… President Trump renominates Jim Bridenstine to lead NASA.  NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot named 2018 Rotary National Space Trophy recipient. NASA’s plan for returning to the moon awaits policy direction and funding.

Human Space Exploration

Nominations update: January 8, 2018

Spacepolicyonline.com (1/8): Late Monday, the White House included Jim Bridenstine, the Oklahoma congressman and former naval aviator, among those re-nominated to high level positions within the Trump administration. Bridenstine was nominated in 2017 to succeed Charles Bolden as NASA’s administrator. Like others renominated with the approach of a new Congress, Bridenstine underwent a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing, but his nomination did not move to the full Senate as 2017 drew to a close.

Mr. Robert Lightfoot, Acting NASA Administrator, to receive the 2018 National Space Trophy

RNASA (1/8): Robert Lightfoot, who joined NASA in 1989 and now ranks as the agency’s longest serving acting administrator, has been selected to receive the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation’s National Space Trophy for 2018. He is to be honored in Houston on April 27 for career achievements that also includes service at NASA’s Marshall and Stennis space centers.

NASA is going back to the moon — if it can figure out how to get there

Washington Post (1/9): NASA is going back to the moon — somehow, someway. The White House has ordered the agency to put American boots back on the lunar surface. The major unknowns at this point include the when, how, scale of the operation and cost. Also unclear is what exactly NASA would accomplish with such a mission and how it might affect plans for a human mission to Mars.

 

Space Science

NASA plans to have WFIRST reviews complete by April

Space News (1/8): NASA is looking to April to complete a descoping of the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which has moved over its $3.2 billion cost estimate and path to launch in the mid-2020s. WFIRST is a companion mission to the James Webb Space Telescope, which is to launch in the March/June time frame of 2019 to reveal more about the earliest star systems, while probing the atmospheres of extra solar planets for signs of bio markers. WFIRST will also attempt to reveal more about dark energy. The development has been complicated by inclusion of a coronograph, a technology to block the intense light of star to permit studies of its surroundings. WFIRST’s mission is considered a high priority by the National Academy of Sciences.

Those weird ‘tubes’ on Mars probably aren’t signs of life

Space.com (1/8): Growing molecular crystal formation rather than biological activity is likely responsible for some curious tube like structures observed on Mars by NASA’s Curiosity Rover.

NASA reveals beautiful, close-up Jupiter photos

IGN.com (1/8): NASA has released new, beautiful, close-up photos of Jupiter, taken by its Juno spacecraft. Taken on December 16, 2017 when Juno was only about one Earth away from the gas giant, these images show details of the turbulent clouds in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

 

Other News

The mystery behind the fate of a top-secret satellite comes at the height of one of Elon Musk’s biggest rivalries

Coalition Member in the News – Boeing, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance

Washington Post (1/9): The United Launch Alliance (ULA), the joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing created more than a decade ago to launch sensitive satellites for the Pentagon and intelligence community, has long been under fire from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, the tenacious upstart that plowed its way into the market by waging war inside the Beltway. For years, Musk proclaimed that SpaceX could save taxpayers millions by offering the Pentagon launches for far less than its chief rival. ULA, meanwhile, maintained that responsibility for national security satellites that cost hundreds of millions and help guide precision bombs and conduct surveillance should not just go to the lowest bidder. Now with a launch for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) scheduled for Wednesday, ULA is again poised to showcase its record of reliability with more than 100 consecutive launches without a failure. The launch comes as reports indicate that a highly classified satellite launched by SpaceX on Sunday may have suffered a failure once it reached space.

NASA sees the light for the future of space communications

The Space Review (1/8): TSR editor Jeff Foust explains the urgency for achieving advances in optical and laser communications as NASA plans missions deeper into the solar system. Greater distances and power limitations make advances beyond radio communications all the more critical in order to hasten and increase date transmissions, writes Foust.

InSight: NASA’s Next Mars Mission to Investigate the Interior of the Red Planet inspires LEGO project

Ideas.Lego.com (1/8): Philippe Labrot and Valérie Roche are happy to present you their collaborative project: the Martian lander InSight. On May 5, 2018, the launch window for InSight, NASA’s next mission to Mars, will open. The InSight lander will lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, toward the Red Planet. In this project, they propose a fairly faithful replica of the InSight probe, at a scale compatible with Minifigs. The model gives the opportunity to discover the main characteristics of the spacecraft and its payload.

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