Today’s Deep Space Extra

February 12th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Trump administration 2019 U.S. budget presentations on Monday are expected to address plans for human lunar activities as well as the future of the International Space Station. NASA is assessing whether test flights of its Commercial Crew Program partners, Boeing and SpaceX, might contribute to International Space Station operations. China tests Mars soft landing technologies.

Human Space Exploration

NASA budgets for a trip to the moon, but not while Trump is president

New York Times (2/11): The Trump administration plans to unveil a 2019 fiscal year budget proposal Monday, one that calls for NASA to return to the moon with human explorers. However, the journey is to occur at a pace that does not require a major cost increase, which means reaching the vicinity of the moon in 2023 and the lunar surface after the current president leaves office following a second term. NASA’s share of the 2019 budget would be $19.9 billion, or a $370 million increase from 2018. The agency’s spending would drop to $19.6 billion annually thereafter and through 2023. NASA’s Earth science and astrophysics division budgets would decline, ending several Earth science missions in the works. Money for robotic planetary science missions would rise.

NASA wants “seamless” transition to whatever comes next after ISS (2/11): As part of the Trump administration’s 2019 fiscal year budget proposal, NASA is to engineer a smooth transition from operator of the International Space Station to commercial user, without necessarily requiring the 15 nation orbiting science lab to be deorbited in 2025, according to NASA documents examined by the website. The U.S. is to maintain a low Earth orbit human presence, even as it looks to deep space, according to spending plans.

Space Station supporters prepare for budget battle

Space News (2/9): Monday, the White House summits a 2019 U.S. government budget proposal to Congress. NASA’s is expected to reveal the Trump Administration’s plans for the International Space Station, which is currently scheduled to conclude operations in 2024. NASA is also to present Congress with a strategy for a transition of its orbital activities to the U.S. commercial sector in order to pursue future human deep space exploration goals. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee’s Space Subcommittee, has joined bi-partisan opposition to reports of ending NASA’s involvement in the Space Station prematurely.

NASA studying commercial crew contingency plans

Coalition Member in the News – Boeing

Space News (2/9): NASA is looking at options to sustain staffing of the International Space Station U.S. segment at four astronauts should  NASA’s Commercial Crew Program partners, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s crewed Dragon, experience further delays. One option would assign long term astronaut crews to test flights of the two capsules should there be a setback in efforts to certify the spacecraft for regular missions.

Resupply launch scrubbed, thwarting fast-track rendezvous with Space Station (2/11): Russia’s second attempt at a 3 1/2 hour/2 orbit launch to docking, Progress re-supply mission to the International Space Station was halted seconds from liftoff early Sunday at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Russia hopes to reduce the time of crewed Soyuz as well as Progress missions from 6 hours/4 orbits and the backup two days/34 orbits. The Progress MS-08 launch has been reset for Tuesday and a two day transit to the Space Station.

The Canadian Space Agency awards $1.5M for human spaceflight technology and medical study

SpaceQ (2/9): Two Canadian Space Agency contracts with Canadian entities, one for $1.35 million, another for $150,000 will study lunar rover technologies that could be useful to astronauts in orbit around the moon and a second managing astronaut health during Mars missions.


Space Science

Life detection on Mars: Are Red Planet protocols in place? (2/9): Some puzzling observations by NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars has scientists pondering protocols for determining the presence or strong evidence for biological activity and how to announce the find.

Meet the next Mars lander: Getting insight on NASA’s InSight

Coalition Member in the News – Lockheed Martin (2/10): The NASA led Mars InSight mission is preparing for a May 5 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. After landing in late November, InSight is designed to drill down with sensors to study the red planet’s interior. The approach has engineers at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado testing their spacecraft and preparing it for the move to California.

Researchers just scanned 14 worlds from the Kepler mission for “technosignature,” evidence of advanced civilizations

Universe Today (2/9): Fourteen extra solar planetary star systems identified by NASA’s Kepler space telescope have been surveyed for evidence of signatures from technically advanced civilizations. The effort was led by UCLA’s Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences, with a team of students, and studies of radio wave transmissions. Though many signals were assessed, none were attributed to an extraterrestrial source, according to findings that are being reviewed for publication in the Astronomical Journal.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft just broke a deep space record

USA Today (2/11): The 27-year-old record for the most distant image taken by a spacecraft was broken December 5, 2017 by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft and features the Wishing Well star cluster. The old record was set by NASA’s Voyager 1 and famously entitled the Pale Blue Dot, a photo of Earth in the distance.


Other News 

China simulates Mars landing in preparation for 2020 mission

GB Times of Finland (2/9): China plans a multi-spacecraft Mars launch in 2020, the country’s first attempt at an independent interplanetary mission. The venture features an orbiter, lander and rover. Recently, the Beijing Institute of Space Mechanics and Electricity simulated the challenges of soft landing in the thin atmosphere.

China sends new pair of Beidou navigation system satellites to medium Earth orbit with seventh launch of 2018

GB Times of Finland (2/9): China’s seventh rocket launch of 2018 deployed two more of the country’s Beidou global navigation system satellites.


Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of February12-16, 2018 (2/11): President Trump submits his proposed fiscal year 2019 budget to Congress on Monday, amid expectations it will address NASA’s human spaceflight future, including moving beyond low Earth orbit and transitioning International Space Station activities to the private sector. Two NASA budget briefings will be web cast at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., EST.  Russia could make a second attempt to launch a Space Station Progress re-supply mission on Tuesday. U.S. and Japanese astronauts are to spacewalk on Thursday to finish maintenance of the Space Station’s Canadian robot arm.

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