Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 6th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Last man on the Moon, Gene Cernan emphasized the importance of American leadership in space prior to his passing. Boeing’s first crewed CST-100 Starliner test flight could transition to an operational NASA mission. Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo resumes piloted test flights. National Air and Space Museum names its first woman director.

Human Space Exploration

A final message from the last man on the Moon

Politico (4/6): “Now is the time for America to…regain our leadership in space and lead the free world on the next giant leap for mankind,” Astronaut Eugene Cernan wrote before he died last year. “I often ask myself if we will ever go again where humans have never been before and see again what has never been seen before. The answer is absolutely yes.”

NASA may operationalize Boeing’s commercial crew test flight (4/5): NASA has modified its Commercial Crew Program agreement with Boeing, opening the possibility that a test flight of the company’s CST-100 Starliner could become operational, allowing it to launch three astronauts to the International Space Station for a stay of six months. The plan alters an otherwise two-week test flight of the Starliner with two crew members as part of a NASA certification of the capsule for future low Earth orbit astronaut transportation. Currently, the test flight is planned for November.

Would you pay $9.5M to stay in a space hotel?

Orlando Sentinel (4/5): Orion Span, a California based company, announced plans Thursday for an orbital space station, Aurora, that is to include a luxury hotel. Cost for a 12-day trip is estimated at $9.5 million per person, with a required $80,000 deposit. Cape Canaveral, Florida is a likely launch site for the young company led by a collection of space flight veterans.


Space Science

Ellen Stofan, former NASA Chief Scientist, to head National Air and Space Museum

New York Times, (4/5): Ellen Stofan, a former NASA chief scientist and planetary geologist, has been named as the new director of the National Air and Space Museum and will assume her responsibilities on April 30. Stofan, a planetary geologist, is the first woman to hold the post. The museum’s history dates to the mid-1940s.

Alien atmospheres cooked up in lab may aid exoplanet search (4/5): Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are leading an effort to determine whether the haze in the atmospheres of extra solar planets affects habitability. The modeling underway could be an asset to observations made with the James Webb Space Telescope, which is undergoing preparations for a 2020 launch, and other powerful telescopes.

Interstellar `Oumuamua gives scientists new insights into formation of planetary systems

Spaceflightinsider (4/5): Discovered last October, Oumuamua, the cigar-shaped asteroid spotted speeding through the solar system, continues to puzzle scientists. According to current models, objects from outside the solar system on such a course are more likely to be comets than asteroids. Future observations of the departing object are planned.


Other News

Virgin Galactic completes 1st powered test flight since fatal 2014 crash (4/5): Test pilots David Mackay and Mark “Forger” Stucky flew Virgin Galactic’s Space Ship Two VSS Unity to nearly Mach 2 and an altitude of more than 84,000 feet on Thursday during a powered flight test, the first for Virgin since the October 31, 2014 fatal crash of its predecessor, SpaceShipTwo, VSS Enterprise. Unity was released from the White Knight Two mother ship near the Air and Space Port, north of Los Angeles. After more flight tests, Virgin intends to begin a commercial passenger space flight service from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Lunar X Prize competition to restart, without prize

Space News: The X Prize Foundation is renewing its Lunar X Prize competition, however, without its sponsor Google. A new sponsor is to come, according to an April 5 announcement from the foundation. The original competition expired on March 31 without a winner. The initial competition offered $20 million to the first commercial contestant to place a mobile spacecraft on the lunar surface and transmit images back to Earth. Former contestants seem eager to continue the competition, including Moon Express.

Live coverage: Ariane 5 lifts off on first flight since off-target launch (4/5): Late Thursday, an Ariane 5 rocket lifted off successfully from French Guiana with satellite payloads headed to geostationary orbit. It was a first for the Ariane 5 since a January 25 launch in which the rocket followed the wrong course.

Did you know that a satellite crashes back to Earth about once a week, on average

Universe Today (4/3): Last weekend, the eminent uncontrolled atmospheric re-entry of China’s Tiangong-1 space lab drew attention from around the world. However, there are so many manmade objects in Earth orbit that one satellite descends each week on average, or about 100 metric tons of space junk each year.

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