Today’s Deep Space Extra

June 7th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… A new Pew Research Center poll reflects public support for NASA and its role as world leader in the exploration of space.  NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and NASA’s Sam Scimemi further discuss an unfolding plan to transition International Space Station operations to the private sector. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate’s space subcommittee members and those who testified at a hearing expressed concerns that a 2025 transition of the ISS to the commercial sector would be premature.

Human Space Exploration

Bridenstine upbeat on NASA’s future as Pew Survey underscores public support

Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (6/6): Among the wide ranging topics that new NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine addressed Wednesday in a round table with reporters, was the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, an initiative in which the agency is partnered with Boeing and SpaceX to develop commercial capabilities to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station. NASA is pursuing options, including mission extensions, to make sure NASA astronauts continue to staff the station even if the two companies face delays in their efforts to certify their spacecraft with test flights late this year. Bridenstine acknowledged neither partner may be able of achieving the 1 in 270 loss of crew probability the program is striving for.

Poll shows great majority of Americans believe U.S. should lead in space exploration

Space News (6/6): A Pew Research Center poll, released Wednesday, finds broad public support for NASA, but more supportive of Earth science and efforts in planetary science to defend the Earth from asteroid impacts than human exploration of the Moon and eventually Mars. More than 2,500 people were polled between March 27 and April 9. It found that 72 percent believed it’s essential the U.S. continue to be the world leader in space exploration, vs. 58 percent in a June 2011 poll. The survey showed that 80 percent believed that the International Space Station has been a good investment, up from 64 percent in an August 2014 poll.

NASA Administrator promises not to abandon International Space Station without alternative plan

Coalition Member in the News – Boeing

The Verge (6/6): NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine spoke of the agency’s commitment to the future of the International Space Station and its commitments to other challenging programs in an exchange with news reporters in Washington on Wednesday. NASA will back the Space Station until it has a sound alternative, he pledged. The White House has asked Congress to end direct funding of the orbiting science lab by 2025, so that funds spent on Station operations can be reinvested in plans to transition human exploration from low Earth orbit to deep space. In the exchange, he expressed support for the Space Launch System (SLS), though he’s open to a commercial alternative should one emerge with the same capabilities. Bridenstine also backed efforts by Boeing and SpaceX to complete the development of capsules capable of commercially transporting astronauts to and from the Space Station.  He added that NASA is committed to working out cost and technical issues with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) that have pushed its launch from the spring of 2019 to May 2020. He pledged to back NASA’s Earth science mission development as well.

NASA’s ISS Director explains the role commercial industry could play in operating ISS. Spoiler: Station is not for sale

Space News (6/6): In an interview with Space News, Sam Scimemi, NASA’s Washington Director for the International Space Station, expounds on what it might mean for the agency to transition operations of the six person orbiting lab to the private sector, as called for in the White House budget proposal for 2019. Nothing so dramatic as a sale of the ISS to a private owner is proposed, says Scimemi. Instead, the transition would be paced, and NASA will not just walk away. The agency will remain involved as one of a collection of customers, paying for its research, caring for life support systems, astronaut training and conducting spacewalks. The interview was conducted in response to a recent Washington Post interview with new NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine about the future of the Station in the hands of the private sector after 2025.

Senators reiterate opposition to ISS transition proposal

Coalition Members in the News – Axiom, Boeing

Space News (6/6): The U.S. Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s space subcommittee held its second hearing on the future of the International Space Station Wednesday. The panel expressed bipartisan sympathy for those who testified, including representatives from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), who cautioned that a White House proposal to transition the ISS to private sector operations by 2025 was too aggressive. “We understand that commercialization is imminent, and we are fully supporting this process. However, to achieve this goal, enough time must be given both for a smooth transition and for the nation to realize a return on investment,” said Cynthia Bouthot, of CASIS. A Boeing representative, the Station’s integration engineers, estimated the orbiting lab, could operate into the mid-2030s with proper maintenance. Mike Suffredini, a former NASA ISS program manager, stressed the importance of equipping the Station with docking ports to accommodate private sector partners. Suffredini is a co-founder of Axion, a company interested in commercial station operations.


Space Science

Are there enough chemicals on icy worlds to support life?

Universe Today (6/6): The discovery of possible ice and ocean covered moons around the solar system’s gas giant planets has raised questions about whether they host habitable environments. Now, Harvard University researchers have raised a key question: If these planetary bodies are habitable is it a given they have the bio essential chemical elements for life?

Surprise! Jupiter’s lightning looks a lot like Earth’s (6/6): When NASA’s Voyager mission sped by giant Jupiter in 1979, scientists were intrigued by the lightning evident in the atmosphere. Was it triggered by the same factors that trigger it on Earth? NASA’s Juno mission spacecraft, which has been orbiting Jupiter since July 4, 2016, is providing some answers. “On Earth, thunderstorms tend to cluster around low latitudes, and on Jupiter, it’s the other way around,” said one researcher.

NASA re-plans Juno’s Jupiter mission

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (6/6): NASA is extending the Juno spacecraft’s mission, which has been orbiting Jupiter since July 2016. Operations will continue through July 2021 for prime mission data collection. The 41 month extension overall is to compensate for a concerns over fuel system valves on the spacecraft, which have kept the probe in a longer period orbit than originally planned.

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