Today’s Deep Space Extra

June 19th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… President Trump calls for the creation of a U.S. Space Force, a surprise, as he opened the third meeting of the recently re-established National Space Council. The President followed up with a much anticipated call for a new space traffic management strategy. A new study suggests the Earth may have been habitable earlier than once believed, which may have implications for other planetary bodies.

Policy and Budget

Trump upstage SPD-3 with Space Force announcement (6/18): During Monday’s White House gathering of the National Space Council, President Trump directed Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to begin the steps necessary to create a sixth branch of the U.S. military, a Space Force. Past proposals have drawn resistance from senior military officials and some lawmakers. The timing of the call from the President was a surprise, though he and other policy makers had raised the topic before as a national security matter. Congressional support will be required.

Trump signs Space-Traffic Policy, calls for Space Force (6/18): After calling for the creation of a new branch of the military, a separate Space Force, during the third meeting of his National Space Council, President Trump on Monday signed Space Policy Directive 3, which calls for new oversight of space traffic management activities. The latter concerns the tracking of the many thousands of objects in Earth orbit — a minority of them functioning satellites and the majority manmade debris or no longer useful satellites. The debris and dead satellites pose a collision threat that could stall efforts to ramp up commercial space activities. Traditionally, the Pentagon has led the effort to protect space national security assets. The Departments of Commerce and Transportation, the Pentagon and NASA are expected to share new regulatory responsibilities, though with Commerce leading the effort.


Human Space Exploration

NASA goals nimble as administration goals change, new chief says

Houston Chronicle (6/18); NASA’s Johnson Space Center, home to the agency’s astronaut corps and Mission Control, has a new director, Mark Geyer, a 28-year agency veteran and former manager of Orion program development. Efforts to partner with the commercial space sector are allowing NASA to return to its roots, human deep space exploration, Geyer says in an interview. “NASA’s job has always been to provide vision and to do things no company can make money doing,” he notes. He succeeds Ellen Ochoa, an engineer and former astronaut who retired last month after three decades with the agency. Ochoa was the first Hispanic female in space.

Sally Ride’s legacy lives on

Scientific American/Conversation (6/18): Monday marked the 35th anniversary of the late NASA astronaut Sally Ride’s launch into orbit on the space shuttle Challenger. It was a milestone that helped to democratize space, writes Bonnie Dunbar, an educator/engineer and retired NASA astronaut, who like Ride is one of the more than 50 women who have now launched into space. The two would go on to become NASA colleagues and passionate in their support of STEM education. Ride passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2012.

Still waiting on space tourism after all these years

Coalition Member in the News – Axiom Space

The Space Review (6/18): Thursday marks the 14th anniversary of the SpaceShipOne suborbital launch from Mojave, California that seemed to promise that an era of space tourism was near. However, technical and cost issues have slowed the space tourism wave, though Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic appear closer than ever. TSR editor Jeff Foust assesses the current landscape, including a recent announcement from Axiom Space, the commercial space station developer, that it would like to welcome orbital tourists as soon as 2020 at a cost of $55 million each — if NASA can cast some urgency on adding a suitable docking port to the International Space Station.


Space Science

Early Earth’s habitability could boost the chances of alien life (6/18): The prospects for life beyond Earth may have received a boost with findings from a NASA/University of Washington study that suggests the early Earth may not have been the hot and volcanic or cold and ice covered environments once believed. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could mean other rocky planets well beyond the Earth are also habitable.

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