Today’s Deep Space Extra

July 3rd, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Soon, the U.S. could resume the launch of astronauts to low Earth orbit using commercial services, a step that could impact Russian space capabilities. The National Academies of Sciences is urging a reassessment of global planetary protection practices as the number of countries and the private sector consider missions to the Moon, Mars and the asteroids.

Human Space Exploration

The Space Station is shifting to commercial crew vehicles. Where does that leave Russia?

Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (7/2): The U.S. has been unable to launch astronauts since the shuttle’s retirement in mid-2011. Since then, Russia has provided the only human launch capability for the International Space Station partners. However, NASA is nearing the end of its Commercial Crew Program initiative, one that is to prepare Boeing and SpaceX to take on the astronaut transport responsibility to low Earth orbit that was once NASA’s. What that may mean for Russia’s space ambitions is unclear at this point.


Space Science

NASA needs to upgrade its ‘planetary protection’ efforts, experts say

Washington Post (7/2): In a report released Monday, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine calls for a reassessment of past planetary protection practices, the procedures followed by NASA as it launches probes to space destinations like Mars, where there is a chance life once existed, or perhaps still does. The concern is that with a surge in commercial space activities, an aggressive push does not contaminate the environments of Mars and other destinations where life might exist in ways that make it impossible to the determine the origins of biological activity.

Inside the all-American voyage to the last world in the solar system

Ars Technica (7/3): It was three years ago, the NASA’s New Horizon’s mission accomplished the first ever flyby of distant Pluto. In their book, Chasing New Horizons,” the mission’s principal investigator Alan Stern, and co-author David Grinspoon offer a look at the lengthy behind the scenes struggle to make the challenging mission happen.

Astronomers capture the first image of a planet being born (7/2): German astronomers using the Very Large Telescope, part of the European Southern Observatory in Chile, have captured an image of a planet forming around a star 370 light years from Earth. The planet, PDS 70B, is larger than Jupiter and much, much hotter. Two studies of the discovery appear in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Dawn spies mysterious bright spots on Ceres up close as mission nears end (photos) (7/3): Currently swooping closer to the dwarf planet Ceres than ever before, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is getting its best look yet at intriguing bright spots on the cratered surface. First spotted as Dawn approached Ceres in 2015, the bright material was identified as sodium carbonate, possibly left behind from water that boiled away into space. The water’s source, perhaps from the subsurface, is still being assessed.


Other News

Space ground segment having its own launch sector-like renaissance, Kratos says

Space News (7/3): Much of the attention on advances in space technology is focused on small satellites and rocket reuse. But the ground infrastructure necessary to control and operate spacecraft is undergoing change as well, explains James Kramer, vice president at Kratos. New capabilities are permitting gigabits and terabits of data flow through space assets.

A new rocketry and workforce competition

The Space Review (7/2): At Spaceport America in New Mexico last month, more than 100 students from colleges in the U.S. and other countries gathered for a rocketry competition as part of an effort to expand the workforce pipeline, especially among women and minorities. The competition offers a $1 million grand prize to the first student team able to develop a single-stage, liquid fueled rocket that can soar to at least 100 kilometers altitude.

Restoration begins on NASA’s last flight-configured Saturn IB rocket (7/2): At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, efforts are underway to refurbish the last of NASA’s Saturn1B rockets that launched Apollo era astronauts a half century ago. The effort is expected to take about 16 months.

World UFO day: Are we really alone? The question is worthy of serious study (7/2): We really don’t know, writes Kevin Knuth, associate professor of physics, University at Albany, State University of New York, in response to the question of “are we really alone?” He believes the topic deserves serious scientific inquiry. Monday was World UFO Day.

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