Today’s Deep Space Extra

September 6th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA slows a high level assessment of organizational changes affecting human space operations and technology development. The nomination of Jim Morhard to become NASA’s deputy administrator advances. Astronomers back a new space telescope devoted to observations of Earth like extra solar planets. A small lunar orbiting Chinese satellite allows amateurs to image the Moon and more.

Human Space Exploration

NASA delays decision on space technology reorganization (9/5): NASA leadership is taking some additional time to assess possible organizational changes, among them ties between the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and the Space Technology Mission Directorate. One option would merge the two, or replace them with a directorate focused on space operations, like those of the International Space Station (ISS), and a second focused on space exploration technology. Other possible changes are under review as well, including the prospect of placing NASA field centers under a Federally Funded Research and Development Center structure.

Morhard, Droegemeier nominations approved by committee (9/5): The White House nominations of Jim Morhard to be NASA’s deputy administrator and Kelvin Droegemeier to be Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy advanced from the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee to the full Senate on Wednesday. The nominations advanced by voice vote.

Who caused the mysterious leak at the International Space Station?

NPR (9/5): A small leak found and repaired in the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS) last week could have been caused by a human hand during production or prior to launch of a Soyuz crew transport vehicle with three of the station’s current residents. There have been concerns of late about a decline in Russian quality control in its aerospace sector, one U.S. expert notes. A Russian commission is investigating. NASA said the pressure leak was small and the six U.S., Russian and European crew members were not in danger.


Space Science

Experts urge NASA to build huge new space telescope to look at alien Earths (9/5): The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine called on NASA to lead the development of a space telescope powerful enough to directly observe Earth-like extra solar planets and assess them for the presence of an atmosphere and if an atmosphere is present, assess it for bio markers. Those and other pursuits in the search for extraterrestrial life recommended by the National Academies might address the question of whether there is extraterrestrial life within 15 to 20 years, according to a 203 page report issued by a study panel of astronomers and planetary scientists.

APL-led asteroid-deflection mission passes key development milestone

Johns Hopkins University (9/30): NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, a planetary defense demonstration led by the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab (APL), has entered the final design phase. Planned for launching by mid-2021, the spacecraft will head for the double asteroid Didymos with plans to observe the reaction as the smaller body, or moon, is deliberately struck with an impactor. The mission is part of a long range effort to prevent a large asteroid from striking the Earth in the future.

Estimating when life could have arisen on Earth

Universe Today (9/5): Canadian scientists have astrophysical and geophysical evidence to reach estimates for when the Earth became habitable and when biological activity appeared. The findings, published in the journal Astrobiology, point to habitability about 3.7 billion years ago, with life emerging 300 to 800 million years later.

Jupiter’s magnetic field revealed by the Juno spacecraft

Nature (9/5): NASA’s Juno spacecraft began a long orbital mission at Jupiter in the summer of 2016. One objective was to assess the giant planet’s powerful magnetic field, which could reveal unseen activities underway far below the colorful cloud cover.

A tiny Chinese satellite is orbiting the Moon and allowing radio amateurs to download images

GB Times of Finland (9/4): A small Chinese satellite in lunar orbit, launched earlier this year in support of the Chang’e 4 mission planned for later this year to put a lander and rover on the Moon’s far side, is allowing radio operators to down load images of the Moon, Mars and the sun.


Other News

Airspace usage a priority for new commercial industry group chairman (9/4): Taber MacCallum, co-founder of World View Enterprises, is the new chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. He’s excited for the coming of U.S. commercial human space flight capabilities and as chair he intends to emphasize a need for the commercial launch industry and the airlines to safely share the air space.

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