Today’s Deep Space Extra

September 10th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Parachute test helps prepare NASA’s Mars 2020 rover for its arrival at Mars. Researchers find the International Astronomical Union erred when it removed Pluto from “planet” status. Neil DeGrasse Tyson calls on future U.S. Space Force to protect Earth from asteroid impact and sweep up orbital debris. A new documentary, Earthrise, pays tribute to NASA’s Apollo 8 mission. U.S. House appropriators will meet this week on new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) funding needs.


Human Space Exploration


What goes out, must come back: NASA moves Mobile Launcher (ML) to VAB for year of work leading to EM-1 (9/9): NASA Kennedy’s Mobile Launcher (ML) platform has entered the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) after rolling out to Launch Pad 39B for a test of a ground system element essential to the Space Launch System (SLS) that is to launch astronauts on future missions of deep space exploration. Within the VAB, the mobile launcher will undergo fit checks and instrument installation over the next year. The first SLS launch, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), an uncrewed test flight of the Orion capsule that will take the capsule around the Moon and back to Earth for recovery is planned for 2020.


Cosmonauts may examine hole in Soyuz spacecraft’s hull during spacewalk

TASS of Russia (9/7): Russia is considering a spacewalk by cosmonauts outside the International Space Station (ISS) to examine the orbital compartment of the Soyuz M-09 capsule that experienced a small but mysterious leak on August 30, as the Station’s six astronauts and cosmonauts slept. Within hours, cosmonauts had located the source of the leak inside and installed a patch. Russia intends to wrap an inquiry into the incident by the end of next week.


ISRO to collaborate with French Space Agency on manned space mission ‘Gaganyaan’

PTI of India (9/6): India plans to launch a three person space mission by 2022. France and the Asian power last week announced plans to cooperate in the venture, with some of the cooperative effort focused on monitoring the health of the astronauts. The two countries are also cooperating on future explorations of Mars, Venus and the asteroids.


Space Science


NASA rocket launch tests supersonic parachute for Mars rover landings (9/7): A sounding rocket, launched from NASA’s Wallops Island Facility on Friday, deployed a large parachute as part of the landing strategy for the agency’s Mars 2020 rover mission to the Red Planet. After arriving in early 2021, the rover’s mission is to include the collection of rock samples for eventual return to Earth to further efforts to determine whether the neighboring planet hosts, or once hosted, some form of life.


Pluto SHOULD be a planet: Astronomers claim controversial demotion was based on ‘since-disproven reasoning’

London Daily Mail (9/7): In 2006, astronomers with the International Astronomical Union made a mistake when they changed Pluto’s designation from planet to minor or dwarf planet, according to a study led by the University of Central Florida.  Pluto, as NASA’s New Horizons mission revealed, is more dynamic than Mars.


NASA’s latest exoplanet hunter spots dozens of potential new worlds

Nature (9/7): Launched in April, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite underwent a post launch checkout in order to begin looking for extra solar planets in July. Now, the spacecraft has delivered its first round of observations, which includes a planet search of 15,900 nearby stars visible from the southern sky. It appears 73 objects were observed that are now available to astronomers for further evaluation.


See two bright-green comets in 2018’s night sky: How, where and when to look (9/6): The night skies promise some comet viewing this month and in December. Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner is now visible with binoculars and telescopes. On December 16, Comet 46P/Wirtanen will make its closest approach to the sun, and it will be visible just after dusk, no telescope or binoculars needed.


Other News


New Apollo 8 ‘Earthrise’ documentary is a ‘love letter to the Earth’ (9/10): Launched 60 years ago this Christmas, NASA’s three man Apollo 8 mission took followers along on the first human mission to lunar orbit and back. The historic mission also introduced the Earthlings to the “overview effect,” the sensation of observing the Earth and its place in the universe from space. Earthrise, a film documentary tribute, was previewed in New York last week. Earthrise will become more widely available in November.


Neil deGrasse Tyson: Space Force mission should include asteroid defense, orbital clean up

Politico (9/7): Noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is advocating that a U.S. Space Force, a new branch of the military proposed by President Trump, include among its responsibilities, defending the Earth against an asteroid impact and cleaning Earth orbit of decades of orbital debris from past rocket and satellite launches.


Japan’s dreams of building a space elevator go back to the 19th century

Quartz (9/6): A small satellite space experiment to be launched this month from the Tanegashima Space Center will seek to advance a Japanese dream, developing a “space elevator” that would reach from the Earth’s surface to some 60,000 miles above sea level.  If ever fully developed, a space elevator could lift humans as well as cargoes into space.


Falcon 9 launches Telstar 18 Vantage satellite (9/10): SpaceX successfully placed the Telstar 18 communications satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit early Monday with a Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The launch was well into a four hour window because of a weather delay.


China launches Haiyang-1C marine observation satellite

GB Times of Finland (9/7): China logged its 24th space launch of 2018 on Friday with the launching of the Aiyang-1C Marine observation satellite. The spacecraft will monitor ocean color and water temperatures, providing basic data for research on the global oceanic environment.


Major Space Related Activities for the Week


Major space related activities for the week of September 9-15, 2018 (9/9): Due to Pacific tropical storm activity, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has postponed the launch of its seventh cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS), which was planned for Monday night, U.S. time. A new date has not been announced for the mission, whose cargo includes new Lithium Ion batteries to extend the life of the Station’s solar power system. Tropical weather developments in the Atlantic are a concern this week for the U.S. East Coast. The U.S. House and Senate are scheduled to convene again on Wednesday. The House Commerce, Justice Science Appropriations Subcommittee is to meet Thursday for a hearing on funding for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The JWST launch was postponed recently from October 2018 to March 2021 as technical issues arose with pre-launch preparations and costs increased. NASA’s IceSat-2 mission, which will use laser technologies from Earth orbit to assess changes in land and sea ice cover is to launch early Saturday.

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