Today’s Deep Space Extra

October 25th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA spacewalks to upgrade the International Space Station’s (ISS) solar power system with new batteries remain on hold as Russia works to resume crew launches to the orbiting space lab in the aftermath of the October 11 Soyuz launch abort with NASA’s Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory continues its recovery from gyro ills.

Human Space Exploration

NASA spacewalks to upgrade Space Station power still on hold after aborted launch

Houston Chronicle (10/24): One consequence of Russia’s October 11 Soyuz-FG rocket launch abort with NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin aboard was a delay in a pair of International Space Station (ISS) spacewalks to upgrade the solar power system with new lithium ion batteries. Hague and Ovchinin descended safety to Earth, but it’s unclear when and who will launch to the Space Station. The spacewalks, once planned for September, were delayed so that Hague could join European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst, one of three men and women currently on the Station for the spacewalks. Hague and Ovchinin landed safely on in Kazakhstan. Soyuz launches to the Space Station with new crew members might resume in December.


Space Science

NASA’s Chandra space telescope is back in action after gyroscope fix (10/24): Ground teams believe they have overcome the gyroscope issue that triggered the 19-year-old Chandra X-ray Observatory into safe mode on October 10. Two of four gyros are again helping to aim and steady the orbiting space telescope. Scientists this week are fine tuning the gyro performance and preparing to up link a software patch to the flight computer to prevent a recurrence.

No, NASA didn’t fix the Hubble telescope by just turning it off and on again

Washington Post (10/24): Hubble’s gyro difficulties also triggered a NASA Great Observatory safe mode on October 5. Hubble went into safe mode after a backup gyro began to exhibit unusually high spin rates. All is normal now with the backup gyro spinning at normal rates and ground controllers are close to resuming normal operations with the 28-year-old space telescope.

NASA to soon end active efforts to restore contact with Opportunity (10/23): At Mars, a global dust storm in June interrupted NASA’s contact with the Opportunity rover, which landed on Mars in January 2004 for what was to be a 90 day mission. After more than a month of issuing periodic commands and listening for confirmation the rover is once again generating solar power as skies cleared, NASA has heard nothing. Soon mission controllers will cease efforts to re-establish contact in order to focus their assets on Mars InSight, which is closing in on the Red Planet and on a course to attempt a landing on November 26.

The purported plumes of Jupiter’s moon Europa are missing ‘hot spot’ engines (10/24): Jupiter’s ice and ocean covered moon Europa has been an object of interest as a potentially habitable environment beyond Earth. Past observations have included plumes rising from the surface by the Hubble Space Telescope. However, a search for “hot spots” on Europa that could have served as a source for the geyser like sprays remains elusive, according to presentations made this week at the American Astronomical Society’s annual Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Knoxville, Tennessee. NASA is planning Europa Clipper, a robotic mission that would fly close to the Jovian moon many times to explore further.


Other News

Russia returns Soyuz rocket to flight with Lotos-S1 mission (10/24): A Russian Soyuz 2-1B rocket with a signals intelligence satellite successfully launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome early Thursday. It was the first launch of a rocket in the Soyuz family since the October 11 launch abort of a Soyuz-FG from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Hague and Ovchinin landed safely. A Russian investigation into the abort is nearing a conclusion, and Russia launches of crew to the Space Station may resume in December.

China launches HY-2B marine satellite

Xinhuanet of China (10/25): China launched a marine environmental monitoring satellite atop a Long March-4B rocket early Thursday.

SpaceX official says company about to launch a Falcon 9 for the third time

Ars Technica (10/24): SpaceX is preparing to launch a Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket for a third time. The newest version of the Falcon 9 flew for the first time last May. SpaceX executive Lars Hoffman discussed the plan for the reusable rocket on Wednesday at the Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.

Q&A: Neil Armstrong biographer James Hansen

Physics Today (10/23): Retired Auburn University history professor James Hansen reflects on the writing of his 2005 Neil Armstrong biography, First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong. Earlier this year, the book became a movie and a Box Office success.

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