Today’s Deep Space Extra

November 29th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will announce U.S. companies selected to establish new lunar landing capabilities Thursday afternoon. Their commercial services will help established sustained human activities on the lunar surface.

Human Space Exploration

NASA will announce its 1st commercial partners for the return to the Moon Thursday (11/28): NASA’s sustained return to the Moon with human explorers will advance Thursday, as NASA names the first lineup of companies that the agency has chosen to partner with to carry out lunar landing missions. Those missions will be scaled up over time to accommodate astronaut activities. NASA plans a NASA TV broadcast and webcast at of the 2 p.m., EST, announcement.

Exclusive: NASA chief outlines Moon strategy (11/28): Earlier this week, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine previewed his lunar commercial contract awards with a forecast: “The U.S. is returning to the surface of the Moon, and we’re doing it sooner than you think,” he announced using social media. However, he’s emphasized the value of returning to the lunar environs with humans sustainably, rather than racing to a landing and moving on. The lunar missions planned for the 2020s are to pave the way for the human exploration of Mars and other solar system destinations.

Russian space program in ‘crisis’ as David Saint-Jacques set to blast off

CBC News of Canada (11/28): Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, joined by NASA’s Anne McClain and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko is set to launch aboard a soyuz rocket on December 3 for a 6 1/2 month mission to the International Space Station (ISS). It will mark the first launch of the Russian soyuz launch vehicle from the Baikonur Cosmodrome of Kazakhstan with a human crew since the October 11 launch abort in which Space Station bound Nick Hague, of NASA, and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin instead descended safely to Earth about two minutes into flight. The article raises concerns expressed by a Russian space policy historian over his country’s ability to deal with the economic and technical challenges of human space flight. Saint-Jacques and his crew mates, however, have expressed confidence in Russia’s ability to overcome the October setback.


Space Science

Mars beckons

New York Times (11/27): NASA’s Mars InSight lander, which successfully touched down on Mars Monday afternoon, has received an editorial endorsement from the Times, for its potential to help further characterize the evolution of Mars, which appears to have once hosted a habitable environment and possibly life.

How this spacecraft will sample an asteroid’s rocks, without even landing on it (11/28): More than two years after it launched, a spacecraft called OSIRIS-REx is approaching its target, an asteroid named Bennu. Scientists hope that rock samples from Bennu will provide insight into the likelihood of life on other planets, as well as the risk the asteroid poses to earth. Science correspondent Miles O’Brien explains the delicate “touch and go” method of sampling the asteroid’s surface.

Geomagnetic storm predicted a hyperactive comet is approaching the Earth (11/29) A hole in the solar atmosphere is sending a stream of solar wind in the Earth’s direction, potentially producing bright auroral displays by Saturday. The bright comet 46P/Wirtanen, now visible with small telescopes and binoculars, will reach its closest point from Earth on December 16, perhaps soon becoming visible to the naked eye.

Eternal ice age: Unusual ridges near Pluto’s Sputnik Planitia formed by ancient glaciers (11/28): In July 2015, NASA’s New Horizons mission carried out the most distant planetary object flyby ever, passing close to Pluto. Scientists have been studying the imagery ever since. New interpretations seek to explain ridge like features at a formation called Sputnik Planitia.


Other News

Small launch vehicle industry entering key period (11/28): NASA’s drive to commercialize Low Earth Orbit activities appear on the cusp of a burst in activity next year as new commercial launch services prepare to debut. They include Virgin Galactic, Vector and Firefly Aerospace. Company executives discussed the New Space commercial landscape this week at the annual Space Commerce Conference and Exposition in Houston.

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