In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Approaching anniversaries of NASA’s Apollo missions to the Moon serve to also as a reminder of the benefits that followed. NASA’s Mars InSight operations follow careful rehearsals on Earth. Concerns of a budget impasse and government shutdown appear to ease some.
Human Space Exploration
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (12/18): During late 1968, NASA’s leadership turned an orbital test flight of the Apollo capsule’s atmospheric re-entry systems into a mission around the Moon and back with astronauts Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and Bill Anders. Their December 21 launch inserted the three astronauts into lunar orbit over Christmas Eve and Christmas, offering the nation much needed inspiration and helping to set the stage for the Apollo moon landing in July 1969. NASA/Goddard offers the first of a five part historical perspective.
SpaceNews.com (12/17): With the New Year, many will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. The first mission by human explorers to the surface of another planetary object, the Moon, unfolded in July 1969. In an op-ed, U.S. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Thomas Donohue notes rise and rapid growth of a Commercial Space Industry that followed, one that was valued at $385 billion in 2017 and is forecast to reach $1.5 trillion by 2040. Apollo 11’s “one small step” has meant much for the nation and the world over, whether its jobs, improved global communications and weather forecasting, more timely tracking of cargo shipments and package deliveries, or easing car travel with GPS.
BBC News (12/18): The American space agency’s New Horizons probe remains on course for its daring flyby of Ultima Thule. When the mission sweeps past the 30km wide object on New Year’s Day, it will be making the most distant ever visit to a Solar System body – at some 6.5 billion km from Earth. Mission planners decided at the weekend to forego a possible trajectory change.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (12/18): On. November 26, NASA’s Mars InSight lander successfully touched down on Mars to study the planet’s interior with a suite of instruments and a robot arm to deploy some of the sensors to the surface and below. However, before anything happens on the Red Planet, engineers at JPL rehearse the operations with a replica of the lander on the grounds of a lab that resembles a Martian rock garden.
Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance
Ars Technica (12/18): As the sun rose, Tuesday held the prospect for four rockets launches by Blue Origin, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance (ULA) and the Arianespace across the U.S. and in French Guiana. All were scrubbed because of weather or ground equipment issues. However, all were reset for Wednesday when they will be joined by yet a fifth rocket launch prospect, India’s launch of a military communications satellite.
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman
SpaceNews.com (12/18): Sierra Nevada Corp., announced Tuesday that it has been cleared to begin production of the winged spacecraft that is to begin a new phase of NASA contracted cargo missions to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Sierra Nevada was one of three contractors selected by NASA for the missions in early 2016. The others were incumbents Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems and SpaceX.
Orlando Sentinel (12/18): During a visit to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Tuesday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence outlined the administration’s plans for a U.S. Space Command, whose mission is to fend off threats to U.S. space assets from rival nations. “It will develop the space doctrine tactics, techniques and procedures that will enable our war fighters to defend our nation in this new era,” said Pence in remarks that followed the launch scrub of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the first in a new generation of Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system spacecraft. Within days, President Trump also plans to establish a U.S. Space Force as a sixth branch of the U.S. military, said Pence. The GPS launch was re-scheduled for Wednesday from Kennedy at 9:07 a.m., EST.
Washington Post (12/18): Despite doubts that lawmakers will come to a U.S. budget agreement for a range of civilian agencies including NASA and NOAA ahead of a Friday midnight deadline, President Trump appeared Tuesday to have backed off a demand for $5 billion for the construction of a U.S. southern border wall. And he proclaimed through his press officer that he does not want a budget shutdown. It appears more likely the House, Senate and President will extend the current budget continuing resolution beyond the Friday midnight deadline and into early 2019 after newly elected members of Congress have been sworn in.
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