In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Efforts by NASA’s to expedite a return to the lunar surface with human explorers and how best to accomplish the goal continues to stir discussion. Space Symposium, one of the nation’s biggest gatherings on space policy, gets underway in Colorado Springs today.
Human Space Exploration
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Lockheed Martin, NanoRacks, Northrop Grumman
Space.com (4/5): NASA is moving ahead with efforts to develop a human, lunar orbiting Gateway with ground based evaluations of five prototypes that would serve to establish common designs and interfaces for the multiple components. The Gateway is to serve as a “command module” from which astronauts can descend to and ascend from the surface of the Moon after selecting from a greater variety of exploration sites than possible during NASA’s Apollo program.
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
Ars Technica (4/6): Vice President Mike Pence’s directive to NASA that it return human explorers to the Moon by 2024, faces challenge that range from adequate funding and legislative support to rocket and lunar lander technologies. The tight timeline, however, may prove the difference in avoiding similar but abandoned efforts advanced in 1989 and 2004.
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
SpaceNews.com (4/4): A day after Boeing confirmed delays in test flights of its commercial crew vehicle, NASA said that the company’s crewed test flight will get an extended stay at the Station when it does fly. In an April 3 statement, NASA said that the Crew Flight Test of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, expected no sooner than late this year, will be a long-duration flight that could potentially stay at the Station for months. The exact duration of the mission will be determined “at a later date,” the agency said.
Space.com (4/7): Working with the Kagina Corp. and three universities, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is exploring the possibility of robotically establishing a human Moon base, beginning with site preparation and turning to additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, to make use of lunar resources to manufacture structures.
SpaceNews.com (4/7): India’s March 27 anti satellite test prompted objections from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on April 1, followed by a letter to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) that NASA’s participation in a joint human spaceflight working group was being suspended. However, an April 4 letter from the administrator re-instated NASA participation in the working group, according to the report. The test created satellite debris rising higher than the altitude of the six person International Space Station (ISS), which currently houses three NASA astronauts, a Canadian astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts.
Japan News (4/6): Japan’s Hayabusa 2 asteroid sample return mission is slowly returning to its “home position,” about 20 kilometers or about 12 1/2 miles above the asteroid Ryugu, following efforts last week to create a crater exposing subsurface materials by descending to an altitude of 500 meters, or 1,640 feet, and dropping an impactor with an explosive charge. During late April, Hayabusa 2 is to descend again for a close look at the results. Managers will then decide whether to repeat a landing and sample collection effort first executed on February 22. Late this year, Hayabusa 2 is to begin its return to Earth. Samples of surface and subsurface materials could help scientists better understand the role asteroids played in early planet formation and the distribution of water ice and organics, the building blocks of life.
Space.com (4/5): NASA’s Parker Solar Probe soared close to the sun late April 4 as part of a long running mission to study the Sun’s hot corona, the source of the powerful solar wind. A third close approach is planned for September 1, and in all Parker is to make 24 of the close passes over a seven-year mission.
Science News (3/29): Thanks to an international project, the Event Horizon Telescope, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and others plan to unveil new findings about black holes and images during a news conference on Wednesday. Do theories of gravity and general relativity hold up? Sagittarius A, a black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, resides 26,000 light years from Earth. A second focus of the study is M87, a black hole at the center of the neighboring galaxy Virgo A.
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance
SpaceNews.com (4/5): SpaceX has withdrawn its protest of a launch contract NASA awarded to United Launch Alliance (ULA) earlier this year for a planetary science mission. SpaceX withdrew a protest April 4 that it had filed with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) February 11 regarding a NASA launch procurement formally known as RLSP-35. That covered a contract NASA awarded January 31 to ULA for the launch of Lucy, a mission slated for launch in October 2021 to visit several Trojan asteroids in the same orbit around the sun as Jupiter.
PTI of India (4/6): India chose a low altitude target for its March 27 Shakti anti satellite test in order to ensure debris from the impact would descend quickly and burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere, according to a Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) official on Saturday. In the test’s aftermath, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine expressed concern that some of the debris had soared to altitudes matching or exceeding that of the six person International Space Station (ISS) increasing the risk of an impact.
Space.com (4/7): Hera, a future European Space Agency (ESA) mission, may rely on an emerging self-driving car technology to carry out a mission to observe the outcome of a NASA planetary defense mission called DART. DART is to evaluate whether a fast moving impactor could change the course of an asteroid headed toward an impact with the Earth.
Major Space Related Activities for the Week
Spacepolicyonline.com (4/7): Major activities this week include the annual Space Symposium which convenes Monday through Thursday in Colorado Springs, with an impressive lineup of personnel involved in commercial, civil and national security space activities in the U.S. and abroad. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is among them and scheduled to speak Wednesday at 11:45 a.m., EDT. His remarks will be broadcast on NASA TV and NASA/Live (https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive). NASA astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques are to embark on a six to seven hour spacewalk early Monday to continue an external power storage battery upgrade outside the six person International Space Station (ISS) that got underway with spacewalks on March 22 and 29. Yuri’s Night, a global celebration of humanity’s first spaceflight by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961, is slated for Friday. The U.S. House and Senate are in session as well, prior to a two week spring break.
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