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Today’s Deep Space Extra

July 12th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Top House space committee leaders raise questions about removal of NASA human space exploration leadership.  NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks about his decision to replace Human Exploration and Operations Directorate leadership.  The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Hayabusa2 spacecraft executes 2nd landing on asteroid Ryugu.

Human Space Exploration

NASA shakes up exploration leadership
SpaceNews.com (7/11): A shakeup among the leadership of NASA’s Human Exploration Operations Directorate was unexpected among those within and outside the agency. But it appears to be linked to concerns over the pace of Artemis, the White House pledge made in late March to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024. Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, was reassigned late Wednesday as special assistant to NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard. Gerstenmaier’s deputy Bill Hill was reassigned as a special advisor to NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk. Ken Bowersox, a former NASA astronaut will take Gerstenmaier’s post on an acting basis. Tom Whitmeyer will take Hill’s old post, also on an acting basis.

Top House Committee Democrats seek details of sudden dismissal of Gerstenmaier and Hill
Spacepolicyonline.com (7/12): U.S. Rep Eddie Bernice Johnson, chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, chair of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, expressed surprise at NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine’s decision to replace the agency’s top human space exploration leadership and have asked for more information. One of their concerns is that changes may be coming to NASA’s accelerated effort to return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers by 2024, known as Artemis.

Exclusive: NASA administrator explains decision to replace head of human spaceflight programs
Fox News (7/11): Bill Gerstenmaier’s long tenure at NASA, 42 years and most recently as Associate Administrator of Human Exploration and Space Operations, was a factor in his decision to make a change, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tells Fox News in an exclusive interview. “I don’t think there’s anything that he was not doing. I just think it’s time for new leadership,” said Bridenstine, a former congressman. “But sometimes we need to remember, he started working at NASA when I was 2 years old, and there comes a time in every career when it’s time to move on.” Gerstenmaier and his top deputy, Bill Hill, have been moved to special adviser status within the agency. A nationwide search is underway for replacements from within or outside the agency. Ken Bowersox, a former NASA astronaut, holds the associate administrator post for now on an acting basis.

Bridenstine opens search for Gerstenmaier, Hill successors
Spacepolicyonline.com (7/11): NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced a nationwide search to fill three key positions within the agency’s Human Exploration and Operations directorate on Thursday, a day after reassigning its top leadership, Bill Gerstenmaier and Bill Hill, to special adviser status. Once selected the new leadership’s first task will be to reassess the cost and schedule of the Space Launch System (SLS), Orion and Commercial Crew Program — each confronted by lagging cost and technical challenges– and other key programs. In addition to a new associate administrator, Bridenstine is seeking a new deputies for exploration systems and Moon and Mars development.

Exclusive: NASA administrator explains decision to replace head of human spaceflight programs
Fox News (7/11): Bill Gerstenmaier’s long tenure at NASA, 42 years and most recently as Associate Administrator of Human Exploration and Space Operations, was a factor in his decision to make a change, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tells Fox News in an exclusive interview. “I don’t think there’s anything that he was not doing. I just think it’s time for new leadership,” said Bridenstine, a former congressman. “But sometimes we need to remember, he started working at NASA when I was 2 years old, and there comes a time in every career when it’s time to move on.” Gerstenmaier and his top deputy, Bill Hill, have been moved to special adviser status within the agency. A nationwide search is underway for replacements from within or outside the agency. Ken Bowersox, a former NASA astronaut, holds the associate administrator post for now on an acting basis.

Space Science

Touchdown! Incredible photos show 2nd asteroid landing by Japan’s Hayabusa2
Space.com (7/11): The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has released images of the Hayabusa 2 asteroid sample return mission spacecraft at is landed July 11, Japan Standard Time, on the distant asteroid Ryugu. The spacecraft is to depart the asteroid late this year for Earth. Upon its return in late 2020, it is to release samples from landings on February 22 and July 11 in a container over remote Australia for recovery.

Japanese spacecraft snags second sample from asteroid
Spaceflightnow.com (7/11): The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Thursday celebrated the success of its Hayabusa 2 mission spacecraft’s efforts to gather a second sample of the distant asteroid Ryugu for return to Earth in late 2020. The probe touched down on the 1 kilometer wide asteroid late Wednesday, U. S. time, to gather subsurface material exposed with the drop of an explosive impactor in early April. The material collected this week joins a surface sample gathered with a Feb. 22 landing. Hayabusa 2 is to depart Ryugu for Earth late this year.

Hubble uncovers black hole that shouldn’t exist
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (7/11): Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have discovered a thin disk of material swirling around a super massive black hole, NGC 3147, about 130 million light years from Earth. The veil of material should not be so close to the black hole’s intense gravity, perhaps challenging Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.

Other News

What will life on Mars be like?
Slate (7/10): Mars Society president and author Robert Zubrin envisions life on Mars, as first an episode of exploration, followed by the establishment of a base. The U.S., Europe and Japan are likely to be among the first at Mars, followed by other nations and the commercial sector, he forecasts. Zubrin predicts that as the bases expand, they will develop cultures some based on sound concepts, others not so much. “Ultimately, Mars will progress the most if there’s a number of Mars colonies, making their own inventions, each experimenting with new ways of doing things,” he said.

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