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Today’s Deep Space Extra

September 6th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Integration of NASA’s Space Launch System continues as engine section is moved into place. India is poised Friday to join the small circle of nations that have soft landed spacecraft at the Moon. Meanwhile, efforts in the U.S., public and private, to enable a human return to the Moon and one day missions to Mars continue to unfold.  

Human Space Exploration

Engine section for NASA’s SLS rocket moved for final integration
Spacedaily.com (9/5): Technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans moved the engine section for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to another part of the facility on September 3 to prepare it for joining to the rest of the rocket’s core stage. The engine section, which comprises the lowest portion of the 212-foot-tall stage, is the last major component to be horizontally integrated to the core stage.

NASA refines plans for Artemis lunar lander
SpaceNews.com (9/3): NASA has updated a draft solicitation for crewed lunar landers, adjusting details about how it plans to procure landers to meet the agency’s goal of landing humans on the Moon by 2024. NASA published August 30 a second draft of a broad agency announcement for what the agency calls the Human Landing System, which will be used to transport astronauts from the Gateway to the lunar surface and back as part of NASA’s overall Artemis program. The announcement, like the original draft published July 19, is part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program.

The Silicon Valley heavyweights who want to settle the Moon
Bloomberg (9/5): The San Francisco-based nonprofit Open Lunar Foundation is joining a small but growing international community interested in settling the Moon. Open Lunar boasts tech executives and engineers, many of them with previous ties to NASA. “Our highest ambition is catalyzing and enabling a peaceful and cooperative lunar settlement,” said Chelsea Robinson, the director of policy and governance for the organization.

New documents reveal SpaceX’s plans for launching Mars-rocket prototypes from South Texas
Business Insider (9/5): SpaceX envisions its space launch complex near Brownsville in far South Texas as a skunk works for its planned Starship, a two stage heavy lift launch vehicle capable of transporting humans to the Moon and Mars with fully reusable hardware.

Space Science

India looks hopefully to the Moon ahead of Chandrayaan-2 landing
New York Times (9/6): Late Friday afternoon U.S. time, India could join a small circle of countries that have successfully soft landed a spacecraft at the Moon. The robotic Vikram lander and Pragyan rover are to touchdown at the Moon’s south pole, departing their Chandrayaan 2 lunar orbiter between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., EST, for a 30 minute descent.

Here’s where India’s Chandrayaan-2 will land near the Moon’s south pole (and why)
Space.com (9/5): A successful touchdown at the Moon late Friday afternoon, U.S. time, would place India’s Chandrayaan-2 lander further south than any previous lunar mission. India’s Chandrayaan-1, a previous orbiter mission, detected large reserves of ice within permanently shaded regions of south pole craters, a possible resource for future human explorers and a raw material from which liquid oxygen and hydrogen rocket propellants could be extracted.

NASA research gives new insight into how much atmosphere Mars lost
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (9/5): How Mars transitioned from a seemingly warm, wet environment to one that is cold and desert like has puzzled scientists since NASA’s Viking mission landed in the mid 1970’s and even before. Efforts continue to establish how and when a Martian atmosphere was stripped away over time continue. Current NASA studies, based on data revealing oxygen isotope measurements from NASA’s Maven orbiter and Curiosity rover have been inconsistent. Finding an explanation is crucial to determining if Mars was once habitable.

Other News

Inquiry finds Vega failed after violent event during early second stage flight
NASAspaceflight.com (9/5): An independent investigation into the loss of an Arianespace Vega rocket that failed during second stage ignition 130 seconds after liftoff from French Guiana on July 10 concluded the breakup was due to a second stage forward dome structural failure. Vega is a small launch vehicle with a previous record of success. The payload was the Falcon Eye-1, a high resolution Earth imaging satellite for the UAE.

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