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Today’s Deep Space Extra

September 9th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel expresses concern over Artemis leadership gap. Florida’s Space Coast launch facilities escape major damage from Hurricane Dorian. India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission lander goes silent prior to attempted Moon landing. 

Human Space Exploration

Safety panel pleased with Artemis project but concerned about leadership
SpaceNews.com (9/6): NASA’s independent Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel met Friday at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC). During public proceedings, panel members expressed praise for NASA’s overall efforts to achieve a March 26 White House directive to return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers by 2024 and especially the agency’s reaching out to the private sector for guidance and contracts. However, they expressed reservations about the absence of top leadership. Bill Gerstenmaier, the agency’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, was reassigned to an advisory position two months ago and a search for a permanent replacement remains underway.

Spaceport survey finds little damage from Hurricane Dorian
Spaceflightnow.com (9/6): Post hurricane surveys of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station revealed they were spared significant damage as workers returned to their jobs late last week. NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Mobile Launcher (ML) is to return to Launch Complex 39B for further testing on Tuesday. The nearly 40 story tall critical ground system element for the agency’s plan to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024 was retrieved prior to Dorian’s approach with a crawler transporter and placed in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at KSC. Dorian’s approached interrupted checkout activities of the Mobile Launcher (ML) underway since late June.

Unpiloted Soyuz capsule returns to Earth with humanoid robot on board
Space.com (9/7): Russia’s unpiloted test flight of the Soyuz MS-14 to the International Space Station (ISS) concluded Friday with a successful undocking and descent to Earth in south central Kazakhstan. The test included an evaluation of the Soyuz 2a.1 rocket to launch a three seat upgraded Soyuz capsule for the first time and an initial unsuccessful attempt at an automated docking to the Station blamed on a faulty component in the Russian segment’s autonomous docking system. A second attempt at an automated docking at a second Russian docking port on the Station succeeded. The 2a.1 has previously demonstrated the capability to deliver cargo to the Space Station within 3 1/2 hours of launch. This time, the MS-14 carried an experimental humanoid robot to and from the Station for experiments. Regular crewed launches to the space station with the 2a.1 version of the Soyuz are to begin in the spring of 2009, replacing the FG and U versions of the Soyuz.

Space Science

ISRO says Chandrayaan 2 lander Vikram located, attempting contact
Business Standard (9/8): A thermal imager aboard the Chandrayaan-2 lunar polar orbiter has located the Vikram lander, with which communication was lost during the landing attempt at the Moon’s south pole late Friday afternoon, U.S. time, the India Space Research Organization (ISRO) said Sunday. The condition of the spacecraft is not known and efforts to establish contact continue.

A second failed Moon landing
Atlantic (9/7): The India Space Research Organization (ISRO) lost contact late Friday afternoon, U.S. time, with the Chandrayaan-2 Vikram lunar lander as it was attempting a soft landing at the Moon’s south pole. The lander and a small surface rover aboard the spacecraft were 2.1 kilometers, or a little over a mile, in altitude and in the final stages of the 15 minute descent. The actual fate of lander/rover was unclear. The incident serves as a reminder how difficult spaceflight can be. Israel’s privately funded Beresheet lander experienced a similar failure in April. In January, China joined the U.S. and the former Soviet Union as the only nation’s that have succeeded in carrying out a spacecraft soft landing at the Moon.

Only 60% lunar missions in last 6 decades successful, says NASA
NDTV of India (9/7): Sixty one of 109 lunar missions launched from Earth have succeeded, according to NDTV’s fact sheet analysis. The first was the former Soviet Union’s Lunar 1, a flyby mission, in January 1959.

Lunar exploration providing new impetus for space resources legal debate
SpaceNews.com (9/8): A growing interest among international space agencies and commercial interests to explore the polar regions of the Moon to confirm the presence of water ice and perhaps other mineral resources is feeding a debate of resource rights. The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act says the rights belong to the entity that extracts the resources. An international regime is lacking. Lunar water ice could be an important resource for future human space explorers and for the production of liquid hydrogen and oxygen rocket propellants.

Other News

Ready for lift-off? Sir Richard Branson faces crucial vote of confidence in Virgin Galactic
The Telegraph of England (9/8): Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company founded by Richard Branson, recently announced plans to merge with Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH), of New York, an investment vehicle run by the Silicon Valley billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya. If successful, Virgin would become the first publicly-listed space tourism company.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of September 8-14, 2019
Spacepolicyonline.com (9/8): After a summer recess, Congress returns to Washington D.C., this week, with a budget for the 2020 fiscal year that begins October 1 a priority. The U.S. House has passed 10 of 12 appropriations measures, the Senate none. A continuing resolution may emerge. Among the space policy activities planned this week is the annual Wernher Von Braun Memorial Symposium, hosted by the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, with a focus on efforts by NASA to return to the lunar surface with human explorers in 2024. Japan’s eighth Kounotori resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) launches Tuesday on a four day transit. Women of Apollo is the topic of the John H. Glenn Lecture in Space History set for Thursday at the National Air and Space Museum and planned for an 8 p.m., EST, webcast.

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