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Today’s Deep Space Extra

November 27th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA and the aerospace industry acknowledge a challenge as greater numbers of women emerge eager to participate in the nation’s exploratory pursuits. NASA offers software assurances and shares a small lunar lander concept as it strives to accelerate a human return to the surface of the Moon in 2024. The European Space Agency (ESA) evaluates a role in a planetary defense mission demonstration.  

Human Space Exploration

At NASA, 2019 was the year of the woman, yet women still are a big minority at the space agency
Coalition Members in the News: Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, Lockheed Martin
Washington Post (11/26): Despite some milestones this year, among them the first all-woman spacewalk, NASA and the U.S. aerospace industry have been slow overall to place women on a par with their largely white male counterparts, according to an agency survey and findings by others who follow aerospace closely. Women still struggle to get a foothold in the industry and often find themselves the only women in meetings dominated by men. Or being asked to fetch coffee.

How NASA upended internal processes to prepare for its next lunar mission
Federal Times (11/26): NASA’s Independent Verification and Validation Program has turned to an “agile” software verification process to lower the risks faced by astronauts as they pursue an accelerated human return to the surface of the Moon in 2024 under the Artemis initiative. The program is tasked with ensuring critical software functions of the Orion spacecraft work as intended.

NASA’s second free-flying assistant robot gets to work
Tech Crunch (11/26): The International Space Station (ISS) is crewed by more than astronauts these days – NASA activated a free-floating autonomous robot called ‘Bumble’ earlier this year, and now Bumble has a new companion called Honey. Both are Astrobee robots, cube-like “robotic teammates” for ISS astronauts, which are designed to help with experiments, day-to-day activities and more.

Space Science

NASA shares mid-sized robotic lunar lander concept with industry
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center (11/25): A NASA Marshall Space Flight Center led initiative examines an off the shelf technology approach to a lunar lander, one that could touchdown at one of the Moon’s poles with a rover as part of a 300 kilogram payload. NASA is sharing the concept and its critical systems with the public, which includes the 14 Commercial Lunar Payload Services Partners that have been authorized by NASA to compete for contracts to launch science and technology payloads to the Moon. The basics of the concept lander could be enhanced to meet specific mission requirements.

Will Europe finally get its asteroid-deflection mission off the ground?
Space.com (11/26): Hera is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission that would join with NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test, or DART mission to assess whether an asteroid on a course to impact the Earth could be diverted. ESA’s ministers are to meet in Spain on Wednesday and Thursday to assess agency priorities over the next three years. More than 1,200 scientists and citizens with an understanding of what is at stake are urging the ministers to support Hera as part of the Asteroid Impact Mission. The mission’s target is Didymos a binary asteroid, or a parent asteroid with a moon called Didymoon. After DART strikes Didymoon, Hera is to provide follow up reconnaissance to help provide an assessment of the DART impact strategy.

Will 2020 be the year we find intelligent alien life?
Space.com (11/26): Though an intriguing question: Might proof, even evidence, of intelligent life beyond Earth surface in 2020? it’s one whose answer is likely “no”, though a “yes” cannot be ruled out, experts suggest. However, the discovery of extra solar planets continues to climb, thanks largely to NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). The total now exceeds 4,000, suggesting every star in the Milky Way hosts more than one planet on average.

Other News

Virgin Galactic’s real goal may be point-to-point travel around Earth
Ars Technica (11/26): Long identified with future space tourism, Virgin Galactic’s path forward may instead lead to point to point travel across the globe. Virgin went public a month ago. Despite an opportunity to buy in at a low price, the cost per share has declined. SpaceX founder Elon Musk appears intrigued by a similar rapid global point to point travel opportunity with the company’s reusable Starship.

Ariane 5 rocket launches satellites into orbit for Egypt, Inmarsat
Space.com (11/26): Launching from French Guiana on Tuesday, an Ariane 5 rocket placed a pair of communications satellites into geostationary transfer orbit for Inmarsat and Egypt. It was the 250th launch for Arianespace since 1979. 

ISRO launches Cartosat-3, 13 commercial nano satellites into orbit
The Wire (11/26): An Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle successfully launched the high resolution Cartosat-3 Earth imaging as well as 13 small commercial satellites from the U.S. orbit. 

The girl who dreams to live on Mars
Florida Today (11/26): Alysson Carson is an 18-year-old astrobiology student at Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), with ambitions of becoming an astronaut with a role in the exploration and settlement of Mars. Her inspiration is former NASA astronaut Sandra Magnus, an engineer and materials scientist who launched on three space shuttle missions and served as a deputy chief astronaut. Though 18, Carson has a pilot’s license. She and Magnus met in Louisiana during a science festival named for the late Sally Ride, former NASA astronaut and the first American woman to launch into space.

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