In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Now that Congress has the FY 2021 President’s Budget Request (PBR) for NASA, intended to accelerate work on returning to the surface of the Moon with human explorers in 2024, the space agency and lawmakers must come to terms with the White House request that also proposes significant cuts to national science and other discretionary funding. NASA announces plans to hire more astronauts. SpaceX appears closer to a test launch of the Crew Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS) with astronauts.
Human Space Exploration
Wanted: Moon and Mars explorers. NASA starts the recruiting process for next wave of astronauts
GeekWire.com (2/11): NASA has designated March to receive applications for a new wave of astronaut aspirants. The application process has been shifted to an online process. Though it’s not clear how many NASA will ultimately offer opportunities to undergo basic training in mid-2021, the newcomers will have opportunities to explore the surface of the Moon as well as live work on NASA and or commercial spacecraft in Earth orbit. Then, there is a possibility for exploring Mars.
NASA confirms Crew Dragon almost ready, mostly paperwork left
Ars Technica (2/11): SpaceX’s Crew Dragon could be ready to liftoff with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on a test flight to the International Space Station (ISS) in early May and possibly sooner as part of the final stages of efforts by the company to achieve certification under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The spacecraft itself is expected to arrive at its Kennedy Space Center (KSC) launch site in Florida this month. Still to come are parachute tests and a final analysis of the launch abort test carried out by SpaceX in January. Also NASA is assessing whether plans for a week-long stay at the Space Station by Behnken and Hurley could be extended to provide more crew.
NASA soars and others plummet in Trump’s budget proposal
Scientific American (2/11): U.S. research on artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing would see dramatic boosts in funding for 2021, under a proposed budget released by the White House on 10 February. The budget request issued by President Donald Trump makes cuts across most science agencies for the 2021 fiscal year, which begins on 1 October 2020. Although Congress has repeatedly rebuffed such requests for cuts—and has, in fact, increased science spending in the enacted budgets—the 132-page document from the White House offers a view into the administration’s priorities and ambitions leading up to the November election.
Mysterious ‘fast radio bursts’ from deep space repeat themselves every 16 days
Space.com (2/11): The source of fast radio bursts, discovered in 2007, has been a mystery. Now the mystery has deepened with the discovery of a powerful burst signal that seems to repeat regularly, every 16 days, according to research recently published in the journal Nature.
The greatest challenge for the space community talent
SpaceNews.com (2/10): Despite the technical and political obstacles, a major challenge for advancing a range of commercial opportunities in space is establishing and maintaining a sufficiently skilled workforce. Assessed at more than $400 million in 2018, the global space economy could top $1 trillion in two decades, according to economic forecasters. “Realizing the trillion-dollar space economy hinges on something here on Earth: talent. To be blunt, there is not enough of it,” writes Thomas Zelibor, CEO of the nonprofit Space Foundation.
Former NASA spaceflight chief now consulting with SpaceX
Spaceflightnow.com (2/11): William Gerstenmaier, who departed NASA in Mid-2019 as associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, has signed on as a consultant to SpaceX. “Gerst,” as he is known to associates, had a lengthy and rich history with NASA in human spaceflight. His management experience with the space agency, dating back to 1977, included the assembly of the International Space Station (ISS) and kicking off what later this year will be 20 years of a continuous human presence aboard the orbiting science lab. Currently, SpaceX is working to certify the Crew Dragon for the regularly scheduled transportation of astronauts to and from the ISS, something NASA has not been able to do since the shuttle fleet was retired in 2011.
Exclusive: Strange Russian spacecraft shadowing U.S. spy satellite, General says
Time (2/10): A pair of Russian satellites are tailing a multibillion-dollar U.S. spy satellite hundreds of miles above the Earth’s surface, a top U.S. military commander tells TIME, underscoring a growing threat to America’s dominance in space-based espionage and a potentially costly new chapter in Washington’s decades-long competition with Moscow. Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, commander of the newly minted U.S. Space Force, says the Russian spacecraft began maneuvering toward the American satellite shortly after being launched into orbit in November, at times creeping within 100 miles of it. “We view this behavior as unusual and disturbing,” Raymond says. “It has the potential to create a dangerous situation in space.” Raymond says the U.S. government has expressed concern to Moscow through diplomatic channels.
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