Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 13th, 2017

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s first Mission Control room in Houston, the nerve center for the Apollo 11 moon landing, is set for restoration.

Human Deep Space Exploration

On a mission: Restoration to return NASA Mission Control room to Apollo glory (4/12): Mission Operations Control Room 2 (MOCR 2), which supported NASA’s Gemini, Apollo and early space shuttle missions, is in line for a $5 million restoration. On the National Register of Historic Places since 1985, MOCR 2 supported its final mission, the STS-53 space shuttle mission, in late 1992. The control room that supports the Apollo 8 mission that took the first astronauts beyond low Earth orbit, the Apollo 11 first human moon landing and the dramatic Apollo 13 return to Earth is expected to become even more of a draw for the young and old alike who visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center, home to Mission Control.

On Cosmonautics Day, Russia laments state of space program (4/12): Wednesday marked Cosmonautics Day in Russia, the anniversary of the first human spaceflight by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who lifted off on April 12, 1961. Celebration was difficult for many, as Russia’s space program has suffered under sanctions, low budget, technical issues confronting the Soyuz and Proton rockets and corruption. However, there is still enthusiasm for future human lunar missions using Russia new Angara family of rockets and the Federation spacecraft.


Space Science

NASA to reveal new discoveries in news conference on oceans beyond Earth

NASA (4/10): NASA will discuss new results about ocean worlds in our solar system from the agency’s Cassini spacecraft and the Hubble Space Telescope during a news briefing 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, April 13. The event, to be held at the James Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters in Washington, will include remote participation from experts across the country.

The briefing will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

These new discoveries will help inform future ocean world exploration — including NASA’s upcoming Europa Clipper mission planned for launch in the 2020s — and the broader search for life beyond Earth.

What do the stars hold for the Trump administration? Here’s how NASA’s mission could change

PBS News Hour (4/12): One future destination could be Europa, the ice and ocean covered moon of Jupiter. It’s a destination that U.S. Representative John Culberson, chair of the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, believes deserves a lander as well as an orbiter. NASA funding should be increased, according to the Texas lawmaker.

France, Japan team up to explore Mars’ moons

Air and Cosmos International (4/12): Representatives of the French and Japanese space agencies have agreed to cooperate on a robotic sample return mission to the Martian moon. The plan calls for a mission launch in 2024.

Master of Mars

Air and Space Magazine (4/11): Peter Theisinger is the 2017 recipient of the National Air and Space Museum Lifetime Achievement Trophy, for his work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on planetary science missions, including the Curiosity rover on Mars. His personal choice of focus for future planetary science missions are the icy moons of the outer solar system.


Low Earth Orbit

Peggy Whitson nears, but downplays, space record

CBS News (4/12): Soon to set a new U.S. record for time accumulated in space over a career, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson looks forward to the day when spaceflight records set by women aren’t a topic of interest. Whitson, now on her third long duration mission to the International Space Station, will break the current U.S. career record, 534 days, for men and women on April 24. She already holds the world’s record for most time spent in space by a woman over a career.

China’s highest-capacity communications satellite launched into orbit (4/12): China’s Shijian 13 communications satellite, which launched Wednesday, will support Internet connectivity to remote parts of China as well as air and rail passengers. The Long March 3B rocket carrying the satellite lifted off at 7:04 a.m., EDT, from the Xichang space center.

Axiom aims to build world’s first commercial space station (4/11): Based in Houston, Axiom envisions a commercial successor to the International Space Station (ISS), perhaps launching its first module in 2021 to a temporary home on the ISS. If NASA and its partners suspend ISS activities in 2024, as currently planned, Axiom would undock its modules from the Station to carry on with its commercial venture.

Lockheed, Aerojet bet on 3-D printing for manufacturing

Space News (4/12): Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne are incorporating additive manufacturing, informally known as 3-D printing, into their satellite production processes. The step has the potential to reduce time and cost while adding more flexibility to the assembly of hardware. The strides were a topic at the recent 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

RD-180 ban thrusts Russian manufacturer into uncertain future

Defense News (4/11): Russian aerospace manufacturer Energomash may be facing a financial challenge with U.S. sanctions banning imports of the RD-180 rocket engine that powers the first stage of the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5. ULA will turn to Aerojet Rocketdyne or Blue Origin for a domestic alternative. Russia, itself, may look for a successor to production of the RD-180 as well.


Space Policy

G-7 Foreign Ministers call for safe, secure, sustainable space environment

Space Policy Online (4/12): The foreign ministers of the G-7 countries issued a joint communique yesterday in which they recognized the importance of space activities and called for a safe, secure, sustainable and stable space environment, increased transparency, and strengthened norms of responsible behavior. At the same time, the G-7 Nonproliferation Directors Group issued a statement on non-proliferation and disarmament that includes four paragraphs about space that goes further, urging, for example, that countries refrain from destruction of space objects — intentionally or unintentionally. The G-7 is an informal group of industrialized countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — that meets annually.

Upheaval in space access beginning now

Aviation Week (4/13): Pitches, press conferences and panel presentations at the annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs heralded a dramatic shift in launch hardware, as the spacefaring nations of the world prepare new rockets for peaceful and not-so-peaceful access to orbit and beyond. The Pentagon’s deep pockets are fueling a stiff competition for the U.S. national security launch business. (Paywall article)

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