Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 17th, 2017

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Many of the world’s space agencies are drawn to the lunar surface as the next destination for human exploration.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Space agency heads see the moon on the path to Mars (4/16): As a destination beyond the International Space Station, the Earth’s moon offers a place to gain experience and possibly obtain resources for the future human exploration of Mars and other deep space destinations, according to representatives from many of the world’s space agencies gathered for the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs earlier this month. While NASA is more interested in a lunar-orbiting Deep Space Gateway, other nations are intrigued by the lunar surface. NASA, however, has not ruled out a lunar surface collaboration.

NASA inspector general foresees additional SLS/Orion delays

Space News (4/13): A nine month audit from NASA’s inspector general warns of pending delays in the first combined test flights of NASA Space Launch System and Orion crew capsule, as well as a need for more detailed plans to support the human exploration of Mars. Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the first test flight, currently uncrewed, is planned for late 2018. EM-2, the first with crew, is planned for 2021-23. However, NASA is studying the possibility of including astronauts on EM-1, which would send them around the moon and back to Earth. The IG raised concerns that technical challenges are eroding schedule reserve for both the flight hardware and new ground systems to support the launches. The IG also expressed concerns that another extension of International Space Station operations, one reaching beyond the current 2024 deadline, will require resources that could be assigned to human deep space exploration.

Orion EFT-1 flown spacecraft joins display in ‘NASA Now’ exhibit (4/13): NASA’s Orion capsule launched its first uncrewed test flight in December 2014, Exploration Flight Test-1. The Lockheed Martin developed spacecraft circled the Earth twice and re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere for an ocean splashdown. The capsule is now on public display at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center on Florida’s space coast.


Space Science

Evidence mounts for hydrothermal vents on Enceladus, plumes on Europa (4/14): Findings from Cassini, the NASA controlled spacecraft orbiting Saturn, and the Hubble Space Telescope add to evidence of hydrothermal activity at Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, and Europa, the ocean moon around Jupiter. Sprays of water emerging from cracks in the icy crust of both moons have been observed. Experts believe the same kind of thermal vents like those discovered in the ocean floor of the Earth may be present. The two moons may have conditions suitable for biological activity.

Astronaut: NASA discovery sparks my dream of intelligent life beyond Earth

CNN (4/16): Retired NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao finds discoveries suggesting Enceladus and Europa, the ocean moons of Saturn and Jupiter, may have conditions suitable for microbial life enlightening. But the chemical engineer notes our quest for intelligent life, though it may be out there, will be difficult because of the universe’s vast distances.

Black hole imaged for first time by event horizon

Universe Today (4/15): A global observatory network, known collectively as the Event Horizon Telescope, has scored a first by imaging the event horizon around the super massive black hole, Sag. A, at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

Lander designed for Titan’s methane seas tests tech on Chilean lake (4/14): Supporters of a planetary science mission to Saturn’s moon Titan, a moon with lakes of liquid methane and ethane, test features of a floating spacecraft on the lakes of Chile. Such a mission remains under study, through it has not been selected by NASA for development.


Low Earth Orbit

Cygnus ship sending abundance of science to International Space Station (4/15): Orbital ATK’s seventh NASA contracted re-supply mission to the International Space Station is set for lift-off on Tuesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Loaded with more than 7,600 pounds of supplies and science experiments, the launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 is scheduled for 11:11 a.m., EDT, setting up an arrival at the six-person orbiting lab early Saturday.

Russia to expand cooperation with Kazakhstan over Baikonur space site

TASS of Russia (4/14): Russia intends to continue use of Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome as a launch site for launches of International Space Station crews and commercial satellites, according to President Vladimir Putin.

In reversal, Trump names pick to reshape Export-Import Bank, not end it

New York Times (4/14): President Trump offered support for the Export Import Bank last week with two nominations to its board. The bank helps to finance the export of U.S. goods, including aerospace products. The board’s future has been uncertain because of legislative division.


Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of April 17-22, 2017 (4/16): Activities this week include Orbital ATK’s scheduled launch of the company’s seventh NASA contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station. NASA astronaut Jack Fischer and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin are scheduled for a six hour launch to docking with the Space Station early Thursday. The U.S. House and Senate are in recess this week.


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