Today’s Deep Space Extra for Friday, February 17, 2017

February 17th, 2017

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Experts favor a return to the moon with human explorers in testimony before a U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on Thursday.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Moon is star of congressional hearing on NASA’s future

USA Today (2/16): The U.S. should return human explorers to the moon’s surface, according to Jim Bridenstine, the Oklahoma congressman often mentioned as the Trump administration’s choice to become NASA administrator. The lawmaker spoke Thursday during a U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on NASA’s future. Others who testified echoed support for a human return to the moon before attempting to explore Mars. They included Thomas Young, a former Lockheed Martin executive, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center director and frequent White House space policy advisor, and Tom Stafford, a former NASA Apollo astronaut and advisor to NASA on the International Space Station.

Trump makes NASA add astronauts to moon mission, could save $10 billion

The Daily Caller (2/16): This week, NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot asked agency experts to assess whether to include astronauts aboard the first test launch and flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy lift rocket and Orion capsule. Such a move, if approved, could save the space agency billions of dollars, according to Robert Zubrin, human Mars exploration enthusiast and author of The Case for Mars. An uncrewed version of the SLS/Orion mission, designated Exploration Mission-1 and planned for late 2018, would send the Orion capsule around the moon and back to Earth for an ocean splashdown and recovery. Exploration Mission-2 planned for 2021-23 would include astronauts for the first time under previous NASA planning.

Space Science

NASA’s Dawn mission finds life’s building blocks on dwarf planet Ceres

Los Angeles Times (2/16): Launched in 2007, NASA’s Dawn mission spacecraft has detected the presence of organics, the carbon-based building blocks of life, on the large main belt asteroid Ceres. Reporting their findings in the journal Science, a team of scientists say the organics originated on Ceres rather than on a comet or another asteroid that impacted Ceres. Ceres is also designated as a dwarf or embryonic planet.

Doomsday asteroid won’t kill us all this month, NASA reassures

Huntsville Times (2/16): NASA scientists dispel internet rumors that the asteroid 2016 WF9 poses an impact threat to the Earth. The more than half-mile-wide space rock’s trajectory is well understood, and the object will come no closer than 32 million miles from the Earth at closest approach on February 25, according to space agency experts.

Scientists need your help to find the mysterious planet they suspect is lurking in our solar system

Mashable (2/16): In recent months, evidence has mounted for the so far unseen presence of a distant solar system planet exerting a subtle, but recognizable gravitational influence. Now, scientists are seeking help from those with computer savvy to help them identify “Planet 9.”

JAXA lunar orbiter confirms Earth’s oxygen lands on moon

Asahi Shimbun (2/16): The Earth’s magnetosphere and solar wind are the mechanisms behind the discovery of oxygen molecules on the lunar surface, according to Japanese scientists. The researchers based their findings on Japan’s Selene lunar orbiter mission.

Low Earth Orbit/ Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

NASA to provide Commercial Crew backup plan by March 13 in response to GAO (2/16): NASA will respond rapidly to findings by the U.S. General Accountability Office that it faces technical and financial obstacles in commercially launching astronauts to the International Space Station aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s crewed Dragon. The U.S. has relied on Russia’s Soyuz for astronaut transportation to and from the space station since NASA’s shuttle retired in 2011. Now paying $82 million to Russia per astronaut launch, NASA must be prepared to deal with likely delays in Starliner and crewed Dragon development. NASA promised a backup plan by mid-March.

SpaceX Dragon delivering the science on CRS-10

Spaceflight Insider (2/16): SpaceX is prepping for a Saturday lift-off of its tenth NASA contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station. Weather permitting, a lift-off at 10:01 a.m., EST, is planned. The launch site is pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, historic in that it was used by NASA’s space shuttle and Apollo programs. The 5,500 cargo delivery includes Raven, a NASA technology initiative that could spur U.S. commercial robotic satellite repair services.

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