Today’s Deep Space Extra, Tuesday, September 15, 2015

September 15th, 2015

Today’s (Tuesday) space news scan offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. Reaching Mars could help to solve pressing issues at home. Space likely to figure in U.S. presidential decision — quietly, if not as a publicized issue. The Martian star Matt Damon urges more human space exploration. NASA’s Dawn mission bears down on Ceres’ bright spots. Jupiter’s moons: numerous and diverse. U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko reach halfway point in year-long stay aboard the International Space Station. Regional concerns grow over planned North Korean rocket launch. Might robots operate a future Earth-orbiting satellite depot? Large satellite fleet operators sense concerns over “over supply,” lower stock prices. The latest chapter in NASA’s bid to nurture U.S. commercial crew space transportation services marks its first anniversary this week faced with questions about its financial future. Russia’s Proton orbits a communication satellite.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Mars Nation
The Space Review (9/14): If humans are to contend with future challenges, from growing populations to a changing climate, the exploration of Mars provides a worthy proving ground, writes Frank Stratford, founder of MarsDrive. “Mars will lay the foundations for a new, enlightened and pragmatic society. Do we need this? Yes. And nothing works better than a real demonstration,” he notes in an essay.

Space Has Its Place in U.S. Presidential Race
Space News (9/14): Space exploration seems perennially overlooked as an issue in U.S. presidential contests, writes Michael Listner, a space law expert, in an op-ed. It is doubtful space policy will generally be a hot-button issue during debates or speeches by candidates, he writes. However, Listner suggests this year could be different among voters attuned to the rise of commercial space industries and spending cuts for government programs.

‘The Martian’ star Matt Damon: We need to ‘double down’ on space exploration
Fox News (9/14): From the Toronto Film Festival, where The Martian is screening, star Matt Damon urges more emphasis on human space exploration. “I think we need to double down and, you know, it’s very important that we get some of us off of planet Earth so that we’re not one extinction level event away from just the obliteration of the human species, the disappearance of the human species,” said Damon, who plays an astronaut stranded on Mars in the film slated to open in theaters Oct. 2.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

Ceres’s Bright Spots of Mystery
New York Times (9/14): Fresh photos from NASA’s Dawn mission to the giant asteroid Ceres add new mystery to bright spots on the dwarf planet’s cratered surface. Experts await further investigation, while speculation points to the possibility they are comprised of ice or salt from water deposits.

What Are The Moons of Jupiter?
Universe Today (9/14): Large Jupiter hosts 67 moons and counting. These moons are as diverse as they are numerous.

Low Earth Orbit

Kelly, Kornienko halfway through year-long ISS flight
CBS News (9/14): U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly reaches the mid-point of a near year-long mission to the International Space Station on Tuesday. On the eve of the milestone, Kelly, twin brother Mark and others from NASA marked the occasion with appearances in Washington before the National Press Club. “I feel pretty good overall,” said Kelly, who confided he misses the opportunity to just open the door and go outside.

NASA uses twins to study perils of Mars trip
USA Today (9/14): U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly’s one-year stay aboard the International Space Station may reveal to experts new physical and psychological challenges associated with future human missions of deep space exploration. Kelly’s twin, Mark, a retired NASA astronaut, is serving as a ground-based control subject. Scott is due to return to Earth in early March. Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko is participating in the one-year study while aboard the space station as well.

North Korea Plans Rocket Launch That Could Lead to Missile
New York Times (9/14): North Korea announces plans for a military satellite launch, perhaps an Earth observing spacecraft, on or around Oct. 10, the 70th anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). The launch would violate U.N. Security Council sanctions against tests of ballistic missile technology. North Korea claims its work is linked to legitimate efforts to place satellites in orbit.

China urges restraint over N. Korea’s possible rocket launch
Yonhap News, of South Korea (9/15): China urges restraint as North Korea prepares for a rocket launch — restraint against actions that would elevate tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

US Military Foresees Robot-Run ‘Transportation Hub’ in Space (9/14): The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency foresees the day when a robotic space depot in geosynchronous Earth orbit tackles the assembly, repair and refueling of satellites. Radiation levels so far from the protection of the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere are too high for humans. Pam Melroy, a former NASA astronaut and current DARPA deputy director, outlined the concept before a “Wait, What? A Future Technology Forum” in St. Louis on Sept. 10.

Commercial to Orbit

Investors Grow Bearish on Fixed Satellite Services
Space News (9/14): Large satellite fleet operators face concerns over “over supply” and strides made by newer high throughput satellites. Concerns expressed during the World Satellite Business Week gathering in Europe are supported by lower stock prices.

A one-year recap of CCtCap
The Space Review (9/14): A year ago this week, NASA awarded a pair of Commercial Crew Transportation Capability, or CCtCap, contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to follow through with the development of privately operated spacecraft capable of transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station, starting in 2017. The agreements valued at $6.8 billion in total, however, face Congressional funding challenges that appear to loom larger than the technical hurdles, writes TSR editor Jeff Foust.

Proton rocket takes off with Express AM8 communications bird (9/14): A Proton rocket placed a Russian communications satellite in orbit Monday after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The liftoff of the Express AM8 satellite further solidified a comeback for the recently troubled Russian Proton rocket.

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