In Today’s Deep Space Extra… The re-established White House National Space Council’s first meeting has placed a new priority on re-establishing a human lunar presence.
Human Space Exploration
The Planetary Society (10/5): The first meeting of the newly re-established National Space Council last week left many questions to be answered as its chairman, Vice President Tom Pence, moves forward to shape new strategies for national security and commercial space as well as human exploration. The lunar surface, Pence declared, is the next goal for humans. The development of the Space Launch System and Orion will go on. Will commercial and international partners make the step from a NASA managed lunar orbiting Deep Space Gateway to the moon’s surface? When should the International Space Station be retired? How much emphasis should be placed on planetary science? Perhaps symbolic of the Trump administration’s interest in space, last week’s first meeting of the council seemed to place a new priority on finding the answers.
The Age (10/7): NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, whose 340 day mission to the International Space Station in 2015-16 marked the longest spaceflight ever by an American, offers a frank description of his return to Earth in an excerpt from his soon to published book, Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery. “…if we want to go to Mars, it will be very, very difficult, it will cost a great deal of money and it may likely cost human lives,” writes Kelly. “But I know now that if we decide to do it, we can.” Kelly and his cosmonaut colleague Mikhail Kornienko served as subjects in a long list of experiments intended to reveal more about the physical and mental challenges of future human deep space exploration.
Aerospace Daily & Defense Report (10/6): Working through the Boeing Co., NASA is purchasing three more seats aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft to transport astronauts to the International Space Station and back to Earth, covering crew assignments through the fall of 2019. The purchases were made in response to concerns NASA’s Commercial Crew Program partners, Boeing and SpaceX, may not be ready to inaugurate crew launches by early 2019.
NASA/JPL (10/6): An ancient hot springs environment on Mars may offer clues as to how life arose on Earth. Mars is now cold and dry with little atmosphere. But 3.7 billion years ago conditions may have been different, according to observations from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which suggest a large mineral rich body of water in the Southern Hemisphere with ten times the water in the U.S. Great Lakes.
Space.com (10/6): NASA’s Mars Odyssey is the oldest operating spacecraft in orbit or on the surface of the Red Planet. On September 29, it took on a new assignment, imaging the surface of the Martian moon Phobos in infrared wavelengths for the first time. Phobos has been discussed as a possible staging site for a human mission to the Martian surface, and the IR imagery is revealing information about surface temperatures, chemical composition and sunlight exposure.
New Scientist (10/6): New studies of volcanic glass materials in lunar samples gathered by NASA’s Apollo astronauts suggest the moon had an atmosphere comprised of volcanic gases about 3.5 billion years ago. The gas leaked away over millions of years.
Spaceflightinsider.com (10/8): A delay in the launch of the NASA led INSIGHT lander mission to Mars has opened a second opportunity for enthusiasts to include their names among those that will make the long trek embedded in computer chips. INSIGHT, which will probe subsurface Martian geophysical processes, has been reset for launch in May 2018, with a landing in November 2018. More than 800,000 offered their names for the first launch opportunity, which was delayed to deal with an issue related to a European instrument. Name submissions will be accepted through November 1.
Xinhuanet (10/9): A Chinese Long March2D rocket placed a Venezuelan remote sensing satellite in orbit early Monday for land resource management, environmental protection and disaster monitoring. The launching marked the first for the Long March 2D since December 2016.
Verge (10/6): Tucson, Arizona based World View Enterprises, Inc., carried out the longest flight yet of its Stratollite high altitude balloon, a five day mission that concluded last Friday. The balloon carried Earth observing instruments, solar power and communications gear during the test flight, one the company hopes to turn into operational missions that could last for weeks or months in strategic locations. Passenger missions are planned as well aboard the Voyager version of the balloon.
Florida Today (10/9): The planned launching of a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, early Saturday with a U.S. national security payload was postponed for a third day in a row. The latest delay was blamed on the failure of an S band communications antenna on the rocket, which was to take several days to replace.
Major Space Related Activities for the Week
Spacepolicyonline.com (10/8): NASA’s Lunar Exploration Analysis Group meets in tandem with a Back to the Moon workshop this week in Columbia, Maryland, while the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight gathers in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Two NASA astronauts are to spacewalk on Tuesday to resume repairs to the International Space Station’s Canadian robot arm and upgrade cameras on the outside of the Space Station.
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