Today’s DeepSpace Extra

October 11th, 2017

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Last week’s meeting of the newly re-established White House National Space Council continues to gather attention over Vice President Mike Pence’s call for a U.S. led effort to return to the moon with human explorers.

Human Space Flight

The final frontier is reachable

Houston Chronicle (10/10): Vice President Mike Pence offered a JFK moment last week, when chairing the first meeting of the newly re-established White House National Space Council outside Washington he called for a return to the moon by U.S. astronauts, according to an editorial that recalls Kennedy’s 1962 “We choose to go to the moon” speech at Rice University in Houston. “Now the White House needs to get specific, and Congress needs to open its check book,” according to the editorial. A return to the moon will pre-stage human missions to Mars and other deep space destinations, Pence said.

Op-ed | Building on a successful record in space to meet the challenges ahead

Coalition Member in the News (United Launch Alliance)

Space News (10/10): In an op-ed, Tory Bruno, United Launch Alliance (ULA) president and CEO, challenges claims the U.S. will not be able to establish an all domestic rocket equivalent to the company’s Atlas 5 by 2022, a deadline imposed by Congress. ULA is working with two potential replacements for Russian imports of the RD-180 rocket engine that powers the first stage of the Atlas 5, a launch vehicle for NASA as well as national security payloads. ULA has named its new equivalent to the Atlas 5, the Vulcan.

Boldly go: Joint Mars mission could be Donald Trump’s legacy

Boston Globe (10/11): In an editorial, the Globe calls on the Trump administration to make the human exploration of Mars an international undertaking and urges the participation of China. The move would not only share the cost and glory but help to corner a North Korean threat, according to the Globe editorial.

Citing safety, NASA panel advises building a new, costly mobile launcher

Ars Technica (10/10): In a meeting earlier this month, NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) voiced the need for a second Mobile Launch Platform (MLP) for the family of Space Launch System (SLS) rockets the agency is developing to launch Orion crews on deep space missions. Upgrades to the SLS upper stage for the second launch, the first with astronauts aboard an Orion capsule, will require lengthy modifications to the first MLP. Better to begin the assembly of a second MLP, according to the ASAP. Planning dates for both launches are being assessed.

Astronauts stage second spacewalk in five days (10/10): NASA astronauts Randy Bresnik and Mark Vande Hei on Tuesday resumed the repair and maintenance activities outside the International Space Station they initiated on October 5, among them restoring the orbiting lab’s 58-foot-long Canadian robot arm to sustained, regular operations. The space walkers lubed the mechanical hand, or latching end effector, installed on the end of the robot arm last week and changed out degraded external cameras.


Space Science

Plutonium supply for NASA missions faces long-term challenges

Space News (10/10): The Government Accountability Office has raised concerns that long term supplies of radioactive plutonium, a power source for planetary science missions to destinations where sunlight is sparse or nonexistent, could be jeopardized. The supplier, the U.S. Department of Energy, faces challenges in establishing a workforce, scaling up chemical processes and ensuring reactor availability to sustain supplies beyond the mid-2020s, according to an October 4 GAO report and testimony presented before the U.S. House Space Subcommittee.


Other News

Pence lauds commercial space innovation during tour of Mojave Air and Space Port (10/10): As part of a California fundraising swing, Vice President Mike Pence toured the Mojave Air and Space Port and two of its commercial tenants, Virgin Galactic and Stratolaunch Systems, with a small congressional contingent on Tuesday. “Mojave is very much a part of the infrastructure of American space exploration,” said Pence, whose agenda as chair of the recently re-established White House National Space Council includes greater commercial sector involvement in space exploration.

‘Destination Moon’ traveling exhibit marks return to Houston for Apollo 11 spacecraft (10/9): The Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit, Destination Moon: the Apollo 11 Mission, has made its way to Space Center Houston, adjacent to NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The capsule, Columbia, which launched Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to moon in July 1969 for the historic first landing by Armstrong and Aldrin will go on public display this Saturday through March 18. It will join its Apollo 17 counterpart, America, also housed by Space Center Houston, Johnson’s official visitor’s center.

Asteroid to buzz Earth this week (10/10): Somewhere between 30 and 90 feet wide, the asteroid 2012 TC4 is to fly close by the Earth on Thursday, through there is no threat of an impact like that of a comparably sized and undetected meteor over Chelyabinsk, Russia early on February 15, 2013. The pass will be closely monitored with telescopes globally and some aspects of NASA’s planetary defense will use the pass as an opportunity for an exercise.

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