CSExtra – Top Space News for Friday, June 19, 2015

June 19th, 2015

Today’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. Terrestrial simulations in the Canadian Arctic suggest that humans on Mars will not contaminate the search for evidence of indigenous life on the red planet. In Florida, beach erosion threatens the launch pads that once launched shuttles and U.S. explorers to the moon. NASA, France and Spain have agreed to further cooperation in the exploration of Mars. Experts suggest Pluto’s moon Charon once hosted an ocean.  Russia makes plans for a robotic mission to the moon’s South Pole. Europe’s Venus Express mission gathers evidence for active volcanoes. Key U.S. agencies are coming together to provide a defense against the impact threat posed by asteroids and comets. Mexico’s first astronaut, Rodolfo Neri Vela, considers a run for his country’s presidency. Israel begins a search for its first female astronaut. Canada’s Urthecast prepares to supply customers with high definition video from the International Space Station. The U S. Missile Defense Agency warns it needs more money to develop a new “kill vehicle” to prevent a foreign missile attack.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Humans can bug-out to Mars without ruining search for life

New Scientist (6/18):  The landings of human pioneers on Mars will not endanger efforts by astrobiologists to determine if Mars hosts life forms of its own, according to experts who participated in simulated human missions to the red planet in the Canadian Arctic.

Erosion threatens iconic NASA launch pads

USA Today (6/18):  Environmental changes could threaten the long established NASA launch pads on the Atlantic beach front of the Kennedy Space Center. Rising sea levels are placing ocean waters ever closer to the pads that launched space shuttles and explorers to the moon. One of the pads is a crucial part of future U.S. human deep space exploration plans. The agency is looking at strategies to mitigate the beach erosion and ocean water intrusion.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

NASA Signs International Agreements for Mars Exploration

Spaceflight Insider (6/18): NASA Administrator Charles Bolden pens agreements with representatives from France and Spain to forge ahead with cooperation in the exploration of Mars. The agreements involve NASA’s future Mars 2020 rover and InSight lander as well as the current Curiosity rover mission.

New Study Suggests Pluto’s Charon May Have Harbored Underground Oceans Long Ago

AmericaSpace (6/18):  NASA’s New Horizons mission spacecraft is speeding towards a highly anticipated flyby of faraway Pluto on July 14. The encounter includes opportunities for close up views of Pluto’s moons. Charon is the largest of the moons, and instruments on board New Horizons will look for confirming evidence that Charon once hosted a liquid ocean.

Russia to Land Space Vessel on Moon’s Polar Region in 2019 – Source

Sputnik International (6/19): Russia is preparing a robotic spacecraft for a landing at the moon’s South Pole in 2019, an official involved in project tells a Paris Air Show audience.

Venus could have active volcanoes, a rarity in the solar system

Washington Post (6/18): Scientists associated with the European Space Agency’s Venus Express mission say there are signs that the cloud covered planet is volcanically active. The belief is based on radar imagery of four “hot spots” on the planet’s surface and temperature changes detected by infrared sensors.

Low Earth Orbit

Agencies Make Plans to Step up Planetary Defense

New York Times (6/18): At midweek, U.S. civilian and military space agencies forged an agreement to deal with threats posed by asteroids and comets on a collision course with the Earth. “The goal is to learn how to better deflect comets and asteroids that might endanger cities and, in the case of very large intruders, the planet as a whole” according to the report.

NASA harnesses space technology to find victims of natural disasters

Fox News (6/17):  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory helps to develop a sensor technology that can spots signs of humans trapped in the rubble of natural disasters. Working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, JPL developed the Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER) technology.

Mexico’s 1st Astronaut Mulls Running for President

Latin American Herald Tribune (6/19): Rodolfo Neri Vela, who became Mexico’s first astronaut in 1985, is considering a run for the country’s presidency in 2018.  Neri Vela was part of a NASA space shuttle crew.

Science minister eyes sending first Israeli female astronaut to space

JNS, of Israel (6/18): Israel’s Science, Technology and Space minister has asked the Israel Space Agency to select a female astronaut. Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, was among the seven astronauts lost aboard NASA’s shuttle Columbia in 2003. The minister has discussed future Israeli space flight possibilities with NASA.

Commercial to Orbit

UrtheCast Releases High-Definition Video From Space Station Camera

Space News (6/18): Canadian based Urthecast offers a preview of the HD video the company can provide customers from its camera perches aboard the International Space Station.


House Mark on Redesigned Kill Vehicle Has MDA Concerned 

Space News (6/18): A high ranking official with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency expresses concern Thursday that the U.S. House is shortchanging a new missile defense kill vehicle in its 2016 budget deliberations. The White House is seeking $278 million, while the House agreed upon $217 million, and the U.S. Senate recommends $298 million. “We are concerned, I’ll be candid with you,” U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Kenneth Todorov, the MDA’s deputy director, told a Wednesday breakfast gathering.