CSExtra – Top Space News for Monday, June 8, 2015

June 8th, 2015

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Today’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. The U.S. House Space Subcommittee gets a new chairman. The second flight test of NASA’s Low Density Supersonic Decelerator, a technology for landing heavy payloads on Mars, moves to Monday. NASA’s Ames Research Center gets a space tech innovator as director. NASA’s Dawn mission spacecraft settles into its lowest orbit yet around the giant asteroid Ceres. Pluto has a planet advocate. A NASA instrument on Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft unravels comet chemistry. NASA’s RoboSimian takes on competitors at robot Olympics. June skies feature Venus, Jupiter and Saturn. European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforreti sets a new space endurance record for women over the weekend. The Planetary Society’s LightSail unfurled Sunday, overcoming one difficulty after another. Russia’s Soyuz 2-1a rocket launches again after April 28 Progress 59 failure. Retired NASA astronaut Clay Anderson explains why he’s the ordinary spaceman. XCOR assembles hangar, gathers workers in Midland, Tex. Major space policy related activities planned for the week ahead.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Babin to take over House Space Subcommittee

Space News (6/5): First term Texas congressman Brian Babin will chair the U.S. House Space Science Subcommittee. The selection of Babin was announced Friday by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. Babin succeeds U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo of Mississippi. “I believe we are on the verge of significant space advancements and I look forward to doing all I can to create an environment for success,” said Babin, whose district includes NASA’s Johnson Space Center.  U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, announced the change.

Mars entry testbed to fly Monday after weather delays (6/7): NASA’s second test launch of the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator slips to Monday due to unfavorable wind conditions in Kauai, home to the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range. This year’s primary window closes June 12. The LDSD is a new technology intended to make it possible to reach the Martian surface with payloads massive enough to support future human exploration, using a large inflatable heat shield and supersonic parachute.

New NASA Ames director shoots for the stars

Mountain View Voice, of California (6/6):  Last month, Dr. Eugene L. Tu took over the reins of NASA’s Ames Research Center. The space agency veteran said his vision is set of human deep space exploration. His priorities for Ames include nurturing its status as an innovation hub, sustaining an aging infrastructure and advancing new public-private partnerships.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

Dawn enters new orbit closer to Ceres (6/7): NASA’s Dawn mission spacecraft has settled into its lowest orbit yet around the large asteroid Ceres. A news series of observations will take place from an altitude of 2,700 miles above Ceres. An explanation for the bright spots observed earlier in the impact craters on the surface remain a mystery.

Why Pluto is a planet, and Eris is too (op-ed) (6/4): The International Astronomical Union was mistaken when it downgraded Pluto’s planet status, writes Tim DeBenedictis, the creator of astronomy software and lead developer of the SkySafari line of iOS and Android apps at Simulation Curriculum. And he would another body to the solar system’s lineup of planets.

Alice in cometland: NASA spectrograph on Rosetta spacecraft makes atmospheric discovery

Spaceflight Insider (6/6): The instrument called ALICE, part of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft mission to the comet 67P/ChuryumovGerasimenko, is deciphering the processes by which sun light breaks up water in the comet’s coma. “It shows us the value of going to comets to observe them up close, since this discovery simply could not have been made from Earth or Earth orbit with any existing or planned observatory,” said ALICE scientist Alan Stern. “And, it is fundamentally transforming our knowledge of comets.”

Great read at DARPA challenge, rescue robots show future of disaster relief

Los Angeles Times (6/8): The Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s four legged RoboSimian has entered the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s robot competition, a global Olympics for 24 mechanical contestants.  JPL’s robot is designed to map terrain up close in three dimensions. DARPA’s interest is in developing a new generation of robots that could help out in Earthquakes and other disasters by turning knobs, walking up steps, even driving a car.

Venus, Jupiter and Saturn (oh, my!) The brightest planets of June (6/5): Saturn, Venus and Jupiter are among the bright spots in the night sky as summer arrives in the Northern Hemisphere.

Low Earth Orbit

Italian astronaut on Space Station sets new mission duration record by a woman (6/6): European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, one of six men and women living aboard the International Space Station, set a new world’s record for continuous spaceflight by a woman over the weekend, as she surpassed the 195 day mark established by NASA’s Suni Williams in 2006-07, while serving aboard the International Space Station. Cristoforetti, NASA’s Terry Virts and Russia’s Anton Shkaplerov were to leave the six person space station for Earth on May 12-13. However, their return was delayed by the failed April 28 launching of Russia’s Progress 59 resupply mission. Cristoforetti and her colleagues are now scheduled to leave the station for Earth on Thursday, a few hours short of 200 days.

After silences and setbacks, the LightSail spacecraft is revived, deploying its solar sail

New York Times (6/8): After a series of setbacks including losses of communications since its May 20 lift off, the Planetary Society’s LightSail-A mission spacecraft unfurled a large Mylar solar sail on Sunday. Mission planners hope to retrieve images of the milestone from the privately financed spacecraft’s cameras on Monday. Solar sailing represents a potential propulsion source for spacecraft moving between planets. A high orbit test is planned in 2016.

Soyuz rocket returns to flight with military launch (6/5): On Friday, Russia marked the launch of its first Soyuz 2-1a rocked since the failed April 28 launching of the Progress 59 resupply mission to the International Space Station with the same three stage rocket. Friday’s payload was military. A Russian State Commission blamed the Progress failure on a design issue between the Soyuz 2-1a third stage and the resupply capsule.

Clayton Anderson shares his journey to space

Lincoln Journal Star, of Nebraska (6/7): Retired NASA astronaut Clay Anderson, a Nebraska native, openly details how he accomplished his boyhood dreams of flying in space in his new book, The Ordinary Spaceman.  He applied to NASA’s astronaut corps 15 times, a record. His 167 days in space included 152 days aboard the International Space Station.


Space companies making progress in move to Midland

Midland Reporter Telegram (6/7): XCOR begins to assemble workers in Midland, Tex., as the construction of the Mojave, Calif., company’s new primary hangar nears the end of construction at the Midland International Air & Space Port. XCOR plans to fly the Lynx suborbital passenger space plane from the West Texas site.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of June 8-12, 2015 (6/7): The U.S. House and Senate are in session this week. Space policy gatherings are planned in the U.S. and Europe. Three U.S., European and Russian astronauts are set to depart the International Space Station early Thursday after 200 days in orbit.

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