CSExtra – Top Space News for Tuesday, June 9, 2015

June 9th, 2015

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Today’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. NASA’s Low Density Supersonic Decelerator experienced a parachute failure during a second flight test of technologies intended to support future human exploration of Mars. NASA sizes up the realm between the Earth and the moon as a proving ground for future “in space” human habitats. “Dream…,” Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin urges Virginia grade-schoolers. The first U.S. space walker, the late Ed White, was honored at West Point with a piece of the moon.  Glass on Mars may hold life’s secrets. Black holes are not for the faint of heart. NOAA’s DSCOVR space weather satellite arrives at new home. The Planetary Society claims success with novel LightSail-A mission. The U.S., Russia maneuver the six person International Space Station away from a close pass by rocket debris. Retired NASA astronaut Clay Anderson explains NASA’s return on investment. China joins the electric propulsion club. Florida’s Starfighters explains the company’s eagerness to train commercial space passengers from the Kennedy Space Center.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Huge parachute shredded during Mars entry experiment

CBS News via (6/8): In Kauai, NASA’s experimental Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) took flight for a second time from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Monday. After rising to more than 180,000 feet and a velocity four times the speed of sound with the help of a helium balloon and rocket motor, the LDSD’s inflatable heat shield appeared to deploy as designed. However, the large supersonic parachute only partially emerged and was damaged by the strong forces. The latest parachute represented a major modification over the first LDSD test flight of a year ago in which the parachute shredded. The LDSD technologies are considered a key part of increasing the masses of payloads placed on the Martian surface in support of future human missions.

Large parachute fails to inflate in NASA’s second ‘flying saucer’ test flight

Washington Post (6/9): NASA experts will sort through data from Monday’s flight test that was recorded by a black box aboard the test craft. That may lead to changes in the design and deployment of the 100 foot wide supersonic parachute ahead of a previously planned third flight test at the U. S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in the summer of 2016. The article includes video clips of Monday’s test.

Planning the proving ground of cislunar space

The Space Review (6/8): NASA is pointing to the realm between the Earth and the moon as a new proving ground for the hardware and technology that will pave the way to the human exploration of Mars.  In space habitation modules appear to be one of the first components that could be tested. The Space Launch System heavy lift rocket could play a key role in the heavy lifting, and possibly one that saves costs.

Buzz Aldrin to students: You, too, should reach for the moon and beyond

Washington Post (6/8): Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin visited an elementary school in Reston, Va., named in his honor, to mark the school house’s 20th anniversary. “No dream is too high for you,” Aldrin reminded the grade school students as he mingled with them on Monday.

NASA honors America’s first space walker with Moon rock award via (6/8): Ed White, who became the first American to walk in space 50 years ago this month while aboard Gemini IV, has been honored with the Ambassador of Exploration award, which includes a moon rock. White was among three NASA astronauts who perished in the 1967 Apollo 1 fire. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point hosted the June 3 ceremony.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

Glass detected on Mars could hold evidence of life

NBC News (6/8): NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has detected glass deposits created by violent impacts with the surface in several Martian craters. The deposits, as on Earth, may preserve evidence of past life on the red planet, according to Brown University researchers who published their findings in the journal Geology.

Black hole hunters

New York Times (6/8): The Event Horizon Telescope is the largest space observatory ever conceived. And like its name suggests, this network of antennas that stretches from Spain to Hawaii to Chile has an overwhelming goal, gather a picture of a black hole. Sheperd Doeleman, a researcher from MIT and Harvard, leads the quest.

NOAA space weather satellite reaches operational orbit

Space News (6/8): Launched Feb. 11, NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory’s (DSCOVR) mission satellite has reached its operational position in space, the gravitationally stable Earth-Sun Lagrange point 1, officials announced on Monday.  Instrument check outs will follow for the spacecraft assigned to keep an eye on solar activity that could disrupt life on Earth. DSCOVR got its start as a vision of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who proposed an Earth observation mission.

Low Earth Orbit

Solar sail unfurls in space

National Public Radio (6/8): The Planetary Society claims success with efforts to deploy a privately funded solar sail in Earth orbit. The deployment came Sunday, with supporting data making its way to Earth on Monday. The Pasadena, Calif., based nonprofit was decoding pictures of the sail taken by cameras aboard the CubeSat mother ship for presentation later this week. The 344 square foot Mylar sail is a prototype for a propulsion device that could move spacecraft between the planets with energy from the sun. LightSail-A was launched on May 20. The Planetary Society plans the launching of a more capable LightSail in 2016.

Five-minute maneuver allows ISS dodge space debris

TASS, of Russia (6/9): Thrusters on the six person International Space Station came to life for nearly 5 1/2 minutes Monday afternoon to push the orbiting lab clear of a potential close pass from a piece of U.S. rocket debris. The evasive maneuver will not alter plans for three ISS crew members, NASA’s Terry Virts, European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, to descend to Earth early Thursday after 200 days in orbit. The thrust came from a Russian re-supply capsule docked to the station.

‘Thank you NASA!’

The Huffington Post (6/8): Retired NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson expresses gratitude for his three decades at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The space agency represents an investment for Americans, he writes in an op-ed that touches on advances developed through NASA that range from improved health care to power tools.

Electric thruster propels China’s interstellar ambitions

Xinhuanet, of China (6/8): Beijing joins the small circle of nations with visions of electric propulsion, the U.S., Russia, Europe and Japan. It envisions applications for commercial satellites and spacecraft assigned to interplanetary missions.


Space-training company awaits congressional decision

Orlando Sentinel (6/8): Starfighters, a Florida company with plans to train passengers preparing for commercial spaceflight, awaits a change of heart by the FAA. The company plans to use former F-104 fighter jets to prepare prospective passengers for high gravitational forces and aerial maneuvers. The high performance military aircraft are considered experimental by the FAA.

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