Today’s Deep Space Extra

July 23rd, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… The world is now two for two in its launch of Mars missions.  Early Thursday, China’s Tianwen-1 launch with its Mars orbiter, lander and rover, two days after India’s launch of the Hope Mars orbiter. Next up, NASA’s Perseverance Mars 2020 rover, due to launch July 30. NASA’s efforts to meet time critical mission objectives in response to workplace restrictions imposed to address the coronavirus pandemic continue.

Human Space Exploration

Why Japan is emerging as NASA’s most important space partner
MIT Technology Review (7/22): NASA is seeking international partners as it pursues an accelerated return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers in 2024. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is quickly emerging as the most significant, bringing four decades of collaboration with NASA, including at the International Space Station (ISS) and its Hayabusa 2 sample return mission to the asteroid Ryugu. At the Moon, Japan has discussed contributions to a NASA led lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway and pressurized lunar rover for astronauts. A dozen Japanese astronauts have flown in space.

Space Science

China’s Mars mission lifts off, aiming to join U.S. in landing on Red Planet
Washington Post (7/23): China on Thursday launched its first mission to attempt to land on Mars, as space exploration becomes a growing battleground in the U.S. China rivalry. The launch squeaks ahead of a planned U.S. mission to Mars next week, with both nations aiming to put rovers on the Red Planet. If both are successful, it will be China’s first rover to touch Martian soil and the first U.S. rover launch in nearly nine years. NASA had planned to launch its new rover, Perseverance, on July 17, but the mission was delayed to July 30, according to the U.S. space agency.

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover passes flight readiness review
NASA (7/22): NASA’s Perseverance Mars 2020 rover on Wednesday cleared its flight readiness review, a critical milestone on its path to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on July 30 at 7:50 a.m., EDT. The launch window closes August 15 and delays during preparation have already pushed plans to launch back from July 17. “This mission is emblematic of our nation’s spirit of meeting problems head-on and finding solutions together,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “The incredible science Perseverance will enable and the bold human missions it will help make possible are going to be inspirations for us all.”

China’s Tianwen-1 Mars rover mission gets a boost from international partners (7/22): China has received help from the French, Argentine and Australian space agencies in its bid to reach Mars with a complex mission, Tianwen-1, that includes an orbiter, lander and rover. Launched early Thursday, Tianwen-1 is to reach the Red Planet in February. The assistance from other countries has come in the form of science instruments, tracking and data relay.

Hayabusa2 to fly on to another asteroid after current mission
The Mainichi of Japan (7/22): Launched in December 2014, Japan’s Hayabusa 2 asteroid sample return mission is on its way back to Earth with samples of the carbon rich asteroid Ryugu. It’s to drop off a sample return canister with surface and subsurface materials into remote Australia on December 6. The spacecraft will then embark to a new asteroid destination but not return to Earth again.

Multi-planet system around sun-like star photographed for 1st time ever (7/22): The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile has imaged for the first time a sun-like star with multiple planets. TYC 8998-760-1, about 300 light years distant and dated at just 17 million years old, hosts a pair of giant planets, each many times larger than Jupiter. Astronomers believe the observation is revealing new data about the early planet forming and evolutionary processes that the solar system experienced.

Organic matter could have delivered Earth’s water
Universe Today (7/22): While comet and asteroid impacts remain strong candidates for the sources of the water on Earth, a new study suggests that organic matter from pre-comet forming processes inside a boundary between Mars and Jupiter could be a source. NASA’s Dawn mission, which visited the asteroid Vesta, provided evidence supporting the prospect.

Other News

NASA still grappling with effects of coronavirus pandemic (7/21): NASA’s efforts to keep the agency’s many worksites safe for employees in response to the coronavirus pandemic and still meet the highest mission priorities continue.  Working with respect for social distancing, NASA and its contract partners managed to launch the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on May 30 with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. They are to return to Earth in early August. NASA has also managed to keep the Perseverance Mars 2020 rover on track for a launch currently planned for July 30 and inside a launch window that extends to August 15. The already delayed James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launch has slipped from March 2021 to October 31, 2021, though NASA believes it has budget reserves to avoid a cost increase.

House passes NDAA, White House threatens veto (7/21): The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with amendments relating to the Space Force and space policy. Senate action awaits, but the White House has announced it intends to veto the House version, which includes provisions that would require the Pentagon to rename military bases named for confederate military leaders. Other objections include provisions that would assign nuclear deterrence and missile defense responsibilities to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy and assign the Missile Defense Agency sole responsibility for developing a sensor network for the detection of hypersonic missiles.

Virgin Orbit identifies cause of engine shutdown on first LauncherOne flight (7/22): Virgin Orbit has identified the breach of a high pressure liquid oxygen feed line as the cause of the May 25 failure of the much anticipated first air launch of the LauncherOne rocket.

Space Force motto goes above but not beyond
Military Times (7/22): The new U.S. Space Force has unveiled its motto, “Semper Supra,” which means “Always Above.”

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