Deep Space Extra for Friday, February 5, 2016

February 5th, 2016

In Today’s Deep Space Extra…U.S. lawmakers urge NASA to secure Journey to Mars plans with more details.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Consensus on the Need for a Human Spaceflight Plan, But Not on the Plan Itself
Spacepolicyonline (2/4): Members of the U.S. House Science space subcommittee agreed with policy experts that NASA needs to provide more details on how it will execute the agency’s human deep exploration plans as the nation prepares to elect a new president and administration. However, they could not agree on goals for interim destinations, the moon, an asteroid or a direct mission to the Martian environs.

NASA Mission: Orion’s Next Step
National Public Radio (2/4): This week, teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center moved forward with tests and the final assembly of the Orion crew capsule that will accompany the first launch of the agency’s new Space Launch System exploration rocket. Exploration Mission-1, planned for late 2018, will send the uncrewed capsule around the moon and back to Earth, setting the stage for EM-2 a future crewed flight of the hardware designed to send human explorers to Mars. “We think we’re making really good progress with Orion,” Bill Hill, NASA’s deputy associated administrator for exploration systems development tells NPR’s Orlando, Fla. affiliate.

Astronaut advocates for lunar mission during Saskatoon stop
Saskatoon Starphoenix, of Canada (2/4): The moon should be humanity’s next destination in space, Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first woman astronaut, said in remarks at the University of Saskatchewan. A lunar destination will help prepare humans for the risks associated with deep space exploration, said Bondar, a neurobiologist and medical doctor.

Space Science

‘S’ in SLS’ could stand for ‘science’ for Exploration Mission 1
Spaceflight Insider (2/4): Thirteen small science and technology demonstration CubeSats will accompany the inaugural launch of NASA’s new Space Launch System exploration rocket, planned for 2018, NASA announced this week. Some of the small satellites will assess space weather, fly by the moon and an asteroid. The SLS’s primary payload is an uncrewed Orion capsule which will loop around the moon and return to Earth as part of a three week test flight that will set the stage for the first flight of Orion with astronauts.

100-Foot Asteroid to Buzz Earth Next Month (2/4): The near Earth asteroid 2013 TX68, about 100 feet long, will approach the Earth on an uncertain course Mar. 5, according to astronomers. The miss distance could be 11,000 miles or 9 million miles. Experts say the uncertainty is based on the short amount of time the asteroid has been tracked. There is no danger of an impact. However, 2013 TX68 will bear watching when it comes close to the Earth again.

The mysterious floating hills of Pluto
Cosmos (2/5): Images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reveals hills of water ice afloat in a sea of frozen nitrogen on distant Pluto. New Horizons sailed past Pluto in July, a planetary exploration first.

Cassini Finds Saturn’s Rings Are Weirdly Thin (2/4): Saturn’s famous rings are leaner than they appear, according to a new study using data gathered by the joint NASA/ European Space Agency Cassini mission. The Cassini spacecraft has been orbiting the giant ringed planet since 2004.

Low Earth orbit

NASA astronaut visits with Irvine workers who make sensors for space travel
Orange County Register (2/4): NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold says thanks to workers at Meggitt Sensing Systems, developers of sensors that monitor harsh environments. ”Two things most kids are excited about are space and dinosaurs,” Arnold said during a visit with workers and their children. “I can’t bring the dinosaurs, but I can bring space to them.”  Arnold plans a return to space, following his 2009 space shuttle flight to the International Space Station.

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