Today’s Deep Space Extra

October 8th, 2021

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… New National Academies report evaluates planetary protection approach. The DART mission spacecraft heads to Vandenberg Space Force Base for its November launch.


Space Science

Not all Mars spacecraft might need such deep cleaning, scientists find (10/7): A report from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released on Thursday concludes that Mars missions many not have to undergo stringent planetary protection measures in order to avoid contaminating the Red Planet with Earthly life forms. Planetary protection strategies are intended to prevent terrestrial contamination from interfering with efforts to answer the question of whether life arose independently on Mars.

NASA rover confirms gigantic Martian crater used to be a lake (10/7): An MIT-led study has confirmed that NASA’s Perseverance Mars 2020 rover touched down in a former crater lake on Mars. Perseverance has been exploring Jezero Crater since touching down on February 18, 2021, where water flowed about 3.7 billion years ago. The rover is gathering and caching samples of Mars soil and rock in the region for eventual return to Earth aboard a follow-on NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) Mars Sample Return mission. Scientists are hopeful a sample analysis will determine whether Mars was once host to biological activity. Findings from the MIT study were published in the journal Science.

China’s lunar samples confirm late volcanism, pose new questions
Sky & Telescope (10/7): Lunar material acquired from the Moon at Oceanus Procellarum by China’s Chang’e 5 mission and returned to Earth in December 2020 are helping to fill a historical gap in the state of the solar system. The basalt volcanic material in some of the 3.8 pounds of lunar samples returned by the Chang’e-5 lander date back 1.96 billion years, or about 1 billion years younger than samples returned by the Apollo astronauts and Soviet Luna missions. The findings confirm volcanism occurred at Oceanus Procellarum more recently than other regions of the Moon. The source of the heat associated with the volcanic activity, however, is a mystery and is apparently not associated with radioactivity.

DART in transit to Vandenberg Space Force Base ahead of November 2021 launch
Coalition Member in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne (10/7): NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, mission spacecraft is on its way to Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, for a planned launch no earlier than November 23 to demonstrate a potential impact strategy for deflecting a future asteroid on a course to impact the Earth. Developed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Baltimore, DART shares a legacy with NASA’s New Horizons Mission, the first spacecraft to conduct a flyby of Pluto. With a successful liftoff, DART will dispatch an impactor toward a small moonlet orbiting the asteroid Didymos in September 2022. Observatories on the Earth will be monitoring.


Other News

Head of Lockheed Martin Space to retire
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance
Defense News (10/8): Rick Ambrose, the chief of Lockheed Martin’s space business, announced on October 7 his impending retirement. As head of Lockheed Martin space, Ambrose oversaw the company’s $11 billion space portfolio that supplies systems to NASA, the Space Force, and other government and commercial customers.

NASA’s 1st interactive graphic novel ‘First Woman’ tells of one girl’s dream to walk on the Moon (10/8): NASA released its first digital graphic novel featuring the first woman to walk on the Moon, allowing readers to explore space through interactive experiences. Dubbed “First Woman: NASA’s Promise for Humanity,” the graphic novel tells the story of a fictional astronaut named Callie Rodriguez, the first female astronaut and person of color to land on the lunar surface, and her robot sidekick, RT. The story aims to inspire the next generation of explorers. 

NRO to tap commercial industry for space-based radar data (10/7): Chris Scolese, who leads the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), announced Thursday that the security entity intends to begin purchasing space-based radar reconnaissance from commercial providers. A Broad Area Announcement (BAA) is to be issued in about a month, Scolese told the 2021 GEOINT Symposium on Thursday.

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