Today’s Deep Space Extra

October 29th, 2021

In Today’s Deep Space Extra…  A scaled-down version of the Build Back Better bill greatly reduces funds for NASA infrastructure upgrades. NASA’s VIPER lunar rover passed its Critical Design Review.


Human Space Flight

Revised budget reconciliation package reduces NASA infrastructure funds (10/29): A new scaled-down, $1.75 billion Build Back Better bill released Thursday, includes $750 million for NASA infrastructure upgrades, $140 million for Earth science, and $220 million for aeronautics, while a portion of the original bill approved by the House Science Committee in September included $4 billion for NASA infrastructure, $163 million for Earth science, and $225 million for aeronautics. The bill also continues to leave out funds for a second lunar Human Landing System (HLS).

VIPER lunar rover passes key milestone (10/28): NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) has passed its Critical Design Review (CDR), a milestone indicating that the rover has a completed design and has been approved by an independent NASA review board. The mission can now turn its attention to the construction of the rover itself. As part of the Artemis program, the VIPER mission is managed out of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, and its primary objective is to get a close-up view of the location and concentration of ice as well as other resources at the Moon’s South Pole. 

Private space stations are coming. Here’s what NASA astronauts want to see
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (10/28): In an interview with, two NASA astronauts currently serving aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Mark Vande Hei and Megan McArthur, expressed their views on key features for future commercial successors to the orbital lab. Private sector free flyers should be equipped with state-of-the-art science laboratory assets, windows for observations and imagery of the Earth, and an internal architecture that separates astronaut sleeping quarters, workspace, and exercise equipment, they advised.


Space Science

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is even deeper than scientists had thought (10/28): Data from NASA’s Juno mission reveals that Jupiter’s giant red spot is not only wide but much deeper, more than 300 miles below the cloud tops, than previously evident. Two studies assessing the red spot and published in the journal Science explain that the discovery was made by measuring fluctuations in the giant planet’s gravity. Juno entered orbit around Jupiter in 2016 and its mission has been extended until 2025.

CASIS and Estée Lauder seek microgravity research on plastic alternatives (10/28): The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) announced plans Thursday to work with Estée Lauder to use research aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to seek technologies for reducing plastic waste. The effort will assess whether microorganisms living in reduced gravity environments might biofabricate biopolymers as an alternative to the use of petrochemicals, and possibly even do so once the microorganisms are returned to Earth.

Microbes could help future Mars explorers make rocket fuel and oxygen on the Red Planet (10/27): NASA’s current plans for departures from Mars involve rocket engines fueled by methane and liquid oxygen. However, neither of these fuels exists on the Red Planet, which means they would need to be transported from Earth to propel a spacecraft to Martian orbit. Now researchers suggest a biologically inspired alternative that can produce both methane and liquid oxygen from Martian resources. The new technique would involve shipping two microbes to Mars. The first would be cyanobacteria; the second would be genetically modified E. coli. Findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.


Other News

Geomagnetic storm watch (10/29): The sun was active Thursday producing a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), a portion of which could make contact with the Earth’s magnetic field on Saturday. Earth orbiting satellites detected a solar flare from an Earth facing sunspot, which created a plasma storm in the sun’s atmosphere. Satellite disruptions and bright aurora are possible.

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