Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 18th, 2022

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA to offer update on Artemis I Wet Dress Rehearsal plans on Monday afternoon. Space ops this week include the return to Earth of the Axiom-1 mission, and the launch of the next NASA and European Space Agency astronauts to the International Space Station.


Human Space Exploration

Artemis I rocket headed back to VAB, test resumption TBD (4/17): NASA has decided to take the Artemis I Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) before making a fourth try at the Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) test. As the tanking process was underway during the third attempt last Thursday, a hydrogen leak was detected on the Tail Service Mast Umbilical that connects the Mobile Launcher to the rocket. The test was scrubbed again, and the schedule for resuming is to be determined. At a media teleconference on Friday, Launch Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson and Artemis Mission Manager Mike Sarafin conveyed that the situation was still being assessed and no firm decisions made on how to proceed. Under the best of circumstances, if the leak was simple to fix, Sarafin said the test could resume as soon as later this week, but it was evident that was tentative. NASA characterized the decision to take the vehicle back to the VAB as taking advantage of a requirement by a supplier of gaseous nitrogen needed for the test to make upgrades to its system. The timing for the roll back and other details could be provided during a news briefing planned for Monday at 3 p.m. EDT, which is to be streamed at

NASA ready for Ax-1 return and Crew-4 launch
Coalition Member in the News – Axiom Space (4/15): Axiom Space’s first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Ax-1, was extended by two days by NASA and Axiom on Friday. Launched April 8 for an April 9 docking with four private astronauts, the Dragon spacecraft and its crew are set to undock on Tuesday at 10:35 a.m. EDT for a splashdown in the waters off the Florida peninsula on Wednesday. NASA’s next mission to the ISS, Crew-4, was approved for launch on Saturday at 5:26 a.m. EDT. The launch and docking planned for a day later initiate a six-month mission for NASA and ESA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, Jessica Watkins, and Samantha Cristoforetti. They are to replace NASA’s Crew-3 astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron, each of NASA, and ESA’s Matthias Maurer. The Crew-3 quartet could depart for Earth about five days after Crew-4’s arrival.

Chinese astronauts return to Earth after six-month mission on space station (4/16): China’s Shenzhou 13 spacecraft descended to Earth in China on Saturday, concluding a 182-day mission to China’s space station with astronaut commander Zhai Zhigang and crewmates Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu. It was China’s longest human spaceflight.


Space Science

Far side: The Moon’s use as a new astronomical site (3/16): The Moon’s far side could provide a  promising site for observing the distant universe without radio interference from the Earth. The prospects include listening for signals transmitted by extraterrestrial intelligence. As interest in new human exploration of the Moon rises, so do concerns within the science community of lunar radio frequency interference (RFI). In response, the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) has established the Moon Far Side Protection Permanent Committee to define the concern, including potential solutions to protect a lunar far side radio telescope or phased array detector.

Life might have gotten started just 300 million years after the Earth formed
Universe Today (4/15): Studies of volcanic and outcrop rocks from northern Quebec in Canada suggest that life may have formed rapidly on Earth, according to geologic timescales. Biological activity may have surfaced perhaps 300 million years after the rocky planet formed. New research published in the journal Science Advances attributes a higher likelihood that microscopic filaments within samples of the Canadian material are of biological rather than chemical origin. However, an abiotic source still cannot be ruled out.


Other News

On national security | The Moon emerging as the next frontier for military operations (4/16): The recently established U.S. Space Force’s main responsibility is protecting the nation’s Earth orbiting satellites. Looking ahead, however, a military presence could be needed to protect future national activities in the lunar realm. In 2020, NASA and the Space Force signed a memo noting that a military presence may be necessary there to ensure the security of civilian efforts to explore the Moon for science and economic expansion.

Four planets will line up in the sky this month. Here’s how to spot them (4/16): Those up an hour before sunrise and able to look to the East where skies are clear have the opportunity to view Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn appear to the naked eye in a straight line across the southeastern sky. The lineup rising from left to right is Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Saturn. Mercury will join the lineup in late June to early July.


Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of April 17-24, 2022
Coalition Members in the News – Axiom Space, Lockheed Martin (4/17): The week should be busy. NASA will brief on Monday at 3 p.m. EDT on what’s ahead for the Artemis I Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR). Earlier Monday, two Russian cosmonauts will embark on a spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) to further activate the European robotic arm with Russia’s Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module. The robotic arm was launched to the orbital lab as part of Nauka in July 2021. After an extended stay at the ISS, the Axiom-1 (Ax-1) private astronaut mission is to depart early Tuesday. The four private astronauts are to splashdown in their capsule off the Florida coast on Wednesday at 7:19 a.m. EDT. On Tuesday, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine will present its decadal survey outlining priorities for planetary science and astrobiology at 2 p.m., following a NASA Science Mission Directorate Town Hall at 12:30 p.m. EDT. NASA’s Crew-4 Dragon mission to the ISS with four NASA and European astronauts is targeted for Saturday at 5:26 a.m. EDT. Meanwhile, the U.S. House and Senate are in recess this week, except for pro forma sessions.

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