Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 20th, 2022

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Weather conditions again prompt a delay in the Axiom-1 private astronauts’ planned return to Earth. The National Academies’ latest assessment of planetary science priorities backs the planned return of samples from Mars gathered by NASA’s Perseverance rover and a new mission to the ice giant Uranus.


Human Space Exploration
Axiom-1 return to Earth delayed as NASA, SpaceX, Axiom watch the weather
Coalition Member in the News – Axiom Space (4/19): An unfavorable weather outlook prompted the postponement of the planned departure of the Ax-1 mission from the International Space Station (ISS) again. The crew was scheduled to undock from the station last night. Weather officials, together with Axiom, NASA, and SpaceX, are working to determine when they can safely bring the crew home. The crew has already spent 12 days in space. Once undocked from ISS, the Ax-1 private astronauts will spend less than 24 hours in orbit before they fire up the spacecraft’s thrusters for a deorbit burn.

Fire on the Space Station! Astronauts preparing ongoing combustion research (4/19): NASA’s long running Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments project has supported the ignition of about 1,500 flames aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in order to better understand the physics and behavior of fires in space. Initiated in 2017, the series of experiments wrapped up in February and gave way to a new series of combustion in experiments known as Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinction, or SoFIE.


Space Science

Planetary science decadal endorses Mars sample return, outer planets missions (4/19): The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM) latest decadal assessment of planetary mission priorities, released Tuesday, ranks efforts by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to return samples of the Martian surface gathered by the Perseverance rover to Earth for study the highest. The lengthy assessment also stresses the value of an orbital mission to Uranus and an orbiter/lander mission to Saturn’s eruptive moon Enceladus as high priorities. The study, however, expressed an urgency for cost control with regard to the Mars Sample Return in that it could disrupt the planning and execution of other missions of high scientific value.

Sending a probe to Uranus labeled as top priority by space science community
The Verge (4/19): The latest decadal survey of the highest priority future robotic planetary science and astrobiology calls on NASA to develop an orbiter mission to Uranus with an atmospheric probe, labeled UOP. An in-depth study could reveal more about how planetary systems form and evolve and develop the materials and conditions favorable for life emerge. NASA’s Voyager 2 flew past Uranus on its way out of the solar system in 1986, discovering rings and moons. If pursued, UOP could launch in the early 2030s.

Perseverance rover arrives at ancient Mars river delta (4/19): Now 14 months at Jezero Crater on Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover has reached the 28 mile wide crater’s ancient stream delta, a high priority region for the collection of rock and soil samples that are to be returned to Earth on a future joint Mars Sample Return mission. Once back on Earth, the samples are to be studied for possible evidence of past biological activity. “We’ve been eyeing the delta from a distance for more than a year while we explored the crater floor,” Ken Farley, Perseverance project scientist at the Caltech said in a statement from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which manages Perseverance’s mission, on Wednesday.

Sci-fi becomes real life: NASA doctor ‘holoports’ to International Space Station (4/19): NASA has experimented with a new technology, holoportation, with its International Space Station (ISS) crews. Using a Microsoft Hololens Kinect camera and a personal computer with the custom software Alexa, a NASA flight surgeon was able to communicate with an astronaut for a 3-D telemedicine encounter. It’s a technology that enables remote interactions with a three-dimensional fidelity that could be significant as humans travel to deep space.


Other News

India examining crashed space debris suspected to be parts of China’s Long March rocket (4/19): Scientists from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) are examining a metal ring and a cylinder-like object that fell into rural western India April 2. The objects have tentatively been labeled as parts of a Chinese Long March rocket, and a formal investigation is underway. There were no reports of injuries or property damage. If the objects are confirmed to be parts of a Chinese rocket, it would be the second time in less than a year that debris from a Chinese space vehicle made a troubling re-entry. China remains silent on the India reentry incident.

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