Today’s Deep Space Extra

February 20th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s Kennedy Space Center prepares to host Vice President Mike Pence and the second session of the re-established National Space Council. Astrophysicists, astronomers ponder future of NASA’s planned Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope (WFIRST), proposed for cancellation by the White House.

Human Space Exploration

Vice President Mike Pence to visit KSC for National Space Council meeting

Florida Today (2/19): The White House NASA Space Council, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, will convene for its second meeting at Kennedy on Wednesday. The session, “Moon, Mars, and Worlds Beyond: Winning the Next Frontier,” will include remarks from experts in the civil, commercial, and national security sectors on the significance of the United States’ space enterprise. The activities, which get underway at 10 a.m., EST, will be webcast ( and broadcast on NASA TV.

Falcon Heavy will change spaceflight less than you think

The Space Review (2/19): This assessment declares the Falcon Heavy an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary rocket. Some of the reasons include a diminishing demand for geostationary orbit launch services coupled with a growth in small sat launch needs and Congressional support for NASA’s Space Launch System, the heavy lift rocket that is to power human explorers into deep space. Meanwhile, after the widely observed inaugural launch of the Falcon Heavy, SpaceX is turning its development efforts to the even larger Big Falcon Rocket, notes an assessment from A.J. MacKenzie a space industry observer.

Medical incident suspends Big Island Mars simulation

Honolulu Star Advertiser (2/20): HI-SEAS, an eight month, four person NASA funded simulation of a Mars mission at altitude on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano was suspended Monday by a medical concern. Neither the specific concern nor the name of the participant were disclosed. The NASA funded simulation began last Thursday and may resume after further evaluation, according to the report.


Space Science

Astronomers’ dark energy hopes fade to gray

New York Times (2/19): Though proposed for cancellation in President Trump’s proposed 2019 budget for NASA, the WFIRST space telescope, a wide field version of the Hubble Space Telescope, may be far from doomed. The observatory ranks high as a National Academy of Sciences’ priority. It’s intended to investigate dark energy and look for extra solar planets with habitable environments.

Will WFIRST last?

The Space Review (2/19): The answer is difficult to predict, writes TSR editor Jeff Foust, who takes a look back at the promise and the difficulties encountered by WFIRST, which emerged as a top astrophysics project of the National Academy of Sciences in 2010. The Trump administration’s 2019 budget proposal for NASA and its call for cancellation of the dark energy observatory came as a surprise to many. “Given competing priorities at NASA, and budget constraints, developing another large space telescope immediately after completing the $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope is not a priority for the Administration,” budget documents state. They note that WFIRST would cost more than $3 billion. Priorities include a transition of human exploration activities from low Earth orbit to the moon. .

NASA’s Opportunity rover still finding surprises on Mars (2/19): Now more than 14 years on Mars, NASA’s Opportunity rover has detected some intriguing patterns in the Martian soil, markings that resemble recurring patterns of freezing and thawing wet soil.

Pluto may have a gooey carbon layer beneath its crust (2/19): Pluto may be rich in organics, perhaps in a tar like layer of carbon below the surface, according to research led by a Washington University of St. Louis scientist in a recent presentation before the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans.


Other News

Planetary Resources asteroid venture misses fundraising target, forcing cutbacks (2/19): Planetary Resources, the Redmond, Washington, based asteroid mining startup, looks to use its recently launched Arkyd-6 space telescope prototype to support a needed nearer term revenue stream.

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