Today’s Deep Space Extra

March 15th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Legislation, the 2017 NASA Transition Authorization Act, and White House guidance from the new National Space Council should enable NASA to hold a steady course as he retires, according to Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot. Biotech, pharma and fiber optic production could help to transition the International Space Station from NASA to private sector operations. NASA’s Mars InSight lander moves from Colorado to California with great care.

Human Space Exploration

Lightfoot expects few NASA changes despite leadership uncertainty

Space News (3/14): NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot told a Washington audience he expects the agency to move ahead without major change as he retires at the end of April, based on passage nearly a year ago of the 2017 NASA Transition Authorization Act and the subsequent re-establishment of the National Space Council. Lightfoot has served in the “acting” role since January of 2017. The U.S. Senate has yet to act on the nomination of President Trump’s choice for NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine.

Senate confirms DeWit as new NASA CFO (3/14): Arizona State Treasurer Jeffrey DeWit has been confirmed as NASA’s chief financial officer by the U.S. Senate. DeWit served as chief operating officer and chief financial officer for President Trump’s election campaign.

How the International Space Station could operate commercially

Coalition Member in the News – Boeing

Investor’s Business Daily (3/14): The production of pharmaceuticals, high quality fiber optics and possibly human organs for transplant could help to support a transition in operations of the International Space Station from NASA to a private sector or public/private partnership, according to a Boeing company executive and veteran of space station development. Under NASA’s 2019 budget proposal, NASA funding would come to an end in 2025 to help refocus the agency on deep space exploration. Boeing serves as NASA’s Space Station sustaining engineers. “There is a lot that can be gained from continuing to operate the Station,” said John Vollmer, the company’s chief engineer.


Space Science

I flew with the next NASA spacecraft that will land on Mars

Coalition Member in the News – Lockheed Martin

The Verge (3/13): NASA’s next Mars lander, Mars Insight, is to launch in early May from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Though the launch window extends into June, InSight is to reach the red planet in late November. After landing, InSight is to carry out the first ever investigation of the Martian interior, listening for mars quakes, meteor strikes and assessing the characteristics of the crust, mantle and core. In late February, InSight departed its Lockheed Martin assembly site outside Denver for California aboard a U.S. Air Force jet transport. The Verge’s Loren Grush flew along to provide a behind the scenes look at the care involved in moving InSight from factory to launch site.

Dwarf planet Ceres may store underground brine that still gushes up today

Science News (3/14): NASA’s long running Dawn mission at the dwarf planet Ceres has found more evidence of a still active planetary body, with stores of subsurface water. Ceres orbits the sun in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Findings from Dawn include wide spread carbonate minerals that form in water scattered across the surface. They should have lost their water components over time, but the continued presence of hydrated sodium carbonate suggests they are being replenished as subsurface water rises through geological processes.

To nuke an asteroid, how powerful a bomb do you need? (3/14): Thanks to Russian researchers, experts now have an idea of how powerful of a nuclear blast would be necessary to destroy an asteroid larger than a couple of football fields headed toward the Earth. The meteor that initiated a surprise explosion at high altitude over Chelyabinsk, Russia in February 2013 helped to provide details on the structure and composition of an asteroid threat.

New Horizons spacecraft’s next distant destination gets a nickname (3/13): NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft carried out the first ever close flyby of distant Pluto in July 2015, then headed for a second destination, the Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69. New Horizons is to make a close approach on January 1, 2019. In recognition, astronomers have given MU69 a new name, Ultima Thule.


Other News

China’s Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket to fly again around November in crucial test

Space News (3/14): China’s Long March 5 rocket is one for two since its launch introduction in November 2016. Much is riding on its third launch planned for late this year. The Long March 5 and an upgrade, the Long March 5B, are to launch China’s next crewed space capsule, a lunar sample return mission, the core module for an independent space station and a Mars mission with an orbiter, lander and rover.

Orbital ATK unveils new version of satellite servicing vehicle

Coalition Member in the News – Orbital ATK

Space News (3/14): Appearing before the Satellite 2018 conference this week, Orbital ATK announced plans to develop a new version of its automated orbital satellite repair spacecraft. Under the latest approach, an Orbital Mission Robotic Vehicle would carry Mission Extension Pods. Equipped with a robotic arm, Orbital’s servicing vehicle would extend a pod to an aging satellite in geosynchronous orbit. The pod would take over the satellite’s station keeping duties for five additional years.

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