Today’s Deep Space Extra

March 21st, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… U.S. and Russian crewmembers set for launch to the International Space Station today at 1:44 pm EST.  Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot explains NASA’s difficult mission. U.S. House members call on Senate leadership to proceed with Jim Bridinstine’s nomination to lead NASA.

Human Space Exploration

Russian Soyuz set to carry crew to Space Station

CBS News (3/20): A Russian Soyuz rocket with NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold and Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev is set to liftoff for the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday at 1:44 p.m., EST. They are to dock with the Space Station on Friday at 3:41 p.m., EST, joining three U.S., Japanese and Russian crew mates. NASA will carry launch coverage beginning at 12:30 pm EST at nasa.go/ntv

Is NASA still necessary? How the space agency sold itself to Trump (3/20): NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot addressed the question of the agency’s purpose in remarks Tuesday before the Huntsville chapter of the National Press Club. The answers range from discovery and advancing science to strengthening the nation’s aerospace and defense industries, advancing education, inspiration and offering global leadership.

Russian cosmonauts to launch nano-satellites during spacewalk from ISS in summer

TASS of Russia (3/20): An August spacewalk by a pair of Russian cosmonauts outside the International Space Station will include the handheld deployments of small satellites developed by students. The science themed spacewalk will also collect samples of possible contaminants on the outside of the Station and conduct activities helpful for studies of animal migration.


Space Science

Updated schedule for JWST expected next week

Space News (3/20): The targeted spring 2019 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and its cost cap are under review by NASA. A decision on whether the space observatory designated as Hubble’s successor can hold that schedule should come by the end of next week, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen informed a NASA advisory panel on Tuesday.

To keep NASA’s golden age alive, we need more telescopes–but far less expensive ones

Scientific American (April): Future discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics will likely require space observatories with different capabilities flying at the same time, a prospect that cannot happen unless the price for telescopes like the James Webb, $8.8 billion to develop for a 5 to 10 year mission, declines, according to the report.

Exoplanet search turns up 15 new alien worlds, and one may have water (3/20): Researchers combined the capabilities of space and ground based telescopes to detect a collection of 15 planets beyond the solar system and circling red dwarf stars. One was detected within the habitable zone, or at a distance from its star in which water, if it’s present, would be stable as a liquid. NASA’s Kepler space telescope was among the observatories participating in the discovery reported in the Astronomical Journal.

The first-known interstellar asteroid was probably born in a solar system with two stars

Mashable (3/20): The 1,300 foot long object given the name Oumuamua was spotted by astronomers moving through the solar system last year. Models suggest it may have been ejected from a planetary system with two stars, according to a study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The ejection likely occurred billions of years ago, while the planetary system was still forming.

Vernal equinox 2018: Satellite sees first day of Spring (3/20): NASA’s recently launched GOES East weather satellite offers a moving view of Earth from sunset to sunrise as the first day of Spring approached.


Other News


House members call on Senate to confirm Bridenstine as NASA administrator

Space News (3/20): Sixty one lawmakers from the U.S. House have called on U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Shumer to move on the nomination of White House nominee Jim Bridenstine to head NASA. The letter expresses concern that the agency’s acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, plans to retire at the end of April. “It would be a travesty to America’s space program for it to remain leaderless at this critical time when America’s space industry is making rapid advances that will set the course of space leadership for decades to come,” according to the missive.

Japan to fuel space startups with nearly $1 billion funding pool

Nikkei Asian Review (3/21): The Japanese government is eagerly investing financially in space startups, offering personnel expertise and shaping a favorable regulatory environment for the commercial development of the moon. Other commercial ventures plan to reduce orbital debris and assemble small satellites.

ULA touts new Vulcan rocket in competition with SpaceX

Coalition Member in the News – United Launce Alliance (3/20): United Launch Alliance touts a strong competitor for rival SpaceX and its Falcon Heavy rocket with the coming of Vulcan, a replacement for ULA’s Atlas 5 and Delta 4 that will feature reusable first stage rocket engines and a long lived upper stage. “These are exciting times,” notes ULA CEO Tory Bruno.

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