Today’s Deep Space Extra

December 10th, 2018

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… A NASA cargo mission reached the six person International Space Station (ISS) early Saturday. After a suspenseful October 11 Soyuz launch abort with cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, NASA astronaut Nick Hague says he’s ready for a second Soyuz launch opportunity to the Space Station planned for February 28. China aims for a spacecraft landing on the Moon’s far side, a first.

NASA Budget

Culberson optimistic about 2019 spending bill and Europa mission funding (12/7): With the extension of a budget continuing resolution from December 7 to December 21 by Congress and the White House last week, the outgoing chairman of the U.S. House appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA’s budget expressed optimism that a full year budget bill for the space agency can be enacted before the December 21.  Another extension of the resolution tied to 2018 spending levels could slow development of NASA’s planned lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway. The 2019 fiscal year began October 1 without a full year budget in place for a number of civilian agencies, including NASA and NOAA.


Human Space Exploration

CRS-16 Dragon arrives at ISS after ground-based communications issue (12/8):  Nearly 5,700 pounds of science experiments, technology demonstrations and crew supplies arrived at the six person International Space Station (ISS) early Saturday, three days after their launch aboard a NASA contracted SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule. NASA’s Mission Control and Station astronauts encountered a near 90 minute delay in their capture of the cargo capsule with the Station’s Canadian robot arm because of a difficulty with the agency’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite network. The problem was traced to a ground processor.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague confident in Russian systems ahead of February launch to ISS

Houston Chronicle (12/7): October 11 was a memorable day for NASA astronaut Nick Hague, who joined cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin aboard a Soyuz rocket for a launch to the International Space Station (ISS) from Kazakhstan. About two minutes into flight, a rocket malfunction triggered an abort and a return to Earth. Hague spoke with news media on Thursday after he and Ovchinin were re-assigned to a February 28 Soyuz launch to the Space Station with NASA astronaut Christina Koch. “I’m 100 percent ready to go,” said Hague in an interview.

NASA and SpaceX still aiming for January commercial crew test flight

Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (12/7): Representatives from NASA and SpaceX expressed optimism on Friday that the uncrewed test flight of the company’s Dragon 2 will take place in January. Both Boeing and SpaceX are partnered with NASA under the Commercial Crew Program to re-establish a U.S. human launch capability for the transportation of astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Both companies plan uncrewed and crewed test flights in 2019 leading to certifications for regularly scheduled launches of astronauts, a capability lost as NASA’s space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011.


Space Science

InSight’s robot arm is ready to go to work

Universe Today (12/7): NASA Mars InSight mission landed successfully on Mars on November 26. The lander’s robot arm, which is crucial to the deployment of instruments on the surface and subsurface of Mars is being checked out in preparation for operations intended to reveal more about the planet’s interior.

China launches 1st mission to land on the far side of the Moon (12/7): China on Friday launched the Chang’e-4 lunar lander and rover, as part of the first mission intended to land on the Moon’s far side in early January. The launch occurred on Friday at 1:23 p.m., EST. The intended landing site is at the South Pole Aitken Basin, a large impact crater. The spacecraft will study the lunar soil and assess the far side environment as a possible location for a future radio observatory.


Other News 

Culberson optimistic restrictions on U.S./China cooperation will remain (12/7): U.S. Representative Frank Culberson, who chairs the House appropriations subcommittee responsible for NASA, was defeated by a Democratic opponent in the November midterm election. The Houston lawmaker said Friday he remains optimistic a restriction on U.S./China cooperation in space will remain in force after his departure. The restriction was first championed by his predecessor, former U.S. Representative Frank Church.


Major Space Related Activities for the Week 

Major space related activities for the week of December 9-15, 2018 (12/9): On Tuesday, cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev will spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) to assess possible external damage to a Soyuz crew transport capsule identified as the source of a Space Station pressure loss in late August. The loss of pressure was stopped internally. The American Geophysical Union hosts a space science conference in Washington from Monday through Thursday. The U.S. House and Senate are in session again facing the prospect of a government shutdown on December 21 for a number of civil federal agencies. Congress and the White House last week agreed to a continuing budget resolution that averted a possible shutdown December 7 after midnight by agreeing to a two week extension.

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