Today’s Deep Space Extra

January 24th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… U.S. lawmakers continue to resolve a record partial government shutdown whose toll is increasing. Blue Origin logs a 10th successful flight of its reusable suborbital New Shepard launch vehicle. U.S. and Japanese asteroid sample return missions continue their reconnaissance of Bennu and Ryugu.

Human Space Exploration

Shutdown’s toll mounts for NASA and companies (1/23): Nearing a record five weeks, the partial U.S. government shutdown’s impact is spreading to a growing number of commercial space enterprises as well as federal agencies like NASA, NOAA, the FAA and FCC, with an impact on their financial health and work forces. About 95 percent of NASA’s workforce has been furloughed or called to work without compensation to supervise the International Space Station (ISS) and other orbiting spacecraft. Wednesday, NASA announced it was postponing its annual Day of Remembrance, planned for January 31, because of the shutdown. The annual event pays tribute to the astronauts who perished in the Apollo 1 fire of 1967 and the shuttle Challenger and Columbia tragedies of 1986 and 2003.

Bold ideas for life off Earth

ESA (1/24): In a repurposed office on the European Astronaut Centre’s ground floor in Cologne, Germany, several material science students are investigating bold ideas for future missions to the Moon.


Space Science

Suite of Florida experiments fly on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket in West Texas

Florida Today (1/23): NASA’s Flight opportunities program afforded opportunities for experiments developed by scientists from the University of Florida and University of Central Florida (UCF) to reach suborbital space on Wednesday aboard Blue Origin’s 10th test flight of the reusable New Shepard rocket in West Texas. The company intends to add passengers to the rocket’s flight manifest by the end of 2019.

Initial results from the Ultima Thule flyby

Sky and Telescope (1/23): On New Year’s Eve, NASA’s now 13-year-old New Horizons mission achieved a space first, the most distant flyby of a planetary object, Ultima Thule, a Kuiper Belt Object and potential planetary building block. Mission principal investigator Alan Stern offers a “first take” on what was witnessed, a two lobed “snow man” like object formed as two spherical objects merged long ago.  As New Horizons looks for another object billions of miles from Earth to fly by, the data from Ultima Thule will flow back to Earth well into 2020. New Horizons achieved the first every close flyby of distant Pluto in July 2015.

Astronomers find star material could be building block of life (1/23): A key pre-biotic molecule has been detected for the first time in a star forming region of the universe by researchers affiliated with the Queen Mary University of London. The key proto-star is IRAS16293-2422 B, which has qualities similar to those of the solar system. The research was published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters.

Two daring spacecraft aim to bring asteroid dust back to Earth

Science News (1/15): The probes are Japan’s Hayabusa 2 and NASA’s Osiris Rex, which arrived last year at the asteroids Ryugu and Bennu respectively with missions to touchdown and retrieve samples of soil and rock for return to Earth in late 2020 and 2023. Scientists believe high technology laboratories like those available on Earth may be able to trace the sources of the building blocks for life to similar asteroids. Both NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plan to exchange some of the samples gathered by their respective Osiris Rex and Hayabusa 2 missions.

During the lunar eclipse, something slammed into the Moon

New York Times (1/23): During Monday night’s full lunar eclipse, a small object slammed into the Moon, an event witnessed by astronomers and believed to be a space rock.


Other News

Blue Origin sends NASA-backed payloads to space and back on suborbital rocket ship (1/23): Blue Origins logged the 10th test launch of its suborbital New Shepard launch vehicle and capsule from West Texas on Wednesday, a step toward advancing the prospect of passenger missions by the end of this year. On this 10 minute, 15 second flight, the New Shepard lofted eight NASA payloads intended to advance human deep space exploration technologies to an altitude of 66 miles or 107 kilometers.

50 mph winds blow off the top of new SpaceX rocket

Orlando Sentinel (1/23): High winds in south Texas earlier this week are blamed for damage to SpaceX’s new Starship Hopper rocket. The fairing as well as mooring blocks were dislodged late Tuesday by the high winds at the company’s Boca Chica facilities near Corpus Christi. Prior to the incident, some hopper test flights were planned for early this year. Eventually the Starship hopper is to serve as the second stage for the Hawthorne, California based company’s Super Heavy rocket.

Op-ed | Responsible satellite operations in the era of large constellations (1/23): An op-ed calls for responsible global regulation as the numbers of satellites in low Earth orbit are set to leap from more than 2,000 to more than 20,000 with the advent of small satellites for communications, Earth observation and other services. Executives from OneWeb, Iridium and Digital Globe call for precautions that prevent the overlap of large small satellite constellations, while requiring investigations of deployment failures before future launches, responsive ground control and prompt disposal of inactive satellites.

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