Today’s Deep Space Extra

February 1st, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Northrop Grumman completes production of NASA’s first Space Launch System (SLS) solid rocket motor segments. NASA’s Curiosity rover addresses a mystery over the formation of a towering Mount Sharp on Mars. China’s STEM investments could pay off in space exploration.

Human Space Exploration

NASA completes booster motor segments for first Space Launch System (SLS) flight

Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman

Space Daily (2/1): Northrop Grumman has completed the assembly of the 10 motor segments that are to form the dual solid rocket motors for the first launch of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, a cornerstone of U.S. human deep space exploration plans, from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Florida’s space coast. The segments are to be shipped from their Utah assembly plant to Kennedy to join other components of the SLS now under development for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), a test flight without astronauts that will send the Orion capsule around the Moon and back to Earth for an ocean recovery.

Space shuttle Columbia’s crew remembered, 16 years later

Fox 13 News (1/31): Sixteen years ago, on a sleepy winter Saturday morning, most Americans had no idea that seven astronauts were gliding back to Earth after more than two weeks in space.  But the whole nation would soon know that space shuttle Columbia was not going to make it home.

Postponed by shutdown, NASA’s Day of Remembrance happens next week (1/30): The Day of Remembrance honors the 17 NASA astronauts who died in the agency’s three tragedies — the Apollo 1 fire in 1967, the loss of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986 and the destruction of the shuttle Columbia in 2003. These three accidents all occurred between January 27 and February 1 in their respective years, which is why the Day of Remembrance is held in late January or early February. This year, it was scheduled for January 31, but NASA announced last week that the agency was postponing the day because of the partial government shutdown.


Space Science

NASA awards launch services contract for Lucy mission

Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (1/31): A first ever mission to explore Trojan Asteroids, in this case asteroids trailing giant Jupiter as it orbits the sun, is to be launched aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, under a $148.3 million launch services agreement in October 2021. The mission is estimated to span at least a dozen years.

How do plants grow in space?

The Atlantic (1/30): For humans to survive off Earth, we’ll need vegetables to eat and flowers to admire. Earlier this month, tiny green plants sprouted on the Moon.

How NASA’s Curiosity rover weighed a mountain on Mars

New York Times (1/31): Using an on board navigational aide, NASA’s Curiosity rover is helping to solve a mystery over the formation of Mount Sharp, a more than three mile peak rising above the rim of the mechanical geologist’s landing site, the 96 mile wide Gale Crater. Curiosity has been exploring the crater and base of Mount Sharp since it landed in August 2012. Gravity measurements using a rover inertial measurement unit suggest Sharp formed independently from an upwelling when the crater was formed then topped by windblown fine grained sediments.

Uh oh, a recent study suggests that dark energy’s strength is increasing

Universe Today (1/31): Dark energy, a force that behaves opposite gravity, is causing the universe to expand. New studies suggest the expansion rate is increasing. The nature of dark energy itself has remained largely unknown since it was confirmed two decades ago through observations of distant stellar explosions.


Other News

The Wired guide to commercial human space flight (1/31): For most of the history of spaceflight, humans have left such exploits to governments. From the midcentury Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo days to the 30-year-long shuttle program, NASA has dominated the United States’ spacefaring pursuits. But today, companies run by powerful billionaires—who made their big bucks in other industries and are now using them to fulfill starry-eyed dreams—are taking the torch, or at least part of its fire.

Telesat signs New Glenn multi-launch agreement with Blue Origin for LEO missions (1/31): Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket will furnish the launch services for Canada’s Telesat fleet of broadband communications satellites, Blue Origin announced Thursday. The numbers of launches and satellites have not been specified. The powerful rocket’s inaugural launch is planned for 2021.

Op-ed | China is beating the United States in the new space race (2/1): An intense, 30 year national focus on the STEM field for the education of its youth and a transition from an industrial economy to one that is knowledge based and prepared to invest is positioning China for a lunge at dominance in space, and first with lunar exploration and operations, writes Brandon Weichert, geopolitical analyst.

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