Today’s Deep Space Extra

February 8th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Vice President Pence pays tribute to NASA’s Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia astronaut on annual Day of Remembrance. Two commercial astronauts receive their astronaut wings. 

Human Space Exploration

Op-ed | Remembering America’s lost space pioneers (2/7): Thursday, marked the annual Day of Remembrance, a tribute to the 17 men and woman who perished in the Apollo 1 and shuttle Challenger and Columbia tragedies of 1967, 1986 and 2003.  In an op-ed, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, looked back and ahead to the achievements the astronauts helped to accomplishment and the groundwork they provided for the future of human space exploration. “So while we mourn their loss, we also honor their memories by continuing the mission for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, and by working harder, building bigger, and venturing further than ever before,” writes Pence.

OPINION: Space program needs ‘robust, government-funded infrastructure backbone’

Politico (2/8): For more than 50 years, the United States Congress and successive administrations have committed, on a bipartisan basis, to American leadership in human space exploration, space science and the space industry. Figuring out how to get into deep space is relatively easy; we’ve done it before. Figuring out an approach that keeps us there, opens the door to a growing space ecosystem and points the way to the moon, Mars and beyond — while not backtracking or stopping forward progress for a decade or more — is hard.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao presents astronaut wings to Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crew

Department of Transportation (2/7): Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo pilots Mark Stucky and C.J. Sturckow received FAA astronaut wings from U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in Washington on Thursday. On December 13, 2018, the two men piloted SpaceShipTwo to an altitude of 51.39 miles over Mojave, California, or just above the demarcation between the Earth’s atmosphere and space. Sturckow, a former NASA astronaut and Marine Corps aviator, reached space at much higher altitudes previously as the pilot of two space shuttle missions and commander of two more, all between 1998 and 2009. 


Space Science

Private Moon landers could help NASA’s next giant leap in lunar exploration (2/7): Two studies from the National Academies of the Sciences (NAS), Engineering and Medicine find promise for scientific discovery in NASA’s response to the December 2017 Space Policy Directive-1 issued by President Trump. The directive calls on NASA to make a sustained human return to the Moon with commercial and international partners. The agency is enlisting commercial launch and lunar surface systems services to support a range of science payloads and rovers. The NAS reports released Thursday ask that attention be focused on the interfaces between commercial transportation providers and science payloads and that NASA not lose sight of two expensive high priority missions to return samples from the Moon’s South Pole Aitken basin and to establish a network of lunar surface sensors to study the lunar interior.

Japan will land a spacecraft on asteroid Ryugu this month to snag a sample (2/6): Japan’s Hayabusa 2 asteroid sample return mission spacecraft is to descend to the surface of the asteroid Ryugu between February 20-22 to attempt the collection of soil and rock. The spacecraft, launched in late 2014, reached its target in late June 2018 and has been studying it from altitude in search of a suitable landing with sufficient clearance from boulder fields. Additional sample gathering activities are planned before the spacecraft departs in late 2019 for its return to Earth.

U.K. built Mars rover named after scientist Rosalind Franklin

Associated Press via New York Times (2/7): Scientist Rosalind Franklin will be the namesake for the European Space Agency (ESA) ExoMars mission rover that is to be launched in 2020. Franklin was an English scientist best known for groundbreaking work on the molecular structure of DNA. The rover, which is to land in 2021, is to search for evidence of life on the Red Planet. Franklin was the winning entry in a naming contest. Russia is a mission partner.

Now you can join the search for killer asteroids

Wired (2/7): Data from major ground based telescopes like Pan STARRS in Hawaii can be accessed by amateurs to look for asteroids that pose a potential impact threat to the Earth.


Other News

Air Force wants to become a bigger player in the small launch industry (2/6): In order to exercise a “responsive space” strategy, the U.S. Air Force intends to work more closely with the small launch services industry. “We are tracking what companies are doing,” Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper told reporters on Wednesday at the Pentagon. “I think small launch is going to be a big deal.” The strategy offers an alternative to relying solely on traditional costly, large spacecraft for military needs.

Scolese to be nominate as next NRO Director (2/7): President Trump has expressed his intent to nominate Chris Scolese, director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center since 2012, as the next director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The appointment requires U.S. Senate confirmation.

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