Today’s Deep Space Extra

February 13th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Efforts continue between the White House and Congress to avert a second partial U.S. government shutdown on Friday that would affect a range of civilian agencies, including NASA. NASA to address efforts to regain communications with the Opportunity rover on Mars, lost in late June 2018 during a global dust storm. 

Human Space Exploration

Lawmakers line up behind bipartisan border deal to avert shutdown, as Trump signals he may sign it

Washington Post (2/12): The White House and Congress appeared on track toward a compromise late Tuesday that would avert a second partial U.S. government shutdown affecting a range of civilian agencies, including NASA and its efforts this year to restore a U.S. human space launch capability lost as NASA’s shuttle fleet was retired in 2011. The current compromise ended a record shutdown on January 25, but the funding authority expires this Friday. The two sides are struggling over immigration policy and the construction of a wall along parts of the border with Mexico.

We’ll need a whole new landing approach to put humans on Mars

Discovery (2/12): NASA’s Curiosity rover, at 2,200 pounds, is the heaviest spacecraft to successfully land on the Martian surface so far and required parachutes and a propulsive “sky crane” to descend.  A human mission will require a lander with a mass estimated at from five to twenty tons. A recent discussion over meeting the challenge published in the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets examined possible fuel efficient strategies.


Space Science

NASA is making one last attempt to call Opportunity rover on Mars (2/12): NASA lost contact with the Opportunity rover on Mars in late June 2018 in the midst of a Martian global dust storm that interrupted the rover’s ability to generate solar power. Efforts to re-establish contact, so far unsuccessful, are to be the topic of a NASA briefing on Wednesday from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit, landed on Mars for what were to be 90 day missions in January 2004. Contact with Spirit was lost in March 2011, and efforts to re-establish communications concluded in May 2011.

NASA minimizes threat of JWST delay from shutdown

Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (2/11): The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), designated successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, is continuing to progress through pre-launch ground testing of spacecraft bus and science instrument segments at Northrop Grumman facilities in California, where the spacecraft is being readied for a planned liftoff in March 2021. The full impact of the recently concluded record U.S. government shutdown on preparations has not been fully evaluated. “As we get back to normal procedures, it will take several weeks before we fully understand the impacts of the furlough,” a NASA spokesperson said. 


Other News

SpaceX launch certification to get review by Pentagon watchdog

Bloomberg (2/11): The Pentagon’s inspector general has opened an inquiry into the Defense Department’s certification of the SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets for military payloads. The objective is to determine whether the Air Force complied with the military’s Launch Services New Entrant Certification Guide. The 2015 designation followed a SpaceX legal battle to compete with other launch services providers for military launches.

Former astronaut to run for U.S. Senate seat (2/12): Former NASA astronaut and U.S. Navy aviator Mark Kelly announced Tuesday that he will run for the U.S. Senate from Arizona. Kelly is a four time space shuttle astronaut, whose final shuttle command delivered the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer observatory to the International Space Station (ISS). Kelly is also the husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat who was shot and critically wounded in January 2011 while meeting with constituents in Tucson. Kelly, a Democrat, is seeking the Senate seat formerly held by the late John McCain, a Republican, and now occupied by Martha McSally, also a Republican. Mark’s twin brother, Scott, also a former NASA astronaut, holds the U.S. record for the single longest spaceflight, a 340 day assignment aboard the Space Station.

China’s space debris cleanup may be cover story, Pentagon says

Bloomberg (2/12): Chinese initiatives to establish robotic satellite inspection and repair capabilities as well as orbital debris cleanup could be a cover for a strategy to destroy the orbital satellites assigned to U.S. national security and other high priority functions. The allegations made by the U.AS. Defense Intelligence Agency were denied Tuesday by China’s Foreign Ministry.

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