Today’s Deep Space Extra

February 25th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is prepping for Saturday’s SpaceX Crew Dragon launch on an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station (ISS). U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, of Texas, intends to introduce legislation soon maintaining NASA oversight of the space station through 2030.  

Human Space Exploration

NASA and SpaceX Agree Demo-1 is set for March 2 (2/22): After a daylong Kennedy Space Center (KSC) flight readiness review, NASA on Friday declared SpaceX’s Crew Dragon ready for a March 2 launch to the International Space Station (ISS). Dragon is to launch uncrewed, dock at the Space Station a day later and return to Earth, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean on March 8 — if all goes well. NASA managers are working with their Russian counterparts to resolve a concern over whether the spacecraft has redundancy in the computer and software aboard Dragon that are to guide the capsule to a docking with the Station’s U.S. segment.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn plans to file measure extending U.S. operations of the Space Station to 2030

Houston Chronicle (2/22): U.S. Sen. John Cornyn plans to file legislation extending NASA led operations of the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030, the Texas lawmaker said during a panel discussion on space policy Friday near the Johnson Space Center (JSC). The 2019 White House budget called on NASA to end oversight by the end of 2024, as part of a strategy to turn human low Earth activities over to the private sector. Cornyn was joined by Mark Mulqueen, the Boeing Co. Space Station program manager. They and others said the commercial sector needs more time to establish a business case. A similar measure introduced last year by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, passed the Senate in December but failed to pass in the House.

A World Heritage site on the moon? That’s not as spacey as it sounds

Los Angeles Times (2/22): The space historical preservation organization For All Mankind is working with the United Nations (U.N.) on a mechanism to preserve off the Earth sites like the Mare Tranquillitatis site where Apollo 11’s Eagle Lunar Module touched down on July 20, 1969 with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first humans to step to the surface of another planetary body. With a number of countries now working for a human return to the Moon, it’s time to establish a strategy to protect the symbols of past accomplishments, according to an editorial from the Times.

The complex relationship between mental health and space travel

Please note this article erroneously refers to Colleen Shipman as an astronaut

Super Cluster (2/21): As NASA prepares for missions of future human deep space exploration, the psychological challenge of being confined in small spacecraft with few crewmates for months to years and isolated from close family and friends will be a challenge — even for those who’ve managed to successfully compete for the opportunity to train as an astronaut. “…concentrate on what you can control and make yourself the best astronaut you can be,” according to one NASA astronaut vet. “Don’t squander this opportunity.”

Design changes may delay ISRO’s manned space mission

The New Indian Express (2/23): Efforts by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to launch its first human space mission by the end of 2021 appear delayed as ISRO accommodates a change from two to three crew members.


Space Science

Ultimate Ultima: New Horizons team shares sharpest view of space snowman (2/22): New imagery from NASA’s New Horizon’s mission spacecraft, which carried out a successful close flyby of the Kuiper Belt Object Ultima Thule over New Year’s eve, reveals surface features in new detail, including bright pits and dark circles. 

Editorial: Japan should use Hayabusa2 success to boost space exploration activities

Mainichi of Japan (2/23): Much of Japan is celebrating the success of Hayabusa 2, the spacecraft that succeeded last Thursday in landing briefly on the asteroid Ryugu to collect samples of the surface for return to Earth at the end of 2020. Japan should take advantage of the achievement to boost its influence in the exploration of space, according to the editorial. Hayabusa 2 is to make a second landing in the spring to collect a sample of subsurface material from Ryugu. Once returned to Earth, the samples will be studied in search of a better understanding of how the solar system’s planets formed, received water and organics, the building blocks of life. 

As Beresheet heads to Moon, Israeli team probes problem with navigation sensors

Times of Israel (2/22): SpaceIL is addressing a problem with a navigation sensor aboard its Moon bound private spacecraft, Beresheet, which was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, last Thursday as a secondary payload. Israel is attempting to join the U.S., Russia and China as the only countries to land a spacecraft on the Moon. An April landing is anticipated.


Other News 

NASA renames facility after Katherine Johnson of ‘Hidden Figures’ fame

New York Times (2/23): NASA’s Independent Verification and Validation Facility, of West Virginia, now bears the name of Katherine Johnson, the African American mathematician whose career at NASA during the early days of the Space Age and segregation in the U.S. was depicted in the film and book Hidden Figures. A formal dedication is planned later or the facility established to monitor the software of high profile NASA missions.

SpaceShipTwo flies to the edge of space again (2/22): Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity rose to suborbital space with two company pilots and an associate on Friday, a milestone in its bid to soon begin commercial operations. The two men and a woman on board rose to an altitude of 89.9 kilometers after taking off under WhiteKnightTwo from the Mojave Air and Space Port, of California. Aboard were company chief test pilot David Mackay, lead trainer pilot Mike Masucci and Beth Moses, the company’s chief astronaut instructor.

New rocket company to create more than 200 new jobs in the Cape

WESH-TV Orlando (2/22): Firefly Aerospace, a Texas based small launch vehicle services startup, announced plans on Friday to establish a rocket production facility on Florida’s space coast, creating an estimated 200 new jobs.


Major Space Related Activities for the Week 

Major space related activities for the week of February 24 – March 2, 2019 (2/25): Early Saturday is to mark the first in a series of NASA Commercial Crew Program test flights this year that are to lead to the certification of Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to carry out the regularly scheduled transportation of astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Saturday’s uncrewed launch will start a Dragon on its way to an automated docking with the Space Station the following day. Congress is in session. A number of space policy advisory meetings are planned this week as well.

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