Today’s Deep Space Extra

March 19th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s plans for a lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway gain a new international partners. Budget details suggest NASA’s 2020 Mars rover is dealing with a rise in cost. Though primitive, the Kuiper Belt Object Ultima Thule explored by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on New Year’s Day appears complex in its geology, chemistry and physics.

Human Space Exploration

Japan to develop habitation unit for Gateway lunar station

Asahi Shimbum of Japan (3/19): The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans to sign on to the NASA-led human tended, lunar orbiting Gateway by providing a habitation module in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA) as well as a re-supply vessel. Much of the work will be patterned after modules provided for the International Space Station (ISS). The Canadian Space Agency has already announced plans to provide a robotic arm. Assembly of the Gateway is to begin in 2022.

50 years ago, the first spacewalk nearly ended in tragedy

Gizmodo (3/18): Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the first spacewalk, a dramatic 12 minute learning experience outside the Earth orbiting two man Voskhod -1 Russian spacecraft. 


Space Science

NASA confirms Mars 2020 overrun (3/18): A NASA official has confirmed new the agency’s planned Mars 2020 rover faces a 15 percent cost increase in line with new details from the Trump administration’s proposed 2020 budget released on Monday. The rise in the $2.46 billion estimated cost was attributed to challenges developing a system to cache samples of soil and rock for eventual return to Earth and two other science instruments.

Hayabusa2 probe set to fire explosive at asteroid to make crater to collect samples

The Mainichi of Japan (3/19): The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has set April 5 for the detonation of an explosive at the surface of the asteroid Ryugu in order to reveal subsurface materials that can be gathered and returned to Earth for study. The Hayabusa 2 spacecraft landed and rose from the surface of Ryugu on February 22 in a first sample gathering session. The spacecraft arrived at the asteroid in late June of 2018 and is to depart for Earth late this year.

NASA’s New Horizons reveals geologic ‘frankenstein’ that formed Ultima Thule (3/18): More than a giant flat pancake joined to a thick dented walnut, the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule suggests that even in its most primitive era, the solar system was complex in its geology, chemistry and physics. The interpretations come from science presentations from NASA’s New Horizons mission science team on Monday, opening day of the 50th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. New Horizons flew close by Ultima Thule on New Year’s Day. The 22 mile long KBO is the most distant object every visited by a spacecraft. The conference is underway this week in the Houston suburb, The Woodlands.

U.S. detects huge meteor explosion

BBC (3/18): A large fireball exploded over the Bering Sea in December. Traveling at high velocity it exploded at high altitude with the force of a nuclear bomb. NASA was notified of the event after the blast was detected by U.S. military satellites. Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense officer, explained the incident during a presentation Sunday at the annual Lunar Planetary and Science Conference.


Other News

Planting our flag in commercial space

U.S. Chamber of Commerce (3/18): In an op-ed, U.S. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Thomas Donohue finds NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) a critical piece of efforts to continue expanding the global commercial space economy, which soared from $175 billion in 2005 to $385 billion in 2017. “Not unlike the first transatlantic cargo ships, SLS will enable the flow of commerce to far-flung destinations,” writes Donohue of a cornerstone in NASA’s efforts to resume the human exploration of the Moon and press on to Mars.

As Apollo 11 Moon landing anniversary nears, space fans get ready to celebrate (3/16): The U.S. space community is firming up an assortment of plans in the coming weeks to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. The Apollo 11 lander, Eagle, touched down on July 20, 1969 with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Lawmakers urge DoD to locate Space Development Agency in New Mexico (3/18): New Mexico’s congressional delegation is urging the Pentagon to headquarter its new pace Development Agency in their state, the Land of Enchantment. Others urge the procurement office to remain in Washington and within the Pentagon.

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