Today’s Deep Space Extra

March 21st, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Efforts to develop the best formula for overcoming the challenges of human deep space exploration are unfolding around the world. U.S. and Japanese asteroid sample return missions are so far providing surprises as well as lots of science. Mars quivers, according to NASA’s InSight lander. 

Human Space Exploration

Pence will lead National Space Council meeting in Huntsville

Huntsville Times (3/20): The White House National Space Council, which was re-established in 2017, is to meet on Tuesday at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. During the council’s fifth meeting, the membership will deliberate on plans for a U.S. led, sustained human return to the lunar surface with commercial and international partnerships.

Boeing delays by months test flights for U.S. human space program

Coalition Member in the News – Boeing

Reuters (3/20): Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, one of two company spacecraft under development in partnership with NASA through the Commercial Crew Program, may face delays this year in efforts to conduct uncrewed and crewed test flights. The spacecraft is to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). NASA plans a launch schedule update for the Commercial Crew Program next week. SpaceX, the program’s second partner carried out a successful uncrewed six day test flight to the Space Station earlier this month.

The experts agree: People will go to Mars

Cosmos Magazine (3/21): Scientists and astronauts from across the globe are to gather March 24 in Brisbane, Australia to discuss the challenges of human deep space exploration, difficulties that many involved in the pursuit predict will be overcome to reach destinations like Mars.


Space Science

JAXA: Presence of water confirmed on asteroid

NHK-World-Japan (3/20): Researchers associated with Japan’s Hayabusa 2 asteroid sample return mission to the Near Earth asteroid Ryugyu believe the spacecraft’s reconnaissance has detected the evidence of water ice, possibly locked below the surface of the rocky spinning top shaped object. The spacecraft landed in a surface sample collection attempt on February 22. The spacecraft is to collect a subsurface sample of Ryugu later this year for return to Earth.

The mysterious exploding asteroid

The Atlantic (3/20): NASA’s Osiris-Rex asteroid sample collection mission to Bennu has encountered a surprise, a remnant from the solar system’s formation still active and spewing debris from it surface. The discovery comes from a closeup reconnaissance period that began in December and that is to lead to a momentary landing on the rocky surface next year to collect a sample. Osiris Rex is to deliver the sample of Bennu back to Earth in September 2023. Scientists hope to assess whether asteroids were the source of water and organics, the building blocks of life, for the rocky planets.

Scientists have detected baby tremors for the first time on Mars

USA Today (3/19): NASA’s Mars InSight lander, which successfully touched down on the Red Planet in late November to carry out the first ever studies of the Martian subsurface, has succeeded in detecting subtle tremors.

The incredible challenge of landing heavy payloads on Mars

Universe Today (3/20):  It’s quite difficult to land on Mars thanks to a combination of factors that include the high speed of an approaching spacecraft, a thin atmosphere and gravitational forces. Just over half of all efforts to place landers or rovers on the Martian surface have succeeded. But success becomes increasing crucial as efforts to study Mars in detail include efforts to assess whether there is evidence on the surface that the planet once hosted and possibly now hosts some form of life.


Other News

John Thornton: Making the Moon accessible

Coalition Member in the News – Astrobotic

E-Fests (3/20): Thornton is CEO of one of nine U.S. aerospace companies designated by NASA as a commercial partner in the agency’s effort to achieve a sustained return to the Moon with human explorers. According to the leader of Astrobotic, the public/private partnerships that NASA and companies like his are establishing are the key to success.

Maneuver puts SpaceIL lander on course for the Moon (3/20): The maneuver on Tuesday has placed the Israeli orbiter/lander mission to the Moon on a proper course, correcting some post launch issues. The Beresheet lander should achieve lunar orbit on April 4, setting up an April 11 opportunity to land in the Mare Serenitatis region. SpaceIL is hopeful the mission will attract new commercial opportunities.

Here’s the right way to nuke an asteroid (sorry, Bruce Willis) (3/20): NASA’s recently established Planetary Defense Coordination Office is moving out to detect, track and characterize the impact threats to Earth posed by Near Earth Objects, including asteroids, comets and lesser objects. The coordination office is two years from initiating the launch of a defense strategy called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which will observe as a spacecraft impactor takes aim at the moon of an asteroid called Didymos. DART could become a means of changing the course of an asteroid headed for Earth.

DARPA continues work on satellite servicing program as it seeks new ride (3/17): Nearly two months after Maxar dropped out of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program to demonstrate satellite servicing, the agency is continuing to develop the servicing technology as it examines options to get it into space.

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