Today’s Deep Space Extra

March 27th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… U.S. Vice President Mike Pence called Tuesday for NASA to reach the surface of the Moon with human explorers by 2024, ahead of any other nation with the same ambition employing any means possible. India claims a successful anti-satellite missile test.

Human Space Exploration

Pence calls for NASA to send humans to the Moon within five years

Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, United Launch Alliance

Washington Post (3/26): Vice President Mike Pence called on NASA and its contractors to accelerate plans to return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers from 2028 to 2024, as he convened a meeting of the White House National Space Council in Huntsville, Alabama, on Tuesday. “We need to change the agency, not the mission,” Pence proclaimed, acknowledging the challenge is bold and exceedingly difficult. The call was in response to recent concerns that plans for a inaugural June 2020 joint launch of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and an uncrewed version of the new Orion capsule is slipping. (Paywalled article)

Pence pledges American astronauts will return to Moon by 2024

Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Lockheed Martin

New York Times (3/26): Vice President and National Space Council chair Mike Pence directed NASA on Tuesday to return to the Moon with human explorers by 2024, four years earlier than a previous deadline, stating the agency must use any mean necessary. However, the agency’s 2020 budget proposal seeks a small decrease in spending from Congress over 2019, and it’s not clear how it intends to proceed more aggressively. Pence spoke as chair of the fifth meeting of the National Space Council in Huntsville, Alabama, home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, lead for development of the Space Launch System. (Paywalled article)

Reactions mixed to Pence’s call for astronauts on the Moon by 2024 (3/26): U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, chair of the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee, challenged the call from Vice President Mike Pence for NASA to make a sustained human return to the Moon’s surface by 2024, questioning whether the deadline will jeopardize funding for other U.S. science research and development activities. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who chairs the Senate’s Aviation and Space Subcommittee, called the goal of reaching Mars with human explorers in the 2030’s a higher priority.

Pence calls for human return to the moon by 2024 (3/26): Pence’s call on Tuesday for NASA to lead the U.S. back to the Moon’s surface with human explorers by 2024 was issued with few technical or cost details. But he directed that the missions should aim for the lunar South Pole, where orbital reconnaissance indicates the presence of water ice deposits that could be extracted to provide life support for astronauts and as a resource to produce liquid oxygen and hydrogen rocket propellants, both to sustain a human presence. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, among the National Space Council members convened by Pence in Huntsville, Alabama, for Tuesday’s meeting said the timeline will require the Space Launch System and an acceleration of the large rocket’s development.

NASA Administrator statement on return to Moon in next five years (3/26): NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine pledged Tuesday to stay on schedule for the launch of the first joint Space Launch System (SLS)/Orion test mission on a course around the Moon and back to Earth without astronauts in 2020 and a repeat of the SLS flight with astronauts on board Orion by 2022. The missions have been previously designated by NASA as Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) and Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2).  “I know NASA is ready for the challenge of moving forward to the Moon, this time to stay,” said Bridenstine.

It’s unfortunate NASA canceled the all-female EVA, but it’s the right decision

Ars Technica (3/26): Earlier this week, NASA altered plans for the first ever all female astronaut spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday. Anne McClain and Christina Koch were to complete the latest in series of external power storage battery installations for the Station’s solar power generation system. Unfortunately, both female astronauts prefer a space suit with a medium sized Hard Upper Torso, the shirt or jacket like component of the entire protective garment. Koch will walk instead with Nick Hague, who started integrating the new Lithium Ion batteries in to the Station’s power grid last Friday with McClain. The Space Station is currently equipped with four of the space shuttle era space suits, two them with medium hard upper torsos. However, the second medium hard upper torso needs about 12 hours of preparation before it can be used. Hague wears a large HUT.


Space Science

New observations help scientist understand lunar water cycle (3/23): Moisture on the moon appears to move around over the long lunar day. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched in 2009, has helped to dispel the belief the Moon is a complete desert. Observations suggest water molecules trapped in the soil move as they warm in the presence of sunlight and migrate to other locations where they return to the lunar soil.


Other News 

FAA proposal aims to ‘streamline’ regulations for future space launches

Tech Crunch (3/26): The Department of Transportation (DOT) and FAA on Tuesday published a proposed streamlining of commercial rocket launch and re-entry regulations, guidelines intended to address a coming era of private spaceflight. The release came in response to the White House issued Space Policy Directive-2 issued by President Trump in May 2018 and in conjunction with the fifth meeting of the White House National Space Council in Huntsville, Alabama.

Mission Shakti: India likely destroyed Microsat R satellite in first ASAT test

The Wire (3/27): India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced Wednesday that India has successfully tested an anti-satellite missile on a low Earth orbit satellite. India joins the U.S., Russia and China in having such a capability. The debris from the strike are expected to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere within weeks rather than pose a sustained threat to other satellites, according to the report.

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