Today’s Deep Space Extra

March 28th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine appeared before Congressional appropriators on Wednesday to discuss the NASA budget.  He also addressed this week’s directive from the White House National Space Council to accelerate efforts to return to the lunar surface with human explorers by 2024. A new study suggests Mars, now cold and dry, may have hosted a climate suited to rain and the flow of surface water longer than previously believed. India’s anti-satellite test creates concern.

Human Space Exploration

NASA studying ways to accelerate development of SLS (3/27): NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine appeared before the U.S. House Appropriations Committee’s Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee on Wednesday to discuss the directive issued by Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday that NASA accelerate plans for a human return to the lunar surface from 2028 to 2024. The “very aggressive” goal will require an increase in funding, Bridenstine told the panel. He informed the panel that NASA is assessing efforts to accelerate the first joint test flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion deep space crew capsule to mid-2020. Even an alternative to keep the test flight on schedule for 2020 by looking to a commercial launch alternative will cost more, he testified.

NASA will stick with government’s rocket to take humans to Moon, likely won’t make 2020 deadline

Houston Chronicle (3/27): Revising an earlier pronouncement, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Wednesday testified before Congress that the agency is assessing strategies to accelerate the development of the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) so that it will be ready for a mid-2020 launch of an Orion capsule without astronauts aboard for a multi week mission around the Moon and back to Earth for an ocean splashdown and recovery. Earlier, Bridenstine had suggested NASA might look to a commercial alternative to the SLS in order to keep the test flight designated Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) moving forward even if it cannot meet a June 2020 launch date with the NASA rocket.

Tests prove out Orion safety systems from liftoff to splashdown

Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman

AstroTech News (3/27): Engineers this month successfully tested one of the abort system rocket motors for NASA’s Orion crew capsule and a system for up righting the capsule in ocean waters. The abort system is designed to propel Orion with astronauts aboard away from its launch vehicle in an emergency and guide it to a splashdown. The tests were carried out at Northrop Grumman facilities in Elkton, Maryland.

1st all-female spacewalk scrapped over safety concerns, not sexism (3/27): NASA offered further assurance on Wednesday that it put aside the assignment of astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch to conduct the first all-female spacewalk on Friday for safety reasons only. Koch is to join fellow astronaut Nick Hague for the excursion to wrap up the hook up of newly installed external lithium ion power storage batteries rather than pair with McClain. Both women require a space suit with a medium sized shirt like Hard Upper Torso (HUT), and currently only one of two medium HUTs on the Station is in a state or readiness to wear.

Female astronaut speaks out after NASA cancels all-female spacewalk

The Hill (3/27): NASA astronaut Ann McClain explains why the world’s first spacewalk by two women will wait. “Safety of the crew and execution of the mission come first,” she explained using social media. McClain, a U.S. Army pilot, was to team with fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch for the spacewalk on Friday until a concern arose earlier this week over the absence of a second NASA space suit configuration with a medium rather than a large Hard Upper Torso (HUT).


Space Science

Rivers may have flowed on Mars for longer than anyone realized

National Geographic (3/27): Research published this week suggests that the Martian climate may have supported precipitation and surface water flows for longer than previously theorized. The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, suggests water flowed as recently as 2 billion years ago. The findings were based on images gathered by Mars orbiters like NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of now dry channels on the Martian surface and other geological features.

Can humans sense magnetic storms? (3/28): Researchers from Caltech offer findings that suggest human brain waves are sensitive to solar induced geomagnetic storms by suppressing alpha waves within the brain, which are associated with feeling relaxed while awake. The Earth today enters a strong stream of solar wind, which is likely to trigger Arctic aurora.


Other News

Boycott Indian launchers? Reactions to India’s anti-satellite weapon test (3/27): Earlier this week, Indian officials announced the successful test of an anti-satellite missile. In response, the Secure World Foundation’s technical adviser Brian Weeden suggested that commercial space companies avoid missions launched by the India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle as a means of discouraging further space debris generating tests.

Proposal to have Trump’s ‘Space Force’ be situated in Florida moves forward (3/27): With the establishment of a sixth branch of the U.S. military, a U.S. Space Force, moving forward, so too are efforts by Florida legislators to headquarter the new branch in the sunshine state. The Space Force would begin under the wing of the U.S. Air Force.

Russia creates space junk recycling system to turn old satellites in orbit into fuel

TASS of Russia (3/27): Russian Space Systems has developed a space debris disposal technology for capturing inactive satellites in low Earth orbit and grinding them up. The debris can then be mixed with hydrogen and oxygen and turned into a fuel to move the recycler on to the next disposal task, a project development lead engineer explained.

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