Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 2nd, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s planned Gateway, a lunar orbiting “command module” equipped with reusable ascent and descent modules could be an element crucial to achieving an accelerated and sustained human return to the lunar surface. The 2024 goal, advanced from 2028 by the Trump Administration last week, was the focus of a NASA Town Hall hosted by Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Monday.

Human Space Exploration

NASA: Lunar ‘Gateway’ is still our best bet for putting boots on the Moon

Popular Mechanics (4/1): A directive from the White House last week to NASA to accelerate efforts to return to the lunar surface with human explorers has stirred debate over the role of human, lunar orbiting Gateway. It could be the permanent analog to the Apollo command modules that circled the Moon with each of the six Apollo landings. Equipped with reusable and descent ascent modules to transport astronauts to a range of surface destinations.

NASA is scrambling to meet the White House mandate to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024

Washington Post (4/1): NASA is scrambling but committed to returning to the lunar surface with human explorers by 2024, Administrator Jim Bridenstine told an agency Town Hall broadcast from Washington, D.C. on Monday. That means it will need more funding. It was just last week that Vice President Mike Pence, also the White House National Space Council chair, called on NASA to accelerate a return then envisioned for 2028. Employees questioned Bridenstine how the agency itself might be restructured and what the earlier date might mean for other agency missions. The administrator stressed the need for a lunar orbiting, human Gateway with orbital transfer, descent and ascent vehicles as part of the strategy. Orion and the Space Launch System (SLS) are critical, but the agency is not ruling out other commercial options, he explained.

Astronauts say NASA is up to the challenge of returning to Moon

CBS News (4/1): Three U.S. astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Anne McClain, Nick Hague and Christina Koch, expressed excitement and support for Trump administration plans to accelerate a sustained human return to the Moon from 2028 to 2024 during an interview Monday with CBS News. “It’s the start of a long journey … certainly all of us will play whatever role we’re asked to play in it. It will be great to see boots on the ground again on the Moon,” said McClain. Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, outlined the Moon goal last week at a meeting of the National Space Council.


Space Science

There is definitely methane on Mars, scientists say. But is it a sign of life? (4/1): Methane, a gas that may be linked to biological activity, comes and goes in cycles on the Red Planet, according to findings from NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover, which landed in Gale Crater, which is dry now but believed to have once been a reservoir, in August 2012. The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express orbiter, which has been orbiting the Red Planet since late 2003, confirmed a methane surge also detected by Curiosity at Gale in 2013. Both the source and the age of the methane is unclear.

China’s Chang’e 4 Moon lander, Yutu 2 rover awake for 4th lunar workday (4/1): China’s Chang’e 4, the first ever lander and rover mission to the Moon’s far side touched down on January 2. Over the weekend, the lander and Yutu 2 rover awoke electronically from their third long lunar night. China has not released plans for exploration over the fourth lunar day.


Other News

Inspiring Mexicans to “imagine amazing things” in space

Slate (6/29/18): An inspiring story of personal perseverance to launch Mexico’s “Sputnik,” a small satellite called Ulises, that took flight on December 4, 2015, followed a week later by Ulises 2.

Lockheed Martin bottles scent of space

Coalition Member in the News – Lockheed Martin (4/1): Lockheed Martin and Tony Antonelli, a retired NASA astronaut who leads Orion spacecraft mission planning for the company, have joined to produce the scent of space, the fragrance Vector. Please note date!

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