Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 12th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Findings from NASA’s Twin Study offers a look down to the genetic level at the health challenges human explorers face as they launch on deep space missions that may last years. Israel based SpaceIL’s attempt to land on the Moon Thursday failed moments before a scheduled touchdown. 2018 produced a record space investment.


Human Space Exploration

NASA’s Twins Study reveals effects of space on Scott Kelly’s health

Science News (4/11): Lengthy space travel triggers bodily stressors that can manipulate human genes, placing the immune system on alert, challenge mental reasoning and memory. Identical twins Scott Kelly and Mark Kelly, both now retired NASA astronauts, offered a deep dive hint at the possible long term health effects on long spaceflight, durations of several years needed to reach deep space destinations, over a 25 month study. Scott spent 340 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in 2015-16 as a subject. Mark pursued his day to day responsibilities on Earth to provide researchers from 10 institutions with a broad comparison of the health and genetic impacts.

NASA’s Twins Study: A great control, but a sample size of one

Ars Technica (4/11): Researchers affiliated with NASA’s Twin Study, a comprehensive look at the health effects of a near year-long mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on astronaut Scott Kelly in 2015-16, while his astronaut identical twin, Mark, served as a ground based control, released their results on Thursday. The findings showed that Scott endured most of the stresses assessed down to the genetic level. But scientists are eager for additional studies with more subjects and a more diverse experiment population to help predict the challenge of human deep space exploration. Round trip missions to Mars could last three years, or more.

JAXA may participate in Moon base project

The Japan News (4/11): The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is assessing and perhaps preparing to announce by year’s end plans to partner with NASA in the assembly of a human tended, lunar orbiting Gateway, according to JAXA president President Hiroshi Yamakawa during an interview at the annual Space Symposium this week in Colorado Springs. Gateway assembly is to begin in 2022.

Yuri’s night celebrations honor ‘an amazing year’ for human spaceflight (4/12): Yuri’s Night — an annual celebration of the anniversary of the first human who made it to space — will launch 160 worldwide events today in what organizers say is a special time for human spaceflight.


Space Science

10 things you should know about planetary defense

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (4/11): While the odds are long, large asteroids have and may again impact the Earth with severe consequences. NASA is now leading efforts to assess its options do defend the planet. The DART mission is slated for a 2021 launch to assess how effectively an impactor might be able to alter the course of an asteroid on course for a close encounter, or worse.

How Dr. Katie Bouman accidentally became the face of the Black Hole project

New York Times (4/11): As the first-ever picture of a black hole was unveiled this week, another image began making its way around the internet: a photo of a young scientist, clasping her hands over her face and reacting with glee to an image of an orange ring of light, circling a deep, dark abyss. The scientist, Dr. Katie Bouman, a postdoctoral fellow who contributed to the project, became an instant hero for women and girls in STEM, a welcome symbol in a world hungry for representation.


Other News

Moon landing by Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft appears to end in crash

New York Times (4/11): Israel’s first attempt to land on the Moon with a private spacecraft failed Thursday afternoon. The Beresheet spacecraft was less than 500 feet from the surface on the Moon’s Sea of Serenity when it experienced a main engine failure. “If at first you don’t succeed, you try again,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who watched the landing attempt from SpaceIL’s control center in Yehud, Israel.

Senators unsure about need for Space Force (4/12): Bipartisan uncertainty over the need for a branch of the military designated the Space Force as part of the U.S. Air Force seemed to emerge from a lengthy U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee session on Thursday. Plans by the committee to markup a defense authorization measure dealing with the White House proposal are to get underway May 20.

Three companies selected for DARPA Launch Challenge (4/10): Three launch vehicle developers, one of which is still in stealth mode, have qualified to compete in a DARPA competition in early 2020 to demonstrate responsive launch capabilities. In a briefing at the 35th Space Symposium on April 10, DARPA announced that Vector, Vox Space and a stealth-mode company have qualified to participate in the DARPA Launch Challenge.

Space investment hits record high in 2018 (4/10): Commercial space investment totaled $3.23 billion in 2018, up $680 million from the previous year. And there is no sign of an imminent turn down, according to an analysis from Bryce Space and Technology presented to the annual Space Symposium underway earlier this week in Colorado Springs.

SpaceX launches Falcon Heavy, sticks 3-booster landing

Orlando Sentinel (4/11): SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Thursday night with a commercial payload, an Arabsat communications satellite, for the first time. All three first stage boosters were recovered as well. The Falcon Heavy is currently the world’s most powerful rocket.

Indian anti-satellite test proves early test for Space Fence

Coalition Member in the News – Lockheed Martin (4/10): India’s March 27 anti satellite test proved a real time test opportunity for the U.S. Air Force Space Fence on Kwajalein Atoll. Initial operations of the new space tracking asset developed by Lockheed Martin are to begin late this year. The military is assessing a second Space Fence in Australia but has not sought funding.

India ASAT debris spotted above 2,200 kilometers, will remain a year or more in orbit (4/9): Some fragments from India’s March 27 low altitude anti satellite test have soared to altitudes of 2,200 and 1,000 kilometers, or 1,360 and 620 miles, meaning they will remain in orbit for longer than earlier 45 day projections, according to research from Analytical Graphics Inc.

Japan’s richest 2019: Billionaire buyer of SpaceX’s first Moon flight sees fortune tumble $700 million

Forbes (4/10): Last September, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa purchased seats from SpaceX for a 2023 flight around the Moon. The online fashion retailer’s wealth has since declined, though he remains a self-made billionaire.

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