Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 17th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… A NASA contracted Northrop Grumman resupply mission carrying science experiments and technology demonstrations as well as crew supplies is to liftoff for the six person International Space Station (ISS) late Wednesday afternoon from NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. NASA’s will aim for the Moon’s South Pole when it returns with human explorers by 2024, a region with water ice, a valuable resource for life support and production of rocket propellants. 

Human Space Exploration

Latest Cygnus mission to ISS includes new features

Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (4/16): Northrop Grumman is set to finish its first set of 11 NASA contracted resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) with a launch from the agency’s Wallops Island Flight Facility on Wednesday at 4:46 p.m., EDT. After arriving at the six person Space Station early Friday and a three month stay, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo freighter will depart the Station. It will then spend up to a year orbiting the Earth solo to demonstrate a commercial research and technology demonstration capability available under a second NASA resupply agreement effective later this year and extending into 2024. Also after deploying the Cygnus cargo capsule during the liftoff, the Antares’ rocket second stage is to deploy dozens of small, student developed satellites called ThinSats restricted to five to 10 days of operations.

Moon’s South Pole in NASA’s landing sites

Parabolic Arc (4/16): Late last month, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the White House National Space Council, directed NASA to lead a sustained human return to the Moon by 2024. The specific destination is the lunar South Pole, which is believed to host significant quantities of water ice in the permanently shaded regions of craters. The Moon’s South Pole also offers long periods of sunlight at elevation, a significant solar power source.


Space Science

CubeSats prove their worth for scientific missions (4/16): Smaller and less expensive, CubeSats, or spacecraft about the size of a bread loaf and much smaller than traditional satellites are embracing a range of missions, from communications to weather and solar observations to deep space duties, also at a lower cost.

Curiosity has finally sampled a clay-rich region on Mars

Universe Today (4/16): NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover touched down within the planet’s large Gale Crater in August 2012 to begin a study of the soil and rock as it scaled the three mile high Mt. Sharp examining the sediment layers as it climbed  for evidence of past habitable environments suitable for microbial life. Recently, Curiosity’s automated drilling and on board analysis rock analysis has turned to a region of clay deposits that appear to contain minerals formed in the past by water.

Discovery! 3rd planet found in two-star ‘Tatooine’ star system (4/16): Astronomers have discovered a third planet orbiting the two star system known as Kepler-47, 3,340 light years from the Earth and similar to the fictional Tatooine system from the film Star Wars.  One star is sun-like, the other smaller. The findings based on observations with NASA’s Kepler space telescope were published Tuesday in the Astronomical Journal.


Other News

Pepsi drops plans to use orbital billboard (4/16): Pepsico has publicly separated itself from speculation it plans to advertise from low Earth orbit using a Russian satellite platform from the startup Smart Rocket.

April Full Moon 2019: The ‘Pink Moon’ rises this Friday (4/16): Something different to gaze at in Friday’s night sky, a large Pink Moon. Those on the U.S. East Coast will get a look Thursday at 8 p.m., EDT. Pink?  Not really, but larger than usual.

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