Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 18th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Wednesday brought a successful Cygnus launch headed to the International Space Station (ISS). NASA is extending the missions of two astronauts assigned to the International Space Station (ISS) in order to gather more data on how long space missions might affect the health of future deep space explorers. An independent assessment looks to the late 2030’s as the earliest NASA could reach Mars with human explorers based on budget, technology and testing requirements.

Human Space Exploration

Antares rocket launches Cygnus cargo ship on marathon mission for NASA

Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (4/17): Northrop Grumman’s 11th NASA contracted re-supply mission to the six person International Space Station (ISS) lifted off Wednesday afternoon from Wallops Island, Virginia. The Cygnus cargo capsule, carrying an experiment and tech demo rich 7,600 pound cargo, was on course to reach the Space Station early Friday. The mission wraps up Northrop’s 2008 NASA contracted Space Station resupply services contract. The company’s first launch under a second series of NASA Space Station cargo delivery contracts awarded to Sierra Nevada and SpaceX as well as Northrop Grumman in 2016 begins late this year. After three months at the Space Station, the Cygnus will depart for several months of independent orbital operations that will include small satellite deployments.

Two NASA astronauts to get extended ISS stays (4/16): In order to gather more health data on female and male astronauts assigned to space missions lasting longer than six months, like those envisioned for Mars and other deep space destinations, NASA on Wednesday said it was extending the International Space Station (ISS) stays of Christina Koch, which began March 14 and remains underway, and Andrew Morgan, who is set to launch to the Space Station on July 20.  Koch, who was to return later this year will remain until February 2020, providing an opportunity to eclipse the 288 day record set by now retired NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson for longest mission by any woman. Morgan will remain aboard the ISS until next Spring, or between eight and nine months. Retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly holds the record for the longest American spaceflight, 340 days set in 2015-16.

Breaking records: How astronaut Christina Koch’s extended space mission will make history (4/17): NASA astronaut Christina Koch’s extended stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS), one of two astronaut extended stays announced by the space agency on Wednesday, could reach until February 6, 2020, or 328 days. She launched with fellow NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin to the Space Station on March 14 for was to be a stay of at least six months. Currently, retired NASA astronaut and biochemist Peggy Whitson holds the record for the longest spaceflight by a woman, 288 days, set in September 2017. The longer flights will help NASA prepare for future human deep space exploration. Missions to Mars will require an estimated two to three years. The longest flight by an American astronaut is 340 days by now retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly in 2015-16. 

How much will the Moon plan cost? We should know in two weeks

Ars Technica (4/16): Soon, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is expected to present Congress with an amended NASA budget request for 2020, one that reflects a late March directive from Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, to return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers by 2024, four years earlier than previously planned. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine discussed the political as well as technical challenges of bringing the political support, funding and technology together on the new schedule.

STPI: Human mission to orbit Mars in 2033 “infeasible” (4/17): NASA was to assess the prospects for reaching Mars with human explorers in the 2030’s as part of the 2017 NASA Transition Authorization Act. The Science and Technology Policy Institute, which was selected to make an independent assessment, concluded in a report made public Wednesday that 2039 is a more realistic launch date than 2033 based on budget, technology and testing schedules. Initial assessments were revised to take into account the Trump administration’s priority for returning to the Moon with human explorers first.

Political detours keep changing NASA’s route to the ‘final frontier’ [Editorial]

Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman

Houston Chronicle (4/17): In an editorial, the newspaper calls on the nation’s elected policy makers to follow through on a White House directed call for NASA to return to the Moon with human explorers by 2024. That means providing the budget and holding back on political interference.


Space Science

SpaceIL reveals preliminary reasons behind Beresheet crash

Jerusalem Post (4/17): Israel IL’s much anticipated Beresheet lander arrival at the Moon last week resulted in a crash instead. A preliminary assessment suggests a failed inertial measurement unit for guidance was to blame. The failure triggered an unwanted shutdown of the lander’s main engine. A follow on second attempt to join the U.S., Russia and China as the only nations that have landed spacecraft on the Moon is already envisioned.

The first type of molecule to form in the universe has been seen in space (4/17): Helium hydride ions, thought to be the first type of molecule to form in the universe, have finally been spotted in space. These charged molecules, each made of a neutral helium atom and a positively charged hydrogen atom, first emerged within about 100,000 years after the Big Bang. Back then, the universe was composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, and helium hydride was the only molecule that these two elements could create when they collided.


Other News

China charting a course to Mars and Jupiter

Asia Times (4/17): China’s space vision includes missions not only to Mars but also distant Jupiter. Leadership demonstrated by China’s Change’4 first ever lunar far side landing success in January may help to shape those missions, according to the report.

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