Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 19th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Northrop Grumman’s latest Cygnus re-supply mission to the six person International Space Station (ISS) reached its orbital destination early Friday. Japan assesses a robotic strategy to construct a Moon base. China looks to an ambitious asteroid-comet mission. American aviation pioneer Jerrie Cobb has died. 

Human Space Exploration

NG-11 Cygnus, S.S. Roger Chaffee, brings the science to ISS

Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (4/19): Northrop Grumman’s latest cargo mission to the six person International Space Station arrived at its destination early Friday. NASA astronaut Anne McClain maneuvered the station’s Canadian robot arm to capture the Cygnus cargo capsule and its 7,600 pound cargo at 5:28 a.m., EDT. The freighter, launched Wednesday, is named for Roger Chaffee, one of three NASA Apollo 1 astronauts who died in a launch pad fire on Jan. 27, 1967. Cygnus deliveries included a wide range of science experiments and technology demonstrations that are to help prepare for future human deep space missions.

ISS crew rotations through spring 2020 do not include commercial crew flights

Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Northrop Grumman (4/18): Earlier this week, NASA announced plans to extend the International Space Station (ISS) missions of astronaut Christina Koch, who has been on board since March 14, and astronaut Andrew Morgan, who is to launch on July 20 and like Koch lift off aboard a Russian Soyuz with other crew members. The longer voyages will help researcher assess the health effects of missions lasting longer than six months on astronauts assigned to future deep space travels, with destinations including Mars. The extensions will also grant NASA Commercial Crew Program partners, Boeing and SpaceX, more time to qualify their respective CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon for the regular transportation of astronauts to and from the space station.

NASA just sent robotic ‘bees’ to the International Space Station (ISS)

Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (4/18): Among the cargo delivered to the six person International Space Station (ISS) aboard Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus capsule early Friday was a pair of Astrobees, small internal free flying developmental robots prepared by NASA’s Ames Research Center. Engineers believe the cube shaped robots propelled by fan motors and equipped with built in cameras for guidance could help astronauts with chores and provide a remote set of eyes for the maintenance of a deep space mission spacecraft.

Can robots build a Moon base for astronauts? Japan hopes to find out (4/7): A consortium of companies and universities led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) believes it could be possible to program robots for the assembly of a human base on the Moon. One piece of necessary equipment, a backhoe, was recently tested.


Space Science

Hubble celebrates 29th anniversary with a colorful look at the Southern Crab Nebula

HubbleSite (4/18): The NASA/European Space Agency’s (ESA) Hubble Space Telescope is marking the 29th anniversary of its launch aboard the shuttle orbiter Discovery on April 24, 1990. Deployment followed a day later. May 20 marked the first image. NASA astronauts returned to the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope five times between December 1993 and May 2009 to service and upgrade the scientifically productive observatory.

Israeli team investigating ‘chain of events’ in lunar crash (4/18): Israel IL’s much anticipated effort to land the Beresheet lander at the Moon’s Sea of Serenity failed in the final moments last week. It appears an essential part of the lander’s guidance system, an inertial measurement unit, faltered, triggering a failure of the spacecraft’s main engine. The company has vowed to mount a follow on attempt to join the U.S., Russia and China as the only nations that have successfully placed an operational spacecraft on the Moon’s surface.

ASU-led NASA Psyche mission to offer free online courses to learn about space exploration

Arizona State University (4/18): Arizona State University (ASU) is lead for NASA’s Psyche mission, a mission to a metallic asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter. As part of its mission management, ASU is offering free online instruction in the challenges associated with developing and carrying out the science mission. Rich in nickel and iron, Psyche has properties that may help to better understand early planet formation in the solar system.

China to launch ambitious asteroid-comet mission in 2022 (4/18): Chinese news media announced Thursday plans by the nation’s space agency to mount a decade long robotic sample return mission to an asteroid, with liftoff planned in just three years. The destination is a near Earth asteroid 2016 HO3 and as a bonus the spacecraft will orbit the Comet 133P. NASA’s Osiris Rex and Japan’s Hayabusa 2, both currently underway, are to return to Earth with asteroid samples as well in late 2020 and 2023.

Methane-filled lakes on Titan are “surprisingly deep”

Universe Today (4/18): Often characterized as Earth-like, Saturn’s Moon Titan hosts a similar landscape and evidence of surface fluid flows and ponding similar to the rivers and water bodies of the Earth. However instead of water, the fluids that flow and pool on Titan are comprised of methane and ethane.


Other News

Jerrie Cobb, one of the most gifted female pilots in history, has died

Ars Technica (4/18): Jerrie Cobb, an American aviation pioneer, passed away on March 18. Cobb, 88, died at her Florida home. Cobb was among the Mercury 13, a group of women screened for Mercury mission eligibility in 1960 and 1961. She scored in the top tier of men and women, but never launched. Cobb was licensed as a private pilot at 16 years of age and would go on to successfully advocate for a role for women in space exploration. 

ArianeGroup starting Ariane 6 production after new ESA agreement (4/18): Though government contracts for launch services are lagging, the European Space Agency (ESA) membership has decided to move ahead with production of the Ariane 6 launch vehicle, successor to the Ariane 5, to step up its place in the competitive global launch services market.

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