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Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 29th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… The nation’s space community continues its discussion of an accelerated, NASA-led human return to the Moon, to which a fully tested Space Launch System is indispensable. An amended NASA budget proposal to fund the initiative may be coming this week. Experts gathering at the University of Maryland this week will participate in a crisis-management simulation concerning a possible major impact with an asteroid or comet.  An international body calls for a new organization designed to hasten commercial spaceflight safety regulations and certification.

Human Space Exploration 

NASA to perform key test of the SLS rocket, necessitating a delay in its launch

Ars Technica (4/26): NASA leadership remains committed to a “green run” test of the Space Launch System (SLS) core stage.  The test requires placing the core first stage on a test stand at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and simultaneously firing all four first stage engines for a “full duration burn” of about eight minutes.

Trump and Pence push `America first’ agenda to the Moon and outer space

Washington Post (4/26): What effect might the Trump administration’s focus on “America First” in its goal of an accelerated return to the Moon with human explorers have upon the future of global partnerships that produced the International Space Station?  

NASA tweaks call for lunar lander concepts

Space News (4/27: NASA has offered notice it intends to amend its call for proposed lunar lander concepts to address an accelerated human return to the surface of the Moon by 2024, as called for by Vice President Mike Pence in late March. The amended call, which is to be issued in late May, calls on the private sector to consider integrated ascent, descent and transfer vehicle concepts.

Self-cleaning space suit could help NASA astronauts avoid harmful dust on Moon, Mars (NOTE: This article is behind a paywall.)

Houston Chronicle: A young engineer from NASA’s Johnson Space Center has developed a space suit material that could help to fend off the hazards of lunar dust when astronauts return to the Moon. The fabric which contains carbon nano tubes may overcome the abrasive and intrusive nature of the lunar dust and the hazards of perchlorates on Mars. Samples of the material were placed outside the International Space Station earlier this month for a yearlong test that exposes the fabric to the space environment. 

Trump’s moon plan is a good one — too bad his critics (and the media) badly want to derail it (Op-Ed)

Fox News (4/26): In an op-ed, Doug Cook, former NASA associate administrator for exploration systems, offers a strong defense for the agency’s Space Launch System despite cost and schedule issues, without the powerful rocket and the Orion crew capsule, the agency cannot accomplish its human deep exploration ambitions, he writes.

Returning to the Moon to gain soft political power (Op-Ed)

The Hill (3/27): Returning to the surface of the Moon with human explorers, as proposed by the White House in late March, is as crucial to U.S. world leadership now as it was in 1960’s when the late president John F. Kennedy called upon NASA to reach the Moon with astronauts before the end of the decade, according to an op-ed.

What can we learn from a failed return to the Moon? (Op-Ed)

Planetary Society (4/26): A 1989 effort by the late U.S. President George H. W. Bush to lead a human return to the Moon, the Space Exploration Initiative, dissolved quickly. Experts believe the hefty, long range price tag, poor communications between the administration and Congress and an uncertain economy contributed.

 

Space Science

Life may have evolved before Earth finished forming

Space.com (4/25): Life may have formed on planetesimals, the primitive rocky building blocks in the early solar system that joined to form the planets, according to a research effort led by Arizona State University. 

What If an asteroid was going to hit Earth? NASA will make believe this week

Space.com (4/28): A NASA led simulation held during the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference at the University of Maryland this week will exercise a strategy to prepare for a real asteroid impact with the Earth based on a fictional case of an asteroid posing a threat in 2027 and how to respond using the expertise of other global space agencies, the State Department, the U.N. and FEMA to calculate who is at risk and how to inform them.

Potatoes in Space! (Podcast)

Gastropod.com (4/23): Indoor farming, a concept now being experimented with aboard the International Space Station, may hold promise for providing valuable nutrition and cleansing the breathing air for future human explorers on missions to distant deep space destinations.

 

Other News

Independent body proposed to ensure commercial spaceflight safety

Space News (4/26): The nonprofit International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS) issued a new report in March that calls for the establishment of an independent Space Safety Institute to hasten development of commercial space flight safety standards and certification processes, without a dual responsibility for promoting the industry.

 

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

What’s Happening in Space Policy, April 28 to May 4, 2019

Spacepolicyonline.com (4/28): It’s anticipated that the Trump administration will submit an amended 2020 NASA budget proposal to Congress this week, one totaling more than the initial $20 billion proposed for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 and aligned with the Mar. 26 White House directive to the agency from Vice President Mike Pence that it return to the lunar surface with human explorers by 2024, four years earlier than previous planning. The U.S. Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Committee has scheduled a budget hearing for Wednesday. Also, a week long International Academy of Astronautics Planetary Defense Conference gets underway Monday at the University of Maryland. SpaceX’s 17th NASA contracted cargo mission to the International Space Station is set to launch early Wednesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

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