Today’s Deep Space Extra

May 14th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… The White House announced late Monday it will seek an additional $1.6 billion for NASA in 2020 to help accelerate plans to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon from 2028 to 2024. The congressional request supplements the $21 billion NASA spending plan for the fiscal year beginning October 1 and presented to lawmakers on March 11.   

Human Space Exploration

Trump requests $1.6 billion plus-up to NASA budget to return Americans to the Moon by 2024 (5/13): Late Monday, the White House announced it will seek an additional $1.6 billion above its previous request for NASA in 2020, in order to achieve a human return to the Moon by 2024. “Under my Administration, we are restoring NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars,” said President Trump by Twitter. Much of the supplement to the $21 billion for NASA proposed in March will go to develop commercial capabilities to shuttle astronauts between a NASA lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway and the lunar surface, and to the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion. In a news briefing, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine revealed the new initiative will be named in honor of Artemis, a Greek goddess and twin sister of Apollo, the mythical Greek god of the Moon. The 2024 mission will likely land with a female and male NASA astronaut.

Trump requests $1.6B in new NASA funding for 2024 Moon landing

CBS News (5/13): The Trump administration is adding an additional $1.6 billion to NASA’s $21 billion 2020 budget request to kick start plans to return American astronauts to the moon in 2024, four years earlier than previously planned, NASA announced Monday. “The first time humanity went to the Moon it was under the name Apollo,” he said. “The Apollo program forever changed history. … It turns out that Apollo had a twin sister, Artemis. She happens to be the goddess of the Moon. Our astronaut office is very diverse and highly qualified. I think it is very beautiful that 50 years after Apollo, the Artemis program will carry the next man — and the first woman — to the Moon.”

Trump targets Pell Grant money for NASA’s budget boost

Washington Post (5/14): A White House proposed $1.6 billion increase in NASA’s 2020 budget to accelerate a human return to the surface of the Moon from 2028 to 2024 comes from a shift in surplus Pell Grant funds for college education. Those currently receiving educational scholarship grant funds will not be affected, according to a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Op-ed | Accelerating the U.S. space program requires measured risks (5/13): NASA can expand the economic sphere by swiftly expanding a human presence into solar system and taking other complementary measures, using private sector and academic partnerships, writes Jack Burns, a University of Colorado astrophysicist and 2016/17 NASA White House transition team member. Each reason for accelerating a human return to the lunar surface from 2028 to 2024 should be clearly articulated to enlist the support of Congress and the public, he writes.

Lunar tunnel engineers excited by boring Moon colonies (5/10): A push from the White House to accelerate a human return to the Moon by 2024 has some visionary engineers thinking about where the many who may follow will live. It may be radiation shielded tunneling bored from the lunar crust.

Even astronauts binge-watch TV while in space

The Atlantic (5/9): Even in space there’s an urge to watch entertainment. In an interview, previous International Space Station (ISS) astronaut Drew Feustel explains his fascination with Game of Thrones and how life on the orbiting science lab afforded an opportunity to find out what all the fascination with the drama series is all about. He’s not alone. During their spare time, Mission Control can help Space Station astronauts gain access to programming requests.


Space Science

Apollo-era tremors reveal a dynamic, active Moon

Scientific American (5/13): The Moon may be less quiescent that it appears, punctuated by tremors and quakes in response to internal lunar processes, or perhaps the Earth’s gravitational forces. Thanks to imagery from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, it’s apparent the landscape of the Moon has been undergoing changes on recent geological timescales.

Early universe much brighter than predicted

Cosmos (5/13): A new study using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, an infrared observatory, is helping to unravel mysteries of the early universe’s epoch of re-ionization. Brief, the period had come and gone well within the first million years after the big bang. A Spitzer survey revealed examples of early stars much brighter than anticipated, a factor attributed to a universe filled largely by neutral hydrogen atoms. Shorter wavelength radiation moving through the medium managed to strip away electrons from hydrogen and oxygen to increase the brightness.

NASA’s Voyager and Pioneer probes launched decades ago and are still out there. Here’s where they’ll end up (5/13): NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft, launched in 1977, are the only probes to have departed the solar system, but they could be joined by others, Pioneer 10, launched in 1972, and Pioneer 11, launched a year later, as well as New Horizons, launched in 2006 to distant Pluto and Ultima Thule. Researchers have been at work predicting which stars those spacecraft are on a course to pass, though they could no longer communicate.


Other News

Protect solar system from mining ‘gold rush’, say scientists

The Guardian (5/12): Concerned scientists from around the world warn that up to 85 percent of the solar system should be protected from investor’s intent on mining planetary objects for mineral riches and exposing certain planetary regions to industrialization.

The asteroid boom

Mashable (5/13): A space resources economy is arriving soon, according to a prediction that envisions asteroid mining and maybe a shift of environmentally threatening industrial activities off of the Earth, opening a new opportunity for solar power and a chance to preserve the environment.

Trump’s NASA sees Space Force as a means to bring free market capitalism to the final frontier

Muckrock (5/9): As the Trump administration urges NASA beyond low Earth orbit in the human exploration and commercialization of space, the U.S. may have to develop a more defensive posture on the space frontier in order to protect the fruits of new commerce from potential adversaries. One response could be creation of a proposed Space Force.

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