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Today’s Deep Space Extra

May 24th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA selects Maxar to develop the first element of a lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway, a key element of agency’s Artemis initiative to return humans to the surface of the Moon. New science findings address sources of water on the Moon and Mars.

Human Space Exploration
NASA selects Maxar to build first Gateway element
SpaceNews.com (5/23): NASA on Thursday announced the selection of Maxar Technologies, of Westminister, Colorado, as developer of the first element of a lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway. The solar electric powered Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) is to be launched in 2022. In all, NASA studied proposals from five companies under contracts awarded in late 2017. Under the $375 million contract awarded Thursday, NASA supports the construction and launch of the module as well as a year of in-space testing. At the conclusion, NASA has an option then to acquire the PPE for the Gateway. Under NASA’s Artemis program, the PPE would be joined by a “mini-hab” equipped to receive astronauts launched aboard a Space Launch System (SLS)/Orion combination in 2024 to descend to the Moon’s surface at the south pole.

Top NASA official resigns weeks after being chosen to lead 2024 Moon mission
Newsweek.com (5/24): Mark Sirangelo was appointed head of strategy for the space agency’s planned mission to the Moon in 2024 and made a special assistant to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in April. However, he resigned his role on Wednesday, just weeks after starting, after the space agency abandoned a reorganization plan in the face of dwindling support from Capitol Hill for the lunar project.

NASA announces first major contract for the space station it wants to put in orbit around the Moon
Washington Post (5/23): NASA’s Maxar Technologies award for the first element of a lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway represents a significant step in the agency’s efforts to accelerate a human return to the surface of the Moon.

Companies encourage NASA to press ahead with LEO commercialization efforts
SpaceNews.com (5/22): During this week’s Space Tech Expo in Los Angeles, commercial participants expressed concerns that NASA’s recent focus on accelerating a human return to the lunar surface may overshadow efforts to nurture more commercial activity in low Earth orbit, including possible oversight of the International Space Station or development of a follow on to the orbiting science lab.

Astronaut landings in Utah? Very likely, and soon
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
KSL-TV of Utah (5/23): Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, closing in on NASA certification to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS), may be returning to Earth in Utah, and possibly descending by parachute onto the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground, according to company officials.

Space Science
Huge amount of water ice is spotted on Mars (it could be long-lost polar ice caps)
Space.com (5/23): NASA’s productive Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter appears to have found vestiges of the Red Planet’s polar ice caps, a layered mix of sand and ice, potentially pointing the way to where some form of life may have been present. Melted and distributed around the planet, the find represents enough water to reach a global depth of five feet, according to a study led by the University of Texas and published in journal Geophysical Research Letters.

After studying mice, scientists worry space travel could harm human joints
ECN (5/22): A NASA funded rodent study led by researchers from the Henry Ford Hospital and flown aboard a Russian spacecraft in 2013 suggests that long term exposure to micro gravity could be harmful to the cartilage in the joints of the skeletal system. Cartilage is a tissue that is considered to repair poorly.

The collision that created the Moon might have also brought water to the early Earth
Universe Today (5/23): In theories of how the Earth obtained its water, asteroid or comet collisions, have prevailed. Now a science team from the University of Munster offers evidence for another possibility. It is that the same collision 4.4 billion years ago between the Earth and an object known as Theia that created the Moon also furnished the water.

Ancient space collision caused mysterious Moon ‘anomaly’
Fox News (5/22) Distinctions between the appearance of the Moon’s near and far sides, craters versus open basins, may have been the result of an impact with another planetary body. The findings were published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

Other News
SASC approves establishment of U.S. Space Force
Spacepolicyonline.com (5/23): The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved the establishment of a U.S. Space Force within the Air Force “while avoiding additional bureaucracy and cost” as part of a 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. 

Just revealed SpaceX lawsuit alleges Air Force ‘wrongly awarded’ billions to rocket competitors
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance
CNBC (5/22): New details have emerged from a recent law suit filed by SpaceX against the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, alleging the center wrongfully failed to include SpaceX in its $2.3 billion in launch vehicle development contracts awarded to competitors Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, and United Launch Alliance (ULA). The awards were made last October.

On the third try, SpaceX vaults 60 Starlink satellites to orbit from Cape Canaveral
Florida Today (5/24): A SpaceX Falcon 9 launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, late Thursday to deploy 60 Starlink internet connection satellites into a 270 mile high Earth orbit. Company CEO Elon Musk expressed hope revenues from Starlink will help the company develop the spacecraft needed to establish a base on the Moon and a Mars city. At least two dozen similar launches are planned to establish a global network.

Chinese state media confirms Long March launch failure
Spaceflightnow.com (5/23): Headed to a polar orbit with a military payload, China’s Long March 4C, launched late Wednesday U.S. time, experienced a third stage failure.

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