Today’s Deep Space Extra

May 30th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA is striving for an Artemis-1 launch by the end of 2020, the first joint launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion capsule on an uncrewed test flight around the Moon. Russia celebrates the first ever spacewalk by Alexey Leonov. NASA auditors express concerns for planned missions to Europa, the ice and ocean covered moon of Jupiter. China preps a Mars rover for a mid-2020 launch.

Human Space Exploration

NASA still aiming for 2020 first launch of SLS (5/29): In briefings before the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations Committee, NASA managers stress they are keeping alive a possible first test launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion capsule by the end of 2020. The uncrewed Artemis-1 mission would launch Orion around the Moon and back to Earth. Once planned for mid-2020, Artemis 1 flight faces SLS core stage development and pre-launch test challenges. The third in the series of SLS/Orion test flights is to place human explorers on the surface of the Moon in 2024.

Cosmonauts complete tasks outside Space Station, honor spacewalk pioneer

CBS News via (5/29): Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin paid tribute from the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday to fellow Russian Alexey Leonov, who conducted the first ever spacewalk on March 18, 1965. Leonov celebrates his 85th birthday on Thursday. The tribute came as Kononenko and Ovchinin embarked on a six hour spacewalk of their own outside the Space Station to install handrails, retrieve external experiments and perform maintenance tasks.

Space Science

Without a champion, Europa lander falls to NASA’s back burner (5/29): Despite early political and funding support from Congress, a challenging NASA mission intended to investigate whether Europa, the ice and ocean covered moon of Jupiter, hosts a habitable environment, faces significant technical and cost challenges that could disrupt other planetary science missions assigned a high priority, according to an audit by the space agency’s inspector general.

A new view of exoplanets with NASA’s upcoming Webb Telescope
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (5/29): NASA is preparing the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) for a 2021 launch, as a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. One of Webb’s assignments is to look close at recent extra solar planet discoveries for signs of biomarkers, or atmospheric evidence of habitable environments on distant worlds.

China’s first Mars spacecraft undergoing integration for 2020 launch (5/29): China plans to join NASA and a European/Russian partnership in launching independent landers and rovers to Mars in mid-2020, timing that marks a favorable alignment between the Earth and the Red Planet. China plans an orbiter and a rover, which will be equipped with a ground penetrating radar and environmental sensors. China has two landing sites are under evaluation, one in the neighborhood of NASA’s Viking 1 and Pathfinder mission lander and rover of old, and a second near where NASA’s Curiosity rover is currently exploring.

Solar wind sparks “rainbow auroras” (5/29): A fast moving stream of solar wind is credited with bright rainbow like auroras in the skies over Canada. The display, caused as the stream strikes the Earth’s magnetic field, is forecast to continue for another day or two.

Other News

Understanding the space economy
Harvard Business Review (5/28): In a question and answer format, Harvard Business School fellow Sinead O’Sullivan explains the far reaching nature of the space economy, whose value is currently assessed at $325 billion on a global scale. The mining of minerals on other planetary bodies with value on Earth, could be one source of significant future growth, he predicts.

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