Today’s Deep Space Extra

June 24th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… The first woman to walk on the Moon could well be a current astronaut, according to NASA’s administrator. Future Artemis Moon crews will be preparing NASA for the exploration of Mars, where the Curiosity rover in recent days has raised speculation over possible biological activity. China may have encountered issues with the planned launch of its Long March 5 heavy lift rocket. India readies a July Moon mission launchю

Human Space Exploration

One of these 12 women astronauts will go to the Moon
CNN Business (6/21): In a recent interview, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstiine said one of the 12 women currently in NASA’s astronaut corps would likely be the first woman to walk on the Moon. Earlier this year, the White House directed NASA to accelerate efforts to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon from 2028 to 2024. CNN profiles the 12 females who have flown previously or are preparing for their first space mission and represent potential candidates to walk on the Moon.

3 Apollo astronauts say they support Trump’s plan to land people on the Moon but NASA would need to make two big changes
Business Insider (6/21): Apollo vets from three missions, Apollo 9’s Rusty Schweickart, Apollo 16’s Charles Duke and Apollo’s 17’s Harrison Schmitt endorsed efforts to return human explorers to the Moon by 2024 under the White House Artemis initiative. Adequate funding, participation from enthusiastic young professionals and reduced bureaucracy are keys to success, they said, while participating in an Apollo 11, 50th anniversary event, at the Cradle of Aviation Museum.

Life on Mars gets a test run in the Utah desert
Los Angeles Times (6/23): In Utah’s desert for 18 years now, the Mars Society has operated a remote Mars Desert Research Station to simulate life on the red planet for short periods and for international crews that agree to follow strict protocols. A cylindrical habitat rises two stories over the landscape. Participants cultivate food and don spacesuits if they leave the habitat.

Space Science

NASA rover on Mars detects puff of gas that hints at possibility of life
New York Times (6/22): As last week drew to a close, scientists associated with NASA’s Curiosity rover mission on Mars were excitedly discussing an uncharacteristic detection of methane gas in the thin atmosphere of the Red Planet by the Curiosity rover, which landed in Gale Crater in 2012. Though it could have multiple sources, methane is a gas associated with biological activity on Earth. Curiosity’s science team spent the weekend obtaining a follow-up reading.

Is there life on Mars, or on other worlds beyond Earth? The answer may be squishy (6/23): Scientists gathering Sunday for the Astrobiology Science Conference in Bellevue, Washington, urge caution in assuming the origin of methane concentrations recently detected on Mars by NASA’s Curiosity rover are linked to biological activity. “It’s not in itself a biosignature,” said one NASA scientist.

China’s moon, Mars and space station missions may be facing delays (6/21): Still to be resolved issues with China’s Long March 5 heavy lift rocket could pose schedule delays for a range of missions, including a lunar sample return, a Mars rover and assembly of a modular Earth orbiting space station. A July launch had been planned, two years after a second failure of the Long March 5. However, the hardware has yet to be delivered to its launch complex, the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on the southern island of Hainan.

Astrobiology takes the spotlight: Saturn’s moon Enceladus may offer a ‘free lunch’ (6/21): Enceladus, Saturn’s intriguing ice covered moon may host habitable environments. Geyser like sprays of water from a subsurface sea have been spotted rising from cracks in the ice by the long running NASA Cassini mission, which came to an end in late 2017.

Other News

India is making a play to become a major space power
The Hill (6/21): Presenting a challenge to China as a global space power, India plans to launch Chandrayaan 2, a lunar orbiter, lander and rover mission on July 15. The rover would be the first explore the Moon’s south pole, which appears to have deposits of water ice, a resource for future human explorers. An early September landing is anticipated. India is also exploring the assembly of a modest independent station.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX clashes with the Pentagon, its key client
Coalition Members in the News – Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance
Los Angeles Times (6/21): A simmering legal dispute between SpaceX and the Pentagon over future launch services could have ramifications for the cost and performance of future national security missions. The dispute involved Defense development contracts awarded United Launch Alliance (ULA), Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin.

Falcon Heavy ready for first night launch with multitude of payloads (6/22): SpaceX is preparing its Falcon Heavy rocket for its third launch, and first in darkness, on Monday night from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The Department of Defense Space Test Program mission includes two dozen small satellites for a range of customers, including NASA, the Planetary Society and NOAA as well as the Pentagon. NASA will demonstrate a new Atomic Clock and a non-toxic fuel. The Planetary Society is launching is second Light Sail mission, an effort to harness solar photons to elevate the altitude of a small satellite.

Seeing red: Mankind gets closer to Mars
CBS News (6/23): Though working toward an accelerated human return to the surface of the Moon in 2024, NASA has not lost its focus on exploring the Moon with astronauts, perhaps in the mid-2030s, according to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. The Moon can serve as the proving ground for the Mars strategy, whose goal would likely be to seek evidence for past and possibly current, life.

You won’t believe everything this aspiring astronaut has achieved by just 22 and we love her take on self-care, too
Parade (6/21): Abigail Harrison, also known as Astronaut Abby, has chronicled her youthful pursuit of a career as an astronaut using social media. Now 22, Harrison has been sharing the details of her pursuit since she was 13, and it keeps her pretty busy most daysю

Apollo 11

A NASA legend: Christopher Kraft wrote the rule book for Mission Control, flight operations
Houston Chronicle (6/22): Chris Kraft, now 95, reminisces about the early days of human spaceflight, NASA’s Mercury and Gemini missions and the Apollo lunar landings.  He conceived of Mission Control and the control room at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston bears Kraft’s name.

How NASA sold the science and glamour of space travel
New York Times (6/23): The Times “Retro Report” looks back at the American sentiment over the nation’s Cold War race to the Moon against the former Soviet Union and how support for the human exploration of deep space soon stalled. “I believe the marketing aspect of Apollo was as important as the spacecraft, I absolutely do,” marketer and author David Meerman Scott, told the Times. “The best marketers on the planet are able to tell stories. And that’s what’s important for space travel going forward.”

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of June 23-29, 2019 (6/23): The work week begins with the night time descent to Earth of three International Space Station (ISS) astronauts, NASA’s Ann McClain, Canada’s David Saint-Jacque and Russia’s Oleg Kononenko aboard their Soyuz MS-11 capsule in remote Kazakhstan. Their landing is planned for Monday at 10:48 p.m., EDT, followed by the first planned night launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) with 24 payloads for the Pentagon, NASA and other research endeavors, including the Planetary Society’s Light Sail 2 mission. In Washington, the U.S. House is preparing to pass more appropriations measures, including NASA’s 2020 budget request.

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