Today’s Deep Space Extra

June 28th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA plans an uncrewed flight test of the Orion Launch Abort System early next week. The agency has selected Titan, a moon of Saturn, as the destination for a bold mission called Dragonfly, one with a drone rotor craft equipped to survey conditions at a place perhaps similar to Earth before life emerged. Sunday is Asteroid Day, and a full solar eclipse is coming to regions of South America next Tuesday.

Human Space Exploration

NASA gearing up for big test of Orion Crew Capsule next week (6/27): The escape system for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS)/Orion astronauts is scheduled to be tested in flight with a launch Tuesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida The Launch Abort System is designed to pull Orion away from its launch vehicle in the event of an anomaly or during the rocket’s ascent. Once safely clear of its trouble launch vehicle, parachutes would deploy, slowing the capsule’s descent into ocean waters in range of recovery forces. The uncrewed test is planned for Tuesday at 7 a.m., EDT. During the three minute test, the instrumented Orion spacecraft will rise to about six miles.

Space Science

NASA approves development of flying drone to explore Saturn’s moon Titan (6/27): Dragonfly a planetary science mission to Saturn’s intriguing moon, Titan, has been selected by NASA for development and a launch in 2026. The drone like spacecraft would land in 2034 for more than two years of exploration, during which Dragonfly will takeoff perhaps dozens of times covering a distance of more  than 100 miles overall. Frigid with a thick atmosphere rich in nitrogen, Titan is believed to have many of Earth’s qualities before life emerged. Dragonfly will look for evidence of past or current microbial activity on Titan.

Marsquakes may be evidence of groundwater (6/27): Recent Mars quakes detected by NASA’s Mars InSight lander may be initiated by the motion of underground water. InSight touched down in November 2018 to begin the first ever studies of the Martian subsurface. Some of the forces acting on the subsurface water may be coming from the pull of the moon Phobos and temperature changes in the thin Martian atmosphere.

NASA’s TESS mission finds its smallest planet yet
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (6/27): NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered its smallest planet yet. L-98-59b is about 80 percent the size of the Earth and orbits a small star 35 light years from Earth with at least two companion planets, each larger than the Earth. TESS was launched April 18, 2018 to seek out Earth like planets around the nearest stars and is a successor to NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

NASA to livestream South America total solar eclipse
NASA (6/27): This total solar eclipse will be visible from the ground next Tuesday, July 2, in parts of Chile and Argentina. NASA plans to live stream the activities in Spanish and English to others far away.

This world is a simmering hellscape. They’ve been watching its explosions
New York Times (6/26): Jupiter’s moon Io is volcanic and a telescope observatory in Hawaii has been watching the eruptions unfold for the past five years.

Other News

Scientists turn up the spotlight on space perils (and prospects) for Asteroid Day (6/27): Sunday is Asteroid Day, a U.N. globally recognized annual outreach to educate the world about the nature of asteroids and the impact threat some pose to the Earth. NASA is now striving to find and track 90 percent of all objects 140 meters across and larger that pass close to the Earth with ground and space based telescopes. Asteroid Day falls on the anniversary of the Tunguska event, a large impact on June 30, 1908 that flattened a large forested area in Siberia.

Russian space contractor escapes jail time after $6.5M fraud
Moscow Times (6/27): A key head of a construction firm involved in the construction of Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome has received a suspended sentence following an investigation into an alleged $6.5 million embezzlement. The $3 billion project is intended to provide Russia with launch site independence. Many of Russia’s launches are from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Apollo 11

After Apollo 11, other nations set their sights on Moon landings, too
Orlando Sentinel (6/27): A “friendly” global and commercial competition to orbit and land on the Moon in order to explore emerged from the tense Cold War era space race between the former Soviet Union and the U.S. to be first on the Moon with human explorers.

Apollo 11: See the companies honoring the Moon landing anniversary
Florida Today (6/27): From Dairy Queen to Krispy Kreme, the upcoming July 20th 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the first landing on the Moon by human explorers, has businesses on Florida’s Space Coast reaching out to pay tribute.

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