Today’s Deep Space Extra

July 1st, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Lots of ground activities, and a major flight test in support of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew capsule development are underway this week. 

Human Space Exploration

Biggest hurdles to reaching the Moon and Mars are not technical
The Hill (6/29): NASA’s successes, including landing the first human explorers on the Moon, have long required bipartisan political support. Preserving the bipartisan formula could be more of a challenge to sustainably returning humans to the Moon and pressing for Mars than the technical obstacles, write two executives of Explore Mars, Inc.

Upcoming test to demonstrate Orion’s launch abort system in flight
Coalition Member in the News – Lockheed Martin (6/30): The flight test of the Launch Abort System (LAS) NASA is developing for Orion/Space Launch System (SLS) missions to the Moon and Mars is planned for early Tuesday. The unmanned test will use a Peacekeeper solid fuel rocket motor to boost an instrumented but uncrewed Orion capsule mockup to an altitude of more than 30,000 feet, where the LAS is to pull the capsule away. The test will not include a deployment of the parachute system, which would follow in an actual abort to lower the capsule to a landing.

SLS mobile launcher moves to pad 39B for final exams (6/28): The first Mobile Launch Platform developed to support the launches of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew capsule on missions to the Moon arrived at the Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) Launch Pad 39B late last week, where it is undergoing a range of subsystem checkouts. The platform will support the assembly, or “stacking” of the SLS in Kennedy’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and then move the rocket with the Orion capsule atop to the coastal launch pad. NASA and its contractor team are working toward the first test launch of the SLS and Orion, perhaps by the end of 2020.

SLS core stage receives four RS-25 engines for first flight
Coalition Member in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne
Space Foundation (6/28): Aerojet Rocketdyne has delivered four liquid hydrogen and oxygen powered RS-25 rocket engines to NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where they will be joined to the core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket assigned to Artemis-1, the first test flight of the SLS and Orion, a multi week mission around the Moon without astronauts on board.

Fifty years after Apollo, NASA is moving quickly to return to the Moon. But will it work?
Florida Today (7/1): NASA has turned to a maturing commercial space industry to enable an accelerated return to the surface of the Moon by 2004. Space policy veterans assess the strategy.

Space Science

Chang’e-4 begins lunar day 7 after Yutu-2 rover overcomes cosmic challenges (6/28): China’s Chang’ 4 lander and Yutu rover were back in action on the Moon’s far side as of late last week, the start of the latest two week lunar day and following a long lunar night of the same duration. China reports it has resolved a communications issue between the rover and a Chinese communications relay satellite positioned at the L-1 Earth/Moon Lagrange point during the previous two week daylight period.

Other News

Rocket Lab launches satellites into orbit
Radio New Zealand (6/29): A collection of seven small satellites, some for the U.S. military, were launched from New Zealand by Rocket Lab atop an Electron rocket on Thursday.

Houston city leaders break ground on land for suborbital vehicles
KHOU-TV of Houston (6/28): City officials and business leaders joined on Friday to break ground for the Houston Spaceport, a commercial spaceport located on the grounds of the city’s Ellington Airport. The Phase 1 ground breaking required an $18.8 million investment from the city to build streets, utilities and other infrastructure that will be needed to support commercial space activities. Intuitive Machines, which recently received a NASA contract to develop a commercial lunar lander, is the facility’s first tenant.

Apollo 11

Apollo 11 at 50: Mission’s scientific legacy was just getting to the Moon
UPI (6/17): Reaching the Moon ahead of the former Soviet Union, the nation’s Cold War rival, topped the list of priorities given NASA by President John F. Kennedy to land of the lunar surface with astronauts before the end of the 1960’s. Still, significant scientific discovery emerged in the samples returned to Earth by the Apollo astronauts.

NASA’s restored Apollo Mission Control is a slice of ’60s life, frozen in amber
Ars Technica (6/29): NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) on Friday marked the completion of a multi-year, $5 million effort to restore the Mission Control room that supported the Apollo 11 Moon landing 50 years ago this July 20, down to the small screen computer consoles, ash trays and rotary dial phones. More than a million visitors annually tour JSC. Starting Monday, they will have an opportunity to gaze onto the restored control room that supported missions from the Gemini era through Apollo, Skylab and early space shuttle flights.

Apollo 8’s commander reflects on the sights and sounds of the space age
National Geographic (6/28): NASA Astronaut Frank Borman led Apollo 8, the mission the circled the Moon over Christmas in 1968 with a crew of three. Now 91, Borman urges a scientific presence on the Moon, while looking back favorably on those who led the way for Apollo and the first wave of human lunar exploration.

How a park on the Moon could lead to more consensus on space exploration
Politico (6/28): For All Mankind, a Connecticut based nonprofit is all about a strategy to protect the historic sites on the Moon, especially those where Apollo 11 landed and its lunar lander crew, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, took the first steps on July 20, 1969. One concept would be to establish a lunar park. The exercise could lead to wider international agreements on property and mining rights on planetary bodies.

‘We could have lost the Apollo 11 crew:’ A once-classified anomaly nearly killed NASA’s first Moon astronauts, a new book reveals
Business Insider (6/30): “Eight Years to the Moon: The History of the Apollo Mission,” a book offering a look at NASA’s Apollo missions describes a risk faced by the Apollo 11 crew as their command module returned to Earth and the service module separated. Three other Apollo crews faced the same concern, a risk of re-contact with the service module, according to the book.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of June 30-July 6, 2019 (6/30): NASA’s Ascent Abort Test-2, a flight test of the crew abort system for the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS), is planned for early Tuesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. A four hour launch period begins at 7 a.m., EDT. With the approach of July 4, Congress is in recess. Looking ahead, the U.S. House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee is to host a hearing July 10 entitled “A review of NASA’s plans for the International Space Station (ISS) and Future Activities in Low Earth Orbit.”

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