Today’s Deep Space Extra

July 8th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… As the 50th anniversary of the first human Moon landing approaches, Apollo 11 on July 20, the discussion over how best to return and when ramps up. Russia envisions a role for 3-D manufacturing in the production of a Moon settlement using lunar soil.  Dust swirls at the Martian north pole.

Human Space Exploration

Trump promises the Moon “very soon” and Mars “someday soon” (7/5): In July 4 remarks from the National Mall in Washington, President Trump pledged a human return to the Moon soon, without mentioning a specific date, as did Vice President Mike Pence in late March with his surprise directive that NASA return with the first woman and next man in 2024. Missions to Mars will follow “someday soon,” Trump told the holiday gathering.

Trump lauds Apollo 11 Moon landing, promises American flag on Mars (7/5): During his July 4 address from Washington at the Lincoln Memorial, President Trump cited Apollo 11 as an example of the great things the nation is capable of. Fifty years ago July 20, Apollo 11’s Eagle Lander touched down at the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility, enabling Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to become the first humans to walk on the surface of another planetary body. Trump turned to retired NASA Apollo era flight director Gene Kranz during his remarks and promised the nation will return to the Moon and someday plant the American flag on Mars.

Can NASA really return people to the Moon by 2024?
Nature (7/8): Key’s to making an accelerated U.S. return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers is selecting and bringing the right NASA hardware and systems together, according to experts. Congress, however, has so far been tepid in its response — appropriating the funds for assembling a lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway, commercial landers that would shuttle astronauts between the Gateway and lunar surface and completing development of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew capsule.

Here’s a reality check on NASA’s Artemis Moon landing program
Ars Technica (7/3): A successful and visually spectacular flight test of NASA’s Orion Launch Abort System from Cape Canaveral, Florida, early last week and the July 20 approach of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing is fueling a timely rise in public interest over the agency’s plans to return human explorers to the lunar surface in 2024. But some worry it could be hindered by White House Office of Management and Budget opposition to a lunar Gateway. The lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway is to serve as a destination, where Orion crews would dock, then move to commercially furnished lander to descend to the surface and return. OMB is not convinced of the Gateway’s necessity, according to the report.

Living and working around the Moon: NASA makes plans for a new space station
Houston Chronicle (7/7): A modest lunar orbiting space station called the Gateway remains a crucial part of NASA’s plans to accelerate a human return to the surface of the Moon from 2028 to 2024. An initial version of the gateway, potentially with international partners including Canada so far, would serve as the staging point for Orion astronauts to board commercial landers to be shuttled to and from the surface of the Moon. Congress has yet to agree on the 2020 Gateway funding needed to meet the 2024 objective set by the Trump Administration in late March.

Russia plans to use 3-D printing, lunar dust to create Moon base – Roscosmos
TASS of Russia (7/6): As it moves forward with exploration of the Moon, Russia intends to launch additive manufacturing technologies capable of using the lunar soil to build habitat and production facilities. The first cosmonaut landing is planned for 2030.

Russia pressing forward on ISS expansion (7/3): By the middle of next year, Russia could be working on a long anticipated expansion of the International Space Station’s (ISS) Russian segment. The addition of the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module, the Prichal docking note and the science power module.

Space Science

A startling spike on Mars
Atlantic (7/3): A recent New York Times report floated a recurring occurrence on Mars that raises the specter of subsurface biological activity, a higher than normal detection of methane in the planet’s thin atmosphere by the Curiosity rover. There, however, other and perhaps more plausible explanations interactions between ancient underground water and sediment. As in previous episodes or rising methane detection by either orbiting spacecraft at Mars or Curiosity, it’s now wait and see.

Five reasons future space travel should explore asteroids
The Conversation (7/5): Among the most plentiful small objects in the solar system, asteroids hold scientific as well as real world value. Studies may help to better explain how the planets formed and obtained their water and organics, the building blocks of life. Their great numbers also pose a potential impact threats to the Earth and they may harbor valuable metals, including gold and platinum.

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) spinoff tech aids LASIK eye procedures (7/5): The development of the large, multi-segment mirror for the NASA’s led James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has resulted in a spinoff of the technology, Infrared Scanning Shack Hartmann System, for human eye surgery.

DSCOVR spacecraft in safe mode (7/7): Launched in February 2015, the joint NOAA/NASA Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) experienced a difficulty in late June that interrupted its observations of the solar wind from the Earth/sun L-1 Lagrange point, activities that could interfere with satellite operations in Earth orbit, or disrupted terrestrial power grids. While ground personnel attempt to diagnose the on board problem and develop a repair, the spacecraft has stopped returning data.

Dust storms swirl at the north pole of Mars
European Space Agency (7/4): The ice cap at the Martian north pole seems to have been a popular gathering spot for dust storms since late May. They form but dissipate quickly, so far no engulfing the entire planet as they did last year.

Other News

Billionaires are dead serious about moving factories to space (7/3): The Earth’s environment might be best preserved if significant resources could be obtained and processed industrially off the surface. Amazon and Blue Origin founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos is among those who that’s the way to save the Earth.

Vandenberg wooing tenants as launch activity slows down
Coalition Members in the News – Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance (7/2): With the demand for polar satellite missions in a lull, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, is looking for commercial tenants. Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman, both vying for new U.S. national security missions, could be among those prepared to join current tenants United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX.

Soyuz rocket and Fregat upper stage deliver 33 satellites to three different orbits (7/5): A Russian Soyuz-2.1b launched Friday from the Vostochny Cosmodrome with a domestic Meteor M2-2 weather satellite and a bevy of 33 rideshare small payloads, among them new small Spire Earth observation satellites.

Apollo 11

Explore 50 years of lunar visits with our newest Moon map
National Geographic (July 2019): The publication has updated its 1969 map of the Moon with new details from lunar missions carried out since the landing of Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969.

To the Moon! Celebrate the Apollo 11 anniversary by skywatching (7/7): Some pointers on how to look up at the Moon with binoculars or telescope to identify the Sea of Tranquility, the Apollo 11 landing site.

Hometown of first on Moon ready to launch 50th celebration
AP via New York Times (7/6): Neil Armstrong, who commanded Apollo 11, which carried out the first human Moon landing, hailed from the small Ohio town of Wapakoneta. July 20 marks the 50th anniversary of the landing at the Sea of Tranquility by Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Wapakoneta has expanded its celebration of the event to 10 days, with hot air balloons, concerts and a large Moon pie.

Over 400,000 Apollo workers helped the U.S. land on the Moon. Here are some of their stories
Orlando Sentinel (7/6): As NASA’s historic Apollo 11 mission was coming to an end 50 years ago July 24, and four days after the first ever human landing on the Moon, commander Neil Armstrong extended the three man crew’s thanks to the more than 400,000 scientists, engineers and technicians who helped to make the achievement possible.

Moon landing: A mission-by-mission look at the flights of the Apollo Moon program
Florida Today (7/4): A mission by mission look at the milestones that led to the July 20, 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing and the six missions that followed.

Anniversary of Apollo 11 prompts memories of 60s ‘Moon mania’ and future career inspiration
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (7/7): Many in Australia joined in the excitement of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of July 7-13, 2019 (7/7): Back in session after the July 4 recess, the U.S. House and Senate will be addressing space policy matters among their busy Washington agendas. Topics include whether to proceed with a House backed proposal to establish a U.S. Space Corps, or the Senate favored Space Force. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Aviation and Space Subcommittee hosts a hearing Tuesday on “NASA’s Exploration Plans:  Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going.”  The House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s Space Subcommittee hosts a hearing Wednesday on the International Space Station (ISS) and the future of low Earth orbit activities. On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee will host activities that include a hearing on measures to protect historic space sites, including the Apollo Moon landing sites.

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