Today’s Deep Space Extra

August 20th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… The White House National Space Council, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, will meet publicly for the sixth time today. NASA calls on the private sector to bid on resupply missions to the future lunar Gateway. India’s Chandrayaan 2 lander/rover has achieved lunar orbit on its way to a first ever landing at the Moon’s south pole.  

Human Space Exploration

NASA issues call for proposals for Gateway logistics (8/19): NASA has issued a request for proposals from the U.S. commercial sector for the launching of supplies to the Gateway that is to be assembled in lunar orbit as part of Artemis, the initiative to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon by 2024 and establish a sustainable human presence in the aftermath to prepare for the human exploration of Mars. Up to $7 billion in contracts are in play. As it does with the International Space Station (ISS), NASA plans fixed price payments to contractors. Responses are due October 1.

Vice President Pence chairs Space Council meeting today: Watch it live (8/19): The future of human space exploration promises to be among the topics of the sixth meeting of the White House National Space Council, which is to get underway today at 9:30 a.m., EDT, at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Vice President Mike Pence will chair the two hour proceedings, which are to be aired over NASA-TV (  

Newt Gingrich proposes a $2 billion prize for a human Moon lander
Ars Technica (8/19): Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker, is among a small group proposing a $2 billion prize for returning humans to the Moon as an alternative to the White House/NASA Artemis initiative intended to accelerate a return from 2028 to 2024 at a cost that has not been formally provided to lawmakers.

Space Science

Chandrayaan-2 expected to soft land on the Moon at 1:40 am on September 7, reveals ISRO Chief
Mashable India (8/20): India’s Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft maneuvered into lunar orbit Tuesday in preparation for a first ever attempt to soft land a rover at the Moon’s south pole early September 7, Indian time. The mission was launched July 22.

Plans detailed for first U.S. mission to land on Moon since Apollo
Coalition Members in the News – Astrobotic Technology, Inc., United Launch Alliance
Reuters via Yahoo! news (8/19): Astrobotic Technology, Inc. on Monday announced the selection of United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) new Vulcan rocket to launch the first U.S. mission to land on the Moon since Apollo. Astrobotic, of Pittsburgh, is one of nine companies designated by NASA in late November as eligible to compete for the launch of science and technology missions to the lunar surface over the coming decade. The cost of the overall effort is estimated at $2.6 billion. The 2021 launch of Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander will be the first for the Vulcan.

Turning a corner on Mars
The Space Review (8/19): The corner to be turned is the outcome of the NASA led Mars 2020 rover mission, one due to launch in the July/August 2020 time frame. Once at Jezero crater on Mars in February of 2021, part of the rover’s mission is to gather and cache samples of Martian soil and rock. Jezero is believed to be part of an ancient watershed and a potentially once habitable environment. Upon their return to Earth, the samples can be examined with the latest in high technology laboratory instruments to determine if they contain evidence of past, or current, microbial activity.

Mission to Jupiter’s icy moon confirmed
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (8/19): Plans for a robotic NASA mission to Jupiter’s ice and ocean covered moon Europa has passed a milestone in its planning phase. Europa is believed to host one of several possible habitable environments in the outer solar system, and a mission to evaluate the possibility further has a high ranking from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, second only to Mars. A multiple flyby mission of Europa is planned, with a launch, potentially using NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), envisioned between 2023 and 2025.

Other News

The future of commercial space transportation
Coalition Member in the News – Cislunar Space Development Company
The Space Review (8/19): The industry is at a promising but challenging cross roads, as members look to hardware reuse options as well as smaller but more capable satellite payloads for a growing range of missions from low Earth orbit to deep space. Then, there’s the whole concept of commercial deep space missions to enable NASA’s Artemis return to the Moon initiative as a stepping stone to Mars and other deep space destinations, writes Dallas Bienhoff, founder of the Cislunar Space Development Company, in an op-ed.

Rocket Lab Electron booster launches four satellites into orbit (8/19): A Rocket Lab Electron rocket placed four satellites in orbit following liftoff from New Zealand early Monday. The mission launched a maritime surveillance satellite, and Earth imager and two technology demonstrators for the U.S. Air Force Space Command.

Scientists know gravity exists. They just don’t know how it works.
Washington Post (8/16): For centuries scientists have struggled to understand gravity.

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