Today’s Deep Space Extra

September 12th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA managers offer a positive outlook for the Artemis human return to the Moon initiative. Plans for the launch of China’s space station appear to slip.

Human Space Exploration

NASA: Artemis on track for 2024 (9/11): The NASA leadership of Artemis, the agency initiative to accelerate a return of human explorers to the surface of the Moon by 2024, provided an update on planning this week at the 12th annual Wernher Von Braun Memorial Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama. In addition to the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew capsule, key elements are a temporarily downsized lunar orbiting Gateway to accommodate a 2024 rather than 2028 human return, and a human landing system, whose development is overseen by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center but developed and operated by commercial providers. Surface stays of four to six days are anticipated.

Chinese space station core module passes review but faces delays (9/11): The core module prototype for China’s planned space station passed its final review earlier this month, setting the stage for production of the flight element. But the Long March 5B heavy lift launch vehicle that is to place the Tianhe (Harmony of the Heavens) module in orbit continues to experience delays emanating from a July 2017 launch failure. The Long March 5 loss triggered a lengthy process of redesign and testing. Plans to complete the assembly of the Chinese space station have shifted from around 2022 to 2022-24, according to the report.

Space Science

India has located the Vikram lander, but it’s still not communicating with home
Universe Today (9/11): Though the India Space Research Organization (ISRO) has managed to obtain an image of the Chandrayaan-2 Vikram lander intact on the surface of the Moon in the south pole region, it has not been able to re-establish the contact that was lost late Friday afternoon, U.S. time, as Vikram was in the final stages of an automated, powered descent. ISRO is not giving up, though. But the landing site will transition from a two week lunar day to an equally long but frigid lunar night by September 21, conditions too cold for hoped for operations.

ISRO lost Chandrayaan-2 lander Vikram contact 400 metres above Moon, not 2.1 kms
India Today (9/11): A second look at a chart reflecting the descent of India’s Chandrayaan-2 Vikram Moon lander suggests that communications was lost with  the craft at 400 meters above the lunar surface, not 2.1 kilometers as was first reported. According to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Vikram landed intact but at a tilt at its intended landing zone at the south pole. Efforts to re-establish communications are underway.

After leading Mars rover missions, Steve Squyres joins Blue Origin as chief scientist (9/11): A key scientist participant on NASA’s Mars rover missions and other planetary missions, Cornell University astronomer and planetary scientist Steve Squyres has joined Blue Origin as chief scientist.

Other News

NASA Glenn Director Janet Kavandi, a former astronaut, retires
Cleveland Plain Dealer (9/11): NASA Glenn Research Center Director Janet Kavandi will retire from the agency at the end of September. A chemist, Kavandi joined NASA as an astronaut candidate in 1994 and launched on three shuttle missions. She joined Glenn as deputy director in 2016 and became director a year later and was later recommended by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine as a candidate for agency deputy director.

China returns Long March 4 to service with Ziyuan-2D launch (9/11): China’s Long March 4B rocket returned to service on Thursday with the launch of a remote sensing satellite. It was the first mission for the rocket since late May, when a Long March 4C experienced a third stage structural issue that led to loss of the payload.

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