Today’s Deep Space Extra

October 8th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA advancing its commercial partnership to accelerate a human return to the surface of the Moon in 2024. NASA astronaut Nick Hague receives Russia’s Order of Courage. 

Human Space Exploration

NASA’s 2024 Moon goal: Q&A with Human Landing System Chief Lisa Watson-Morgan (10/7): NASA’s Human Landing System will soon issue a Broad Area Announcement and then this winter make its selection for commercial partners as part of a strategy to accelerate a human return to the Moon in 2024. NASA’s Lisa Watson Morgan, the program manager at the Marshall Space Flight Center, discussed the challenges in an interview at last month’s Wernher Von Braun Symposium. NASA will assess the commercial proposals against a NASA reference strategy. The agency would like to select three, possibly four contract partners. But that depends on funding.

Construction of Starship 39A launch and landing facility picking up the pace (10/7): Construction of SpaceX Starship launch and landing facilities at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is unfolding at a rapid pace. As many as 24 launches annually are envisioned.

Putin signs decree on awarding Order of Courage to NASA astronaut Nick Hague
TASS of Russia (10/8): Russian president Vladimir Putin has awarded NASA astronaut Nick Hague the Order of Courage for his role in the Soyuz MS-10 launch abort on October 11, 2018. Hague was seated in the Russian space capsule with cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin for their launch to the International Space Station (ISS) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan when their mission was aborted two minutes into flight. The capsule descended safely to the ground. Both men would go on to launch to the ISS in March and return to Earth on October 3.

Russia continues space cooperation with NASA despite political tension, says scientist
TASS of Russia (10/7): Despite political tensions, representative from NASA and Roscosmos, the Russian federal space agency, are discussing future cooperation in the exploration of the Moon and Venus. Russia is also speaking with China regarding lunar missions. That might include Russia’s development of an advanced Soyuz spacecraft that could take explorers to the Moon.

Space Science

20 new moons found around Saturn, snagging satellite record from Jupiter (10/7): Saturn now leads Jupiter as the solar system’s planet with the most moons, 82, three more than Jupiter, Scott Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington D.C., announced Monday. The announcement followed the discovery of 20 very small moons at Saturn using the Subaru Telescope, of Hawaii. 

Artemis, meet ARTEMIS: Pursuing sun science at the Moon
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (10/7): NASA is pursuing Artemis as an accelerated return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers in 2024. However, ARTEMIS was initially the name for two spacecraft that reached lunar orbit in 2011 and that were initially part of a five spacecraft flock that was launched in 2007 to study the formation of Earthly aurora. As their mission matured, scientists found a way to maneuver them to the monitor conditions in and around the lunar environment.

Here’s an example of the crazy lengths NASA goes to land safely on Mars
Ars Technica (10/7): NASA’s next journey to the Martian surface is with the Mars 2020 rover, due to launch in July 2020 and land in February 2021. Landing at Mars is difficult, and in order to seek out potentially habitable environments on Mars and cache samples of soil and rock for eventual return to Earth, the Mars 2020 rover will head for a more rugged terrain than past missions. Mars 2020 will be equipped with a new landing aid, Terrain Relative Navigation, an automated system to help navigate the rover away from hazards as it descends. 

Ancient lake on Mars turned salty for a spell, Curiosity rover finds (10/7): NASA’s Curiosity rover touched down on the floor of Mar’s near 100 mile wide Gale crater just over seven years ago. Its mission is to shed light on how and when the planet transitioned from warm and wet to cold and desert like and seek evidence in the mineralogy for past habitable environments. A new study of high levels of sulfate salts detected in the sediments published in Nature Geoscience may point to a past episode in which moisture evaporated on a cyclical basis or long term drying out on a global scale. Changes began about 4.2 billion years ago and by 3.7 billion years ago, Mars had lost much of its atmosphere.

Other News

Boeing links with Virgin Galactic on space, high-speed flight plans (Paywall)
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
Aviation Week (10/8): Boeing and Virgin Galactic will work together to develop commercial space access and high-speed exo-atmospheric transport systems under a strategic alliance announced on October 8. Under the deal, Boeing’s HorizonX capital investment arm will inject $20 million into Virgin Galactic in exchange for new shares.

The satellite industry catches a cold
The Space Review (10/7): Changes are underway in the realm of geosynchronous communications satellites. As more consumers turn to streaming rather than direct broadband, the industry is also looking ahead to smaller, less expensive geo satellites with flexibility to adapt to the market place.

NASA, commercial companies planning more rocket launches. But no one understands the effects to the oceans, ozone layer
Houston Chronicle (10/8): With new voyages to the Moon in the works and growing commercial space activity in low Earth orbit, there could be environmental consequences for the planet’s air, land and sea.

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