Today’s Deep Space Extra

October 30th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA shares details of lunar surface missions. UAE plans to expand astronaut corps. James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) progress toward preparations for a March 2021 launch.

Human Space Exploration

NASA shares details of lunar surface missions — and they’re pretty cool (10/29): The Lunar Exploration Advisory Group will wrap up a three day session in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. Participants on Tuesday discussed unfolding plans for the Artemis 3 mission that is to mark NASA’s accelerated return to the lunar surface with human explorers in 2024. The two person crew should have an unpressurized rover to extend their explorations as they touchdown at the south pole and equipment to search for deposits of water ice in permanently shaded crater recesses and the ability to collect samples for return to Earth. A week-long stay is envisioned. As NASA and its commercial and international partners strive to achieve a sustained lunar presence by 2028, they will have a pressurized rover and/or a surface habitat for up to four crew members.

UAE plans to expand astronaut corps (10/25): Just weeks after celebrating the recent flight of its first astronaut, Hazza Al Mansoori, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is preparing to expand its small core of astronauts. Now constrained to a pair of astronauts, the UAE has a second selection process under consideration. As a Russian spaceflight participant, Al Mansoori, carried out an eight day trip to the International Space Station (ISS) between September 25 and October 3.

Space Science

Here’s how NASA might bring home pieces of Mars (in a Darth Vader helmet) (10/29): NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are working hard on a plan to return samples of Mars gathered by NASA’s Mars2020 rover back to Earth. The rover is to launch in July 2020 and land in February 2021 at Jezero crater, a potentially past habitable Martian environment. Then it’s to gather and cache samples of soil and rock for eventual return to Earth. U.S. and European experts are assessing a strategy to reach the cache site with a “fetch rover,” possibly launching from Earth in 2026. Once the samples are collected they would be launched into Martian orbit and join with another spacecraft for return to Earth. The plan was discussed at last week’s 70th International Aeronautical Conference (IAC) in Washington D.C. Studying Martian soil and rock has been a priority of the National Academies of Sciences, Medicine and Engineering.

JWST schedule margin shrinks
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (10/29): In an update provided NASA’s Astrophysics Advisory Committee, an agency program director for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) said progress toward preparations for a March 2021 launch of the JWST is progressing but has reduced schedule reserves from about nine months in June 2018 to just over two months. The designated successor to the 29-year-old Hubble Space Telescope, JWST was developed to study the early universe and look for bio markers in the atmospheres of extra solar planets.

Hayabusa2 completes key missions
Japan News (10/30): Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft is nearing the end of its long stay at the asteroid Ryugu. The spacecraft has landed twice on the asteroid to collect samples and deployed small surface rover/hoppers. It reached the distant asteroid in mid-2018 and is scheduled to depart for Earth in the November/December time frame and return with its sample material in late 2020.

Other News

SpaceX is sure they’ll be able to land Starship on the Moon in 2022
Universe Today (10/28): SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell offered a timeline for reaching the Moon with the company’s reusable Starship while speaking before the 70th International Astronautical Conference (IAC) in Washington last week. Plans envision an Earth orbit mission next year, a mission to the Moon for a landing in 2022 and on a lunar landing mission with astronauts two years later.

Morgan Stanley: Don’t underestimate the economic importance of launching people into space
Houston Chronicle (10/29): Morgan Stanley subscribes to a future $1 trillion space economy estimate, including a commercial human spaceflight contribution.

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