Today’s Deep Space Extra

November 6th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA’s commercial partners offer the agency alternatives for a lunar lander to carry out an accelerated return to the surface of the Moon with astronauts in 2024.  Until NASA returns to the Moon, the International Space Station (ISS) will provide opportunities to mitigate the risks of deep space exploration, including astronaut health and performance as well as a lunar dust mitigation.

Human Space Exploration

Boeing offers SLS-launched lunar lander to NASA
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman (11/5): Boeing on Tuesday offered NASA a possible alternative to a lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway in its quest to accelerate a return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers in 2024. The proposed two stage Boeing lander would launch on the Block 1B version of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The Block 1B adds an Exploration Upper Stage to the SLS, a combination with enough power to launch a single-unit lunar lander into orbit around the Moon to rendezvous directly with the Orion crew vehicle or with the lunar orbiting, human tended Gateway to await an Orion capsule with astronauts.

NASA rejects Blue Origin’s offer of a cheaper upper stage for the SLS rocket
Coalition Member in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance
Ars Technica (11/5): Blue Origin, now leading a multi contractor effort to provide NASA with commercial lunar landers, once proposed an alternative to Boeing’s Exploration Upper Stage for the Space Launch System (SLS). In recently released documents, NASA explains why it chose to pursue the Exploration Upper Stage instead. The reasoning includes a limit on the additional payload that could be flown with an Orion crew capsule on the SLS,  a bad fit with the Vertical Assembly Building (VAB) at the SLS’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) launch site and impacts on the Orion capsule and its solar array design.

NASA’s coating technology could help resolve lunar dust challenge
NASA Goddard (11/5): NASA’s Apollo astronauts found the Moon’s abrasive dust an issue in managing their space suits and keeping the material from overtaking the lander habitats. Technologists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center may have found a means of coating future space suits to reject the dust. The strategy comes from another project meant to bleed off electrical charges that accumulate as satellites fly through plasma in the Earth’s magnetosphere. The concept is now being tested aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

SpaceX and Boeing still need a parachute that always works
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
Wired (11/5): Boeing and SpaceX are surging to achieve NASA Commercial Crew Program certifications of their respective CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon spacecraft to resume transporting astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) from U.S. soil for the first time since NASA’s shuttle program was retired in 2011. Parachute performance required for a safe descent to Earth for the astronauts on board, either during launch pad or launch aborts as well as normal descents from orbit, remain to be resolved.

NASA wants 10 more yearlong Space Station stays to prep for Mars (11/5): NASA would like to launch perhaps 10 more astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) for missions approaching a year in duration, as it makes an accelerated human return to the surface of the Moon in 2024 to prepare for missions to Mars, which could span two to three years round trip. Julie Robinson, chief scientist for NASA’s Space Station program, explained the urgency last weekend at the Space Health Innovation Conference in San Francisco. Scott Kelley’s 342 days and Peggy Whitson’s 289 days have helped to provide additional insight into the health challenges of missions lasting longer than the typical six months. NASA’s Christina Koch, a current Space Station crew member who launched in March, is planning an estimated 328 day stay.

A journey to Mars starts on the Space Station (11/5): Until NASA achieves an accelerated return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers in 2024, it will look to the International Space Station (ISS) to play a larger role in preparing the agency and its partners for years long missions to Mars. “Going to Mars would be difficult, but fortunately, we don’t have to start from scratch, because we’ve already built these other platforms that we can use to practice some of the operations that we would use on a human Mars mission,” Michelle Rucker, an engineer at NASA’s Exploration Mission Planning Office, told those gathered for the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Washington last month.

Space Science

The first stars formed very quickly
Universe Today (11/5): Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy have found evidence that the universe’s first stars formed relatively quickly in the aftermath of the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. Observations with ground-based observatories suggest that star formation was underway within the first billion years. Findings were published in the Astrophysical Journal.

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