Today’s Deep Space Extra

November 14th, 2019

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… A White House directive that NASA accelerate a human return to the surface of the Moon by 2024 may be too technically complex, and one that Congress has been too slow to fund, NASA veterans and a current executive cautioned on Wednesday.

Human Space Exploration

“Unambiguous goal” still needed for Moon/Mars
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing, Lockheed Martin (11/13): During a hearing Wednesday before the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s space subcommittee, retired Apollo era astronaut Tom Stafford and Tom Young, a retired NASA and Lockheed Martin executive and veteran space advisory panel chair, cautioned that a White House directive that NASA accelerate a human return to the surface of the Moon in 2024 is too technically complex. NASA is to establish a sustained presence to prepare for missions to Mars. Funding is also an issue. The White House in May asked Congress for an additional $1.6 billion to kick off the lunar return, but the administration has not provided lawmakers with a formal estimate of the total cost. The House has not responded to the $1.6 billion supplement request and the Senate has only partially. Though the 2020 fiscal year began October 1, lawmakers have not agreed to a budget, another factor.

NASA warns budget uncertainty could slow exploration programs 
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman (11/13): In remarks before the Maryland Space Business Roundtable on Tuesday, Marshall Smith, director of human lunar exploration programs for NASA in Washington, warned of repercussions for the agency’s goal of achieving an accelerated human return to the surface of the Moon in 2024 if Congress does not act soon on NASA’s 2020 budget request. The White House and Congress have yet to come to agreement on a budget for the 2020 fiscal year that began on October 1.

In major milestone, SpaceX test fires Crew Dragon abort engines
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
CBS News (11/13): Positioned at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, SpaceX on Wednesday ground test fired the abort engines on the company’s Crew Dragon capsule. Apparently successful, the test firing followed an explosive April test firing that led to design changes. After assessment, the Crew Dragon could be positioned for an inflight abort test next month, a milestone in efforts by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to certify the capsule and its Falcon 9 rocket for regularly scheduled transportation of crews to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

Space Science

Farewell, Ryugu! Japan’s Hayabusa2 probe leaves asteroid for journey home (11/13): Early Wednesday, Japan Standard Time, Japan’s Hayabusa 2 sample return mission, began its return to Earth after a nearly 18 month stay at the distant asteroid Ryugu. Scientists are hopeful that two touchdowns on the surface in February and July gathered surface and subsurface materials for return to Earth that may reveal how the Earth and other planets received water and organics, the building blocks of life, during the solar system’s early epoch. The return and drop off of a sample canister is anticipated for late next year.

See the 4 sites where a NASA spacecraft may ‘tag’ asteroid Bennu next year (photos) (11/14): NASA’s Osiris-Rex asteroid sample return mission spacecraft is currently surveying the surface of its destination, Bennu, for a landing site that is not too rocky.  Four sites, designated Nightingale, Kingfisher, Osprey and Sandpiper, are under consideration for a brief landing to gather surface material for return to Earth. A decision on a site and backup are anticipated by the end of this year. A landing in late 2020 could lead to a departure from Bennu for Earth in March 2021 and a sample drop off on September 24, 2023 at the U.S. Army’s Utah Test and Training Range. The materials may help to explain how the Earth acquired its water and organics, the building blocks of life.

India may again attempt soft landing on Moon next November
PTI/Bloomberg (11/14): India’s attempt at a landing on the Moon’s far side late September 6, U.S. time, with the Chandrayaan 2 Vikram lander came to a disappointing end when communications was lost minutes before the anticipated touchdown. Now, sources within the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) say India will attempt to land again, perhaps by the end of 2020.

Other News

China carries out 2 orbital launches inside 3 hours (11/13): Within three hours late Tuesday and early Wednesday, local time, China managed to launch two rockets placing six remote sensing satellites into Earth orbit.

Meteor that streaked over Missouri weighed about 220 pounds
Associated Press (11/13): A meteor witnessed streaking across the darkened skies of St. Louis, Missouri, triggering a sonic boom on Monday night. The meteor likely weighed about 220 pounds and originated from a larger object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

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