In Today’s Deep Space Extra… A U.S. House/Senate budget compromise released late Monday falls short of the money sought by NASA to work with the commercial sector to develop landers to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024. A new map of the Martian surface points to significant subsurface water ice deposits.
Human Space Exploration
NASA to receive $22.6 billion in fiscal year 2020 spending bill
SpaceNews.com (12/16): Congressional appropriators on Monday disclosed a more than $22.66 billion 2020 fiscal year spending measure for NASA. NASA’s exploration programs get a little more than $6 billion in the bill, which adopted the Senate’s funding levels for Orion, the Space Launch System and Exploration Ground Systems. However, it cut exploration research and development work by more than $200 million, to $1.435 billion.
The provision falls short of the amount sought by NASA for the human lunar lander portion of the budget in order to achieve the Artemis initiative, an accelerated human return to the surface of the Moon in 2024. The new figure allocates only $600 million for advanced cislunar and lunar surface capabilities. Nonetheless, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine praised the effort by Congress and pledged to continue working towards the 2024 date for returning to the Moon with female and male astronauts.
Artemis wins only lukewarm support in final NASA 2020 appropriation
Spacepolicyonline.com (12/17): U.S. House and Senate appropriators have come together on a 2020 NASA budget just days before the current budget continuing resolution for federal agencies expires on Friday. The measure falls well short of what NASA is requesting for Artemis, an accelerated effort to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024. In May, the White House sought a $1.6 billion supplement to its original request of $21 billion for NASA for the 2020 fiscal year that began October 1. The supplement included $1.4 billion for the human lunar landers and advanced cislunar and surface operations. The House/Senate measure provides just $600 million. NASA has planned to issue contracts for the landers in January. On other fronts, the measure funds the Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope (WFIRST) and two Earth science missions that NASA has planned to cancel. It also funds Europa Clipper, a multiple flyby mission of Jupiter’s ocean moon Europa as well as a follow on lander mission, though launches retreat by two years to 2025 and 2027 respectively. NASA is directed to launch both on the Space Launch System (SLS) rather than commercially. NASA is also directed to launch the lunar Gateway on SLS.
Rosie, a bandana-clad test dummy, will be the first to fly on Boeing’s Starliner
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
Space.com (12/16): Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is to launch early Friday on a much anticipated round trip test flight to the International Space Station (ISS). The week long uncrewed test flight is a milestone in efforts by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to re-establish a U.S. capability to transport astronauts to and from the Station, a capability lost as NASA’s shuttle fleet was retired in 2011. Though uncrewed, the Boeing mission will carry a significant passenger, Rosie the Rocketeer. Rosie is an anthropomorphic test dummy with sensors designed to log data critical to future passenger safety.
A work in progress
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
The Space Review (12/16): NASA joined with Boeing a week ago to mark “assembly complete” of the core stage for the first Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that is a cornerstone of the agency’s Artemis initiative to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024. It won’t be easy, however, as NASA and its prime contractor strive to prepare the first SLS launch and Orion crew capsules for launch as well as those to follow to establish a sustainable human lunar presence in order to move on to Mars.
Hubble detects dynamic galactic duo
NASA.gov (12/16): Some galaxies are closer friends than others. While many live their own separate, solitary lives, others stray a little too close to a near neighbor and take their friendship even deeper. The two galaxies taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, named NGC 6285 (left) and NGC 6286 (right), have done just that! Together, the duo is named Arp 293 and they are interacting, their mutual gravitational attraction pulling wisps of gas and streams of dust from them, distorting their shapes, and gently smudging and blurring their appearances on the sky — to Earth-based observers, at least.
FAA commercial space activities get mixed news in final FY2020 appropriations Spacepolicyonline.com (12/17): The final version of the FY2020 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill has mixed news for FAA’s commercial space transportation activities. The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) got a slight increase over the request, but the two other components of the FAA’s commercial space portfolio received substantial cuts from requested levels. All in all, instead of the $64.6 million requested, Congress approved $51.54 million.
At NASA, morale defies gravity
Politico (12/17): For the eighth year in a row, NASA ranks as the best of the largest federal agencies to work for based on employee assessments of leadership, innovation and teamwork. NASA’s overall engagement score of 81.5, up slightly from 2018, is more than 10 points higher than the second place agency, the Department of Health and Human Services. The worker provided data was assessed by researchers from the Partnership for Public Service and the Boston Consulting Group.
SpaceX Falcon 9 launches heavyweight satellite into orbit, nails rocket landing
Space.com (12/16): A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket placed a Japanese/Singapore communications satellite into orbit Monday night, following liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. It was the third flight for the Falcon 9 first stage, which was recovered once more.
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