Extra will not be published on Monday, February 17 in observance of President’s Day. It will return on Tuesday, February 18
In Today’s Deep Space Extra… A delayed resupply mission is set to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) Friday afternoon. Observations of Arrokoth, a distant Kuiper Belt Object resembling a giant snowman, suggests some planet forming processes were gentle mergers rather than violent collisions. NASA announces four candidates for future planetary science missions.
Human Space Exploration
Northrop Grumman aims for Valentine’s Day launch of NASA cargo on Cygnus spacecraft
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman
Space.com (2/13): Northrop Grumman’s 13th NASA contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) is planned to liftoff Friday at 3:43 p.m., EST from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern shore. A first attempt to launch on February 9 was scrubbed minutes from liftoff to deal with an errant launch support system sensor, then shifted from Thursday to Friday to permit more time to test the replacement. The Antares rocket and Cygnus resupply capsule is loaded with a 7,600 pound cargo.
NASA: Mars astronauts will use lasers to communicate with Earth
Futurism.com (2/13): After leading a return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers in 2024, NASA intends to establish a sustainable human presence to prepare for missions to Mars. At great distances from Earth, astronauts assigned to deep space missions will turn to lasers rather than standard radio systems to communicate with flight control teams. A first dish for laser communications is under construction in Goldstone, California, as part of an upgraded NASA Deep Space Network.
What it really takes to explore space
Cheddar (2/13): Space exploration is not for the faint of heart. Video preview of “Secrets of the Solar System”.
New Horizons images of Arrokoth show building blocks for planets
Washington Post (2/13): Perhaps, the planet forming process for the solar systems innermost rocky planets was not as violent as assumed. Observations of distant Arrokoth, a Kuiper Belt Object once known as Ultima Thule, by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft suggests the two lobed object that resembles a snowman formed as two similar objects came together gently rather than with a collision.
‘Not just a space potato’: NASA unveils ‘astonishing’ details of most distant object ever visited
The Guardian (2/13): Studies of Arrokoth, the Kuiper Belt Object placed under flyby scrutiny by NASA’s New Horizons mission spacecraft on New Year’s Day 2019, offers a new perspective on planet formation. Once known as Ultima Thule, Arrokoth has a snowman appearance, suggesting the two lobes came to gather gently rather than with a collision.
Missions to Venus, Io and Triton win chances to be next Discovery mission
Spacepolicyonline.com (2/13): NASA on Thursday announced the selection of four candidate planetary science missions to a variety of destinations for further assessment under the agency’s Discovery program. DAVINCI would descend to the surface of Venus in a bid to measure atmospheric constituents. VERITAS would map the surface of Venus using synthetic aperture radar to determine whether the neighboring planet is still geologically active. The Volcano Observer would journey to Io, a volcanically active moon of Jupiter, to assess whether the moon has an internal magma ocean. Trident would flyby Neptune’s moon Triton to determine whether it possesses a subsurface ocean. Each of the mission teams will receive $3 million to develop a mission strategy over the next nine months. NASA will then select two for final development with target launch dates of 2026 and between mid-2028 and the end of 2029.
Scientists just watched a newfound asteroid zoom by Earth. Then they saw its moon
Space.com (2/13): Back in operation after a series of earthquakes in late December, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico observed 2020 BX12, a binary asteroid, previously undiscovered. Though designated a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid to the Earth, 2020 BX12 recently came as close as it will to the Earth for at least the next century.
Astronomers simulated how the universe would look without dark matter
Universe Today (2/13): Using computer simulations, a European science team examined a universe with an alternative to dark matter, a prevalent theoretical force whose composition has yet to be determined, though it appears to comprise most of the mass. The alternative, MOdified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND), addressed some of the issues with dark matter, while revealing some issues of its own. The NASA led James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), whose sponsors include the European and Canadian space agencies could help to resolve the mysteries surrounding star and galaxy formation and what keeps them together.
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo arrives in New Mexico
SpaceNews.com (2/13): VSS Unity, or Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital passenger spacecraft, arrived at Spaceport America in New Mexico on Thursday ready for a final round of test flights prior to beginning commercial operations. Tests will feature the VSS Unity in a passenger configuration. The spacecraft was ferried from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California while attached to the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft. Though a milestone, Virgin has not updated plans for passenger flight. The company stock, however, has climbed to record highs.
U.S. Space Force, Space Command to get state-of-the-art facility in Colorado
SpaceNews.com (2/11): The White House 2021 Pentagon budget request includes $88 million to complete construction of a Consolidated Space Operations Facility at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, and secure facilities for military space operators and analysts from the intelligence community under leadership of the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command.
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