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Today’s Deep Space Extra - Explore Deep Space
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Today’s Deep Space Extra

February 20th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… During a visit to NASA’s Langley Research Center on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence stressed the urgency of NASA’s Artemis initiative to return U.S. astronauts to the surface of the Moon in 2024. Russia swaps two cosmonaut crew members assigned to an upcoming International Space Station (ISS) mission for medical reasons.

Human Space Exploration

‘By any means necessary’: Vice President Pence urges NASA on Moon-Mars goal
Space.com (2/19): During a visit to NASA’s Langley Research Center on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence stressed the priority the White House is placing on an accelerated return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers in 2024 and plans to reach Mars in the 2030’s. “We want to challenge each one of you here at Langley: Consider every available option and platform to meet our goals, including industry, government, the entire American space enterprise,” said Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, in remarks to Langley employees.

NASA needs to put a price on its Moon landing missions to gain support from Congress
Space.com (2/19): U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, underscores the importance of a detailed cost and timeline assessment from NASA for achieving an accelerated 2024 return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers. The administration’s 2021 budget request for NASA, $25.2 billion, a 12 percent increase, is largely focused on the goal. The subcommittee recently proposed that NASA back off the goal of a lunar return until 2028 to help ensure the strategy had sufficient funding. NASA has promised a cost and timeline response soon.

Russia replaces cosmonauts on next ISS crew for ‘medical reasons’
Collectspace.com (2/19): Roscosmos, the Russian federal space agency, announced Wednesday it was replacing two cosmonauts in training to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) in April with veteran NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy for unspecified medical reasons. Freshman cosmonauts Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin will be replaced by backups Anatoly Ivanishin, a veteran of two previous Space Station expeditions, and freshman cosmonaut Ivan Vagner. The three men are to launch on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 9.

Construction of China’s space station about to start
Xinhuanet of Japan (2/20): A late to mid-April test flight of China’s Long March-5B rocket with the prototype of a crew capsule without taikonauts on board is to launch into Earth orbit. The “5B” is a modified version of China’s most powerful rocket and will be used to assemble the modules of a space station, whose assembly is to be completed in 2022. The Long March 5 is to launch Chinese Mars and Moon mission spacecraft later this year.

Space Science

When the Sun expands, it will trash all the asteroids
Ars Technica (2/18): A new model suggests that bad things will happen to the asteroid belt, which resides between Mars and Jupiter, as the sun ages, grows brighter and expands. It’s called the YORP effect, which was recently modeled by members of the Royal Astronomical Society.

February New Moon 2020: Catch Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and more in the ‘Moonless’ night sky
Space.com (2/19): The approach of a New Moon on February 23, offers planetary viewing opportunities for avid sky watchers, including observations of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and Venus.  

Other News

Saunders replaces DeWit as NASA CFO
Spacepolicyonline.com (2/19): Melanie Saunders, a NASA veteran, is the agency’s new acting Chief Financial Officer (CFO), replacing Jeff DeWit who resigned last week after two years to return to Arizona to spend more time with family. Saunders, who has been serving as NASA Deputy Associate Administrator, will be replaced in that role on an acting based by Cathy Mangum, who has been associate director of NASA’s Langley Research Center. Sanders must undergo Senate confirmation.

NOAA warns of risks from relying on aging space weather missions
SpaceNews.com (2/19): During a recent U.S. Senate hearing, some testimony from William Murtagh, director of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, addressed concerns within Senate Commerce Committee leadership over the life span of U.S. space assets that monitor the solar wind and solar corona activity and their impact on the Earth, including orbiting satellites and terrestrial power grids..

Soyuz 2-1a launches ninth Meridian satellite
NASAspaceflight.com (2/20): The launch from Russia’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome placed a Meridian military communications satellite in an elliptical orbit to serve installations in far northern regions of Russia.

China resumes space launch activity amid coronavirus outbreak
SpaceNews.com (2/19): A Chinese Long March 2D rocket carried four technology development satellites into orbit Thursday. They are to test Earth observation technologies with inter satellite connectivity.

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