Today’s Deep Space Extra

March 24th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Aerojet Rocket suggests an option for an Artemis 3 2024 Moon landing prior to the assembly of a lunar orbiting Gateway.  Efforts to deal with the coronavirus pandemic continue within the aerospace community. An opportunity to view a bright comet may be two months away.

Human Space Exploration

Study recommends minimizing elements for Artemis lunar lander
Coalition Member in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman (3/23): Aerojet Rocketdyne has provided NASA a potential architecture for an accelerated return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers in 2024. It favors a Space Launch System (SLS) with Exploration Upper Stage to place a lander and ascent vehicle in a lunar orbit similar to the orbital course proposed for the Gateway, which would be assembled later. A NASA crew launched on a SLS and Orion would rendezvous with the lander/ascent vehicle and make their way to the surface. The plan eliminates a third lander element, known as a transfer vehicle.

5 tips NASA astronauts use when living in `confinement’ in space to stay happy and productive (3/23): Retired NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who accumulated 665 days in space as an International Space Station crew member, and Al Holland, a NASA psychologist, offer tips on how to deal with the isolation of social distancing, covering five points, effective communications; leading and following; self-care; team care; and group living.

Magnificent isolation: what we can learn from astronauts about social distancing and sheltering in space
The Space Review (3/23): Anthropologist Deanna Weibel finds an analog to the current social distancing in response to the coronavirus pandemic in Al Worden, the Apollo 15 command module pilot. Worden circled the Moon, far from the Earth and alone as fellow crew members Dave Scott and Jim Irwin walked on the Moon. “Worden’s isolation lasted only a few days, but his experience leaves us with some nice guidelines about the right mindset needed for social distancing,” writes Weibel. Worden, who died earlier this month, pursued straightforward and practical tasks and also made time for some inspirational thoughts.

Space Science

Comet Atlas is half as wide as the sun (3/23): Comet Atlas, now half the size of the sun, continues to expand as it nears the Earth and Sun. Now visible with telescopes, it could become visible to the naked eye and bright as Venus by late May.

Op Eds

The coronavirus pandemic argues for more funding for NASA’s Artemis program, not less
The Hill (3/23): Perhaps now more than ever, while confronting the challenges of the coronavirus, may be the time for the nation to press ahead with efforts to return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers. The push can offer new opportunities for economic development and scientific discovery while preserving jobs for skilled engineers, scientists and a supportive workforce, writes author and blogger Mark Whittington. On a broader scale, it could be an uplifting experience for all humankind.

Other News

Space in uncertain times
The Space Review (3/23): The coronavirus and the social response has introduced uncertainty for the future of time critical civil space activities. NASA has been in a telework posture since last week. At some field centers where employees or residents of surrounding communities have evidence of Covid-19 infection, the response has been even more restrictive. Work on the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion and test flight leading to an accelerated human return to the surface of the Moon in 2024 have slowed, leaving schedules uncertain. NASA has so far remained committed to having the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover on track for a July 17 to August 5 launch to avoid a two year delay. The fate of another high profile mission, the already delayed and technically challenged James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is uncertain as well. Before the outbreak, NASA and its partners were working toward a March 2021 liftoff.

Employee at Kennedy Space Center tests positive for coronavirus
Florida Today (3/23): NASA confirmed Monday that a first Kennedy Space Center (KSC) employee has been infected by the coronavirus, but that the worker had not been at the space center for 10 days. The worker was likely infected during the Stage 3 telework phase. No additional risk to the workforce was anticipated, according to a spokeswoman.

Bigelow Aerospace lays off entire workforce (3/23): Bigelow Aerospace, of Las Vegas, a company founded to develop commercial space habitats, has laid off a 68 member workforce, according to the report. They followed 20 previously laid off last week. The coronavirus outbreak was one among multiple factors. A spokesperson for the company said Bigelow planned to rehire. Nevada’s governor ordered all nonessential businesses to close on March 20.

“Anomaly” at Pacific Spaceport Complex launch rehearsal, no injuries as a result
KMXT of Kodiac Alaska (3/24): The Pacific Spaceport Complex was responding to a launch pad incident late Monday. Astra, the California based rocket startup, had planned a launch from the complex this week. It has been cancelled, according to the report.

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