Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 3rd, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA provides a National Space Council requested strategy for returning human explorers to the surface of the Moon to establish a south pole habitat and provide other assets, including an orbital Gateway to prepare for expeditions to Mars. White House science adviser Kevin Droegemeier becomes acting director of the National Science Foundation as well. U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame delays induction ceremonies in response to coronavirus. 

Human Space Exploration

NASA outlines lunar surface sustainability concept
NASA (4/2): “NASA’s Plan for Sustained Lunar Exploration and Development,” a report  released late Thursday outlines the agency’s strategy for returning to the surface of the lunar surface with human explorers in 2024 and steps beyond to prepare for astronaut missions to Mars. Key elements include surface habitation at the lunar south pole and a habitable lunar terrain vehicle good for 45 day treks. A planned lunar orbiting Gateway would provide a means of simulating a Mars transit, while providing astronauts with access to a wide range of surface destinations and opportunities to explore for lunar resources. The report was requested by the National Space Council on August 19, 2020.

Russia postpones launch of Nauka research module to orbital outpost to 2021
TASS of Russia (4/2): Already long delayed, Russia’s Nauka multipurpose laboratory module addition to the International Space Station (ISS) is now planned for launch in early 2021. The module is to provide additional living and work space for a third crew member, a toilet and oxygen production. The latest round of pre-launch preparations have continued despite coronavirus concerns.

Third Starship prototype destroyed in tanking test (4/3): For the third time in less than five months, a prototype of SpaceX’s Starship next-generation launch vehicle was destroyed in a test at the company’s South Texas facilities April 3, although this failure may an issue with the test itself. The Starship SN3 vehicle was on the pad at SpaceX’s test site at Boca Chica, Texas, in the early morning hours of April 3 for a cryogenic tanking test, where the vehicle’s propellant tanks are filled with liquid nitrogen. Shortly after 3 a.m. Eastern, the cylindrical vehicle appeared to crumple about halfway up, causing the top part of the vehicle to topple.

Space Science

White House science adviser Kelvin Droegemeier will also lead NSF for now
Science Magazine (4/1): White House science adviser Kelvin Droegemeier was given a second temporary assignment by President Trump earlier this week, acting director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). He succeeds France Córdova, whose 6-year term ended March 30. The president nominated Sethuraman Panchanathan, an Arizona State University computer scientist, for the NSF post in December. However, it’s unclear when the U.S. Senate can take up confirmation of the nomination.

Constant speed of light: Einstein’s theory of special relativity survives a high-energy test (4/2): Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity survived a possible challenge that was put to rest as Mexico’s High Altitude Cherenkov Observatory studied high energy gamma rays from space strike molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Venus and the Pleiades (4/3): Venus joins the Pleiades star cluster in the night sky for viewing. Look west after sunset with binoculars.

Other News

Jeff Bezos’ space company is pressuring employees to launch a tourist rocket during the pandemic
The Verge (4/2): Employees, management, state regulations and exemptions appear in conflict as Blue Origin weighs a planned April 10th test launch of a New Shepard suborbital rocket from West Texas. Blue Origin has been permitted to continue work site activities in Washington under a Department of Defense provision despite the social distancing measures widely in effect in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

NASA brings back its iconic “worm” logo to mark return of human spaceflight
Ars Technica (4/2): NASA’s stylistic “worm” logo is back after a lengthy retirement in 1992 called for by then Administrator Dan Goldin in favor of the agency’s original “meatball logo” from 1959. However, it’s now not one logo or the other. Both logos, thanks to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, will be featured. The worm will grace the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that is to launch Demo 2, a crewed test flight of the new Dragon 2 capsule with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the ISS. The launch is planned for no earlier than mid to late May. The flight will mark the first launch of humans from U.S. soil since NASA’s shuttle fleet was retired in 2011.

Coronavirus: Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex (KSCVC) Astronaut Hall of Fame induction with Scott Kelly delayed
Florida Today (4/2): Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex (KSCVC) has postponed its 2020 U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame ceremonies planned for May 16 indefinitely. Retired NASA astronauts Scott Kelly, Pam Melroy and Mike Lopez-Alegria are to be inducted for their contributions to space shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) operations.

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