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Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 17th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA intends to announce commercial Human Landing System (HLS) partners later this month. Three U.S. and Russian astronauts return to Earth early Friday after long International Space Station (ISS) missions. Mars 2020 “Perseverance” rover remains on track for launch this summer.

Human Space Exploration

NASA human lunar lander awards expected in April
Coalition Members in the News — Boeing, Dynetics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman
SpaceNews.com (4/16): NASA is looking to announce commercial Human Landing System (HLS) development partners by the end of this month, according to an agency spokesperson. Up to four companies could be partnered for further assessment under NASA’s Artemis initiative, an effort to accelerate a return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers in 2024.

Soyuz with crew of three lands safely in Kazakhstan
Spaceflightnow.com/CBS News (4/17): A Russian Soyuz spacecraft landed safely in Kazakhstan early Friday with NASA astronauts Drew Morgan and Jessica Meir and cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka. The return to Earth amid coronavirus pandemic concerns after missions of 272 days for Morgan and 205 days for Meir and Skripochka aboard the International Space Station (ISS) leaves the orbiting science lab with just three aboard, one U.S. and two Russian crew members, for at least the near term.

Three ISS crew members return to Earth amid pandemic
Spacepolicyonline.com (4/17): Concerns over the coronavirus pandemic shaped a minimally staffed Russian Soyuz landing in Kazakhstan early Friday for NASA astronauts Drew Morgan, Jessica Meir and cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, who were returning to Earth after missions of nine and seven months to the International Space Station (ISS). Once back at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Morgan and Meir face at least a week in quarantine, an opportunity for their immune systems to strengthen after their lengthy exposures to the absence of gravity.

Space Science

Mars 2020 remains on track for July launch
SpaceNews.com (4/15): Despite the work place challenges imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, NASA’s $2.4 billion Perseverance Mars 2020 rover mission remains on track for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, between July 17 and August 5, in order to achieve a landing at Jezero Crater on the Red Planet in February. Missing the launch window would mean a costly more than two year delay. Perseverance is to gather and cache samples of Martian rock and soil for return to Earth.

NASA reveals ambitious multi-spacecraft plan to bring a piece of Mars back to Earth
Techcrunch.com (4/16): NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are working on a challenging multi spacecraft strategy to recover the samples of Mars gathered and cached by NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover and return them to Earth. Planned for launch between July 17 and August 5, Perseverance is to reach Mars at Jezero Crater in February 2021.

Light behaves really strangely around a black hole
Universe Today (4/16): NASA’s Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer satellite, launched in 1995, may have retired in 2012, but its data has lived on to reveal something about the light emanating from the discs that form around black holes. The observations are in line with predictions based on the Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

This blurry photo may show a planet in a neighboring star system
Futurism (4/16): The nearest extra solar planet may have been imaged. The host star is Proxima Centauri. Confirmation will require further observation.

Other News

FCC to greenlight Ligado’s 5G network despite strong pushback from the Pentagon
SpaceNews.com (4/16): Despite objections from lawmakers, the FCC appears prepared to permit Ligado Network’s use of the L-band spectrum raising concerns that GPS signals might be drowned out.

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