Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 21st, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… If they are to explore beyond Earth, humans will need the resources they find to sustain their missions. Space suits are more than fashion for space travel. Comet 2I/Borisov, a stranger to the solar system, offers clues to the environment around another star.  

Human Space Exploration

Why NASA spacesuits are so expensive
Business Insider (4/20): Space suits. They are not really garments, but rather small spacecraft that must provide astronauts with oxygen to breath, a means of communication, thermal control and water to sip while they work outside of a spacecraft or walk on a planetary surface. At the same time, they must provide protection from radiation and shielding from small bits of debris traveling at high speeds. Don’t leave Earth without one.

Space Science

NASA narrows design for rocket to launch samples off of Mars
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (4/20): If NASA’s Perseverance Mars 2020 rover mission is a success, it will gather and cache samples from the surface of the red planet for return to Earth. The agency’s plan to bring the cached samples back to Earth for study include a solid fuel rocket that would be dispatched to Mars as part of a follow on mission in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA). A rover would collect the samples for launch by the solid fuel rocket to Mars orbit, where another spacecraft would return the materials to Earth. NASA is preparing Perseverance for Launch to Mars between July 17 and August 5. 

UAE Mars mission to ship to launch site (4/20): Hope is the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) first Mars mission and slated to launch on a Japanese rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan during a three week window that opens on July 14. The spacecraft was developed to study the Martian atmosphere, once it maneuvers into orbit around the red planet in early 2021. Hope was to ship to its Japanese launch site Monday, sooner than the May date once planned, in order to deal with quarantines established in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Strange ingredient in interstellar Comet Borisov offers a clue to its origins (4/20): In two studies using the Hubble Space Telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in Chile, scientists found a surprising concentration of carbon monoxide in the comet 2I/Borisov, which was discovered last August after entering the solar system following a long journey from another star system. They conclude 2I/Borisov formed in quite a different comet and planet forming environment than the Sun’s. The gravitational forces from another star, or perhaps a large planet likely pulled 2I/Borisov free on a trajectory toward the solar system. The findings were published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

The case of the disappearing exoplanet
New York Times (4/20): It was in 2008 that scientists made their first direct observations of extra solar planets. One of those planets orbited the star Fomalhaut and was quite large, the size of three Jupiter’s. In all, just 50 of 4,151 known extra solar planets have been spotted directly rather than using the transit or changes in the host star’s radial velocity for detection. Now some astronomers are saying follow-up observations of the planet Fomalaut b suggest it likely never existed.

Astronomers might have imaged a second planet around nearby Proxima Centauri and it might have a huge set of rings
Universe Today (4/20): Proxima Centauri is the closest neighboring star to Earth. And in 2016 astronomers using the European Southern Observatory discovered Proxima hosts a rocky planet, Proxima b, which orbits in the star’s habitable zone. A second planet, a “Super Earth,” was discovered earlier this year using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, and it appears the new discovery, Proxima C, is host to a system of rings, much like Saturn’s.

Op Eds

The President’s space resources executive order: a step in the right direction
The Space Review (4/20): April 6 was the appropriate point in time for President Trump to issue his executive order that encourages international support for the recovery and use of space resources. That is a focus of NASA’s Artemis initiative, an accelerated effort to return human explorers to the surface of the Moon in 2024 to established a sustained presence and prepare for expeditions to Mars. Disputes over past treaties or not, the U.S. and its international partners must count on the exploration of and use of lunar and planetary resources to expand humanity’s presence in space, writes Paul Stimers, a  K&L Gates law firm partner, in an op-ed.

NASA’s Artemis program is a perfect response to China’s coronavirus cover-up
The Hill (4/20): NASA’s Artemis initiative, a strategy to accelerate a human return to the surface of the Moon in 2024 could be an effective means to counter China’s lunar exploration ambitions and perhaps its missteps in cautioning the world about the threat posed by the spread of the coronavirus, according to an op ed from Mark Whittington. Accomplishing the goal of returning humanity to the Moon and then leading the human exploration of Mars with technologies that leverage resources from the two planetary bodies could deliver a economic blow to China’s ambitions to dominate, he proposes. 

The FCC takes a leadership role in combating orbital debris
The Space Review (4/20): Having the FCC in the lead role of shaping licensing requirements for satellite operations regarding the disclosure of orbital debris threats and mitigation strategies may not be ideal, according to an op-ed from Ian Christensen, Brian Weeden, and Josh Wolny, each from the Secure World Foundation. Many of the reforms are in line with what outside interests have called for, but not major U.S. defense contractors and satellite operators, they note.  And they add it’s unclear how the FCC’s regulations might conflict with the concerns of the FAA, NOAA and other elements of the departments of Transportation and Commerce. They propose the best solution would establish a single federal agency with the authority to lead a whole-of-government effort for holistic space environmental management that is coupled with improvements in Space Situational Awareness data and analysis.

Other News

FCC’s approval of Ligado 5G network draws criticism from DoD, praise from State Dept. (4/20): The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on April 20 announced it approved Ligado’s application to deploy a nationwide network to provide 5G and internet-of-things (iot) services. The unanimous vote came despite strong objections from the Defense Department and other federal agencies that contend Ligado’s network will cause disruptions to the Global Positioning System (GPS).

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