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Today’s Deep Space Extra

July 8th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… U.S. House appropriators at the Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee level appear to reject a White House sought NASA spending increase to accelerate a human return to the surface of the Moon in 2024. NASA and Boeing outline recommendations to refly the company’s uncrewed CST-100 Starliner test flight from last December.

Human Space Exploration

No 12 percent increase for NASA as House Appropriators keep NASA at current funding level
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman
Spacepolicyonline (7/7): The U.S. House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee on Tuesday rejected the administration’s request to increase NASA’s 2021 budget by 12 percent, an increase intended to back the public/private development of Human Landing Systems (HLS) to shuttle astronauts between lunar orbit and the Moon’s surface in 2024. NASA calls it the Artemis initiative, which is to advance a human return to the surface of the Moon by four years. NASA’s 2021 budget would remain at the 2020 fiscal year level, $22.6 billion, rather than $25.2 billion. The subcommittee is to meet for a markup of the spending measure Wednesday at 9 a.m., EDT. (https://appropriations.house.gov/events/markups/fy-2021-commerce-justice-science-and-related-agencies-subcommittee-markup-meeting). NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine characterized Tuesday’s release as a first step in working through the Senate to reach a budget agreement.

House bill offers flat funding for NASA
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman
SpaceNews (7/7): The House Appropriations’ Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee meets Wednesday morning to markup a 2021 spending measure for NASA. Details released Tuesday suggest House appropriators are not supportive of the NASA Artemis initiative to accelerate a return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers in 2024 rather than in 2028. The White House is seeking $25.24 billion for NASA for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The subcommittee proposes $22.63 billion, equal to NASA’s 2020 appropriation. NASA sought $4.7 billion for exploration research and development, in order to fund development of a commercial lunar human landing system to achieve the 2024 return. The bill that will be marked up provides a bit more than $1.5 billion for R&D, with just $628.2 million for the lunar landing development.  Meanwhile, funding for the Space Launch System (SLS) is proposed at $2.6 billion, including $400 million for the Exploration Upper Stage.  Orion funding is $1.4 billion, with the Exploration Ground Systems supporting Artemis are at $459.7 million.  The spending measure continues to support Europa Clipper, a multiple flyby mission of Jupiter’s ice and ocean covered moon, and a follow-on lander mission to be launched in 2025 and 2027 and continued NASA investment in STEM.

Scrutinizing SpaceX, NASA overlooked some Boeing software problems
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing
New York Times (7/7): A joint assessment by NASA and Boeing into last December’s truncated uncrewed orbital flight test of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner has concluded with 80 joint recommendations for improvements. Nineteen were added to the 61 recommendations summarized in March and covering communications issues. After launch, the Starliner experienced software issues that prevented the spacecraft from raising its orbit in order to dock with the International Space Station (ISS). However, it landed safely in New Mexico. The recommendations, described as company sensitive and proprietary, were not released publicly, but NASA managers said the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) initiative may have been over confident in Boeing’s long history of spacecraft development. More attention will be focused on flight software reviews. The test flight is to be re-launched later this year at Boeing’s expense.

Astronauts bound for Mars should swing by Venus first, scientists say
Space.com (6/7): A Venus flyby could offer future human expeditions launched from Earth to Mars more flexibility in terms of how often they could be launched, every 19  rather than every 26 months, and how long they would be required to remain at the red planet before starting their return to Earth, one month as opposed to 18 months. Flying by Venus on the way out or returning to Earth offers a propulsion boost called a slingshot like “gravity assist.”  A number of scientists are proposing the Venus “opposition” mission approach as less expensive as well as more flexible than the “conjunction” strategy.

Space Science

NASA’s InSight flexes its arm while its ‘mole’ hits pause
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) (7/7): NASA’s Mars InSight lander will be among a small number of spacecraft on Mars awaiting the company of NASA’s Perseverance Mars 2020 rover and China’s Tianwen-1 Mars lander, rover, all due to launch this month and which an orbiter in the case of Tianwen-1. After landing in late November 2018, InSight’s Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), a German contribution, has struggled to pound its way at least 10 feet into the subsurface to investigate thermal properties of the Martian core, mantle and crust. The HP3 has made some progress with the help of some pressure applied by InSight’s robot arm. But the arm is taking a break to monitor dust deposits on InSight’s electricity generating solar panels and to monitor the skies for meteorites.

Chinese scientists reveal analysis of weird substance found on the moon’s far side by Yutu 2 rover
Space.com (7/7): A strange surface substance was discovered by China’s Yutu-2 rover in July 2019. The rover touched down with a lander on the Moon’s far side south pole at Von Karmen Crater in January 2019. Using spectral data from the rover, scientists characterize the gel-like substance as composed of rock, dark green with possible volcanic origins. The findings were published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science letters.

Time to take an epic flight over this frozen Martian crater
Gizmodo (7/7): A new video from the European Space Agency (ESA) shows what it would be like to fly over the Korolev frozen crater on Mars. Located in the northern lowlands of Mars, Korolev crater measures 51 miles (82 km) across and 1.1 miles (1.8) deep in the center. The crater, named in honor of Russian rocket scientist Sergey Korolev, appears to be covered in a thick white blanket of snow, but that’s actually ice.

Other News

Blue Origin’s big job: Restoring an Apollo test stand in Huntsville 
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing, United Launch Alliance
The Huntsville Times (7/3): When Blue Origin signed a deal with NASA in 2019 to restore a historic Apollo test stand to test its new rocket engines at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, the hope was that this would reinforce North Alabama’s place in the “new space” world. Blue Origin is in the process of restoring Test Stand 4670, which means no engine testing before September 2021. Blue Origin will use the stand to perform “acceptance tests” on each of the BE-3u and BE-4 engines it will build at a new rocket engine plant also in Huntsville. The engines will help boost Blue Origin’s own New Glenn rocket and also the giant Vulcan Centaur rocket being developed at United Launch Alliance in Decatur.

People have pledged over $300,000 for a NASA-made perfume that smells like outer space
USA Today (7/5): A Kickstarter campaign is underway to begin making and then marketing a perfume scent, “Eau de Space,” intended to bring the scent of space down to Earth. NASA developed the formulation, used as an astronaut training tool, more than a decade ago. Future sales are intended to inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, education and mathematics, according to info on the Kickstarter page.

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