Today’s Deep Space Extra

August 5th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Demo-2 NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley discuss their historic space test flight, express enthusiasm for the future of public/private partnerships in the exploration of space. China is moving ahead with lunar south pole and near-Earth object (NEO) science missions, and plans a crewed mission to its new space station in 2021.

Human Space Exploration

SpaceX Crew Dragon astronauts describe thrilling return to Earth
CBS News (8/4): During their first post Demo-2 mission news briefing, NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on Tuesday recalled what they described as a flawlessly controlled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere that was nonetheless reminiscent of a “high speed thrill ride.”  The two month test flight of the SpaceX crew Dragon marked the first launch of astronauts from U.S. soil since the final shuttle flight in July 2011. Astronauts had not returned from space with an ocean splashdown since the return of NASA’s astronaut participants in the 1975 Apollo/Soyuz mission.

Sun cream made of skin pigment will help shield astronauts from lethal x-ray radiation, scientists suggest
Independent of Great Britain (8/4): A Northwestern University research effort suggests that a sun cream composed of the skin pigment melanin and certain metals, could protect astronauts from harmful space radiation. The protective substance is called selenomelanin. The research was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.  

Space Science

China is moving ahead with lunar south pole and near-Earth asteroid missions (8/5): As the decade unfolds, China plans new science missions to the Moon’s south pole, including a sample return; a near Earth asteroid for a sample return; to a comet with an orbiter. China plans a crewed mission to the core module of a Chinese space station that is to be launched in 2021 as well.

New NASA office coordinates rideshare launches of smallsat science missions (8/4): NASA’s Science Mission Directorate has established a rideshare office to coordinate a growing number of small satellite missions with launch opportunities in rockets lofting primary payloads with additional launch capabilities. Those launch opportunities the directorate does not need will be referred to other NASA directorates and U.S. government agencies, according to Aly Mendoza-Hill, who leads the new office.

Some stars could support as many as 7 habitable planets
Universe Today (8/4): The confirmed count of extrasolar planets now exceeds 4,000. That’s enough to suggest a surprising number may have environments capable of supporting life, according to a study led by a University of California researcher. Among the findings, stars without a Jupiter sized planet may have as many as seven habitable planets, or worlds that orbit at distances from their stars permitting water to be stable as a liquid on the surface.

Other News

DoD space agency’s programs don’t have to be perfect but have to be fast (8/4): Using the small satellite as an innovation, the Department of Defense (DoD) is working to hasten the deployment of small satellites to directly provide reconnaissance to troops in the field within two years, rather than a decade. Derek Tournear, director of the Pentagon’s Space Development Agency, explained during a presentation Tuesday before the Annual Small Satellite Conference.

SpaceX successfully flies its Starship prototype to a height of around 500 feet
Techcrunch (8/4): SpaceX’s first full scale prototype of the tank section for a next generation starcraft called Starship soared to an altitude of around 150 meters during a test at its production and test complex in south Texas. The SN5 is the latest in a succession of vehicle prototypes. SN5 rose under the propulsion of a single Raptor engine, whereas the final version will be powered by six Raptors. Eventually, Starship is to be paired with a Falcon Heavy to boost large payloads into Earth orbit as well as the Moon and Mars.

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