Today’s Deep Space Extra

September 10th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Japan plans to leverage its cargo missions to the International Space Station (ISS) into a lunar resupply operation. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission finds its target, Bennu, crumbling little by little. NASA’s Juno mission at Jupiter could get an extension for closer looks at the large moon’s Ganymede, Io and Europa.

Human Space Exploration

After successful ‘Kounotori’ missions, Japan sets sights on first manned lunar exploration (9/10): Japan is building on the success of its nine Kounotori cargo missions to the International Space Station (ISS) between 2009 and 2020 to develop a spacecraft capable of delivering supplies to NASA’s planned human tended, lunar orbiting Gateway or the lunar surface. Working with NASA, Japan is hopeful the contribution will lead to an opportunity to land its scientists on the lunar surface. The final Kounotori mission departed the Space Station in August.

Space Science

NASA’s Juno spacecraft seeking extended mission at Jupiter (9/9): NASA plans a decision by year’s end on a lengthy extension of the Juno mission at Jupiter, budgets permitting. Launched on August 5, 2012, Juno entered orbit around Jupiter in July 2016 to study what goes on beneath the giant planet’s colorful cloud bands. With an extension until September 2025, Juno will fly by the large Jovian moons Ganymede, Io and Europa. Europa is an ice covered ocean realm believed to host possible habitable environments.

NASA got an up-close look at an asteroid crumbling apart
Futurism (9/9): The asteroid is Bennu, which has been the orbital home to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission since late 2018. In late October, the spacecraft is to touch the surface of Bennu briefly to gather surface material for return to Earth on September 24, 2023. However, in January 2019, navigational cameras on OSIRIS-REx began to detect small pieces of material leaving Bennu’s surface. Studies published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets suggest surface heating and cooling and meteoroid impacts may be causing small pieces of the asteroid’s surface material to fly off.

Scientists: Life on Earth likely started in meteor craters (9/9): There is concern that a large meteor, asteroid or comet strike could jeopardize life on Earth. New research also suggests that life on Earth may have originated within such an impact crater. Research on the concept published in the journal Astrobiology suggests that post impact environments may be ripe for life and that the concept should be kept in mind during future exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Interstellar visitor ‘Oumuamua’ could actually be a cosmic dust bunny (9/9): A new theory suggests that Oumuamua, a large cigar shaped piece of planetary material observed in late 2017 as it entered and later exited the solar system may be more a “cosmic dust bunny,” or a collection of dust and debris held together by static electricity” than an asteroid or comet. The findings leading to the theory were published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Other News

Northrop Grumman to terminate OmegA rocket program
Coalition Members in the News – Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance (9/9): Northrop Grumman disclosed Wednesday that it will not pursue further development of the OmegA rocket, a contender for the launch of future national security payloads. While contracts for the missions were awarded to United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX, Northrop Grumman earlier this week was awarded a U.S. Air Force contract for development of solid rocket motors for a new intercontinental ballistic missile.

German government considering sea-based launch platform (9/8): The launch platform, if developed, would be located in the North Sea and used for the launch of small satellites. Isar Aerospace, a startup rocket developer, could be launching by next year.

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