Today’s Deep Space Extra

September 22nd, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… During a Monday teleconference, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine provided updates of the Artemis Plan. NASA intends to return to the surface of the Moon with human explorers in 2024. 

Human Space Exploration

Full funding required for planned 2024 Moon landing, NASA chief says
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Dynetics, Lockheed Martin, Maxar Technologies, Northrop Grumman
CBS News (9/21): Congress must act to fully fund a NASA/commercial lunar Human Lander System (HLS) if the agency is to meet a White House goal of returning to the surface of the Moon with human explorers in 2024, the Artemis initiative, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told a late Monday afternoon news briefing. The agency is working with contract teams led by Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX. So far, the House has declined to provide the needed financing for the 2021 fiscal year that begins October 1. Senate appropriators have yet to act.

Bridenstine optimistic about full HLS funding (9/21): During news briefing on the status of NASA’s Artemis initiative late Monday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine expressed optimism he will receive bipartisan congressional support for the $3.2 billion sought for commercial lunar Human Landing Systems (HLS) development for the 2021 fiscal year that begins October 1. So far, the U.S. House has approved $600 million, while the Senate has yet to act on a 2021 budget. NASA can continue to make progress toward a return to the surface of the Moon in 2024 even with a short-term budget continuing resolution, he said. Bridenstine is to appear before the Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice and Science subcommittee on Wednesday.

HEOMD reorganization illustrates focus on near-term LEO, Moon goals
Coalition Member in the News – Boeing (9/21): Last Wednesday, Kathy Lueders, NASA’s recently appointed associate administrator for the agency’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), opened a discussion on a recently announced reorganization strategy. Planning for missions to Mars after NASA establishes a sustainable human presence at the Moon will be led by the newly announced Systems Engineering and Integration organization. Earlier Congress nixed a plan by NASA to create a Moon to Mars Mission Directorate. HEOMD remains committed to the assembly of a human tended, lunar orbiting Gateway to serve as a flexible platform for shuttling Orion crews launched by the Space Launch System (SLS) between lunar orbit and the surface of the Moon, said Leuders. Gateway’s role in the Artemis 3 mission that is to return astronauts to the lunar terrain in 2024 remains under assessment.

United Arab Emirates astronauts to train at NASA’s Johnson Space Center under new agreement (9/21): Under a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement signed between NASA and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), two Emirati astronauts will train at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) this fall on International Space Station (ISS) systems. “This agreement to train Emirati astronauts will pave the way for even closer relations between our two nations, creating new opportunities for the UAE to become involved in the ISS, Artemis, and other NASA activities,” according to NASA Deputy Administrator James Morhard.

Space Science

Artemis missions should bring ice home from the Moon too
Coalition Members in the News – Dynetics, Lockheed Martin (9/20): Scientists are calling on NASA’s Artemis initiative to include plans to return to Earth with surface materials from the Moon’s south pole, including water ice, whose source is largely a mystery.

Astronomers spot bits of entirely different asteroid on surface of Bennu
Futurism (9/21): OSIRIS-REx, NASA’s long running asteroid sample return mission to the 500 meter wide near Earth object Bennu has spotted a surprise, bright rock like objects on the surface. The half dozen boulders may have originated from another asteroid, Vesta, one of the largest objects in the asteroid belt. The boulders appear to have vaulted from the surface as Vesta was pelted by smaller asteroids. OSIRIS-REx, which is to gather material from the surface of Bennu in October, is to return the pebble-like samples to Earth in September 2023. A study was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Giant Magellan Telescope snags $17.5 million grant to test advanced optics (9/16): Thanks to a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), work on the primary mirror for the Giant Magellan Telescope, which is to begin observations in the Chilean Andes in the late 2020’s, is continuing. Once finished, a collection of seven primary mirror segments will span about 80 feet and together with a secondary mirror feature offer a resolving power 10 times that of the Hubble Space Telescope. Using Magellan, astronomers will study dark energy and dark matter and assess the atmospheres of extrasolar planets for signs of biomarkers.

Other News

NASA Inspector General criticizes high-risk approach to CLPS program (9/21): A recent audit report from NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found lapses in oversight of the agency’s planetary science division. The concerns included the agency’s 2018 Commercial Lunar Planetary Services (CLPS) initiative, which has qualified 14 companies to launch science and technology demonstration payloads to the Moon as part of the Artemis initiative. The agency failed to adequately assess past performance and ability to obtain financial backing, the audit concludes in part, factors that could increase the risk of mission failure.

Congress gave the Space Force “wide latitude to define their future.” But Congress is impatient, Hyten cautioned (9/21): Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chair Gen. John Hyten addressed a virtual forum Monday hosted by the Defense Innovation Unit in which he expressed concern for the slow pace Space Force leadership is taking to formally organize itself. Take too long and Congress could step in with a directive on how it should acquire equipment and fold in members of other military branches, he warned. The Space Force initiated nine months ago as part of the Air Force.

A German rocket startup seeks to disrupt the European launch industry
Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance
Ars Technica (9/21): Europe’s state-backed Arianespace launch services company could face a challenge from Munich based Isar Aerospace. The German startup has focused first on developing a rocket engine, Aquila, fueled by propane and liquid oxygen. Nine of the engines are to power the company’s new Spectrum rocket. Aiming for its first launch in 2022, the startup is assessing launch sites in mainland Europe, South America, North America, and Australia, while convinced Europe is prepared to support at least one small satellite launch services company.

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