Today’s Deep Space Extra

October 23rd, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA completes certification reviews for competing lunar Human Landing Systems (HLS). The President signs the PROSWIFT space weather bill. Japan prepares to seek a new generation of astronauts.


Human Space Exploration

NASA, human lunar lander companies complete key Artemis milestone
Coalition Member in the News – Dynetics
NASA (10/23): In April, NASA announced the award of contracts to Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX teams for the potential development of lunar Human Landing System (HLS) concepts to support efforts to return to the surface of the Moon with humans in 2024. On Thursday, the agency announced that all three companies have completed Certification Baseline Reviews, which looked closely at their engineering and operating feasibility. NASA plans to select up to two of the concepts for further development at the close of the initial contract period, which runs from May 2020 to February 2021.

Japan to seek new astronauts for lunar exploration
NHK World-Japan (10/23): Eager to join a NASA-led international effort to establish a human presence at the Moon, Japan plans to seek a new generation of astronauts beginning next fall. Currently, Japan has seven active astronauts, but nearly half are due to reach retirement age by the late 2020s.


Space Science

President signs PROSWIFT space weather bill, but with caveats (10/22): President Trump signed the Promoting Research and Observations of Space Weather to Improve the Forecasting of Tomorrow (PROSWIFT) bill into law on October 21. However, an accompanying signing statement said certain sections of the bill are a limitation on the president’s discretion to conduct foreign affairs and that the bill fails to address the resilience of national security assets or critical infrastructure. The PROSWIFT Act had been in the making for five years.

Strange red auroras (10/22): Though quiet during mid-October, the Earth’s magnetic field has hosted red auroras, a rarity for the Arctic. In Norway, aurora tour guide Markus Varik notes, “After years of guiding, I have never seen anything like it.”

The oft-stuck ‘mole’ on NASA’s InSight Mars lander may start digging again next year (10/21): The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe (HP3) instrument aboard NASA’s Mars InSight lander, also known as “the Mole,” may be ready to continue its dig into the Martian subsurface by early next year. InSight landed successfully on Mars in November 2018 to study subsurface geophysical processes, a first. The Mole was to pound its way into the crust to measure heat rising from the Martian core, but the soil properties at the landing site were a surprise, and the Mole bounced back once inserted into the soil. Insight’s robot arm has pushed on and oriented the Mole to help it overcome the difficulties. Scientists want the Mole to reach a depth of at least 10 feet.

ISRO finds that Mars is losing its atmosphere faster than Earth, and planet-encircling dust storms are speeding up the process
Business Insider (10/23): Mars is experiencing a loss of its atmosphere and heating of the upper atmosphere due to global dust storms, according to findings from the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Mangalyaan, which has been orbiting the Red Planet for six years. The findings mirror those of NASA’s MAVEN mission, which has also been in orbit around Mars since September 2014. The loss of atmosphere is happening at a rate faster than on Earth.

Scientists think they know what caused the deadliest mass extinction in the history of the Earth
Universe Today (10/22): A multinational research effort suggests that a large pulse of carbon dioxide was responsible for the Earth’s deadliest mass extinction event, the Permian-Triassic extinction, just over 250 million years ago.


Other News

Space Force official: Launch scrubs are no reason to despair
Coalition Member in the News – United Launch Alliance (10/22): Though a recent series of launch scrubs may have caused frustration among executives and space fans, Space Force officials say they see scrubs as proof that systems are working like they should because rockets are designed to terminate launches before liftoff if something looks amiss. Space Force officials also stated the agency emphasizes safety over schedule.

Tales of two Fall comets: 88P Howell and M3 Atlas
Universe Today (10/22): Two comets are gracing the skies at dawn and dusk as November approaches, 88P Howell and M3 ATLAS. Look for 88P Howell at dusk, an hour after sunset and above the horizon to the southwest. Although M3 Atlas rises in the east during the evening, it is better situated in the morning sky in the constellation of Lepus. During early November, M3 Atlas should be visible in the more recognizable constellation Orion.

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