Today’s Deep Space Extra

October 28th, 2020

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… NASA and ESA formalize plans to join together to build the Gateway through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) announced Tuesday. NASA’s Perseverance rover has crossed the halfway point of its journey to Mars.


Human Space Exploration

Europe will help build NASA’s Moon-orbiting Gateway space station
Coalition Members in the News – Dynetics, Maxar, Northrop Grumman (10/27): NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) announced a memorandum of Understanding (MoU) formalizing cooperation for the Gateway. ESA will provide a Gateway habitat, called I-Hab, and ESPRIT, which will provide enhanced communications, a refueling capability, and a window similar to the Cupola provided by ESA to the International Space Station (ISS). The MoU provides three flight opportunities for ESA astronauts to the Gateway. ESA’s contributions will also include two additional service modules for the Orion spacecraft.


Space Science

NASA scientists spot ‘weird’ molecule in atmosphere of Saturn moon Titan
CNET (10/27): Using observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA) in northern Chile, scientists have detected the cyclic molecule cyclopropenylidene, a combination of carbon and hydrogen, in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan. It is the first detection of the molecule in an atmosphere. NASA is aiming to launch a mission called Dragonfly, a large drone, to Titan to explore the surface in 2027.

NASA’s Perseverance rover is midway to Mars
NASA (10/27): As far as miles traveled, NASA’s Perseverance rover has crossed the 146.3 million mile point on its journey to Mars since launching on July 30. That left just as many to go as of Tuesday. The rover is on course to attempt a landing at Jezero Crater on Mars on February 18, 2021 to initiate a search for evidence of past microbial life. Perseverance will drill for and cache samples of Mars for eventual return to Earth, test a device to extract oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, and support test flights of a small helicopter called Ingenuity.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is tucking away precious asteroid samples for safekeeping (10/27): Last week, the OSIRIS-REx mission team received images that revealed the spacecraft had collected so much material from Bennu, that its sample collection head was letting samples escape. The team has decided to go for an early stow of the asteroid sample to protect it from leaking into space.

Big sunspot, crackling with flares (10/27): AR2778 is a large new sunspot crackling with flares. One flare pulse disrupted shortwave radio activity around the Indian Ocean earlier this week. With the potential to grow, the active area was eight times wider than the Earth, according to one observer.


Other News

Atlas 5 launch from Cape Canaveral scheduled for next week
Coalition Members in the New – Aerojet Rocketdyne, Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance (10/27): Equipped with a classified National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload, a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is being prepared for a November 3 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The Atlas 5 will also be the first powered by a new model of the Northrop Grumman strap on boosters. ULA is continuing to address launch pad infrastructure issues ahead of the planned launch.

SpaceX executive pitches Starship for space debris cleanup (10/27): SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell is advocating a role for the company’s Starship spacecraft in clearing low Earth orbit of space debris. The Starship upper stage is under development to launch on the company’s Super Heavy rocket, whose missions would include launching cargo as well as astronauts to the Moon and Mars.

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