Today’s Deep Space Extra

January 11th, 2021

In Today’s Deep Space Extra…  ESA moves forward with the lunar Gateway’s ESPRIT module. NASA’s Mars InSight lander and Juno orbiter at Jupiter missions have been extended. 


Human Space Exploration

Thales Alenia Space given €296 million contract to build European Gateway module
Coalition Member in the News – Northrop Grumman (1/8): Last week, the European Space Agency (ESA) finalized a contract with Thales Alenia Space to develop the European System Providing Refueling, Infrastructure and Telecommunications (ESPRIT) module for the NASA-led Gateway, a planned outpost in orbit around the Moon intended to support crewed missions to the lunar surface.

A private astronaut explains why his next flight likely with Tom Cruise is ‘setting the bar for commercial human spaceflight forever’
Coalition Member in the News – Axiom Space
Business Insider (1/8): Former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, now vice president of business development for Axiom Space, discusses plans to launch late this year on a four-person, commercial mission to the International Space Station (ISS). “I really want this crew — who’s setting the bar for commercial human spaceflight forever, if you really think about it— to be as good as we possibly can,” said López-Alegría.


Space Science

NASA adds years to Mars InSight and Jupiter Juno missions (1/8): After a Senior Review process, NASA has granted extensions to planetary science missions InSight and Juno. InSight landed on Mars in 2018 for first-ever studies of the Martian crust, mantle, and core. Launched in 2011, Juno entered orbit around Jupiter in mid-2016. Juno will continue its mission through September 2025 or its end of life (whichever comes first); the InSight mission is extended for two years, running through December 2022.

NASA selects four small astrophysics missions for study (1/9): The three small satellites and one high altitude-balloon mission study candidates selected are part of NASA’s new Astrophysics Pioneer program. Final selections await, but the candidates are Aspera for the study of galaxy evolution; Pandora for the study of extrasolar planets around 20 stars; StarBurst for the study of gamma rays from neutron stars mergers; and PUEO for studies of ultra-high energy neutrinos emitted by neutron star mergers.

Arecibo is dead. Should we build its replacement on the Moon?
Discover (1/7): Structural failure led to the collapse of the Arecibo radio observatory in Puerto Rico during 2020. A discussion is underway on whether to rebuild and replace Arecibo. However, one option might be to assemble a replacement on the far side of the Moon, where it would be isolated from terrestrial interference, explains Eric Betz. 


Other News

ESA’S Woerner to depart early (1/8): Jan Woerner announced plans to depart as the head of the European Space Agency (ESA), a post he’s held since 2015, at the end of February. Woerner will be succeeded by Josef Aschbacher, who leads ESA’s earth observation programs. The transition was set to come at the end of June, but Aschbacher’s background with ESA, among other factors, has enabled him to speed up the transition, said Woerner.

SpaceX Cargo Dragon spacecraft set to splashdown in Atlantic Monday night
Florida Today (1/8): SpaceX’s latest NASA-contracted cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) will undock from the orbiting lab on Monday. In a first, the Dragon capsule will descend into the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast, rather than into the Pacific Ocean off the California coast. The change will permit ISS experiments to be presented to science teams faster. Undocking is planned for 9:25 a.m. EST, and the splashdown for around 9 p.m. EST. NASA will air the events live at


Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of January 10-16, 2021 (1/10): Three virtual space conferences are planned this week, the annual winter meetings of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and American Astronomical Society (AAS), and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ (AIAA) SciTech Forum. Two NASA Advisory Council (NAC) committees meet on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Japanese Embassy will hold the webinar on “Japan-U.S. Space Cooperation: the Artemis Generation is Upon Us.” NASA plans the hot fire of its Space Launch System (SLS) core stage engines next Sunday, the eighth in the Green Run series.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.