Today’s Deep Space Extra

March 29th, 2021

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… Major components for NASA’s Artemis I mission come together. Meanwhile, the agency is closing in on a late April/early May decision on further lunar Human Landing System development. Scientists explain why the James Webb Space Telescope is the “coolest” observatory ever.


Human Space Exploration

EGS synchronizing Artemis 1 Orion, SLS Booster preps with Core Stage schedule
Coalition Members in the News – Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, Jacobs, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance (3/27): The Space Launch System (SLS) first core stage, which just completed its Green Run hot fire test at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, is set to move on to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) by the end of April. At KSC, NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) contractor, Jacobs, is working to bring together the other elements of the Artemis I mission. EGS is looking at ten months of work to prepare for the mission once the core stage arrives, which would put the current launch forecast within the first quarter of 2022.

NASA still planning HLS awards by the end of April (3/28): NASA continues to look to the end of April, or possibly early May, to make a down select from three to two in the number of contractors chosen to proceed with lunar Human Landing System (HLS) development for Artemis missions. The contenders are teams led by Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX. A 2021 appropriations measure released in December provided just $850 million for further development, about 25 percent of the request made to Congress.

Russian researchers reveal most common causes of death among cosmonauts
Sputnik News of Russia (3/27): April 12 will mark the 60th anniversary of the first human spaceflight, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s single orbit of the Earth. A study of the people who’ve flown to space since and that are Russian or Soviet reveals that heart disease, followed by cancer, is the most common cause of death. (Editor’s note: Sputnik News is a Russian state-owned source).


Space Science

What is it like to drive the Perseverance rover remotely? A NASA engineer explains the challenges of piloting the vehicle’s journey across Mars
Business Insider (3/27): Heather Justice, a NASA engineer, lives on “Mars time” as she drives the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover with commands from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The challenges are considerable, including the social distancing requirements followed by her driver team.

NASA’s $10 billion time machine
YouTube (3/23): After years of development, the NASA-led James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is being readied for launch on October 31, 2021, or Halloween, from French Guiana atop an Ariane 5 rocket. The observatory, which has 100 times the observational power of the Hubble telescope, is designed to study the most distant galaxies. Telescope scientists Heidi Hammel and Matt Mountain share their insights into what happens when the observatory launches and unfolds in space, how it will help look at exoplanets, and why Webb is the “coolest” telescope ever, -393 degrees Fahrenheit cool, to be exact.

Asteroid Apophis not a risk to Earth for at least 100 years, NASA says
NPR (3/27): Scientists now believe asteroid Apophis, recently believed to pose a possible collision threat to the Earth in 2068, will not come close for at least a century. New radar observations of Apophis from early March made with NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California and the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia are credited with providing assurances of no contact for at least the next 100 years.

NASA looking for earlier launch of lunar orbiter smallsat mission
Coalition Member in the News – Lockheed Martin (3/26): The Lunar Trailblazer small satellite is an orbiter equipped with a spectrometer and thermal mapper to study the distribution of water on the Moon. Tentatively slated to launch in February 2025, a delay due in part to workplace restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic, Lunar Trailblazer may launch sooner if NASA can find a suitable rideshare opportunity.

Dark matter could warm the hearts of lonely old planets, scientists predict
Science (3/26): Scientists from MIT and Ohio State propose that mysterious dark matter might collect in the cores of exoplanets, where the particles annihilate one another to generate heat. They suggest the planets hosting the occurrence would be large, very old, and perhaps rogue or in distant orbits around their stars. 



Op-ed | The use of AI in space systems: opportunities for mission improvement (3/26): In an op-ed, Chris Bogdan and Saurin Shah promote the value of artificial intelligence in future space mission planning and development to improve effectiveness and resiliency. Bogdan is a former head of the F-35 program and a senior vice president in Booz Allen Hamilton’s aerospace business. Shah is an artificial intelligence leader in Booz Allen Hamilton’s national security business.


Other News

South Korean leader vows landing on the Moon by 2030 (3/26): South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has vowed to place a robotic lander on the surface of the Moon using a domestic rocket launch capability by 2030. That country is also assessing a mission to study Apophis, which will pass close to the Earth in 2029.


Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of March 8 to April 3, 2021
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Lockheed Martin; Coalition Board Member in the News – Lisa Callahan (3/8): Based on previous reports, the Biden Administration may release the discretionary portion of its proposed 2022 fiscal year budget this week, which would include NASA. On Monday, Moon Dialogs will host “Peaceful Moon Salon: International Collaboration for Lunar Bases” at 10:00am EDT. Also today, the World Space Week Association will hold a webinar at 1:00pm EDT, the first in a series dedicated to the World Space Week 2021, chaired by Lockheed Martin’s Lisa Callahan and themed “Women in Space.” On Wednesday, Sierra Nevada Corp. will host a news briefing on plans for low Earth orbit commercialization. The U.S. House and Senate are off until April 12 and 13 respectively. On Friday, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will hold the first session of a workshop to discuss options to replace the 305-meter dish at the Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico.

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