Today’s Deep Space Extra

April 2nd, 2021

In Today’s Deep Space Extra… A busy month of crew rotations starts at the International Space Station. The Ingenuity Mars helicopter’s first flight moved to April 11. A shuttle astronaut argues both government and commercial elements are necessary for the future of space exploration.


Human Space Exploration

Busy month of crew rotations on tap at International Space Station (4/1): Seven astronauts and cosmonauts are preparing for launches April 9 and April 22 to the International Space Station (ISS), replacing seven outgoing crew members set to land back on Earth on April 17 and April 28. Arrangements for their arrival are getting underway on the ISS. First is the relocation of a SpaceX Crew Dragon spaceship to a new docking port on Monday to clear the way for the next Crew Dragon mission. Next up is the launch of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft with cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov, and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei on April 9. Finally, SpaceX and NASA are targeting April 22 for the second operational Crew Dragon mission to the ISS.

With 1st space station launch this spring, Chinese astronauts are training for flight (4/1): In China, astronauts are training to carry out the first four missions to a new space station, whose assembly is planned to begin within a few months. Eleven launches are planned through 2022.


Space Science

NASA delays Ingenuity Mars helicopter’s first flight to April 11 ( 4/1): Plans for the Ingenuity helicopter delivered to Mars aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover to take flight on April 8 have been re-scheduled for April 11 at the earliest, NASA announced on Thursday. A series of test flights represent the first attempt at powered flight in the atmosphere of another planet.

OSIRIS-REx to make final close approach to asteroid before heading back to Earth (4/1): OSIRIS-REx, NASA’s sample return mission to asteroid Bennu, plans a final close approach to Nightingale, the site on which it touched down on October 20 to gather surface material for return to Earth. The closeup overflight planned for April 7 will document changes caused by the landing. In May, the spacecraft will begin its journey back to Earth. A container with samples of Bennu will descend to Earth at the U.S. Army’s Utah Test and Training Range on September 24, 2023. Studies of the material may help to explain how water and organics were distributed during the solar system’s planet-forming era.

China’s Tianwen 1 mission targets mid-May landing on Mars (4/1): China’s Tianwen-1 orbiter, lander and rover arrived at Mars in February along with NASA’s Perseverance Mars 2020 rover and the UAE’s Hope orbiter. China’s attempt to land on Mars is scheduled for mid-May, mission officials announced in late March.

Enceladus may have ocean currents like we see around Antarctica (4/1): Scientists have been keeping an eye on Enceladus, an ice-covered moon around Saturn, since 2014, when the Cassini spacecraft caught dozens of geysers spewing through fissures in the ice shell. A new study suggests the ocean beneath the thick ice crust may have currents like those that flow through the waters of Earth at Antarctica. Findings were published in the journal Nature Geoscience.



Astronaut: Space success requires government, commercial elements | Commentary
Orlando Sentinel (4/1): In an op-ed, retired NASA astronaut and former president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) Mike Lopez-Alegria spells out the need for government and commercial partnerships for future human space exploration. “Together, we can transform the space industry’s field of dreams into reality,” he explains. Lopez-Alegria will soon launch again, leading Ax-1, the first fully private mission to the International Space Station (ISS), for him a familiar destination. (The site has paywall restrictions after four articles).

Space offers a higher perspective on our Earthbound problems
Coalition Members in the News – Boeing, Maxar (4/1): Pressing issues on our planet should not be seen as priorities that compete with investment in space use and exploration, as space activities can rather help with our problems of equity and environmental degradation, write Greg Autry, a professor of space leadership at Arizona State University and member of COMSTAC, and Sanjeev Khagram, dean and director-general at Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management. Space can offer improved connectivity for remote places on Earth, jobs that attract a diverse workforce, and the tools needed to understand our changing climate, argue the authors.

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