Today’s Deep Space Extra for Friday, October 30, 2015

October 30th, 2015

Today’s Deep Space Extra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. The U.S. Senate early Friday joined the House in approving a two year budget/debt limit deal that goes to President Obama for signature. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden urges no deviation in U.S. efforts to reach Mars with humans following the next presidential election. NASA should accelerate efforts to deal with health risks that astronauts will face on future deep space missions, according to the agency’s inspector general. Mars workshop on human landing sites unites scientists and mission planners. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft moves closer to the large asteroid Ceres. The White House outlines plans to place more focus on space weather. Pluto’s top 10 surprises — so far. China’s lunar rover Yutu, is immobile but still a record setter. Halloween will likely bring Taurid meteor shower. Made in Space and Lowe’s reach an agreement to place a 3D printer aboard the International Space Station in 2016. Russia will wait an extra month to launch the latest version of its Progress re-supply capsule to the six person International Space Station. The precise cause of a year-old NASA contracted International Space Station cargo mission launch loss is not clear, according to space agency findings.

2016 NASA Budget

Senate passes budget/debt limit deal (10/30): Early Friday, the U.S. Senate joined the House in approving a U.S. budget/debt limit deal that will be sent to President Obama for signature. The deal, worked out previously by the White House and key lawmakers, raises spending by $80 billion over the 2016-17 fiscal years, though there is no detail on how much, if any, of the new spending will go to the nation’s space activities. The House passed the deal on Wednesday.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Bolden: NASA “doomed” if next President dumps journey to Mars 
Space News (10/29): NASA could be doomed if a future president alters the agency’s current course to reach Mars with humans in the 2030s, agency administrator Charles Bolden said in remarks before the Center for American Progress earlier this week. “This is not a time that we can start over,” said Bolden, a former astronaut. “I think we’ve been through enough ‘start overs’ to know that people grow weary. People like to see something where you’re persistent.”

Report: NASA needs better handle on health hazards for Mars
Washington Post (10/30): NASA’s inspector general urges the space agency to accelerate its research into the health risks that astronauts will face during future deep space mission, including year’s long voyages to Mars as well as the development of countermeasures.

At Mars workshop, science and human spaceflight find common ground
Planetary Society (10/29): Dozens of scientist are wrapping up the first NASA sponsored Human Landing Sites/Exploration Zones on Mars Workshop in Houston. The session opened a dialogue between planetary scientists and those who plan and operate human missions on the many factors that will determine where the first explorers settle when they reach Mars in the 2030s. It turns out the two communities have common goals.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

Dawn probe heads to super close orbit of dwarf planet Ceres (10/29): NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is once again moving closer to the surface of the mysterious dwarf planet and asteroid Ceres. Dawn maneuvered into orbit in March. Dawn’s fourth orbit change will provide the closest perspective yet of surface features, including mysterious bright spots.

White House releases plan to deal with space weather threat
USA Today (10/29): The White House Thursday outlined plans to step up efforts to identify threats posed by space weather and to issue timely alerts.

“Top 10 surprises from the Pluto flyby
Sky and Telescope (10/30): NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft achieved the first ever flyby of Pluto on July 14 and continues to transmit new data from the encounter. Some of the top surprises from Pluto so far include the discovery of mountains and a sky tainted by a blue haze.

China’s first moon rover sets record for longest stay
Xinhuanet, of China (10/30): Yutu, China’s first lunar rover, has set a record for activities on the moon, Chinese scientists claim.  Yutu arrived in 2013 as part of the Chang’e-3 lunar probe and has stayed longer than the former Soviet Lunokhod 1 rover’s 11 months. A mechanical problem in 2014 rendered Yutu immobile. However, the stationery rover overcame other difficulties within a month and continues to gather data and record imagery.

A halloween season ‘Taurid meteor swarm’ on tap for 2015?
Universe Today (10/29): Saturday’s Halloween activities may include the annual Taurid meteor shower as well as an asteroid of interest passing close but not that close to Earth. 2015 TB145, discovered earlier this month, will soar past the Earth at 310,000 miles, more distant than the moon orbits.

Low Earth Orbit

‘1st hardware store in space’: Commercial 3D printer launching in 2016 (10/29): Made in Space, Lowe’s and NASA reach agreements to place a commercial 3D printer aboard the International Space Station in early 2016. The two companies say the strategy represents the first “hardware store” in space and that it will provide astronauts with parts and tools faster than awaiting the arrival of a cargo mission launched from Earth.

Russia postpones maiden flight of its Progress-MS spacecraft
Spaceflight Insider (10/29): Initially, planned for Nov. 21, Russia’s next re-supply mission to the International Space Station will slip a month to permit additional launch vehicle and payload engineering evaluations. The flight will be the first for an upgraded version of the venerable automated Progress resupply capsule. The new Progress-MS adds an external compartment for the deployments of satellites, backup docking motors and extra protection against impacts from orbital debris as well as better navigations and communications components.

Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

NASA unable to determine root cause of last year’s Orb-3 failure (10/29): A NASA executive summary of findings related to the Oct. 28, 2014 launch loss of Orbital ATK’s third space agency contracted re-supply mission to the International Space Station is unable to pinpoint a root cause. The summary points to three possibilities, all related to difficulties with a first stage rocket engine.

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