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Today’s Deep Space Extra for Monday, November 2, 2015

November 2nd, 2015

Today’s Deep Space Extra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. NASA is pursuing spacecraft development at an aggressive pace, say experts. Writer Andy Weir explains how The Martian was formulated. The Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft provides extreme close-up images of the ice- and ocean-covered moon Enceladus. Scientists probe Jupiter’s ocean-covered moon Europa from afar. Halloween comet sails by Earth. Scientists unravel planet building processes with NASA’s GRAIL lunar mission. Venus, Jupiter and Mars serve as an opening act for November’s Leonid meteor shower. Surges in solar activity mean bright aurora. The International Space Station marks 15 years of a continuous human presence on Monday. NASA astronaut Suni Williams is eager to re-start U.S. astronaut launches. Just 17, Moshe Kai Cavalin relies on co-workers for transportation to his job at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V lofts a U.S. Air Force GPS satellite. A year after a test flight tragedy, Virgin Galactic grows optimistic about the future of SpaceShipTwo. A look at major space related activities planned for the week ahead.

Human Deep Space Exploration

How’s America’s space program doing? Five takeaways from a big Alabama meeting
Huntsville Times/Alabama.com (11/1): NASA is developing space hardware at an aggressive pace, including the Space Launch System exploration rocket, Orion capsule for human deep space missions and the James Webb Space Telescope, according to participants at last week’s von Braun Memorial Symposium in Huntsville, Ala. The private satellite market is booming as well, but the U.S. commercial space sector as a whole is not as healthy, said key professionals at the symposium.

The man behind ‘The Martian’
The Daily Beast (11/1): In a Q and A, writer Andy Weir talks about the genesis of his novel and the popular film, The Martian, including the opening’s catastrophic dust storm and the radiation threat. How soon will humans reach Mars? “NASA says the 2030s,” Weir tells the Daily Beast. “I don’t doubt that they could achieve that if they had enough funding. But I don’t think they’ll be given enough funding. 2050 seems more plausible.”

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

After diving deep through icy geysers, Cassini sends images of Enceladus
Los Angeles Times (10/30): Cassini, a joint NASA, European and Italian space agency mission at Saturn, presented close-up photos of a geyser-like icy spray coming from the south pole of the moon Enceladus on Friday. Cassini flew through the spray last Wednesday, coming within 30 miles of the ice- and ocean-covered moon’s surface.

Astronomers identify new substances on Europa of possible underground origin

AmericaSpace.com (11/1): In addition to water ice, oxygen and ionized sulfur, scientists have discovered some puzzling mineral compounds difficult to fully identify on the icy layers of the Jovian moon Europa. Scientists are working with ground-based telescopes hopeful that a future spacecraft mission to Europa will be able to probe a global ocean below the crust.

Skull-shaped dead comet safely zooms by Earth on Halloween
Orlando Sentinel (10/31): Scientists re-classify 2015 TB145 as a dead comet rather than an asteroid as it approached the Earth for a flyby at 300,000 miles at mid-day on Halloween. Suitably enough, this silent comet had the eerie appearance of a human skull.

Massive impact mystery revealed in Moon gravity maps
Discovery.com (10/31): The asteroids that roam the solar system’s modern asteroid belt are not like their ancestors, according to studies of the moon carried out with NASA’s twin GRAIL spacecraft. GRAIL sought evidence of past planet-killer asteroid impacts. The mission found evidence for one at the moon, the 1,550 mile wide Aitkin Basin at the south pole.

November’s cosmic forecast calls for Leonid showers
The Washington Post (10/31): Jupiter, Venus and Mars continue their pre-dawn appearances as November gets underway. The annual Leonid meteor shower peaks Nov. 17-18.

(Almost Certain) Chance of storms
Spaceweather.com (11/2): Current solar activity increases the odds of auroral displays as far south as Illinois and Oregon Monday and Tuesday nights.

Low Earth Orbit

The Space Station turns 15, reaching a remarkable milestone
Time (11/2): The six-person International Space Station marks 15 years of continuous human operations on Monday. NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd joined Russians Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft that launched and docked to Station’s first modules on Nov. 2, 2000. More than 200 men and women from 17 nations have lived and worked aboard since. The U.S., Canada and Russia have already taken measures to keep the ISS active through 2024.

2 degrees, flies planes, author, works at NASA. His age? 17
Associated Press via the New York Times (11/2): Just 17, Moshe Kai Cavalin relies on coworkers for transportation to work at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, where he helps to develop surveillance technology for airplanes and drones. Cavalin flies a Cessna airplane as well and is pursuing a master’s degree in cybersecurity. “I tend to not compare myself that often to other people,” he says. “I just try to do the best I can.”

Halloween treat: Atlas V delivers GPS satellite to orbit
Florida Today (10/31):  A U.S. Air Force GPS satellite reached orbit Saturday atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The navigation spacecraft replaces a 19-year-old predecessor and joins 30 other satellites in the GPS fleet.

Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

Williams: ‘I mow the lawn and sometimes I go to space’
Florida Today (11/1): Veteran NASA astronaut Suni Williams is helping the space agency with an urgent goal, re-establishing a U.S. means of transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Working with Boeing and SpaceX, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program expects to re-start domestic launchings of astronauts before the end of 2017. “I think it’s going to be huge,” said Williams in a recent interview. “It’s going to be that feeling like, we’re back, we can do this again, we’re going to be successful.”

Suborbital

Virgin Galactic on road to recovery after fatal SpaceShipTwo crash
Space.com (10/30): Virgin Galactic nurtures an optimistic outlook for the company’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital passenger vehicle a year after a test flight accident claimed the life of one test pilot and injured another. Though the company is making progress in its recovery, it is not yet prepared to speculate on when SpaceShipTwo will resume test flights, company president George Whitesides told the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces. “We’re making great progress. But, you know, I don’t want to put undue pressure on them by giving them an artificial timeline,” said Whitesides. “They’ll finish the vehicle when they can, and hopefully we’ll be able to get back into test flight as soon as we can.”

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of November 2-6, 2015
Spacepolicyonline.com (11/1): NASA marks the 15th anniversary of continuous occupation of the International Space Station on Monday. The U.S. and House are in session. The Senate may take up a re-authorization of the U.S. Export-Import bank, a financial vehicle important to the sale of U.S. aerospace products to foreign customers. The House approved a re-authorization last week, but the issue is far from resolved. The Senate may also take up compromise commercial space legislation. NASA advisory panels dealing with science and human exploration programs meet this week as well.

 

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