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Today’s Deep Space Extra for Thursday, November 12, 2015

November 12th, 2015

Today’s Deep Space Extra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. NASA shapes a milestone driven timeline for the first planned test flight of the agency’s Space Launch System exploration rocket, currently expected in late 2018. The SLS is just one of NASA’s Mars mission strides. A look back at NASA’s Mars mission legacy. Presidential contender Donald Trump places pot holes ahead of space exploration. At Harvard, a science history class features a life like spaceflight simulation. Astronomers find closest thing yet to Earth 39 light years away. Japan looks to 2019 for an unmanned moon landing. Multiple rapidly spinning moons around Pluto confound scientists. The nation’s next 10 year Earth science road map is under the guidance of pros experienced in the ways of Washington as well as science. The U.S. Air Force awards a contract to hasten 3-D manufacturing of rocket engine components. Japan prepares to expand Earth reconnaissance efforts.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Road to EM-1: NASA outlines hardware milestones to SLS debut flight
NASAspaceflight.com (11/11): NASA has established a timeline for the first test flight of the Space Launch System exploration rocket, EM-1, three years before the planned actual lift off. The uncrewed Orion crew exploration capsule atop the big rocket will loop around the moon and return to Earth for a parachute descent and ocean recovery. The detailed planning leading to a late 2018 lit off includes the integration of European as well as U.S. hardware.

NASA makes strides toward journey to Mars
USA Today (11/12): NASA’s efforts to advance a human Mars mission in the 2030s include production of the Space Launch System and Orion exploration rocket and crew capsule as well as advances in life support systems using the International Space Station and space 3-D printing.

Here’s why there’s still not a human on Mars
National Geographic (11/11): Visions of human voyages to Mars stretch back at least seven decades. NASA’s latest plans would place human explorers on the red planet in the 2030s using the Space Launch System and Orion exploration rocket and crew capsule. Technology, sustained political support and cost continue to challenge. However, would be astronauts have not given up their dream.

Donald Trump tells 10-year-old that ‘space is terrific’ but potholes are more important
Washington Post (11/11): Presidential contender Donald Trump counseled a young NASA enthusiast on his space views at a campaign event early Wednesday. “You know, in the old days, it was great,” Trump told the 10-year-old, along with an audience of more than 600. “Right now, we have bigger problems you understand that? We’ve got to fix our potholes. You know, we don’t exactly have a lot of money.”

An out of the box lecture, student learns from a cardboard box
Harvard Crimson (11/11): At Harvard, students participate in an unusual History of Science class instruction, Humans in Space: Past, Present, Future. “It’s not enough merely to give people books to read or have them listen to lectures,” explained assistant professor Matthew H. Hersch. “I’m very interested in the visceral sensations associated with using all the machines human beings have been able to invent.”

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

Closest Earth-size alien planet found, may be a Venus twin
Space.com (11/11): Scientists say the closest they have come yet to finding an Earth sized exo-planet lies 39 light years away, though it may be more correctly described as a Venus twin. GJ 1132b orbits a fairly dim star, and appears to be a rocky world with an atmosphere. University of Maryland astrophysicist Drake Deming describes the find in the Nov. 12 edition of the Journal Nature. The planet was found using a ground based observatory in Chili. Its relative closeness could lead to more observations.

Japan plans unmanned Moon landing
Wall Street Journal (11/12): Japan aims for 2019 as it plans to become the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon. A government space policy panel updated planning on Wednesday. Japan intends to incorporate a precision landing system for its uncrewed lander as well.

Pandemonium! Motion of Pluto’s Moons perplexes scientists
Space.com (11/10): Scientists find not just chaos but pandemonium in the motion of the four smallest moons that orbit distant Pluto. They spin fast, some sideways and one spins backwards. “There’s clearly something fundamental about the dynamics of the system that we do not understand,” said Mark Showalter, a co-investigator on NASA’s New Horizons mission. The findings were presented at the annual American Astronomical Society’s division of planetary sciences conference this week. New Horizons, which carried out the first flyby of Pluto on July 14, continues to send images and data back to Earth.

Low Earth Orbit

If climate change figures big in NASA’s next Earth science road map, you can thank this guy 
Space News (11/11): The U.S. National Research Council’s efforts to establish a second Decadal Survey for Earth Science and Applications from Space will be led and shaped by two key scientists, University of Colorado Boulder professor Waleed Abdalati and the University of Maryland’s Antonio Busalacchi. The outcome, a 10-year road map, will spell out which satellite missions are needed to monitor the health of the Earth’s air, sea and land.

Air Force funds 3-D printing study for rocket engines
Space News (11/11): Johns Hopkins University’s Whiting School of Engineering will explore the 3-D production of cooling chambers for liquid fueled rocket engines under a $545,000 U.S. Air Force contract. The initiative is part of an effort to bring the U.S. import of Russian rocket engines to a close. The effort is also intended to lower manufacturing costs and increase competition. The Air Force will emphasize upgrades that can be carried out in two years.

Japan to bulk up satellite fleet, surveillance
Nikkei Asian Review (11/11): New plans would expand from four to 10 the number of Japan’s intelligence gathering satellites, while initiating maritime observations, according to draft revisions of Japan’s Basic Plan on Space Policy. The constellation of optical and radar surveillance as well as data relay satellites would permit intelligence experts to image any spot on the Earth multiple times each day.

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