Today’s Deep Space Extra for Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November 10th, 2015

Today’s Deep Space Extra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. NASA seeks new astronaut applicants for the first time in four years. Europe has shipped its first contribution to the NASA/Lockheed Martin Orion crew exploration capsule to NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio for ground testing. A pioneering U.S. commercial astronaut explains why NASA’s Space Launch System exploration rocket is crucial to human Mars exploration. Commercial experts say investments in lunar electrical power as well as space communications and navigation assets would encourage development of the moon. Ice volcanoes on Pluto point to a surprise internal power source, say scientists. 3-D printing experiments offer an encouraging technology for future space exploration. A powerful black hole explosion appears to be the biggest since the big bang. Giant Magellan Telescope to break ground in Chile this week. NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft are racing beyond the solar system with Golden Record recordings of the sights and sounds of Earth. Virgin Galactic, the suborbital space passenger transportation company, hires a female test pilot.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Astronauts needed: NASA wants to make Mars your corner office
New York Times (11/9): On Dec. 14, NASA will formally call for applicants to the agency’s astronaut corps, its first job openings in four years. The agency is preparing for new commercial rocket transportation to and from the International Space Station as well as the agency’s own Space Launch System heavy lift rocket and Orion crew exploration vehicle for future voyages to deep space, including Mars.

Europe dispatches Orion crewship component
BBC (11/9): The European Space Agency and the subcontractor Thales Alenia have shipped the service module that will accompany the NASA/Lockheed Martin Orion crew exploration capsule into space to NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio for testing. The European service module will provide propulsion and electrical power for Orion crews on future missions of deep space exploration. An unpiloted test flight of Orion, the European service module and NASA’s Space Launch System exploration rocket is planned for late 2018.

Walker: A mission worthy of NASA: a human landing on Mars
Houston Chronicle (11/4): NASA, as a government agency, is best suited, to lead the early human exploration of Mars with developments of key technologies like the Space Launch System exploration rocket, writes Charles Walker, the nation’s first commercial space shuttle astronaut, in an op-ed.  “NASA believes SLS can get the food, water, fuel, landers and spacecraft needed for a trip to Mars off the ground in just seven flights – compared with 30 required using existing rockets. Fewer launches means lower costs, shorter timetables and most important of all – less risk to our astronauts,” writes Walker.

The lunar electrical power utility
The Space Review (11/9): The moon needs an electrical power utility as well as space communications and navigation assets to encourage further development, including human activity, write four advocates in an op-ed. The European Space Agency and the FAA in the U.S. have suggested the moon could be an out of this world step for future commercial space interests. By 2030 and beyond, potential demand for power from lunar operations is likely to be in the megawatt range and eventually at gigawatt levels, according to Vidvuds Beldavs, David Dunlop, Jim Crisafulli and Bernard Foing, all members of the International Lunar Decade Working Group.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

Ice volcanoes spotted on Pluto, suggest internal heat source
Science News (11/9): Distant Pluto hosts ice volcanoes, say scientists associated with NASA’s New Horizons mission. The spacecraft, which carried out the first close flyby of Pluto on July 14, is in the midst of a long data transmission. The latest imagery reveals a pair of cryo volcanoes, which points to a past internal heat source. The findings were reported Monday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Maryland.

Scientists surprised, bewildered by Pluto data (11/9): Pluto, three billion miles from Earth, surprises scientists with images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft that show ice volcanoes, a shrinking atmosphere and moons that spin rapidly. Findings from New Horizons mission were presented Monday to a meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s planetary division. “Today’s results reflect only initial analysis of data received so far and the overall message is that the data are fascinating, with many unexpected characteristics, and the scientists are still trying to figure it all out,” the website reports.

Adding layers to 3-D printing in space
The Space Review (11/9): The California start up Made in Space and the International Space Station have become a focus for demonstrations of 3-D Printing, or Additive Manufacturing, a process by which tools and materials are gradually built up layer by layer from raw materials under the supervision of a computer program. In space, the potential for the technology is especially significant. 3-D manufacturing could greatly reduce the requirements for re-supply, while permitting the production in space of hardware that is too fragile to launch with conventional rockets.

Most powerful explosion since Big Bang seen (11/9): The blast is emanating from the largest black hole in the known universe, an object with a mass 10 billion times that of the sun. The explosion has been underway for at least 100 million years, according to estimates. Fortunately this uproar, spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope, is unfolding in the galaxy cluster MS 0735.6+7421, located 2.6 billion light-years away.

Gigantic new telescope breaking ground in Chile this week (11/9): Ground breaking activities that mark the start of construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile are planned for Wednesday. The big ground based observatory will hunt for signs of life in the atmospheres of alien planets, probe the nature of dark energy and dark matter, and tackle other big cosmic questions.

Carl Sagan’s twin alien legacies are now more than 10 billion miles from Earth
Tech Insider (11/9): Launched in 1977, NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 robotic spacecraft carry “Golden Records,” recordings of the sights and sounds of Earth, should they encounter alien intelligence in the future. The first of the outer solar system explorers has sailed 12.4 billion miles from Earth, the second has traveled 10.2 billion miles. Astronomer Carl Sagan guided the development of the records using the technologies of his day.


Virgin Galactic recruits female test pilot Kelly Latimer (11/9): Latimer, a retire U.S. Air Force officer, was the first woman to take on research piloting duties at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center. She’s joined Virgin Galactic, where her flying could take her to suborbital space.

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