Today’s Deep Space Extra, Friday, August 28, 2015

August 28th, 2015

Today’s Deep Space Extra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. Andy Weir, author of The Martian, predicts human exploration of the red planet by 2050, sooner if Congress backs the plans. The moon has a good chance of fitting into a public private human deep space exploration strategy. Space Launch System first stage rocket engine ground tests reach a milestone. Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin joins the Florida Institute of Technology, outlines strategy to settle the red planet within 25 years. NASA’s new Orion crew exploration capsule proves it can land, even with failed parachutes. NASA builds a successor to the Mars Curiosity rover equipped to gather evidence of past life on the red planet. A top European Space Agency official urges cooperation with Russia in space unhindered by terrestrial tensions. Astrophysicists believe an observatory capable of tracking the spread of life through the Milky Way are a generation away. International Space Station astronauts re-dock a Soyuz capsule to prepare a parking spot for September visitors. A European experiment demonstrates that microorganisms can survive harsh space conditions. China launches a spy satellite. India places a communications satellite into orbit.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Boots on Mars by 2050, ‘The Martian’ author says (8/27): Andy Weir, author of the bestselling novel The Martian and soon to open feature film of the same title, predicts a NASA led mission with human explorers will not reach the Martian surface until 2050. A stated space agency goal of landing in the mid-2030s will be slowed by Congressional reticence over funding, predicts Weir.

NASA and the politics of going back to the moon (8/27): Commercial activity on the moon, most likely at the south pole, will almost certainly play a significant part in a public private strategy for the future human exploration of space, according to an assessment of NASA’s future.

Stennis completes first SLS RS-25 test series, prepares next engine (8/27): NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne marched through their latest ground test firing of the prototype rocket engine that will help to power the space agency’s Space Launch System heavy lift rocket. The test engine has ties to the rocket engines that helped to launch NASA’s space shuttle. The milestone test firing at NASA’s Stennis Space Center spanned 535 seconds, or to full duration. The SLS is under development to start humans on future missions of deep space exploration.

Buzz Aldrin joins FIT, shares plan to colonize Mars
Orlando Sentinel (8/27): Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin joined the faculty of the Florida Institute of Technology on Thursday and shared his long range plan to settle Mars within 25 years. Through the school’s new Buzz Aldrin Space Institute, the former Apollo astronaut hopes to pursue progressive missions to asteroids, the Martian moon Phobos and the surface of the red planet. Aldrin, 85, is pushing for a Mars settlement on the 70th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, or 2039. Initial settlers could expect to spend a decade on the red plant before returning to Earth.

Orion parachute test: When failure means success
Christian Science Monitor (8/27): NASA’s Orion crew exploration capsule cleared a demanding parachute recovery system test in the Arizona desert this week. The four astronaut capsule designed for future deep space missions descended 35,000 feet onto the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground to demonstrate its robustness even with intended parachute failures.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

NASA’s next nuclear-powered Mars rover: Building the beast (8/27): NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will share many similarities with the successful Curiosity rover now exploring Gale Crater on Mars. But Mars 2020 will make history of its own by finding samples of Martian rock with a high probability of harboring evidence of astrobiology. And the 2020 rover will cache samples so they can be returned to Earth for study.

ESA chief warns not to politicize partnership with Russian space program
Sputnik News (8/27): In an interview, Johann-Dietrich Wörner, head of the European Space Agency (ESA), urged supporters to not let terrestrial tensions with Moscow interfere with joint space explorations. ESA and Russia have teamed for ExoMars, a two mission exploration of Mars. The first spacecraft, an orbiter, is set to lift off in 2016.

Could alien life spread ‘like a virus’ to the stars? (8/27): Optimistic astrophysicists believe they are a generation away from not only being able to detect the signature of life beyond the solar system but be able trace its expansion through the Milky Way.

Low Earth Orbit

Soyuz relocation clears way for launch of new Space Station crew (8/28): Three of the International Space Station’s cosmonauts and astronauts re-located their Soyuz crew transport capsule early Friday, clearing a docking port on the six person orbiting science lab for the scheduled Sept. 2-4 launch and docking of another Soyuz. The new Soyuz will deliver a three man, Russian, European and Kazakh crew for a weeklong visit. The visit will conclude with the exchange of the Soyuz spacecraft currently serving as a life boat and transportation back to Earth for NASA’s Scott Kelly and Russia’s Mikhail Kornienko, who arrived Mar. 27 for a near yearlong stay.

Scientists send Kombucha to space in search for extraterrestrial life (8/27): A European Space Agency experiment, Expose, is finding that some hardy Earthly micro-organisms can survive conditions outside the International Space Station.

Chinese spy payload fired into orbit (8/27): China placed a military spy satellite into orbit on Thursday with a Long March 4C rocket. The mission was not announced before liftoff.

Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

ISRO puts GSAT-6 in orbit
Deccan Herald, of India (8/28): The India Space Research Organization launched a communications satellite into orbit on Thursday. GSAT-6 is headed to geostationary orbit.

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