Today’s Deep Space Extra, Monday, August 10, 2015

August 10th, 2015

Today’s Deep Space Extra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. Images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft raise a crater mystery at giant asteroid Ceres. Engineers overcome navigation challenges to guide New Horizons to Pluto. Astronomers reach breakthrough in witnessing early galaxy birth and growth. Think of strangely shaped Comet 67P/Churyumov Gerasimenko as two merged objects, not one. Cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko will tend experiments, conduct maintenance during a Monday spacewalk outside the International Space Station. Kazakh cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov will launch to the Space Station in September with Russian astronaut Sergei Volkov and European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen. Space Station astronauts plan to taste lettuce grown in orbit. Perseids dazzle in night sky at mid-week. DARPA digs in on reusable spaceplane launch system. Retired shuttle commander Pam Melroy recalls shuttle era teamwork. Orbital ATK looks to December for restart of resupply missions to the International Space Station. Financial turmoil stirs Vostochny Cosmodrome construction in Russia.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

The mystery of dwarf planet Ceres’ missing craters (8/7): Ceres, the large asteroid, seems short of impact craters, say planetary scientists. Their count is coming from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft which has been orbiting Ceres since March. Crater counts are used to determine the age of planetary bodies.

How NASA got New Horizons to Pluto

Forbes (8/9): U.S. space agency engineers mastered a deep space navigational challenge to reach Pluto in mid-July with the New Horizons spacecraft.

Two studies offer new clues to how galaxies form and emerge from ‘dark ages’

Christian Science Monitor (8/7): Observations of the distant but unusually bright galaxy EGSY8p7 with the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes and the Keck Observatory in Hawaii are providing new clues about the end of the universe’s dark ages.  At a distance of 13.2 billion light years, EGSY8p7, is the most distant galaxy yet observed.

How the rubber-duck comet got its shape

Nature News (8/7): Comet 67P/Churyumov Gerasimenko appears to have come by its unusual shape because it’s actually two comets that merged, say scientists. How that happened is unclear. The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission rendezvoused with Comet 67P a year ago, and later dispatched the Philae lander.

Low Earth Orbit

Russian cosmonauts to go on first spacewalk this year

TASS, of Russia (8/10): Cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko are expected to spend 6 1/2 hours outside the International Space Station’s Russian segment on Monday, checking on external science experiments, repairing navigation antennas and gathering photos of the station’s condition.

Kazakh astronaut Aidyn Aimbetov to make research in space

Tengri News, of Kazakhstan (8/10): Aidyn Aimbetov will become Kazakhstan’s third ethnic cosmonaut as he launches in early September on a 10 day flight to the International Space Station with Russian Sergei Volkov and European astronaut Andreas Mogensen. Volkov will exchange places with current station commander Gennady Padalka. Aimbetov will carry out research experiments. The short term mission will drop off a fresh Soyuz spacecraft for American Scott Kelly and Russian Mikhail Kornienko, who are in the midst of an 11 to 12 month stay aboard the orbiting science lab.

One small head of lettuce: NASA crew to eat space-grown veggies for the first time

Ars Technica (8/9): Astronauts aboard the International Space Station on Monday are to taste red lettuce grown from seeds aboard the ISS as part of the long running U.S. veggie experiment.

Potentially dazzling Perseid meteor shower peaks this week (8/9): The annual Perseid meteor shower, now underway, peaks overnight late Wednesday to early Thursday. The shower could produce as many as 100 “shooting stars” per hour. The darkness of the new moon will aide sky watchers. “No fancy equipment is required; just a lawn chair and your naked eyes will be enough to see the “shooting stars,” reports

DARPA awards $20 million for continued development of a military space plane

Defense News (8/8): The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s unpiloted XS-1 spaceplane would lower launch costs for payloads of up to 3,000 pounds to Earth orbit by lofting them to suborbital altitudes and releasing a second stage to complete the propulsion phase. Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Masden Space Systems are working with DARPA.

2nd woman shuttle commander recounts spaceflight joys, challenges (8/7): Former NASA astronaut Pam Melroy, the second woman to command a space shuttle mission, shared her experiences with a recent audience at the Intrepid, Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York. There was a strong incentive “to not treat women in an inappropriate way,” Melroy, who works with DARPA, recalled. “The standard of behavior is very high because our lives depended on each other.”

Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

Cygnus set for December Atlas V ride ahead of Antares return (8/7): Orbital ATK is preparing to resume launches of Cygnus re-supply missions to the International Space Station in December from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., using a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle. The cargo flight will be Orbital’s first under a NASA re-supply contract since the Oct. 28 launch failure of an Antares rocket moments after lifting off from Virginia’s eastern shore. Orbital intends to resume launches from Virginia with an upgraded Antares in early 2016.

Russian space agency owes $312 million to contractor firm for Vostochny spaceport construction

Tass, of Russia (8/7): Controversy over the construction of the Vostochny spaceport in Russia’s Far East has left Dalspetsstroy, a federal construction contractor for special projects short by $312 million (U.S.), others involved in the project owe Dalspetsstroy an additional $234 million.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of August 9-14, 2015 (8/9): Russian cosmonauts are scheduled to carry out a maintenance spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Monday. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is preparing for a cargo mission launch to the six person International Space Station on Sunday. The U.S. House and Senate are in recess for the remainder of August. A small satellite conference is underway in Logan, Utah.

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