Today’s Deep Space Extra, Monday, August 24, 2015

August 24th, 2015

Today’s Deep Space Extra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. Experts address the stress challenges of human Mars exploration. NASA refurbishes the Pegasus barge to chauffeur NASA’s Space Launch System exploration rocket. Russia’s space program confronts financial limits, loss of experienced personnel. NASA’s Curiosity rover sends photo of Martian uphill trek. Experts focus on landing site selection for Mars 2020, Curiosity’s successor. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope clears sun shield test. Asteroid Belt’s place in the Solar System emerges. Scientists explain formation of large planets Jupiter and Saturn. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s strange hum. Japan’s latest Kounotori resupply mission reaches the International Space Station. NASA consults Florida middle and high school students on Space Station plant growth. NASA’s Johnson Space Center offers back drop for One Direction’s latest hit. Planet Labs expands largest ever Earth observation satellite fleet. XCOR paces move from Mojave, Calif, to Midland, Tex., around Lynx1 development and testing. Public art festival inspiration Keren Jackson competes for XCOR flight. A look at major space related activities scheduled for the week ahead.

Human Deep Space Exploration

On mission to Mars, stress management is key
Boston Globe (8/22): Mars exploration will require humans to leave the Earth for two to three years. The stress of such a mission is a key area of research for NASA. Astronauts won’t have the reassuring sight of Earth in their rear view mirrors. The Earth will look like Mars does to us on Earth. Living spaces will be cramped. There will be no evacuation plan or way to rescue the team.

Pegasus barge completes refits for SLS transportation role (8/21): Once used to transfer the space shuttle’s external tank from production facilities in Louisiana to the shuttle’s Cape Canaveral, Fla., launch site, the Pegasus barge has been re-outfitted for new duties, transporting the 213 foot long core stage of the Space Launch System exploration rocket from Louisiana to NASA sites in the southern United States.

Russia’s space program in crisis after decades of brain drain, neglect
NBC (8/23): Experts blame a Russian space decline on limited resources and a loss of human expertise since the end of the Cold War. Though Russia leads in the launch of rockets annually, Moscow has not successfully launched or operated an interplanetary probe since 1986. “We’ve fallen behind on science program. We’ve forgotten how to make and fly unmanned probes,” said Igor Marinin, head of industry publication Novosti Kosmonavtiki.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

Mountain-climbing Mars rover sends back low-angle selfie (8/21): Curiosity drills Martian rock once again at a site called Buckskin with a drilling device that experienced an electrical short in February. “We were pleased to see no repeat of the short circuit during the Buckskin drilling and sample transfer,” said Steven Lee, deputy project manager for Curiosity at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Curiosity landed in Gale crater three years ago this month and is currently climbing Mount Sharp.

Where will NASA’s 2020 Mars rover land? (8/20): Dozens of scientists get involved as NASA makes a careful landing site selection for the Mars 2020 rover mission. The rover, a Curiosity like mobile mechanical geologist, will drill for rock samples that will be cached on the Martian surface so they be retrieved and returned to Earth. Mission planners want a landing site with high astrobiology potential. Topping a list of 10 potential landing sites is Jezero crater, a 28 mile wide depression, rich in clay minerals that appears to have once hosted a lake.

Sunny side up: James Webb Telescope passes sunshield tests (8/22): The sun shield for the James Webb Space Telescope was unfurled last week in a crucial ground test of the observatory, which is undergoing preparations for a late 2018 liftoff. The JWST, developed by Northrop Grumman, is considered the science successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. Future ground testing awaits at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Johnson Space Center.

What is the asteroid belt?
Universe Today (8/23): Theories have changed since the first discoveries in the early 1800s. No longer thought to be fragments from a broken planet, the more than 100,000 objects in the asteroid belt are likely remnants left over from the formation of the planets. Altogether, their mass is equivalent to 4 percent of the moons mass.

Jupiter and Saturn formed from pebbles of ice
SEN (8/21): New studies suggest that the solar system’s two largest planets formed from accumulations of icy pebbles, according to scientists from the Southwest Research Institute and Queen’s University, Canada. Their findings were published in the journal Nature.

Why does Comet 67P sing? Scientists think they know (8/21): The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft finds Comet 67P making a strange melody, a Dolphin like clicking that comes from charged particles flowing through the comet’s magnetic field.

Low Earth Orbit

Live coverage: Japanese cargo craft arrives at Space Station (8/24): Japan’s HTV5 rendezvous successfully with the six person International Space Station early Monday. Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui grappled the freighter with its 9,500 pounds of supplies at 6:28 a.m., EDT, using Canada’s robot arm. The resupply capsule was launched from Japan on Aug. 19.

Kounotori cargo craft seen boosting International Trust in Japan’s space technology
Yomiuri Shimbun, of Japan (8/23): The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s fifth cargo delivery to the International Space Station, scheduled for Monday, U.S. time, promises to enhance global trust in Tokyo. Four more of the re-supply missions are planned by 2020, a pursuit that is offering the country experience in technologies that go beyond space flight, while providing a basis for a less costly upgrade.

Students help NASA choose plants for growing in space
Associated Press via the Daytona Beach New-Journal, of Florida (8/24): The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and NASA partner to gather middle and high school student advice on the kinds of plants that could be grown aboard the International Space Station. Space Station astronauts recently tasted their first crop, red romaine lettuce, from a small orbital green house. Growth rates, flavor and nutrition are factors.

Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

One Direction have the right stuff in brand-new video for ‘Drag Me Down’
Wall Street Journal (8/21): Entertainers One Direction find spaceflight training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center just the right backdrop for new single.

Entrepreneur blasting off into orbit
CBS News (8/23): San Francisco based Planet Labs finds good times, weathers the bad ones to establish the largest privately operated constellation of small satellites called “Doves.” The 87 CubeSats circling the Earth so far are imaging much of the Earth each day. Commercial prospects are interested in monitoring agricultural products as well as mining and maritime activities.


XCOR update: half of staff in Midland, ground testing to happen in Mojave
Midland Reporter Telegram (8/23): XCOR’s move from Mojave, Calif., to its new home in Midland, Tex., is about half complete, with the first test flight of the Lynx 1 winged spacecraft about six to nine months away. Work on Lynx is focused in Mojave, including test flights. Work on United Launch Alliance orbital propulsion projects is leading the move to Midland.

Irish social entrepreneur shortlisted to fly to space
The Irish Times (8/21): Keren Jackson, a driving force behind the BlueFire Street Fest, a Dublin art festival, is among 30 people vying for a chance to fly with XCOR on a suborbital spaceflight in 2018. The flight competition is sponsored by Kruger Cowne Rising Star programme. Jackson is 22.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of August 24-September 4, 2015 (8/23): Japan’s fifth resupply mission to the International Space Station is expected to berth early Monday, five days after liftoff. Several policy making and advisory panels are meeting this week. Congress is in recess until Sept. 8.

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