Today’s Deep Space Extra, Thursday, August 27, 2015

August 27th, 2015

Today’s Deep Space Extra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. NASA’s Orion capsule clears a milestone unpiloted parachute recovery test. The 2016 U.S. presidential candidates and their stance on space. More Pluto photos coming soon from New Horizons. The U.S. Department of Energy plans to resume plutonium power source production for NASA deep space science missions. English researchers find hiding black holes. India’s Mars probe images a dramatic Martian chasm. Fellow physicists challenge Stephen Hawking over black hole comments. European, Russian space agencies nurture Mars exploration agreement. U.S. Air Force looks to new surveillance of space threats. Engineers gather the last of space shuttle water tanks for use aboard the International Space Station. NASA says SpaceX, Orbital ATK receiving equal but different scrutiny over recent launch vehicle explosions. Space Frontier Foundation fuels discussion of future private Space Stations.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Orion parachute test evaluates failed chute scenarios (8/26): The NASA/Lockheed Martin Orion crew exploration capsule demonstrated parachute recovery redundancy on Wednesday at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in southwest Arizona. The capsule descended intact to the desert floor though hobbled by a pair of intentional parachute failures.

Who is the 2016 Presidential race’s space candidate?
Inverse (8/26): A look at comments from the candidates so far suggests U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is the staunchest supporter of NASA’s exploration mission, while Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley supports NASA’s investments in commercial space.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

Scientists eager for restart of Pluto photo pipeline (8/26): More imagery of Pluto taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft should begin to reach Earth on Sept. 5, the first since the aftermath of the closely watched July 14 flyby, according to principal investigator Alan Stern. New Horizons devoted most of its resources to powering instruments and storing data during the actual flyby. As a result, the initial transmissions included just seven photographs comprising only a small amount of New Horizons’ data cache.

DoE to crank out new plutonium-238 in 2019

Space News (8/26): In the U.S., the Department of Energy looks to 2018 for the production of modest amounts of plutonium 238 to serve as power sources for future NASA deep space science missions. Representatives from Energy outlined their plans to develop a test batch of the radioactive material next year during presentations at the Outer Planets Assessment Group meeting in Laurel, Md.

Parting curtains of dust, and finding black holes
New York Times (8/26): Observations with NASA’s NuSTAR space telescope locate impressive black holes hiding in nearby galaxies behind obscuring dust and gas.

India’s 1st Mars probe captures stunning 3D view of huge chasm (8/26): The natural majesty of Mars’ Ophir Chasm comes to life in a 3-D image from India’s first Mars orbiter. The spacecraft reached Mars in September 2014 on a mission to map the surface of the red planet and study the atmosphere.

Is Stephen Hawking’s latest black hole theory full of holes?
Christian Science Monitor (8/26): Remarks from the super physicist earlier this week kicked up new debate about the physics of black holes. Is the information that falls into their super gravity well lost forever, or does it re-emerge and from where?

Russia, Europe agree on developing ExoMars project
TASS, of Russia (8/26): The space agencies of Russia and Europe have signed cooperative agreements for the development and launching of ExoMars, a multi-mission initiative for the exploration of the red planet with an orbiter and rover. The orbiter is slated to launch in 2016, the surface rover in 2018.

Low Earth Orbit

U.S. Air Force eyes blast detection satellite
Space news (8/26): A planned U.S. Air Force experimental satellite would monitor the Earth for nuclear blasts and hazards in Earth orbit, according to a request for information issued by the military. The Air Force designated the name Space Test Program Satellite-6 for the spacecraft.

Photos: NASA re-enters retired shuttles to remove tanks for Space Station (8/27): The task of salvaging water storage tanks from the shuttle Endeavour while on public display at the California Science Center draws to a close. The tanks will join those salvaged from the shuttle orbiter Atlantis and head for the International Space Station to play a key role in the life support of astronauts.

Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

NASA says no special treatment for SpaceX in Falcon 9 investigation
Space News (8/26): In a letter to Congress, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden explains the space agency has not given SpaceX special treatment in an investigation into the June 28 SpaceX Falcon 9 launch failure. Members of a Congressional oversight panel questioned NASA over whether NASA was favoring SpaceX over rival Orbital ATK, which experienced a launch failure on Oct. 28, while also launching a NASA contracted resupply mission bound for the International Space Station. NASA is involved in a rigorous review of its own into both incidents, Bolden writes in a response to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

NASA: SpaceX not receiving special treatment in crash probe

USA Today (8/26): NASA was justified in taking individual approaches to launch vehicle explosions involving SpaceX’s Falcon 9 on June 28 and Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket on Oct. 28, 2014, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden informed Congressional policy makers in a letter. Both companies were to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

Private Space Stations could be a reality by 2025 (8/25): The Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace 2015 conference in July offered a forum for a discussion on what follows the International Space Station. NASA’s course would hand off the development to the private sector, with the agency as a key customer.

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