Today’s Deep Space Extra, Tuesday, August 25, 2015

August 25th, 2015

Today’s Deep Space Extra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. U.S. deep space planning should include lunar resources, the commercial sector and a wide international partnership, according to a lunar development advocate. Mars as a human destination is worth the risk, writes an advocate. Pursue Mars as a human destination, regardless of the cost — just don’t set arbitrary dates, says yet another supporter. The space race never really ends with a single destination, adds a Mars One astronaut candidate. NASA considers a new mission to Uranus and Neptune. An international mock trial will examine liability issues linked to asteroid defenses. NASA reaches funding agreement with Ad Astra Rocket Company on plasma rocket development. NASA asteroid sample return mission receives cameras. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station ready new Japanese cargo capsule for unloading. New station cargo includes CALET, a cosmic ray telescope, mice and a commercial whiskey experiment. NASA’s long time International Space Station program manager impressed by strides in global cooperation. NASA’s Scott Kelly, in the midst of a near one year stay aboard the Space Station, catches NFL preseason game. Congress misses urgency of NASA’s commercial crew program with $1 billion shortfall. Russia prepares to test carbon fiber command module.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Major unfinished business in the U.S. space program
The Space Review (8/24): As it looks beyond the International Space Station for its next major space endeavor, the U.S. should leverage the financial power of the private sector and a wider circle of global partners, including China, according to essayist Vid Beldavs, a founding member of the International Lunar Development Working Group. The moon and its resources should play a central role in the next push, he writes.

The risks of Mars
The Space Review (8/24): Has society become too risk adverse to tackle the human exploration and settlement of Mars? Frank Stratford, CEO of MarsDrive, believes so and urges a turnaround in perspective. “…the truth that we have lost sight of is this: the benefits of big progressive projects, like humans to Mars or, indeed, any big progressive project of any field, always outweigh the risks,” he writes.

Setting arbitrary cost, schedule will never get people to Mars 
Space News (8/24): It’s time to end the starts and stops that have prevented previous efforts of reaching Mars with humans from maturing, writes Jerry Grey, former Princeton University professor of engineering and director of science and technology policy at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. NASA is structured to implement the mission with its present annual budget without derailing space science and aeronautics as long as policy makers agree not to lock in a date, says Grey.

Why we don’t need another space race
The Huffington Post (8/24): The first space race, symbolized by the U.S. Apollo missions and the former Soviet Union’s 1957 Sputnik launch, never really ended, writes Jan Millsapps, cosmologist and a Mars One astronaut candidate. “Today’s quest is less about reaching the moon or even Mars, more about building on each success in order to reach a more distant goal,” she writes in an op ed blog. “In the space race – the only space race – as in space itself, there is no end, only an ever-expanding horizon.”

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

NASA’s next big spacecraft mission could visit an ice giant
Astronomy Magazine (8/24): NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will study the possibilities of a flagship mission to Uranus and Neptune, Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary sciences, tells the Outer Planets Assessment Group meeting Monday in Laurel, Md.  The deep space mission would line up behind NASA plans for the 2020 Mars rover and the recently announced mission to Jupiter’s ice and ocean cover moon Europa. The price tag: less than $2 billion, with an uncertain launch date.

Mock trial in Israel to debate who pays when asteroid hits
Times of Israel (8/24): Three justices from the International Court of Justice plan to gather in Jerusalem in October for a mock trial on the liability for a near asteroid strike. Successful efforts to alter the course of the asteroid initiate a shock wave that damages another nation, according to the premise of the deliberations. Law students from Greece, India, Nigeria and the United States will tackle the issues in a mock trial.

Plasma rocket technology receives NASA funding boost (8/24): Ad Astra Rocket Co., of Houston, has finalized an agreement with NASA for a long term laboratory based demonstration of the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket engine under the agency’s Advanced Exploration Systems Program. The commercial initiative could provide an electric propulsion source for future human and robotic deep space. The three year fixed price agreement is valued at $9 million.

Osiris-Rex camera delivered for integration and testing
Spaceflight Insider (8/25): A three camera suite has reached Lockheed Martin facilities in Denver, where the company is assembling NASA Osiris-Rex asteroid sample return mission spacecraft planned for a September 2016 lift off. The robotic explorer’s destination is the asteroid Bennu.

Low Earth Orbit

Cargo ship delivers much-needed supplies to Space Station
CBS News (8/24): Japan’s fifth resupply mission to the International Station berthed to the six person orbital science laboratory early April 24, five days after liftoff. The HTV5 Kounotori carried 9,500 pounds of supplies for the astronauts, spare parts and new research equipment.

Second cosmic ray detector delivered to Space Station (8/25): CALET, a high energy cosmic ray observatory, was among the equipment delivered to the six person International Space Station on Monday as Japan’s HTV-5 cargo capsule berthed to the station’s U.S. segment. CALET will be positioned on the outside of the Japanese Kibo lab. CALET complements the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which was installed outside the station in 2011 to study cosmic rays and search for the origins of dark matter.

Japanese cargo ship delivers mice, booze and more to Space Station (8/24): Japan’s fifth cargo delivery to the International Space Station includes a dozen mice, subjects in an experiment assessing the effects of weightlessness on bones and muscles; a new external experiment rack from NanoRacks; 16 CubeSats for Planet Labs and the European Space Agency; and an experiment to determine if the absence of gravity improves the mellowness of liquor.

Space Station chief expresses disappointment with Congress, recalls hairiest moments and speculates on how long ISS will fly
Houston Chronicle (8/24): After 10 years at the helm of the International Space Station program, NASA’s Mike Suffredini is retiring from the space agency, moving on to new opportunities. In an interview, he reflects, expressing surprise and faith in the success and future of international partnerships forged by the station and disappointment that Congress has been so cautious with funding for the commercial crew initiative.

Scott Kelly watches Houston Texans preseason game in space
Houston Chronicle (8/24): NASA’s Scott Kelly, in the midst of a near year-long stay aboard the International Space Station, finds weekend time to follow his favorite NFL team, the Houston Texans.

Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

Why NASA still can’t put humans in space: Congress is starving it of needed funds (8/24): Four years after NASA’s final space shuttle mission, the U.S. is still years from resuming the launch of its own astronauts. Congress, reports Slate, has cut efforts by NASA to establish a new commercial human launch capability to service the six person International Space Station by $1 billion. As a consequence, the U.S. continues to contract with Russian for its space transportation needs.

Russia to test world’s first carbon fiber spacecraft command module in 2016
Sputnik International (8/25): Russia’s aerospace industry plans to begin testing carbon fiber structures for a new piloted command module spacecraft in 2016. The capsule, which was not named, will be launched aboard the new Angara family of Russian rockets. The composite material will be domestically produced, according to Vladimir Solntsev, the head of RSC Energia, on Tuesday.

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