Today’s Deep Space Extra, Wednesday, August 26, 2015

August 26th, 2015

Today’s Deep Space Extra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. Mars One: Billionaires could make visions of a red planet settlement possible. Orion capsule testing takes place at YPG.  NASA’s Dawn spacecraft finds more mystery as it grows closer to the giant asteroid Ceres. Cassini, another NASA spacecraft, photographs a geyser like eruption from Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Arizona State University will lead a NASA CubeSat mission to map ice deposits at the moon’s south pole. Five of the world’s influential space personalities profiled. Russia delays plans for human launches from its new Vostochny Cosmodrome. Russia’s three man Soyuz launch to the International Space Station in early September will follow two day rather than a six hour rendezvous timeline. Key U.S. commercial space legislation awaits the return of Congress.

Human Deep Space Exploration

Billionaires wanted to fund private Mars colony (8/25): Calling all billionaires. Mars One, the Dutch nonprofit with bold ambitions of sponsoring a human Mars settlement starting in 2027, is seeking major donors, according to a presentation before the annual Mars Society convention, held earlier this month in Washington. Mars One estimates the cost to launch the first wave of four settlers at $6 billion, which is much too modest, according to doubters from MIT who are critiquing the strategy.

Orion capsule testing taking place at YPG
Yuma Sun, of Arizona (8/25): NASA’s Orion program plans a milestone test of the exploration spacecraft’s parachute recovery system at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground on Wednesday. An unpiloted Orion test article will be released from a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport at 35,000 feet to test how the spacecraft responds when one of two drogue and one of three main parachutes fail to deploy. Orion, under development to carry humans of future deep space missions, is designed to land safely even with the malfunctions.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

Close-ups of lonely mountain and mystery spots on dwarf planet Ceres
CBS News (8/25): NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is providing views of the large asteroid Ceres with increasing clarity, yet the rocky dwarf planet is no less mysterious. Dawn was captured into orbit around Ceres in March and is lowering the altitude of its trajectory around the asteroid in stages, revealing surprising peaks with mysterious bright streaks.

Cassini watches Enceladus fizz into space (8/25): NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, orbiting giant Saturn since 2004, has captured new images of geyser like eruptions coming from the icy moon Enceladus. Like Jupiter’s moon Europa, Enceladus is believed to harbor a subsurface ocean, where conditions may be favorable for life.

Out of this world: NASA picks ASU to lead moon-orbiter mission
Arizona Republic (8/25): The Arizona State University-led Lunar Polar Hydrogen Mapper, or LunaH-MAP mission for NASA, will feature a CubeSat instrumented to map lunar ice deposits at the moon’s south pole, a potential resource for future human exploration. The small satellite is a candidate to launch as a secondary payload aboard NASA’s Exploration Mission-1, the first flight of the Space Launch System exploration rocket. Unmanned, EM-1 will propel an Orion spacecraft around the moon and return to Earth. The launch is targeted for late 2018.

5 space leaders making a difference
Space News (8/25): Alan Stern, the principal investigator for NASA’s successful New Horizons mission to Pluto, tops a list of the publication’s influential individuals or organizations in the global space arena. Stern is joined by Greg Wyler, founder of One Web, which recently announced plans to provide global Internet coverage with a large fleet of small satellites; the United Arab Emirates space agency, chosen for its plans to launch a Mars orbiter by 2021; U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, of Oklahoma, who has encouraged NOAA to incorporate commercial weather data into its forecasting models; and Chirag Parikh, a U.S. National Security Council staffer with an interest in protecting the security of U.S. satellites.

Low Earth Orbit

Blow for new Cosmodrome as officials say first manned launch is still a decade away
Siberian Times (8/25): Russia’s human spacecraft launches will remain anchored to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for another decade, as the government scraps plans to move them to the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in Siberia by 2018. The change in part is in response to a decision to carry out human operations with Russia’s new Angara rocket at Vostochny, rather than continue with Soyuz launch operations at Vostochny, where there has been a series of construction and financial problems. The first unmanned launch operation from Vostochny, however, remains set for December.

Manned Soyuz TMA-18M to be launched to ISS under two-day pattern
TASS, of Russia (8/26): Russia’s early September three man “taxi mission” to the International Space Station will follow a two day transit rather than the previously planned six hour trip, according to Roscosmos, the Russian federal space agency. The Soyuz TMA-18M with Russia’s Sergey Volkov, the European Space Agency’s Andreas Mogensen and Kazakhstan’s Aidyn Aimbetov will launch Sept. 2 and dock on Sept. 4 to begin their 10-day flight. The change was attributed to a debris avoidance maneuver by the station on July 26. The purpose of the short mission is to exchange the Soyuz spacecraft “life boat” assigned to NASA’s Scott Kelly and Russia’s Mikhail Kornienko, who are in the midst of a near yearlong stay aboard the Space Station. Current Space Station commander Gennady Padalka, Mogensen and Aimbetov will return to Earth in the Space Station’s Soyuz TMA-16M, which launched Mar. 27 with Kelly, Kornienko and Padalka.

Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

Edwards: No progress on reconciling commercial launch bills 
Space News (8/25): The U.S. Senate and House have yet to reconcile their separate approaches to commercial space law, U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards informs a Maryland Space Business Roundtable luncheon on Aug. 25. Edwards is the ranking Democrat on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. A key difference in the two measures regards restrictions on FAA regulation of commercial space, which are set to expire Oct. 1. The Senate version would extend the limitations for another five years, the House version another 10 years.

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