CSExtra – Top Space News for Monday, December 2
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Today’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. NASA announces new student planetary rover contest. Legislation to preserve Apollo lunar landing sites: wise idea? China launches Chang’e-3 lunar lander on mission that paves way for new technology, energy resources, and human exploration. India’s Mars orbiter mission leaves Earth orbit for red planet. Fading comet ISON leaves a trail…of questions after Thanksgiving Day lunar encounter. Curiosity treks to Mt. Sharpe on Mars. Lawmakers may face cost choice over future of NASA’s Curiosity and Cassini mission operations. Russian freighter reaches International Space Station with help from cosmonaut. Japanese astronaut assigned to 2016 mission. NASA makes changes to International Space Station broadcasts. Cape Canaveral named for the late president John F. Kennedy 50 years ago. Florida lawmaker John Mica questions pace of surplus property transactions at KSC. Food research company raises questions about property rights from space station research. Pennsylvania lawmaker urges U.S. substitute for Russian Atlas V rocket engine. California entrepreneur devises firefighter shelter from space shuttle thermal protection blankets. How’s a space tourist to train? SpaceX is targeting Monday for a third attempt to launch the SES-8 communications satellite from Cape Canaveral. A look at major space activities scheduled for the week ahead.
Human Deep Space Exploration
NASA (11/29): New space agency contest will challenge high school, college students to develop rovers that can traverse planetary bodies. New competition will replace NASA’s Great Moon Buggy Race.
Time (11/28): Pending U.S. legislation intended to preserve NASA Apollo and other lunar landing sites may be unwise, raising issues of property rights that could lead to international conflict, according to some experts. A better option, they suggest, would be new agreements among the U.S., Russia and China to observe a “hands off” policy regarding one another’s lunar surface activities.
Unmanned Deep Space Exploration
Space.com (12/1): China launches Chang’e-3 moon probe that includes a stationary lander and a rover, the Jade Rabbit. The probe is expected to enter lunar orbit on Dec. 6, with landing anticipated for Dec. 14. Chang’e-3 would be the first spacecraft to reach the lunar surface in a controlled landing since a 1976 Soviet mission, Luna 24. The lift off from the Xichang launch complex occurred on Sunday, in the U. S. at 12:30 p.m., EST, or Monday at 1:30 a.m., local time.
BBC News (11/29): China’s interests range from science — the moon’s origins — and technical — a source of solar energy and Helium-3, a potential fusion fuel. After successful robotic lander and soil sample return missions, China will look to human exploration.
New York Times (12/1): “For China’s Communist Party under President Xi Jinping, such feats embody his rallying cry of a ‘Chinese dream’ of patriotic unity under one-party rule, supported by technological advances and rising international stature,” the Times reports. ”‘If it’s all successful, it will certainly indicate that they have really come up the learning curve in terms of technology,’ said Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor of national security affairs at the United States Naval War College in Rhode Island who researches China’s space activities. Professor Johnson-Freese emphasized that she was giving her own views.”
Global Times via Xinhua, of China (12/2): Launch of lander and “Jade Rabbit” rover brings China closer to dream of reaching the moon. Only the U.S. and former Soviet Union have done so. ”China’s space exploration will not stop at the moon, however. Its target is deep space,” according to the commentary.
USA Today (12/2): Lunar lander launches atop a Long March rocket from China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center, reported China’s official Xinhua News Agency ”We will strive for our space dream as part of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation,” said the center’s director Zhang Zhenzhong. China’s ruling Communist Party has used the military-backed, state-run space program to boost national pride and support for its policies, reports USA Today.
European Space Agency (11/29): ESA’s space tracking network will support China’s Chang’e-3 lunar lander and rover as the missions heads to the moon over five days.
Space News (12/1): Successfully launched Nov. 5, India’s Mars Orbiter Mission had been increasing its orbital distance from Earth until a maneuver Saturday to propel the spacecraft toward Mars. The spacecraft is on a course to maneuver into orbit around Mars in September. MOM’s objectives include studies of methane gas in the Martian atmosphere, another possible hint that the planet once hosted and possibly still hosts some biological activity.
New York Times (12/1): Hope springs, then fades that some portion of Comet ISON survived its Nov. 28 encounter with the sun. That’s bad news for sky watchers in the Northern Hemisphere who hoped to see a bright comet in the skies before dawn and just after sunset. Scientists, however, have reaped a bonanza of information about the chemical composition and physics of the material that formed the sun and planets.
NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign (11/29): Only remnants of comet ISON appear to have survived a Nov. 28 encounter with the sun’s corona, writes Karl Battams, who leads the NASA Comet Ison Observing Campaign, in a blog.
Coalition for Space Exploration (11/30): Curiosity is moving towards Murray Buttes at the base of Mount Sharpe on Mars. Curiosity is due to climb Sharpe, a three mile rise in search of more clues about profound changes in the once habitable Martian environment.
KQED-TV (11/29): NASA facing possible choice of continuing Curiosity’s mission on Mars to establish evidence for habitable environments or Cassini, a longer running mission around Saturn and the moon Titan, considered a primordial Earth.
Low Earth Orbit
Ria Novosti (11/30): Russia’s Progress 53 re-supply crew docks with the International Space Station late Friday, with assistance from the space station’s cosmonauts. The capsule’s four day flight included demonstrations of an advanced docking system, the KURS-NA, which faltered as the docking drew close.
CBS News (11/29): Space Station commander Oleg Kotov commands successful docking of Progress 53 re-supply mission.
The Japan News (11/30): Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi, 37, will join the crew of the International Space Station in June 2016 for a six month tour of duty. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut will arrive and depart aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Prior to his selection as an astronaut in early 2009, Onishi was a pilot with All Nippon Airways.
NASA (11/29): Changes coming today to NASA’s daily NASA-TV broadcasts on activities aboard the International Space Station. New 30 minute daily format debuts at 11 a.m., EST. More emphasis on space station science activities is planned. NASA introduces a new weekly “Space to Ground” web series on Dec. 6 as well.
Florida Today (11/29): NASA renames the agency’s Florida space operations center for John F. Kennedy, a week after the president’s Nov. 22 assassination in Dallas, Tex.
Orlando Sentinel (11/27): U.S. Rep. John Mica, of Florida, to call for Congressional hearing on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and efforts to dispose of surplus and under used property in the aftermath of the shuttle program’s retirement in mid-2011.
Commercial to Low Earth Orbit
Space News (11/27): Zero Gravity Solutions, Inc. looks to work aboard the U.S. National Lab portions of the International Space Station that could yield forms of drought resistant corn and rice that thrives in brackish water. On Earth such breakthroughs would bring exclusive control over the discoveries for 20 years, according to Space News. Exclusive rights developed on the station would extend five years.
Spacepolitics.com (11/27): Earlier this year, Russia hinted at an export ban of the RD-180 rocket engine, a key part of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage. In November, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, of Pennsylvania introduce a bill that would require the Pentagon to provide an assessment of the cost of initiating the production of a U.S. alternative.
Valencia man’s idea may better protect firefighters from intense heat: a former insurance exec and musician crafts a combination of heat-resistant materials that could offer fire protection up to 4,000 degrees.
Los Angeles Times (11/30): Jim Moseley, a former insurance company exec and musician, devises a thermal shelter for fire fighters deployed to burning forests and rugged terrains, where retreat is difficult. The shelters are fabricated from a flexible ceramic material used by NASA’s retired space shuttle. The shelter application was prompted by late June fire fighter deaths in Arizona.
Space.com (11/30): For more than a dozen years, Per Wimmer, a Danish entrepreneur and financier, has been preparing for flights arranged by Virgin Galactic, XCorp, or Space Adventures. Or as the adventurer says — the first available ride.
Florida Today (12/1): SpaceX is targeting Monday for a third attempt to launch the SES-8 communications satellite from Cape Canaveral. “Rocket engines are healthy, but cleaning turbopump gas generators will take another day,” CEO Elon Musk tweeted. The launch window Monday would open at 5:41 p.m. EST, and there’s a 60 percent chance of favorable weather conditions.
Major Space Related Activities for the Week
Spacepolicyonline.com (12/1): House is in session, the Senate in recess.
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