CSExtra – Top Space News for Monday, March 17, 2014
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Today’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion are the human gateway to multiple deep space destinations, including Mars, writes world’s first space tourist. First unpiloted Orion test flight could be December event. NASA’s latest strategic plan seeks to achieve and reveal the unknown for mankind’s benefit. NASA’s young space savior visits the Kennedy Space Center. Compelled to explore? China’s Yutu lunar rover awakens with problems still unexplained. Mercury shrinks. Keeping the James Webb Space Telescope on track for 2018 lift off a complex task. Framing the best images from Cassini’s long running mission to Saturn. Volunteers contribute to lunar crater count. Vatican Observatory joins with University of Arizona to spotlight search for life in the universe. Contamination concerns delay SpaceX cargo mission to the International Space Station, according to report. Friday’s International Space Station documentary, Live From Space, resonates. Vegetable garden awaits launch to International Space Station. Silicon Valley turns to space. Columnist finds policy makers from both political parties to blame for U.S. human launch gap. Russian Proton lofts two communications satellites. U.S. Air Force reviews possible U.S. production of Russian rocket engines for Atlas V. Commercial approach breathes new life into inflatable space habitats. Space Florida lines up Swedish company for use of Shuttle Launch Facility runway at Kennedy Space Center. A look at major space policy activities scheduled for the week ahead.
Human Deep Space Exploration
Huffington Post (3/14): NASA’s Space Launch System heavy lift rocket, in development to start future U.S. explorers on missions of deep space exploration when coupled with the Orion crew capsule, represents the right solution for our nation’s broader deep space exploration goals, writes Dennis Tito. Tito is the world’s first space tourist and the founder of Inspiration Mars. Inspiration Mars is focused on a human flyby of Mars, possibly by using SLS and Orion components. ”What we have reached, today, with SLS/Orion is a threshold in human history,” writes Tito. “The question is, will we open the door?”
NASA (3/14): NASA’s first unpiloted orbital flight test of the Orion crew capsule, known as Exploration Flight Test-1, may slip from September/October to December to afford planners more launch opportunities. Meanwhile, the first components of the Delta IV rocket that will launch the capsule are coming together at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Spaceflightnow.com (3/15): NASA’s Orion, EFT-1, launch slips from September/October to December to accommodate U.S. military satellite launch, the website reports. The agency’s preparations for EFT-1, however, will continue toward the goal of a September/October lift off, the website reports.
Spacepolicyonline.com (3/16): NASA’s latest strategic plan, made public last week, articulates a long term vision: “We reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind.” The vision provides policy context for the agency’s $17.5 billion request for 2015.
USA Today and Florida Today (3/16): At 4, Denver’s Connor Johnson felt the urge to “save NASA,” when he heard the space agency was facing declining budgets. His efforts included a petition and a talk with Gene Cernan, who commanded Apollo 17. Over the weekend, the now six-year-old youngster visited the Kennedy Space Center to pursue his own dreams of space exploration.
Spaceflight Insider (3/15): Denver’s six-year-old Connor Johnson treks to Florida for a space thank you from Robert Cabana, former NASA astronaut and Marine Corps aviator. ”For Cabana, Connor serves as an example that America’s future is in good hands,” reports Spaceflight Insider. Cabana serves as director of the Kennedy Space Center.
USA Today (3/17): Why humans, the stuff of stars, seem to hold a strong curiosity for the distant universe.
Unmanned Deep Space Exploration
Xinhuanet, of China (3/14): China’s Yutu lunar rover, which accompanied the Chang’e-3 lander to the moon’s surface in December, emerged from its third dormant period early Friday still troubled by a mechanical problem. Nonetheless, the rover’s panoramic camera, radar and other equipment are functioning normally. The source of the mechanical difficulties remains a mystery.
Science News (3/16): The planet closest to the sun has contracted significantly, according to findings from NASA’s MESSENGER mission and presented in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Baltimore Sun (3/14): At NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Bill Ochs guides the once troubled James Webb Space Telescope toward a late 2018 launching as the project manager. So far, the budget and schedule margins are on his side.
NASA (3/14): NASA’s Cassini mission will soon mark its 10th anniversary in orbit around the ringed planet Saturn. To mark the milestone, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is asking the public to frame up favorite pictures from the spacecraft’s data base.
Slate.com (3/16): Volunteer scientists allied with Cosmoquest are demonstrating their value in uncovering the history of the moon. Their crater counts come from the imagery supplied by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Space.com (3/16): The Vatican Observatory joins with the University of Arizona for a conference this week on the prospects for life in the universe.
Low Earth Orbit
Space News (3/14): Scheduled to lift off early Sunday, the latest SpaceX cargo flight to the International Space Station is postponed to remove a contaminant that might affect experiments stowed in an unpressurized compartment of the capsule. The mission has been re-targeted for a March 30, or April 2 lift off.
Space.com (3/14): Live From Space, a two hour National Geographic documentary on life aboard the International Space Station aired Friday night. U.S, Japanese and Russian astronauts discussed conditions aboard the station, the work, the risks and the spectacular views.
Florida Today (3/15): Cargo aboard next SpaceX re-supply mission to the International Space Station includes plant growth chamber that could introduce lettuce and other freshly grown foods to astronaut diets.
Commercial to Low Earth Orbit
New York Times (3/16): Planet Labs, which recently saw multiple CubeSats deployed from the International Space Station, is but one of the Silicon Valley startups looking to space for new markets. Planet Labs will offer constant imagery of the Earth
Houston Chronicle (3/15): Poor space policy decisions by both U.S. political parties have placed NASA in a potential bind over access to the International Space Station, writes columnist Bill King. Tensions between the U.S. and much of the West with Russia over the Ukraine are exposing decisions made long ago to retire the shuttle before the U.S. had a ready replacement for human transport to low Earth orbit. Now, it’s up to the U.S. commercial aerospace sector in partnership with NASA to recover.
Spaceflightnow.com (3/16): Russian Proton rocket sends two communications satellites to orbit on Saturday. Mission kicks off a string of anticipated Proton missions in 2014.
Defense Daily 93/14): The U.S. Air Force looks at production of Russian RD-180 rocket engines in the United States. The assessment is linked to tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine. The engines power the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket into orbit with a range of spacecraft payloads. The cost of starting a production line could be as high as $1 billion, according to estimates.
Rocketstem (3/14): Bigelow Aerospace pursues inflatable space habitats, a technology NASA first experimented with in the late 1950s. A commercial approach may lower the cost of housing humans at a range of space destinations.
Florida Today (3/14): Swiss Space Systems will compete with Zero Gravity Corp., at the Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility. Parabolic passenger flights are planned with suborbital flights to launch small satellites and perhaps passengers envisioned.
Major Space Related Activities for the Week
Spacepolicyonline.com (3/16): Congress is in recess. The Lunar and Planetary Science Conference is under way this week in suburban Houston.
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