CSExtra – Top Space News for Tuesday, March 11, 2014
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Today’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. Influential Alabama senator champions NASA Space Launch System heavy lift rocket development to start future U.S. missions of human deep space exploration. Ambitious space initiatives like a robotic mission to Jupiter’s ocean covered moon Europa or NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, which would launch U.S. astronauts on an asteroid encounter, typically take years to develop, often outpacing political and popular support. NASA’s Kepler space telescope opens a new age of planetary science. NASA teams with Planetary Resources to offer cash prizes for asteroid discoveries. U.S. supporters warm to possibility of a SpaceX Mars sample return mission. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko appears ahead of a rendezvous with Europe’s long running Rosetta mission. U.S. and Russian International Space Station crew members Mike Hopkins, Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy descent safety to Earth, touching down in wintry Kazakhstan. Tensions over Ukraine prompt some to re-evaluate U.S./Russian space relations. Air Force vet cautions against an erosion of U.S. military space assets. DigitalGlobe crowdsources search for missing Malaysian airliner.
Human Deep Space Exploration
Aviation Week & Space Technology (3/10): NASA’s Space Launch System heavy lift rocket development plans buoyed by support from U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, of Alabama. Shelby is the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee. The project is “bending some serious metal” on its way to a first unpiloted test flight, the trade publication reports.
Washington Post (3/10): The search for life at the Jovian moon Europa, like NASA’s proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission, has drawn enough interest to generate early funding requests from the U.S. Congress. The challenge for policy makers and supporters, however, are the long development cycles, a decade or more, and the price tag. Initial estimates for a robotic Europa mission have dropped from $4.7 billion to $2 billion and NASA is aiming ultimately for a price tag of less than $1 billion.
Unmanned Deep Space Exploration
Huffington Post (3/10): Astronomers working with NASA’s Kepler space telescope serve up a bounty of new planets well beyond the solar system. The finds suggest planetary systems are common and so are Earth sized planets, with some of the rocky bodies possessing conditions suitable for life.
Time (3/10): NASA joins with Planetary Resources, a small U.S. asteroid mining company, to step up the search for near Earth objects. The Asteroid Data Hunter contest, offers $35,000 in prizes to those who develop software that can increase the numbers of planetary bodies lurking in the imagery gathered by ground-based telescopes. The contest is part of NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge, announced in June 2013 to detect more asteroids that could strike the Earth or serve as destinations for U.S. astronauts.
Space.com (3/7): SpaceX’s Red Dragon would be the centerpiece for a much sought Mars sample return in the early 2020s. The company’s modified Dragon capsule, now used to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, would be launched atop a Falcon Heavy.
Space.com (3/10): Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko emerges from behind the sun. The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft is on a course to rendezvous with the comet in August and drop a lander to the surface later this year.
Discovery.com (3/10): Japanese research suggests the Earth was soaked in acid rain days after an impact by a large asteroid 66 million years ago. The worldwide acidification may explain in part the pattern of extinctions that followed the event.
Low Earth Orbit
Spaceflightnow.com and CBS News (3/10): U.S. and Russian International Space Station crew members Mike Hopkins, Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy land safely in snowy southern Kazakhstan late Monday, ending a 166 day mission. The operations went by the book in spite of tensions between the U.S. and Russia over the Ukraine.
Space.com (3/10): Frigid conditions in Kazakhstan greet returning U.S. and Russian International Space Station crew.
The Space Review (3/10): Tensions between Russia and much of the West over the Ukraine raised questions last week over U.S. and Russian space relations, including access to the International Space Station, writes TSR editor Jeff Foust. NASA pointed to a long running record of cooperation, while welcoming a healthy increase in proposed Commercial Crew Program funding in 2015. The NASA initiative is focused on developing competing U.S. commercial crew launch services as soon as 2017 to replace reliance on Russian Soyuz launches. Congress has said little so far of U.S. and Russian space matters.
The Space Review (3/10): Military space operations, which provide the U.S. with a high ground for national security are facing new budget scrutiny from within as well as without, cautions Thomas Taverney, a retired Air Force Space Command vice commander and USAF major general. Healthy space assets are an essential part of modern national security — from missile warning and navigation to combat search and rescue, he writes.
Commercial to Low Earth Orbit
Digital Globe (3/10): The Earth imaging satellite operator seeks volunteers to search photography for signs of a downed Malaysian jetliner that disappeared enroute to Beijing early Saturday. Volunteers will link to DigitalGlobe’s Tomnod platform to begin combing through satellite imagery for clues that may help locate the missing aircraft. Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which went down with 227 passengers, according to news reports.
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