Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Illustration of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Credits: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — 5:32 p.m. Eastern Time on June 18, 2019, marks 10 years since the launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Its contributions to the fields of lunar science and exploration are unmatched: it has provided the largest volume of data ever collected by a planetary science mission.

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NASA Releases Draft Solicitation on Supplying Lunar Gateway

The power and propulsion element of NASA’s Gateway is a high-power, 50-kilowatt solar electric propulsion spacecraft – three times more powerful than current capabilities. (Credits: NASA)

By Laura Aguiar
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

In the latest step in sending astronauts to the lunar surface within five years, NASA issued a draft solicitation June 14 to industry seeking comments for a future opportunity for American companies to deliver cargo and other supplies to the Gateway in lunar orbit.

The first logistics service to the orbital outpost is expected to deliver science, cargo and other supplies in support of the agency’s new Artemis lunar exploration program, which includes sending the first woman and the next man to the surface of the Moon by 2024.

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Cost of Moon Landing Estimated at $20 to $30 Billion

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

CNN talked to the NASA administrator about the cost of landing astronauts on the moon by 2024.

>The space agency will need an estimated $20 billion to $30 billion over the next five years for its moon project, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told CNN Business on Thursday. That would mean adding another $4 billion to $6 billion per year, on average, to the agency’s budget, which is already expected to be about $20 billion annually.

Bridenstine’s remarks are the first time that NASA has shared a total cost estimate for its moon program, which is called Artemis (after the Greek goddess of the moon) and could send people to the lunar surface for the first time in half a century. NASA wants that mission to include two astronauts: A man and the first-ever woman to walk on the moon.

The $20 to $30 billion cost estimate is less expensive than some had predicted — though they’re not necessarily the final figures. Bridenstine acknowledged that spaceflight can be dangerous and unpredictable, so it’s practically impossible to settle on an accurate price tag.

“We’re negotiating within the administration,” he said. “We’re talking to [the federal Office of Management and Budget]; we’re talking to the National Space Council.” (The National Space Council is a recently revived policy development group headed by Vice President Mike Pence.)

Assuming the amount is indeed all new funds and doesn’t include what’s already being spent on Orion, SLS and other programs, the only way to meet the deadline would be through a combination of increases to NASA’s budget and cuts to other parts of the space agency’s budget.

It should be noted that members of the House, which is controlled by Democrats, have thus far rejected significant cuts in other NASA programs as they have worked through the space agency’s fiscal year 2020 budget. The Republican Senate has not weighed in yet.

The other thing the story suggests is that the $1.6 billion in supplemental spending the Administration has requested for NASA’s budget is likely too low. Especially if the Senate follows the House’s lead in rejecting cuts from other agency programs.

Exploring the Moon Promises Innovation and Benefit at Home

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Walking on another world was science fiction until NASA’s Apollo program made it a reality. Fifty years later, we look back on the benefits of Apollo and imagine how the digital age could transform now that America’s sights are set on returning humans to the Moon by 2024 under the Artemis program.

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NASA Reaches New Milestone on Complex, Large Rocket

Paul Diaz, a Boeing technician, installs one of 360 bolts to connect the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s massive liquid hydrogen tank to the core stage’s intertank at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Next, the engine section and the four engines will be attached to complete assembly of the stage for the Artemis 1 mission to the Moon. (Credits: NASA/Eric Bordelon)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA achieved a significant milestone in manufacturing the first large, complex core stage that will help power the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on upcoming missions to the Moon. NASA and lead contractor Boeing have assembled four-fifths of the massive core stage needed to launch SLS and the Orion spacecraft on their first mission to the Moon: Artemis 1.

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SNC Tapped to Support Accelerated Moon Mission

Descent element for human lunar lander. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SPARKS, Nev., June 5, 2019 (SNC PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader owned by SNC CEO Fatih Ozmen, and Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen, has been chosen to develop prototypes of key human lander elements for NASA’s accelerated Artemis lunar exploration program. During the next six months, SNC will perform studies and develop prototypes to help NASA reduce schedule risk for the descent, transfer and refueling elements of a potential human landing system.

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Lucas Backs Trump Administration Plan to Land Astronauts on Moon in 2024


WASHINGTON (Frank Lucas PR) — House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas commented in support of the Administration’s proposed NASA budget amendment to once again land human on the Moon by 2024.

“America has long been the preeminent power in space but we’re facing more and more competition as other nations propose bold exploration plans,” Lucas said. “The President and Vice President’s challenge to land on the Moon by 2024 reflects the urgent need for American leadership in space – it’s an ambitious challenge but one I fully support and urge the American people to get behind. For too long U.S. space exploration has been plagued by both a lack of a bold vision and a long-term commitment to see ideas through to execution. Returning to the Moon is a national priority not only because it can help us learn more about our own planet, but because it will allow us to explore its resources and conduct groundbreaking research. It will help us develop and test the technology and life-support required for our most ambitious goal to date: sending humans to Mars.”

Lucas continued, “I commend the Administration for putting forward an initial plan that is budget neutral and technically feasible and gives NASA the down payment to send Americans to the Moon by 2024 without jeopardizing other critical missions. As NASA acknowledges, more information and more funding will be needed to make this goal a reality, and we’ll be reviewing those details as they become available. We must stay the course on this mission and I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues and the Administration to make both the initial and long-term investments necessary to send American astronauts to the Moon and ultimately Mars.”

Charlie Brown or Snoopy: America’s Future in Space Hangs in the Balance

As the Apollo 10 crew walks along a corridor on the way to Launch Complex 39B, mission commander Thomas P. Stafford pats the nose of Snoopy, the mission’s mascot, held by Jamye Flowers, astronaut Gordon Coopers’ secretary. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

This week, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the flight of Apollo 10, the final mission before the first manned landing on the moon by Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969.

During the 8-day voyage, Tom Stafford and Eugene Cernan took the lunar module (LM) to within 47,400 feet (14.4 km) of the lunar surface before rendezvousing with the command service module (CSM) piloted by John Young.

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Apollo 8 and Beyond – The Next Epoch

Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders looked back after leaving Earth orbit for the Moon. This view extends the northern hemisphere to the southern tip of South America. Nearly all of South America is covered by clouds. (Credits: NASA)

By Stephanie Zeller
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Half a century ago, Apollo 8 ushered in a new era of space exploration. The missions that followed in close succession would herald these breakthroughs in science and in engineering prowess with drama and color. They would bring a cornucopia of knowledge about the Moon, the origins of our solar system, the nature of our universe, the history of our Earth and even the history of life. In addition to tangible, scientific assets gained from Apollo, the mission brought some degree of unification to a nation fractured by conflict at home and abroad.

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Book Review: Andy Weir’s Artemis Doesn’t Quite Lift Off

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Artemis
Andy Weir
322 pages
Crown Publishing
2017

As I was reading Any Weir’s new novel, “Artemis,” I began thinking about the components of a good caper story. What makes us want to watch a group of crooks break the law?

“Ocean’s 11” (the remake) is a pretty good model. You’ve got a charismatic leader Danny Ocean (George Clooney), his trusted alter-ego sidekick Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), and a quirky crew of oddballs all with their own special roles to play in the big heist.

Their goal is to steal $160 million locked in a seemingly impregnable vault that constitutes the revenues from not one, not two but count ’em three Las Vegas casinos. Here they’ve got a chance to take the house with one enormous roll of the dice. It’s the dream of anyone who’s ever visited Sin City.

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