NASA Supports America’s National Strategy for Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion

Illustration of a Mars transit habitat and nuclear propulsion system that could one day take astronauts to Mars. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — President Donald Trump has issued a new Space Policy Directive that will help propel NASA and humanity’s next giant leap – creating a sustainable presence on the Moon and sending astronauts to Mars.

The president issued Space Policy Directive-6 (SPD-6), the Nation’s Strategy for Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion (SNPP), Wednesday, Dec. 16. Space nuclear systems power spacecraft for missions where alternative power sources are inadequate, such as environments that are too dark for solar power or too far away to carry sufficient quantities of chemical fuels.

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NASA Administrator Signs Statement of Intent with Brazil on Artemis Cooperation

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and the Government of Brazil Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MCTI) Marcos Pontes signed a joint statement of intent during a virtual meeting on Dec. 14, 2020. The statement describes Brazil’s intention to be the first country in South America to sign the Artemis Accords. Brazil has expressed interest in potentially contributing a robotic lunar rover – in addition to conducting lunar science experiments and other investigations – as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

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Israel Aims for the Moon Again with Beresheet 2 Project

Beresheet 2 drawngs (Credit: IAI)

LOD, Israel (IAI PR) — President of Israel Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin today, Wednesday 9 December / 23 Kislev, hosted the launch of the Beresheet 2 project, the second Israeli spacecraft to be launched to the moon. Minister of Science and Technology Yizhar Shai, Founder of SpaceIL Kfir Damri, CEO of Space IL Shimon Sarid and CEO of IAI Boaz Levy also participated in the event.

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ESA Welcomes Announcement of Next Astronauts to the Moon

Artemis Gateway orbiting the moon. (Credit: NASA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Yesterday NASA announced the names of the 18 astronauts that will support the Artemis Programme and may be assigned to lunar missions. 

The Artemis team is a group of astronauts that will help pave the way for the next lunar missions including sending the first woman and next man to walk on the Moon in 2024.

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Statement from the President on the National Space Policy

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

WASHINGTON, DC (White House PR) — The new National Space Policy is my plan for how the executive branch will advance United States interests in space for the benefit of the American people.  By charting a clear course for United States space activities, this policy reaffirms our leadership in the space domain and our status as the world’s foremost spacefaring nation.

This policy represents a whole-of-government approach that recognizes space as a national imperative.  After years of drift, my Administration revived the United States space enterprise to once again unleash our unmatched pioneering potential. 

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NASA Names Artemis Team of Astronauts Eligible for Early Moon Missions

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 18 astronauts from its corps to form the Artemis Team and help pave the way for the next astronaut missions on and around the Moon as part of the Artemis program.

Vice President Mike Pence introduced the members of the Artemis Team Wednesday during the eighth National Space Council meeting at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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National Team Submits Artemis Human Lander Proposal to NASA

Kent, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — The National Team submitted its Option A proposal this week to land the first woman and next man on the Moon in partnership with NASA. Blue Origin leads the Human Landing System (HLS) National Team, which includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper.

Together, these partners guided Apollo, established routine orbit cargo transfer, developed today’s only crewed lunar spaceship, and pioneered planetary precision landing with liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen vehicles. The proposed solution uses flight heritage and modularity to manage risk, move fast, and attain sustainable operations on the Moon.   

During the base period alone, the National Team is completing 25 technical demonstrations, making key progress toward NASA’s mission. Watch this video to learn more about the technical demonstrations and the approach to get America back to the Moon to stay.   

Northrop Grumman Completes Preliminary Design Review for NASA’s Gateway Crew Module

Artist illustration of Northrop Grumman’s HALO module and the Power Propulsion Element which form the first critical component of NASA’s Gateway. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

Company based the design for HALO on its flight-proven Cygnus spacecraft

DULLES, Va., Nov. 18, 2020 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has successfully completed its initial preliminary design review (PDR) event for the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO). The module will serve as living quarters for astronauts at the Gateway during lunar exploration missions.

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Report: Loverro Feared 2024 Moon Landing Would be Imperiled by Boeing Contract Protest

Douglas Loverro (Credit: NASA)

A former senior NASA official violated procurement regulations in his dealings with Boeing out of fear the company could delay the Trump Administration’s plan to land astronauts on the moon in 2024, The Washington Post reports.

The Post reports that NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration Doug Loverro reached out to Boeing Senior Vice President Jim Chilton in February to tell the company it would not win a study contract for the Human Landing System, a vehicle that will take astronauts to and from the lunar surface. The call came at a time when NASA was not to contact any of the bidders.

Loverro, who abruptly resigned in May, wanted to find out if Boeing planned to protest its loss. If so, NASA would need to issue stop work orders to the winning bidders until the Government Accountability Office (GAO) ruled on the protest. GAO reviews usually take months.

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OIG Audit: NASA Gateway Elements Behind Schedule, Over Budget

Artemis Gateway (Credit: Thales Alenia Space/Briot)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s attempt to use innovative acquisition practices to speed up development of the lunar Gateway has left the first two elements of the station over budget and behind schedule, according to a new audit from the space agency’s Office of Inspector General.

It is also unlikely the human-tended Gateway will be capable of supporting the planned 2024 mission to land American astronauts at the south pole of the moon, the audit concluded.

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Senate Appropriations Committee Sticks a Fork in NASA’s 2024 Moon Landing Plan

Artemis Gateway (Credit: Thales Alenia Space/Briot)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It looks as if the Trump Administration’s goal of landing astronauts on the moon in 2024 is expiring at about the same time as the administration itself. The fatal blow is being struck by Congress, not the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has released a fiscal year 2021 funding bill that includes $1 billion for NASA to Human Landing System (HLS) that will take astronauts to and from the lunar surface as part of the Artemis program. The amount is far short of the $3.2 billion that NASA has said is needed for HLS to keep the 2024 landing on schedule.

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Bridenstine to Leave NASA Administrator Post

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In a decision that has disappointed his supporters, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine plans to leave his position even if president-elect Joe Biden asked him to stay.

Irene Klotz broke the news in Aviation Week. The story is behind a paywall, but Klotz did tweet:

“You need somebody who has a close relationship with the president of the U.S. … somebody trusted by the administration…. including OMB, National Space Council, National Security Council. I think I would not be the right person for that in a new administration –Bridenstine

Agency administrators usually change when a new president comes in, particularly if he is from a different party. Bridenstine is a former Republican Congressman from Oklahoma appointed by President Donald Trump, who was defeated by his Democratic opponent Biden last week.

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Embarrassed ISRO Keeping Vikram Failure Report Secret

This before and after image ratio highlights changes to the surface; the impact point is near center of the image and stands out due the dark rays and bright outer halo. Note the dark streak and debris about 100 meters to the SSE of the impact point. Diagonal straight lines are uncorrected background artifacts. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University)

The News Minute reports the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) plans to keep the failure report for its Vikram lunar lander under wraps.

According to the TOI report, the [Right to Information (RTI)] query was filed by Sathish GN, a resident of Bengaluru. Sathish had sought the details of the FAC report on the hard landing of Vikram lander. However, the RTI response states that this information cannot be divulged under Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. This section lists exemption of disclosure of information that would “prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence.”

A veteran scientist and former ISRO Chief said that ISRO’s decision may not be the best. “I don’t think the decision taken by ISRO is correct. ISRO has been doing a transparent job and has been a transparent organisation. Just by showing where and how it landed will not affect national security. They have given a lame excuse, that is all,” Dr G Madhavan Nair said. 

The Vikram lander crashed into the lunar surface on Sept. 7, 2019, putting an end to India’s much hyped first attempt to land on the moon. Vikram was part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, whose orbiter continues to return results to this day.

The News Minute said ISRO’s Failure Analysis Committee (FAC) traditionally issues reports on the space agency’s failed missions.

The news website said the only public explanation of the failure came in a written reply by the Prime Minister’s Office to a question from Parliament.

During the second phase of descent, Vikram applied excessive braking force and veered off its planned landing trajectory, the response said.

“Due to this deviation, the initial conditions at the start of the fine braking phase were beyond the designed parameters. As a result, Vikram hard-landed within 500 metres of the designated landing site,” the government said.

Chennai-based engineer Shanmuga Subramanian discovered remains of Vikram about 750 meters from the planned landing area after scouring images returned by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The discovery was later confirmed by the U.S. space agency.

NASA, European Space Agency Formalize Artemis Gateway Partnership

Artemis Gateway orbiting the moon. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and ESA (European Space Agency)  have finalized an agreement to collaborate on the Artemis Gateway. This agreement is an important element in a broad effort by the United States to engage international partners in sustainable lunar exploration and to demonstrate technologies necessary for a future human mission to Mars. The agreement, signed Tuesday, marks NASA’s first formal commitment to launch international crew members to the lunar vicinity as part of NASA’s Artemis missions.

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