NASA’s Lunar Outpost Will Extend Human Presence in Deep Space

The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, formerly known as the Deep Space Gateway. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As NASA sets its sights on returning to the Moon, and preparing for Mars, the agency is developing new opportunities in lunar orbit to provide the foundation for human exploration deeper into the solar system.

For months, the agency has been studying an orbital outpost concept in the vicinity of the Moon with U.S. industry and the International Space Station partners. As part of the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, NASA is planning to build the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in the 2020s.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Captures New Earth-Moon Image

The Earth and moon (Credit: Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin)

Greenbelt, Md. (NASA PR) — As part of an engineering test, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured this image of the Earth and Moon using its NavCam1 imager on January 17 from a distance of 39.5 million miles (63.6 million km). When the camera acquired the image, the spacecraft was moving away from home at a speed of 19,000 miles per hour (8.5 kilometers per second).

Earth is the largest, brightest spot in the center of the image, with the smaller, dimmer Moon appearing to the right. Several constellations are also visible in the surrounding space. The bright cluster of stars in the upper left corner is the Pleiades in the Taurus constellation. Hamal, the brightest star in Aries, is located in the upper right corner of the image. The Earth-Moon system is centered in the middle of five stars comprising the head of Cetus the Whale.

NavCam1, a grayscale imager, is part of the TAGCAMS (Touch-And-Go Camera System) navigation camera suite.  Malin Space Science Systems designed, built, and tested TAGCAMS; Lockheed Martin integrated TAGCAMS to the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and operates TAGCAMS.

The GLXP is Dead! Long Live the GLXP!

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

This past week, the XPrize acknowledged the obvious:  after 10 years and multiple deadline extensions, none of the five remaining teams was going to claim the Google Lunar X Prize by landing a privately-built vehicle on the moon that would travel 500 meters across the surface while sending back high-definition video.

The first team to accomplish that goal would have claimed $20 million; the second, $5 million. But, unlike the moon race of the 1960’s, Google’s much hyped moon shot ended not with the deafening roar of a launch but the deadening silence of a dream deferred.

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NASA KSC Director Looks Ahead to 2018 Milestones

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana speaks to employees at the Florida spaceport about plans for the coming year. (Credits: NASA/Frank Michaux)

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana recently spoke to spaceport employees about plans for 2018. The coming year will be highlighted by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partners preparing to launch test flights for crewed missions to the International Space Station.

“This is going to be an awesome year for us,” Cabana said speaking to center employees on Jan. 11, in the Lunar Theater of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Apollo Saturn V Center. “The number one priority this year is we’ve got to get commercial crew flying to the International Space Station.”

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GLXP Update: Parabolic Archers Called It!

Congratulations are in order for Parabolic Arc readers! Or at least the 59 percent of you who voted correctly in our latest poll.

That’s the percentage of voters who chose “None of the Above” on the question of  who would win the Google X Prize. And wouldn’t you know it, last week the X Prize announced that the prize was ending without any winner.

So, kudos to you guys. Each and everyone one of you are a regular Ed Glosser.

As for the rest of you losers….21 percent voted for Moon Express, 9 percent of Team Indus, and 3 percent for Synergy Moon.

I’ve put in a new poll up on what will happen to Jim Bridenstine’s nomination to lead NASA.

Remember: vote early. Vote often. Vote as if your life depended on it. Because it does.

Seriously. I’ll explain later.

Happy Tuesday, everybody!

NASA & JAXA Agree to Pursue Deep Space Gateway

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — On January 24, 2018, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) met to exchange their views on space exploration. The agencies signed a joint statement affirming their strong mutual interest in continued future cooperation in space exploration.

Both agencies have established a strong and committed partnership throughout the many years of cooperation in all mission areas, including human exploration, Earth and space science, fundamental aeronautics, and especially through the International Space Station (ISS) Program.

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CubeSats for Hunting Secrets in Lunar Darkness

Lunar Meteoroid Impacts Observer (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Imagine sending a spacecraft the size of an airline cabin bag to the Moon – what would you have it do? ESA issued that challenge to European teams last year, and two winners have now been chosen.

The Lunar Meteoroid Impact Orbiter, or Lumio for short, would circle over the far side of the Moon to detect bright impact flashes during the lunar night, mapping meteoroid bombardments as they occur.

The other, the Lunar Volatile and Mineralogy Mapping Orbiter, or VMMO, would focus on a permanently shadowed crater near the lunar south pole, searching out deposits of water ice and other volatiles of interest to future colonists, while also measuring lunar radiation.

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Musk’s New Tesla Pay Package Seems to be Aimed at Mars

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Elon Musk has a new pay package with Tesla Motors that could net him $55 billion over the next decade if the company reaches a series of extremely ambitious targets, according to press reports. If he doesn’t reach those goals in 10 years, he could end up with nothing.

That might seem like a crazy plan even for Musk, who is known for taking great risks. But, it makes sense when you consider the billionaire’s ultimate long-term goal: to develop a transportation system to facilitate the establishment of human colonies on Mars.

Musk has said he is dedicating his personal wealth to that objective. And although his net worth is estimated at $21 billion, actual profits from his various businesses have been elusive.

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GLXP News: TeamIndus Throws in the Towel on Prize, Promises New Direction

Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

Statement from TeamIndus

“Antrix and TeamIndus are mutually terminating the launch services agreement signed in 2016. Antrix remains committed to encouraging and promoting private enterprise in space. TeamIndus will continue with its goal of building a world class private aerospace company. TeamIndus also thanks Antrix for its assistance and looks forward to collaborating with Antrix in the future to take India higher and further into space. Antrix takes this opportunity to wish TeamIndus all success in its future endeavours.”

“TeamIndus has been in talks with the Google Lunar XPrize over the past few weeks and had expressed its inability to meet the 31st March 2018 deadline to complete 500 meter traversal on the Moon. We respect the decision by the organizers to not extend the competition deadline any further and thank them for having created an unique platform that unleashed innovation, created newer technologies and drew in teams from various backgrounds to solve problems of enabling human exploration beyond the Earth orbit.

We have formally, amicably and mutually closed our Launch services agreement with Antrix. We continue to look towards Antrix & ISRO as our preferred partners of choice for all our future endeavours.

At TeamIndus, we are grateful for the support we have received from all our partners, supporters over this journey of 7 years. We are working closely with all of them to ascertain their role as we expand our horizons and work on repeatedly delivering increased capacity, precision of payload to the Moon. More details on our next phase of evolution coming up later this week.”

Editor’s Note: Indian media reports indicate that Anxtrix terminated the agreement because it hadn’t been paid. Perhaps those reports were incorrect. Or everyone is trying to save face. In any event, TeamIndus did not have the money or the time to finish the lander and rover before the prize ended.

You know who does have that kind of money, though? Ispace, the Japanese company backing Team HAKUTO, whose rover was going to catch a ride with Team Indus. It just raised $90.2 million in Series A funding to support lunar missions.

TeamIndus says its making an announcement on Thursday about some new direction, known in tech circles as a pivot. I would not be surprised if it’s a partnership with HAKUTO. But, that’s just a guess. I don’t have any inside information concerning their plans.

NASA Experiments with Kilopower Fission Reactor

Kilopower reactor (Credit: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — When astronauts someday venture to the Moon, Mars and other destinations, one of the first and most important resources they will need is power. A reliable and efficient power system will be essential for day-to-day necessities, such as lighting, water and oxygen, and for mission objectives, like running experiments and producing fuel for the long journey home.

That’s why NASA is conducting experiments on Kilopower, a new power source that could provide safe, efficient and plentiful energy for future robotic and human space exploration missions.

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A Look Back at the Space Year That Was

Total solar eclipse photographed from NASA Armstrong’s Gulfstream III. (Credit: (NASA/Carla Thomas)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I realize it’s a bit late, but here’s a look back at the major developments in space in 2017.

I know that I’m probably forgetting something, or several somethings or someones. Fortunately, I have eagle-eyed readers who really seem to enjoy telling me just how much I’ve screwed up. Some of them a little too much….

So, have at it!  Do your worst, eagle-eyed readers!

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Is the Google Lunar X Prize Kaput?

Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

It appears highly likely that the decade-old Google Lunar X Prize will end on March 31 without a winner following reports out of India that Team Indus has pulled out of the race. The Ken reports that

The launch contract that TeamIndus signed with Antrix Corporation—the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro)—in December 2016, in pursuit of its $30-million Google Lunar XPRIZE goal, has been cancelled. Multiple sources within Isro confirmed the news….

Conservatively speaking, the price tag for the PSLV chartered launch alone is said to be upwards of $20 million; the cost of building and testing the moon rover is several million more. It’s learnt TeamIndus couldn’t pony up funds to pay Antrix beyond the initial signing amount. “Isro has cancelled the contract for a lack of compliances and payment issues,” says a person who is close to these developments. He says, “Rahul [Narayan, co-founder TeamIndus] has spoken to all on the floor recently and informed all of Isro’s decision of pulling out of the mission”. TeamIndus did not respond to questions sent by email. Without denying the news, a spokesperson for the company said, “As a company, we’d not comment on this”.

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Video: NASA Remembers Moonwalker, Shuttle Commander John Young

Video Caption: Astronaut John Young, who walked on the Moon during Apollo 16 and commanded the first space shuttle mission, has passed away at the age of 87.

He is the only person to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs and was the first to fly into space six times — or seven times, when counting his liftoff from the Moon during Apollo 16.

NASA Mourns Astronaut John Young

Astronaut John Young salutes the flag on the moon during the Apollo 16 mission. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Astronaut John Young, who walked on the Moon during Apollo 16 and commanded the first space shuttle mission, died Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, at the age of 87 from complications of pneumonia. Young began his impressive career at NASA in 1962, when he was selected from among hundreds of young pilots to join NASA’s second astronaut class, known as the “New Nine.”

“Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer,” acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement. “Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier.

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