China Launches Chang’e-5 Lunar Sample Return Mission

Long March 5 launches the Chang’e-5 mission to the moon. (Credit: CNSA)

BEIJING (CNSA PR) — At 4:30 on November 24th, China used the Long March 5 carrier rocket to successfully launch the lunar exploration project Chang’e-5 probe at the Wenchang Space Launch Site in China.

After the rocket flew for about 2,200 seconds, the probe was successfully sent into the scheduled trajectory, starting China’s first return journey from sampling of extraterrestrial objects.

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Moon Mark and Lunar Outpost Announce Partnership for Racers to Land on the Moon in 2021

Credit; Moon Mark

RENO, Nev. (Moon Mark PR) — Moon Mark, the entertainment and education company that will sponsor the first-ever race on the Moon in 2021, today announced it will partner with Golden, CO-based Lunar Outpost to secure the two racers that will make history.

Lunar Outpost will adapt its patented Mobile Autonomous Prospecting Platform (MAPP), created for extraterrestrial scientific missions, for racing mobility.

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NASA Seeks More Lunar Science, Technology Experiments for Artemis Program

The Moon as seen from the International Space Station (Credit: ESA/NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — With five robotic flights to the Moon already booked through 2023, and a sixth award expected soon, NASA is seeking suites of new science investigations and technology experiments for future commercial lunar deliveries as part of the Artemis program.

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Ozmens’ SNC Selected for NASA Tipping Point Contract for Groundbreaking Technology to Produce Oxygen on Moon

Oxygen is locked in lunar regolith (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SPARKS, Nev.,  November 17, 2020 — Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader owned by Eren and Fatih Ozmen, has been selected for a contract as part of NASA’s Tipping Point solicitation to further develop its carbothermal reduction process, which harvests oxygen from minerals on the surface of the Moon. 

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The Perils and Promise of Dust on the Moon

Xodiac (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

by Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Flight Opportunities program

MOJAVE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Think your home could use a bit of a sweep? Fret not – your hardwoods are nothing compared to the Moon. Its surface is so notoriously dusty that the desert here on Earth is the environment of choice for testing dust-related technologies bound for lunar missions.

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Kennedy to Partner with Previous NASA Challenge Winner for Lunar Research

Team AI SpaceFactory’s printer autonomously inserts a window into their 3D-printed subscale habitat structure at NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, held at the Caterpillar Edwards Demonstration & Learning Center in Edwards, Illinois, May 1-4, 2019. (Credits: NASA/Emmett Given)

By Leejay Lockhart
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Building structures on other planets is challenging for many reasons, including that it is difficult to send supplies from Earth. Typical construction materials such as concrete and steel are too heavy and bulky to launch on a rocket to the Moon and especially Mars. A solution to that problem is using local materials already at the destination.

AI SpaceFactory – an architectural and construction technology company and winner of NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge – will collaborate with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to mature new planetary construction technologies. NASA announced the partnership, and 19 others across the agency, under the 2020  Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity (ACO).

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Crew-1 Heads to Space Station to Conduct Microgravity Science

NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, left, Victor Glover, second from left, Mike Hopkins, second from right, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, right, are introduced by Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana after arriving at the Launch and Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center ahead of SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Expedition 1 and Crew-1. These historic International Space Station missions lifting off 20 years apart share the same goals: advancing humanity by using the space station to learn how to explore farther than ever before, while also conducting research and technology demonstrations benefiting life back on Earth.

Crew-1, made up of NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Mike Hopkins, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, continues the legacy of two decades of living and working in low-Earth orbit by becoming space scientists for the next six months.

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ILOA-IM Announce Agreement for 2021 Lunar Landing and Milky Way Galaxy Center Imaging

Nova-C lander on the lunar surface. (Credit: Intuitive Machines)

KAMUELA, Hawai’i, 12 November 2020 (ILOA Hawaii PR) – The International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA Hawaii) has contracted Intuitive Machines (IM) of Houston TX to fly its ILO-X payload on the IM-1 Nova-C lander mission set to launch in the fourth quarter of 2021 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to Vallis Schröteri, also known as Schroter’s Valley (24.53° N, 50.49° W).

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Astrobotic & University of Pittsburgh’s SHREC Partnering for Space Technologies Research

Teams will work together to translate concepts into tangible innovations that will support lunar landings, rover missions, satellite servicing, and more.

PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic PR) – Astrobotic and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC) are pleased to announce a partnership to develop new software and hardware technologies for future space applications.

The SHREC consortium, led by the University of Pittsburgh, is an NSF Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC) and will work together with Astrobotic by pairing first-class academic researchers with engineering teams to translate concepts into tangible innovations that will support lunar landings, rover missions, satellite servicing, and more.

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NASA and SpaceX Complete Certification of First Human-Rated Commercial Space System

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon Resilience for NASA SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission are seen inside the SpaceX Hangar at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 9, 2020, before rollout to Launch Pad 39A. (Credits: SpaceX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Years of design, development, and testing have culminated in NASA officially certifying the first commercial spacecraft system in history capable of transporting humans to and from the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA completed the signing of the Human Rating Certification Plan Tuesday for SpaceX’s crew transportation system after a thorough Flight Readiness Review ahead the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission with astronauts to the space station.

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NASA to Work with Industry to Mature Green Propulsion, Advanced Materials, Space Robots and More

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 17 U.S. companies for 20 partnerships to mature industry-developed space technologies for the Moon and beyond through the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s 2020 Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity (ACO).

The selected proposals are relevant to technology topic areas outlined in the solicitation, including cryogenic fluid management and propulsion; advanced propulsion; sustainable power; in-situ propellant and consumable production; intelligent/resilient systems and advanced robotics; advanced materials and structures; entry, descent, and landing; and small spacecraft technologies.

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New NASA Partnerships to Mature Commercial Space Technologies, Capabilities

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected  17 U.S. companies for 20 partnerships to mature industry-developed space technologies for the Moon and beyond. The NASA and industry teams will design a 3D printing system for NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program, test a simple method for removing dust from planetary solar arrays, mature a first-stage rocket recovery system for a small satellite launch provider, and more.

Various NASA centers will work with the companies, ranging from small businesses and large aerospace companies to a previous NASA challenge winner, to provide expertise and access to the agency’s unique testing facilities. The partnerships aim to accelerate the development of emerging space capabilities.

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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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NASA Seeks New Partners to Help Put All Eyes on Artemis Moon Missions

Artemis Gateway (Credit: Thales Alenia Space/Briot)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is seeking new partners to help the agency tell the story of human exploration at the Moon with the Artemis program in ways that engage, excite, and inspire a worldwide audience. Through the end of this decade, NASA will explore more of the lunar surface than ever before and will establish a sustainable human presence with Artemis in preparation for future human missions to Mars.

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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.