DART Mission To Deflect Asteroid Moves Toward Early 2022 Launch

DART mission (Credit: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s planetary defense mission to deflect a small asteroid continues to move toward a February 2022 launch date while holding to its $313.9 million budget, according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will fly to the binary asteroid Didymos and impact the smaller of the two bodies to assess techniques for deflecting dangerous asteroids on collision courses with Earth.


New CSA, NRC MOU to Strengthen Canadian Space R&D

OTTAWA (NRC PR) — From flying zero-gravity missions on earth to growing food in remote or harsh conditions to miniaturized lab-on-a-chip devices to monitor our astronauts’ health, research experts at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) continue to work together to advance space science. On February 17, 2020, both organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to continue to strengthen this collaboration for all future R&D and technology projects.


NRC Names Human Spaceflight Technical Feasibility Panel

The National Research Council’s (NRC’) Committee on Human Spaceflight has named 14 members to its Technical Feasibility Panel, which will help the committee evaluate the future of the American space program.

The panel is being chaired by John Sommerer, who is head of the space sector at John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).  Other notable members of the panel include: former NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun; Douglas Cooke, former NASA associate administrator for Exploration Systems; Robert Dickman, former commander of the 45th Space Wing; soft spacesuit designer Dava J. Newman; and space architect Guillermo Trotti.


NRC Study Finds NASA Needs Clearer Goals

WASHINGTON (NRC PR) — Without a national consensus on strategic goals and objectives for NASA, the agency cannot be expected to establish or work toward achieving long-term priorities, says a new report from the National Research Council.

In addition, there is a mismatch between the portfolio of programs and activities assigned to the agency and the budget allocated by Congress, and legislative restrictions inhibit NASA from more efficiently managing its personnel and infrastructure.  The White House should take the lead in forging a new consensus on NASA’s future in order to more closely align the agency’s budget and objectives and remove restrictions impeding NASA’s efficient operations.


NRC Appoints Space Program Review Committee

The National Research Council (NRC) has appointed an ad hoc committee “to undertake a study to review the long-term goals, core capabilities, and direction of the U.S. human spaceflight program and make recommendations to enable a sustainable U.S. human spaceflight program.”

The 17-member committee is co-chaired by Dr. Jonathan Lunine, a professor of physical sciences at Cornell University, and William Perry, a Stanford University professor who served as defense secretary under President Bill Clinton. Other members of the committee include former NASA astronaut Bryan D. O’Connor, Houston-based consultant Mary Lynne Dittmar, and Spacehack.org Founder Ariel Waldman.

The list seems rather short on representatives from the “NewSpace” community. A full list of committee members with biographies is reproduced after the break.


NRC: NASA Should Beef up Tech Development for Lunar, Mars Missions

NASA needs to make a number of crucial improvements in its Exploration Technology Development Program (ETDP) if it wants to land humans on the moon and Mars, according to a new National Research Council report.

In an interim report released on Friday, a NRC review committee said that NASA is underfunding research in key areas and has left “mission critical tests” out of its schedule due to budgetary and time constraints.

“Although near term budgetary pressures are clear, the need for adequate testing is a recurrent theme in program failure reports and should be addressed,” the reviewers wrote.

The committee found that NASA was focusing too much of its technology development on getting astronauts back to the moon. “The committee did not find evidence that the extensibility of technologies to the exploration of Mars is a routine consideration. A possible consequence is the development of technologies that will not be extensible to the full VSE,” the report states.


NRC to NASA: Don’t Lower Radiation Standards for Lunar Missions

In a potential blow to NASA’s human spaceflight efforts, the National Research Council released a report today calling on the space agency to conduct more research on cosmic radiation before sending astronauts to the moon and Mars. NASA should not lower its radiation exposure standards to reach these goals.

The Committee on the Evaluation of Radiation Shielding for Space Exploration’s report (PDF) said the “lack of knowledge about the biological effects of and responses to space radiation is the single most important factor limiting prediction of radiation risk associated with human space exploration.”

As a result, prolonged operations on the moon could be curtailed. Mars exploration, which would require long transit times and stays on the the surface, could be ruled out entirely until scientists and engineers develop better ways of protecting astronauts.

The committee’s chairman, James van Hoften, told Reuters that NASA doesn’t fully understand the radiation risk, nor is the agency adequately funding research into how to properly protect astronauts. NASA is using old data, including research done on Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors.