Archive for June, 2018

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill


Now in Sol 2086, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover continues to probe the Vera Rubin Ridge.

Christopher Edwards, a planetary geologist at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona notes that the last time Curiosity drove anywhere was 30 martian days ago.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B photo acquired on Sol 2085, June 18, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“A lot has happened in these past 30 sols. The rover got its groove back and successfully carried out a feed extended percussion drill activity and delivered drilled rock powder samples to the analytical instruments internal to the rover,” Edwards adds.








Resurrected drilling duties

Two instruments, the robot’s Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) and the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) mass spectrometer/gas chromatograph/tunable laser spectrometer suite — have been without fresh samples to analyze for months.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image taken on Sol 2084, June 17, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“Of course over the time while the drill was inoperable, Curiosity still carried out some fantastic scientific investigations examining the nature of the Vera Rubin Ridge,” Edwards points out. “With its newly resurrected drilling capabilities, Curiosity will do one last pass over the Vera Rubin Ridge units, now that the rest of the instrument suite onboard can have access to this and future drill samples.”

Hit the road

Edwards reports that after completing the last little bit of drill related activities designed to characterize the sampling site in detail Curiosity will hit the road on the second sol of this three sol plan.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 2083, June 16, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“However, the rover won’t be driving very far due to the rough terrain, only around 13 meters [43 feet]. We’ll carry out the usual suite of imaging at this site following the drive to make sure we can acquire the needed data to support contact science in the next plan. In the coming months, Curiosity will end its stint on the Vera Rubin Ridge and continue up Mt. Sharp,” Edwards concludes.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 2083, June 16, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS



Credit: White House TV/Screengrab

In remarks today before the third meeting of the National Space Council, U.S. President Donald Trump called for “reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest space-faring nation,” the President said.

“The essence of the American character,” Trump added, “is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers.  But our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security.”

In that regard, Trump directed the Department of Defense and Pentagon “to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. That’s a big statement,” Trump emphasized. “We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force — separate but equal.”

The Moon and Mars. as seen from the International Space Station.
Credit: NASA/ESA

Moon return

Regarding the President’s time table for returning humans to the Moon, Trump advised: “This time, we will do more than plant our flag and leave our footprints.  We will establish a long-term presence, expand our economy, and build the foundation for the eventual mission to Mars — which is actually going to happen very quickly.”

Trump also said that when it comes to space, “too often, for too many years, our dreams of exploration and discovery were really squandered by politics and bureaucracy, and we knocked that out.

Earth orbit is a junkyard of human-made space clutter.
Credit: Space Junk 3D, LLC. Melrae Pictures

Dealing with debris

President Donald J. Trump signed Space Policy Directive – 3 today directing the United States to lead the management of traffic and mitigate the effects of debris in space.

Space Policy Directive – 3 provides guidelines and direction to ensure that the United States is a leader in providing a safe and secure environment as commercial and civil space traffic increases.

As space becomes increasingly contested, the demand for the Department of Defense to focus on protecting U.S. space assets and interests also increases.

At the same time, the rapid commercialization of space requires a traffic management framework that protects U.S. interests and considers the private sector’s needs.

The new Directive seeks to reduce the growing threat of orbital debris to the common interest of all nations.

Setting guidelines

The Directive articulates the policy of the United States to pursue and utilize both Government and commercial sector technologies to track and monitor space debris.

The Directive requires updates to the U.S. Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices and new guidelines for satellite design and operation.

The new Directive sets guidelines for the United States to manage space traffic more effectively by spearheading new data sharing initiatives.

The United States should continue to provide basic space situational awareness data and basic space traffic management services free of direct user fees.

The Department of Commerce will make space safety data and services available to the public, while the Department of Defense maintains the authoritative catalogue of space objects.

The United States will maintain and expand its leadership in space by increasing its capabilities and developing standards and best practices.

This effort will:

Improve space situational awareness data standards and information sharing;

Leverage U.S. standards and best practices to shape international norms; and

Streamline processes and reduce regulatory burdens that inhibit commercial growth, enabling the U.S. commercial sector to lead the world in space.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up the Space Policy Directive – 1 after signing it, directing NASA to return to the Moon, alongside members of the Senate, Congress, NASA, and commercial space companies in the Roosevelt room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017.
Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Space directives

The new Space Policy Directive builds on the President’s efforts to reinstate the United States leadership role in space.

On June 30, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order reviving the National Space Council for the first time in 24 years.

On December 11, 2017, the President signed Space Policy Directive – 1, instructing NASA to return United States astronauts to the Moon, followed by human missions to Mars.

On March 23, 2018, President Trump unveiled a National Space Strategy that laid out an approach to ensuring that the United States is strong and competitive in the space environment.

On May 24, 2018, the President signed Space Policy Directive – 2 to reform United States commercial space regulatory framework, seeking to ensure our place as a leader in space commerce.


For more information on today’s White House space happenings, go to:

Remarks by President Trump at a Meeting with the National Space Council and Signing of Space Policy Directive-3

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Opening Remarks by Vice President Pence at Meeting of the National Space Council

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Aarhus Wind Tunnel Simulator II at Aarhus University in Denmark.
(Left) The wind turbine positioned in the wind tunnel, which is 2 meters in diameter. (right) Close-up
of the wind turbine, with the wind tunnel fan visible in the background.
Credit: Credit: C. Holstein-Rathlou, P.E. Thomas, J. Merrison, J.J. Iversen

Experimental demonstration of a small, light-weight wind turbine under simulated current Martian atmospheric conditions has shown that wind power on Mars is feasible.

The experiments were conducted in the Aarhus Wind Tunnel Simulator II at Aarhus University in Denmark in the fall of 2010.

Follow-up findings stemming from the work are spotlighted by Christina Holstein-Rathlou at Boston University’s Center for Space Physics at the Mars Workshop on Amazonian and Present Day Climate being held this week in Lakewood, Colorado. The Planetary Science Institute is holding the event.

Credit: Planetary Science Institute

Realistic conditions

The objective of the wind turbine investigations was to see how much power is produced under realistic Martian atmospheric conditions. For future possible missions to the polar regions of Mars standard power sources will be unfit for the task, Holstein-Rathlou and colleagues note. Solar cells will have limited or no sunlight for roughly half the year and the heat expunged by multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generators, or similar devices, would be detrimental to any science performed in a polar region.

A different possible power source would be a wind turbine along with a battery for storing produced electricity, potentially in combination with solar cells.

Credit: Bryan Versteeg

Wind speeds

The concept of a Martian wind turbine has been explored theoretically in connection with human missions to the Red Planet. Along the same lines, a 100 kilowatt wind turbine was designed and tested in Antarctica – a general Mars analog site — by researchers from NASA’s Ames Research Center in California.

However, these early concepts were large and heavy and would require substantial wind speeds to be functional. Also, these sizes and masses are unfeasible for the power supply for a science missions to Mars, which are generally much smaller and lightweight, Holstein-Rathlou and her colleagues report.

Typical wind speeds on Mars are in the roughly 2-10 meters per second range.

Output voltage

The wind tunnel experiment was run at 6 different wind speeds, selected based on the most common wind speeds at the May 2008 NASA Phoenix Mars landing site in the northern polar regions of Mars, the minimum wind speed needed to make the wind turbine rotate and the maximum wind speed the wings could withstand.

NASA Phoenix lander.
Credit: NASA/JPL

For each wind speed the output voltage was measured for 30-120 seconds.

“The optimal locations for this type of power production are areas where the Sun doesn’t always shine, but winds will blow, such as latitudes poleward of the polar circles,” the researchers explain.

Small lander

Prior to dispatching wind turbines to Mars, the research team adds there are a suite of studies still to be conducted. However, most designs, singular or part of a system, will be more efficient than this experiment, and thus should lead to power production in a range that is able to support some or all instrumentation on a small lander.

“For now, we can say for the first time and with certainty,” the team concludes, “that, yes, you can use wind power on Mars!”

Notional design of Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway.
Credit: Lockheed Martin

A European Space Agency (ESA) Council meeting held in Paris on June 13, 2018 has approved steps that could see Europe become a major player in the proposed “Lunar gateway” – a concept that extends the presence of humans one thousand times farther into space compared with today.

Concept of view from a deep space habitat.
Credit: ESA

The lunar gateway was one of a number of discussion points within a European Exploration Envelope Program known as E3P.

Balanced investment

The June Council meeting included shaping an exploration mission framework for the future of E3P. The framework foresees a balanced investment between ESA’s three exploration destinations — low Earth orbit, the Moon and Mars — and between human infrastructures, transportation and robotic missions.

According to an ESA statement: “The Council was informed that studies and technology developments are under way including enhancements of the European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft to support visiting astronauts as well as modules for the gateway itself.”

Credit: NASA

Call for ideas

ESA held a Call for Ideas for use of the gateway in 2017, generating 100 ideas from the European science and technology community in areas as diverse as human physiology, Solar System science and lunar exploration.

These preparations are prelude to possible decisions to be taken at the next ESA Ministerial Council in 2019.

NASA also held a three-day workshop from February 27-March 1, 2018 in Denver, Colorado that solicited ideas on use of the gateway to facilitate science duties and other tasks.

Ted Cruz, Republican senator from Texas, pokes his head into NASA’s Orion spacecraft in 2015 at the Johnson Space Center. Then Orion program manager Mark Geyer (left) — now head of NASA’s JSC — discusses the workings of the spacecraft with the lawmaker.
Credit: Lockheed Martin

As the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) addressed the Department of Transportation Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) on Thursday, June 14 about issues that directly affect the U.S. commercial space industry.

”The United States has the potential to grow a vibrant and competitive commercial space industry. However, regulations and outdated policies could potentially stifle innovation, restrict investment, and drive the American launch sector and non-traditional space activities to foreign countries abroad. There are very few major policy areas that bring both Democrats and Republicans together, but in Congress, there is a bipartisan commitment to America’s leadership in space,” Cruz explains.

Credit: Kurt Hughes Sailing Designs.


Naval architect Kurt Hughes runs the Seattle-based company, Kurt Hughes Sailing Designs.

A recent mission Hughes has launched is to build a line of habitable, Apollo-era lunar landers providing creature comforts with low impact on the land and high amazement factor.


External modules

An inside visitor will find an open space, with external modules for bath, galley, breakfast nook and storage.

Credit: Steve Ringman/Seattle Times staff photographer.

On top is a clear geodesic dome with queen size berth under it. It is suspended by carbon fiber tensors so the light can stream in down all around the berth.

A foam/glass cover can be used to keep extreme heat or cold out of the dome.

Down inside is a soft lounging pit. On one side is an outside deck.

The systems are placed in the hexagon ring that the living space rests on.

Off-the-grid outposts

The Lunar Lander can rest comfortably on drastic, uneven terrain.

Credit: Kurt Hughes Sailing Designs



These off-the-grid outposts will use the latest marine technology to afford a strong, light, and easily maintained structure.




For more information, go to this article written by Sandy Deneau Dunham.

Also, check out this Business Insider story on this spacial housing project at:

Lastly, go to the section of the designer’s website at:

Earth orbit is a junkyard of human-made space clutter.
Credit: Space Junk 3D, LLC. Melrae Pictures



A new report — Safeguarding the Heavens: The United States and the Future of Norms of Behavior in Outer Space – has been issued by the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

This policy paper has been scribed by Frank A. Rose, a senior fellow for security and strategy in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution.



Orbital debris, anti-satellites

The crowded space environment may look like this a decade from now, with proposed mega-constellations.
Credit: Center for Space Policy & Strategy

Rose explains that access to outer space and space-derived data is becoming increasingly important to the national and economic security of the United States and its allies. Yet that access is increasingly at risk due to the growth of orbital debris and the development of anti-satellite capabilities by potential adversaries like Russia and China.

The United States will need a comprehensive strategy in order to manage this increasingly congested and contested environment.

A key element of that strategy should be the development of effective bilateral and multilateral norms of behavior in outer space.





To read the full paper, go to:

Credit: CNSA/King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology

China and Saudi Arabia have jointly unveiled lunar images acquired through cooperation on the relay satellite mission for the upcoming Chang’e-4 lunar mission.

Moon imagery unveiled in Beijing on June 14 by Zhang Kejian, head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), and Prince Dr. Turki Saud Mohammad Al Saud, president of the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology of Saudi Arabia.
Credit: CNSA/Screengrab

An optical camera, developed by the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology of Saudi Arabia, was installed on a micro satellite, named Longjiang-2. The small spacecraft is a hitchhiking probe that was sent moonward on the May 21 relay satellite launch.

Chang’e-4 Moon lander and rover.
Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Lunar images, data

The camera, which began to work on May 28, has conducted observations of the Moon and acquired a series of lunar images and data, as reported by Xinhua, the Chinese news agency.

The images were unveiled in Beijing on June 14 by Zhang Kejian, head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), and Prince Dr. Turki Saud Mohammad Al Saud, president of the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology of Saudi Arabia.

Halo orbit

The relay satellite for China’s Chang’e-4 lunar lander/rover — named Queqiao or Magpie Bridge — was launched on May 21.

Last Thursday, after a journey of more than 20 days, Queqiao entered a halo orbit around the second Lagrangian (L2) point of the Earth-Moon system, about 40,389 miles (65,000 kilometers) from the Moon.

This relay satellite will handle back and forth transmissions between Earth and the Chang’e-4 lunar lander expected to be lofted in late December. If successful, the spacecraft will touch down on the Moon’s far side – the first spacecraft to do so — in January 2019.

Landing region

The candidate landing region for the Chang’e-4 lander mission is 45°S-46°S 176.4°E-178.8°E, which is in the southern floor of the Von Kármán crater, within the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin.

Chang’e-4 landing site: Von Karman Crater as viewed by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Chang’e-4 will carry payloads for Germany, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and Sweden.

China’s lunar exploration program is designed to be conducted in three phases. The first phase is to orbit the Moon, which was completed by Chang’e-1 in 2009. The second phase is to land on the Moon, which was done by Chang’e-3 in 2013. The third phase is to collect samples and return them to the Earth, which will be advanced by Chang’e-4, Chang’e-5 and Chang’e-6.

The China National Space Administration has released this video spotlighting the newly acquired lunar images taken by the Longjiang-2 micro satellite.

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Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 2082, June 15, 2018. It is one image of many to create a new selfie.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now in Sol 2083. The robot has been busily taking new images to create a “selfie.”

Ken Herkenhoff, a planetary geologist at the USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona, reports that the investigation of the Duluth drill hole is going well, work that continued on Sol 2082.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image acquired on Sol 2082, June 15, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The robot’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) has produced pictures of the drill tailings to look for an imprint of the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) contact sensor, then will acquire another rover selfie, Herkenhoff notes.

Dust storm: environmental effects

“The major dust storm that caused the solar-powered Opportunity rover, on the other side of Mars, to shut down has somewhat darkened the skies over Gale Crater,” Herkenhoff adds, but is not expected to seriously affect Curiosity operations.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo produced on Sol 2081, June 14, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Still, there is great interest in the environmental effects of the dust storm, so the Sol 2082 plan included more Navcam and Mastcam observations of atmospheric dust and Right Mastcam images intended to detect changes due to winds.

Dump pile

The rover’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) was also to measure the elemental chemistry of the material in the sample dump pile, Herkenhoff notes, “if the wind hasn’t blown the pile away by then!”

Curiosity Mastcam Right image acquired on Sol 2081, June 14, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Lastly, MAHLI was tasked to take images of the calibration targets on the front of the rover to monitor camera performance.

Credit: ISRO

“It is time to reexamine the framework of U.S. space policy in light of the dramatic changes in the space enterprise over the last decade.”

A new report suggests that better standardization of regulations across military, civil, and commercial sectors would help close loopholes and reduce confusion.

That’s a key message from a just issued report — Trespassing on the Final Frontier – Regulatory Challenges for New Space Entrants — issued by The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy & Strategy.

The report has been written by Barbara Braun and Eleni “Sam” Sims.

Efficiency and effectiveness

The report notes that there is increased demand across the globe for governments to find ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery. The space regulatory environment is not an exception to this trend.

Ensuring that U.S. space policy is agile enough to evolve with a growing commercial space industry can help make sure both access to space for all and safety in space for all.

Highlighted in the report is the case of the launch of four small satellites, built by Swarm Technologies, rocketed into Earth orbit by an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket — despite being denied frequency approval ahead of time by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

To review this informative report, go to:

Griffith Observatory Event