Archive for June, 2018

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 However, regulations and outdated policies could potentially stifle innovation, restrict investment, and drive the American launch sector and non-traditional space activities to foreign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.

Go to:


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:

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 2080, June 13, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now in Sol 2081.

Roger Wiens, a geochemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, reports that the final several sols of Curiosity’s drill activities at “Duluth” are devoted mostly to imaging and to analysis of the pile of drill tailings that are dumped on the ground after the delivery to rover instruments.

“Some people think dirt is uninteresting,” Wiens notes. Curiosity’s “bunch of dirt” is the dump pile consisting of drill tailings. Photos taken by the robot’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) shows the pile that’s roughly 16.3 by 12.2 centimeters in dimension – and the tailings bunched around the drill hole itself.

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


Dusty surroundings

The rover plans involve science activities with Mastcam and Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) passive multispectral observations of the dump pile, and Mastcam and ChemCam active interrogation of target “Elbow Creek” (a vein).

Also, the rover’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument is placed in position on the dump pile for an overnight integration, Wiens points out.

Curiosity Mastcam Left photo taken on Sol 2080, June 13, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS



“In between these activities the rover will continue observing the dust and surroundings,” Wiens explains, with Mastcam continuing a change-detection series of daily observations of the nearby surface, as well as looking at the observation tray and getting a view out to the crater rim.

Curiosity Mastcam Left image acquired on Sol 2079, June 12, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

NASA, with support from Bryce Space and Technology, has developed a map capturing a cultural perspective of locations in the solar system and points beyond. The Strategic Geography of the Solar System and Beyond was produced for NASA Space and Technology Mission Directorate Office of Emerging Space.

The map’s emphasis is on three parts of human geography:

— strategic geography (control of, or access to, spatial areas that have an impact on the security and prosperity of nations),

— economic geography (patterns of trade and finance, infrastructure and facilities that contribute to the economy of a region), and

— social geography (interaction of social processes, cultural products and norms and their variations).

Unique in that it is not strictly science or engineering focused, the wall chart is designed to elicit discussion and creative thinking about our future in space.

Go to:


Axiom space station.
Credit: Axiom Space


Axiom Space is offering expeditions to space aboard the International Space Station (ISS)…and ultimately the Axiom commercial space station complex.

Ten-day missions are priced at $55 million with the first launch occurring in 2020. The price includes transportation to and from the ISS, everything necessary to live and enjoy the experience while on orbit, and a 15-week, transformational training experience.

Axiom Space is building the world’s first commercial space station. The Axiom commercial space station complex would be assembled while connected to ISS and separate upon the retirement of the ISS.

Axiom Space is headquartered in Houston, Texas and is led by Mr. Michael Suffredini, former Manager of NASA’s International Space Station program.

Axiom Station Crew Quarter View.
Credit: Axiom Space

Dream project

The new station habitation spaces, including the crew quarters, dining area and galley, are being designed in partnership with Philippe Starck, an architect and designer.

Axiom Station Cupola View.
Credit: Axiom Space

“This is a dream project for a creator like me with a genuine fascination for aviation and space exploration,” said Starck in a press statement. “The greatest human intelligence in the world focuses on space research. My vision for the Habitation Module on Axiom Station is to create a comfortable egg that is inviting with soft walls and a design perfectly in harmony with the values and movements of the human body in zero gravity.”


For more information, go to: