Archive for May, 2019

Apollo 11 Lunar Module Timeline Book Credit: Christie’s


For those flush with cash, an Apollo 11 Lunar Module Timeline Book is part of One Giant Leap: Celebrating Space Exploration 50 Years after Apollo 11 – to be held July 18 at Christie’s in New York.

The Timeline Book sat precisely between Commander Neil Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot ‘Buzz’ Aldrin as they made the historic landing on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

Almost 50 years later to the day, it will be offered at auction at Christie’s.

Book value

The Apollo 11 Lunar Module Timeline Book was flown aboard the Lunar Module Eagle and annotated by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as they landed on the Moon.

According to a Christie’s estimate the book’s value: $7,000,000-9,000,000.

Within moments after Eagle’s touchdown, Buzz Aldrin had written Eagle’s coordinates in the Sea of Tranquility on page 10 of the book — the first writing by a human being on a celestial body, other than Earth.

Buzz Aldrin had written Eagle’s coordinates in the Sea of Tranquility on page 10 of the book — the first writing by a human being on a celestial body, other than Earth.
Credit: Christie’s

Dusty memento

“The Timeline Book narrates the entire Eagle voyage from inspection, undocking, lunar surface descent and ascent, to the rendezvous with Michael Collins aboard the Command Module in lunar orbit. The book contains nearly 150 annotations and completion checkmarks made in real-time by Aldrin and Armstrong,” explains a Christie’s statement. “Traces of what appears to be lunar dust are on the transfer list pages that detail the movement of lunar rock samples and equipment from Eagle to Columbia.”

The Apollo 11 Lunar Module Timeline Book will be on view at Christie’s in Beijing (June 13-16), with later dates in San Francisco and Seattle to be announced.

For more information on this auction, along with video, go to:

The ExoMars 2020 Rover Operations Control Center (ROCC).
Credit: Thales Alenia Space


The European Space Agency (ESA) has inaugurated the ExoMars 2020 Rover

Operations Control Center that will begin operating in July 2020 when the Mars mission lifts off for the interplanetary trip.

The Turin, Italy-based Rover Operations Control Center (ROCC) comprises several different systems and facilities:

  • Operations room, where all Rover operations are planned, managed and executed in conjunction with the program scientific team.
  • Mars Terrain Simulator which simulates the Martian terrain (in terms of both shape and composition) to support daily ground operations, perform functional testing of the ExoMars Rover Ground Terrain Model and reproduce the Rover’s surface mission to account for any contingencies.
  • Tilting platform: a structure measuring 8 x 8 meters that is used as a simulated surface to test mission scenarios using the Rover Ground Test Model.
  • Drilling and illumination system, which reproduces the soil drilling operations on Mars and simulates fluctuations in lighting conditions on Mars.

Artist’s impression of the ExoMars 2020 rover and Russia’s stationary surface platform in background.
ESA/ATG medialab

Russian booster sendoff

A Proton rocket will launch the spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan between July 26 and August 11, 2020. Arrival at Mars is on March 19, 2021.

The ExoMars mission will take a direct ballistic trajectory to Mars, followed by the Descent Module separating from the Carrier Module, entry into the Martian atmosphere and the landing of the Descent Module with the “Rosalind Franklin” Rover, weighing roughly two metric tons, on March 19, 2021.

The Russian-supplied Landing Platform is named “Kazachok.”

Europe’s ExoMars 2020 rover.
Credit: ESA



Search for life

Rosalind Franklin will then leave the landing platform and explore the planet, taking and analyzing soil samples to a depth of nearly 7 feet (2 meters), including a search for present or past life in these samples by its own lab.

ROCC was inaugurated May 30 by Thales Alenia Space, ALTEC (Aerospace Logistics Technology Engineering Company), the Italian space agency and the European Space Agency.

Credit: Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V (LZH)

A “Moonrise” laser system is being designed to bring 3D-printing to the lunar surface by melting Moon dust.

This additive manufacturing on the Moon makes use of a laser system that weighs no more than 7 pounds (three kilograms) and has the volume of a large juice package. The system is being designed to melt down local raw materials on the Moon and convert them into versatile structures later.

Credit: Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V (LZH)

New space

Germany’s Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V (LZH) and the Institute of Space Systems (IRAS) of the Technical University of Braunschweig are aiming at melting lunar dust with a laser in order to make it usable as building material.

The opportunity to fly their Moonrise technology to the Moon in 2021 is aligned with the first lunar mission of PTScientists.

PTScientists is a Berlin-based “new space” company. The lunar module ALINA and the two lunar rovers, developed by PTScientists, are set to launch to the Moon for the first time in 2021, according to the group.

Moon village

Scientists from Braunschweig and Hanover want to melt regolith on the lunar surface in a controlled manner using their laser system. After cooling, it is a solid body that would be suitable, for example, as a building material for the proposed European Space Agency’s “Moon Village”, the vision of a global village on the Moon as an outpost in space.

Courtesy of NASA/JPL/USGS

The targeted melting by the Moonrise laser into predefined structures is monitored and recorded with high-resolution cameras. If the experiment succeeds on the Moon, the Moonrise process can be scaled up to produce larger structures. Thus, in the long term, whole infrastructures such as foundations, paths, and landing surfaces could be built using the Moonrise manufacturing technology, according to a LZH press statement.

A new ESA-led project is investigating the ways that 3D printing could be used to create and run a habitat on the Moon. Everything from building materials to solar panels, equipment and tools to clothes, even nutrients and food ingredients can potentially be 3D printed.
Credit: ESA


Future-oriented research

Moonrise is considered an ambitious and future-oriented research project, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation within the scope of “Open – for the Unusual.” The foundation supports extraordinary and daring projects for which no other donor can be found.

Project Moonrise has been running for almost nine months.

Direct proof

Currently, researchers are working on adapting the laser to the load compartment of the lunar vehicle, the rover. The laser is integrated into a tunnel at the bottom of the wheeled machinery.

Stefan Linke from IRAS explains in the press statement: “The planned direct proof — that we are able to process lunar regolith with already available hardware components — is crucial for the planning of future missions. Thus, larger and more sustainable projects on the surface of our cosmic neighbor are becoming possible.”

For more information, go to LZH at:

The Institute of Space Systems (IRAS) at:

and PTScientists at:


Jupiter’s icy moon Europa displays many signs of activity, including its fractured crust and a dearth of impact craters. Scientists continue to hunt for confirmation of plume activity.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports today about the space agency’s intent to study a Jupiter moon – Europa – and issues regarding the management of that mission.

A flyby orbiter known as Europa Clipper, “despite robust early-stage funding, a series of significant developmental and personnel resource challenges place the Clipper’s current mission cost estimates and planned 2023 target launch at risk,” explains the OIG report.

Europan environments that may harbor life or preserve biosignature. A variety of geologic
and geophysical processes, including ocean currents governed by tides, rotation, and heat exchange, are
required to drive water from the subsurface to the surface and govern how any exchange operates.
SOURCE: Kevin Hand, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “On the Habitability of Ocean Worlds,” presentation
to the Workshop on Searching for Life across Space and Time, December 5, 2016.

Suitable to sustain life

Scientists believe that Europa, one of Jupiter’s 79 known moons, may have a large liquid ocean below its icy surface suitable to sustain life. The National Research Council (NRC)—which publishes a decadal survey of recommended priorities that NASA uses to help plan its science exploration missions—determined in 2011 that an orbiter mission to Europa should be NASA’s second highest priority large-scale planetary science mission after the Mars 2020 rover mission.

Congress has taken a strong interest in the project and since fiscal year (FY) 2013 has appropriated about $2.04 billion to NASA for a Europa mission—$1.26 billion more than the Agency requested.

Now former Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) examining a Europa lander model during a visit to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Credit – NASA/JPL-Caltech via AIP

Long-time advocate

The former Chairman of the House subcommittee that funds NASA is now gone — Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) — a long-time advocate for NASA and the Europa mission in particular, was largely responsible for these substantial appropriations.

Congress also directed NASA to plan two separate missions: a flyby orbiter known as Europa Clipper and a Lander mission to place scientific instruments on the moon’s surface.

In FYs 2017 and 2018, Congress directed NASA to use the Space Launch System (SLS), the Agency’s heavy-lift rocket currently under development, as the launch vehicle for both missions and specified launch dates of no later than 2022 for the orbiter and 2024 for the Lander.

In February 2019, Congress delayed those launch dates by a year to 2023 and 2025, respectively.

Europa lander
Credit: NASA/JPL

Achieving technical objectives

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has overall project management responsibilities for both missions.

In the newly released OIG audit, NASA’s management of the Europa mission relative to achieving technical objectives, meeting milestones, controlling costs, and addressing congressional requirements was reviewed.

Go to the report — Management of NASA’s Europa Mission – at:

Ronald Reagan and the Space Frontier by John M. Logsdon; Palgrave Macmillan, 2019; hardcover: 419 pages, $35.00

Another thumbs up book from John Logsdon, internationally recognized as a consummate historian and analyst of space issues. This volume is another classic regarding presidential space policy.

During Ronald Reagan’s eight years as U.S. president (1981-1989), his administration saw the NASA’s space shuttle program’s first flight, the calamitous loss of Challenger and its 7-person crew, as well as approving space station “Freedom” as the “next logical step” in space development.

The book is divided into 24 expertly written chapters, impeccably researched with notes assigned to each chapter.  

Logsdon makes use of a trove of declassified primary source materials and oral history interviews to spotlight Reagan’s civilian and commercial space policies – decision-making that possibly made the man the most pro-space president in American history.

As a side note, this reviewer was resident in Washington, D.C. during the Reagan space years, part of some three decades of covering NASA, Capitol Hill, and presidential space activities. But Logsdon offers a wealth of insider and behind-the-scenes discussions few of us were privy to; the book’s pages offer tell-tale observations that showcase the complexity and personalities involved with establishing space policy.

Logsdon does note up front that Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative – often labeled the “Star Wars” plan – is not detailed, nor are other national security space issues. Rather, the book’s focus is on civilian and commercial space policy during the Reagan administration.

This volume is a tutorial on the leadership and legacy of Reagan’s space interests, details that should be instructive to all those in the space community eager to fathom today’s presidential pronouncements about America’s space agenda.

Once again, this new book from Logsdon adds to the author’s legacy of space policy observations. He is the author of John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon (Palgrave, 2010) and After Apollo? Richard Nixon and the American Space Program (Palgrave, 2015), both of which are award-winning, definitive accounts of presidential space policy. He is Professor Emeritus at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs and founder of its Space Policy Institute.

For more information on Ronald Reagan and the Space Frontier go to:

Curiosity Navcam Right B image taken on Sol 2416, May 24, 2019. Photo shows the rover’s view to the northeast, with the slope of Mount Sharp on the right and the scarp of Vera Rubin Ridge on the left.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


“We’ve left multiple tracks across the cobblestone plain of Glen Torridon,” reports Dawn Sumner, a planetary geologist at the University of California Davis in Davis, California.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 2420, May 28, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Curiosity had a nice, long drive retracing our path back toward the southwest where we want to look at some rock layers in more detail. It’s always nice to look back on an area that taught you a lot while heading forward to answer new questions,” Sumner adds.



Different colored pebbles

Scientists orchestrated another 3 sols of activities.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image acquired on Sol 2420, May 28, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“We start off sol 2419 with Mastcam images of ‘Scolty Bay’ and ‘Tomintoul,’ both of which we imaged on our way east on sols 2385 and 2363, respectively,” Sumner explains.

The plan calls for follow up with Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) analyses and Mastcam documentation images of “Hillhead,” “Kinghorn,” and “Cumbernauld” to characterize different colored pebbles.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 2420, May 28, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL


Drive to Woodland Bay

Later in the first sol, the plan calls for taking Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photos of Hillhead, Kinghorn, and “Kintore” as well as analyze their elemental compositions with the rover’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS). APXS will collect data on Kinghorn overnight to increase the precision of the analysis.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 2420, May 28, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“We start sol 2420 by retracting the arm and swinging it to clean any dust off the APXS instrument,” Sumner notes. ChemCam then analyzes a fourth target, “Cupar,” before a drive of nearly 200 feet (60 meters) to Woodland Bay.

“Curiosity will take post-drive images to help us plan the next set of activities, and ChemCam will automatically analyze a target,” Sumner reports. “After Curiosity arrives at its new parking spot, we will take Mastcam and Navcam images of the sun and sky, plus look for dust devils.”



Credit: ESA

The European Space Agency (ESA) has released two new reports, one on use of space resources and a second document that reviews a strategy for Moon science.

Space resources will be a major topic of activity internationally over the next decade and may become a major motivation for investments in space exploration in the future.

According to this report, Europe has extensive expertise and capabilities to bring to this new field of investigation, from both space and Earth industries. Europe needs to engage now in order to have a role, to influence the way forward and benefit from the endeavor.

This document presents a strategic approach to the space resources opportunity, to enable sustainable human exploration in a way that seeks to optimize the terrestrial benefits, build a community and prepare a way to sustained and cost effective exploration in the future.

For the report — ESA SPACE RESOURCES STRATEGY, go to:

Credit: ESA

Moon science strategy

The Moon is a unique scientific resource, just three days from Earth, and whose true potential is only just being realized. The Moon is an archive of Solar System and cosmic history. The Moon preserves a record of the Earth-Moon system’s formation and the context for the emergence of life on Earth. The Moon provides a reference point for planetary science across the Solar System.

This report underscores the fact that the Moon may provide resources for future space exploration missions and to expand a space economy. The Moon provides a platform from which we can observe our Universe as never before. Recent scientific results have shown that we have only just begun to understand science of, on, and from the Moon and that there is a scientific imperative to return.

The document summarizes a strategy for science at the Moon that takes advantage of mission opportunities starting in the early 2020s and prepares for comprehensive scientific activities on European-directed missions.

For the report — ESA STRATEGY FOR SCIENCE AT THE MOON – go to:

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 asteroid probe is slated to perform a Pinpoint Touchdown – Target Marker operation from May 28-30.

Preparation for the descent above asteroid Ryugu will take place on May 28 and the spacecraft will start the descent on May 29. On the same day, the spacecraft’s speed will be reduced and the descent will reach an altitude above the space rock of about 115 feet (35 meters) on May 30, and then to roughly 33 feet (10 meters), the lowest point.

Surface of asteroid Ryugu around the artificial crater. The target marker will be dropped in area CO1, near area SO1.
Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST

A highly reflective target marker will be separated just before the lowest altitude is reached. That marker on the asteroid’s surface is prelude to an attempted second sample extraction mission.

The spacecraft will then start to rise and return to a pre-descent home position on May 31.

Credit: JAXA

Aborted maneuver

This maneuver was first attempted May 14-16.

Hayabusa2 dropped to an altitude of about 164 feet (50 meters) before autonomously aborting the descent. This abort by the spacecraft was due to an incorrect distance measurement by the laser altimeter (LIDAR), therefore the target marker could not be dropped.

Despite this, it was possible to image around the previously created artificial crater at low altitude.

Credit: JAXA

In April, using a Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI), Hayabusa2 created an artificial crater on the asteroid’s surface. The blast tossed up material from within the object and Hayabusa2 operators hope to snag specimens from that area for later analysis.

Artist’s impression of the elements required for a Mars Sample Return mission including the NASA’s Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), the European Space Agency’s Earth Return Orbiter, the Mars sample canister and the Earth entry capsule.
Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab


The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with NASA to explore mission concepts for an international Mars Sample Return campaign between 2020 and 2030.

As a first step, however, a key objective of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission is to rigorously document and store a set of samples in canisters in strategic areas to be retrieved later for flight to Earth.

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will collect and cache samples for later retrieval.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Fetch rover

The next step would involve a NASA launch sending a Sample Retrieval Lander mission to place a platform near the Mars 2020 site. At that location, a small ESA rover – the Sample Fetch Rover – would wheel out to retrieve the cached samples.

Once that robot has collected the specimens — in what can be likened to an interplanetary treasure hunt — it rolls back to the lander platform and loads the Mars collectibles into a single large canister on a Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV).

The MAV is designed to perform the first liftoff from Mars and carry the container into Mars orbit.

Artist’s impression of ESA’s Earth Return Orbiter.
Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab

Sample container

ESA’s Earth Return Orbiter will be the next mission, timed to capture the basketball-size sample container orbiting Mars. The samples will be sealed in a biocontainment system to prevent contaminating Earth with unsterilized material before being moved into an Earth entry capsule.

The spacecraft will then return to Earth, where it will release the entry capsule for the samples to end up in a specialized handling facility.

Artist’s impression of ESA’s Earth Return Orbiter and Mars sample container over Earth.
Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab

ESA and NASA are exploring the concepts for the international Mars Sample Return campaign, with ESA assessing the Sample Fetch Rover and Earth Return Orbiter. This decision-making is to provide input to ESA’s 2019 council at ministerial level, where approval will be sought for the missions.

Artist’s concept of Restore-L mission.
Credit: NASA



Satellites are tremendously isolated — once launched into orbit, they are left alone to do their work until they lose power or age into obsolescence. But what if satellites could be upgraded, refueled or repaired while in orbit?

The fourth report in The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS) Game Changer series, On-Orbit Servicing: Inspection, Repair, Refuel, Upgrade, and Assembly of Satellites in Space, explores new on-orbit servicing (OOS) capabilities and what this ground-breaking technology could mean for the future of satellite operation, including the potential cost savings of hundreds of millions to salvage satellites and not replace them.

Credit: Altius Space Machines




Possible inhibitors

While the report acknowledges that there are several possible inhibitors to making on-orbit servicing common across the market, OOS is widely viewed as the most viable path forward for continuing to expand space activities beyond their present limitations. 

To read this report — On-Orbit Servicing: Inspection, Repair, Refuel, Upgrade, and Assembly of Satellites in Space – go to: