Archive for May, 2020

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
May 30, 2020

President Donald Trump speaks inside the Vehicle Assembly Building following the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Moments ago, as we witnessed the launch of two great American astronauts into space, we were filled with the sense of pride and unity that brings us together as Americans. That same spirit which powered our astronauts to the Moon has also helped lift our country to ever greater heights of justice and opportunity throughout our history.

Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

So today, as we mark a renewed commitment to America’s future in space, a tremendous commitment it is. Let us also commit to a brighter future for all of our citizens right here on Earth.

When Americans are united, there is nothing we cannot do. From day one of my administration, we put America first. (Applause.)

This afternoon, I’m delighted to be with you at Cape Canaveral, in this storied home of American daring, aspiration, and drive.

This is the first big space message in 50 years. Think of that. And it is an honor to be delivering it.

Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Today, as we gather in this special place to celebrate not only the launch of a new spacecraft but also our nation’s bold and triumphant return to the stars, it’s a special day. Moments ago, the world bore witness to the flight of the first new manned U.S. spacecraft in nearly 40 years since the Space Shuttle launched in 1981 — a long time ago.

I am thrilled to announce that the SpaceX Dragon Capsule has successfully reached low-Earth orbit and that our astronauts are safe and sound. (Applause.)

With this launch, the decades of lost years and little action are officially over. A new age of American ambition has now begun.

Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Past leaders put the United States at the mercy of foreign nations to send our astronauts into orbit. Not anymore. Today, we once again proudly launch American astronauts on American rockets, the best in the world, from right here on American soil. (Applause.)

Those of us who saw the spectacular and unforgettable liftoff this afternoon watched more than an act of history; we watched an act of heroism. Every time our astronauts climb aboard a rocket — which is many, many stories of only engine and fuel — and vault across the sky, they display breathtaking valor.

What Colonel Douglas Hurley and Colonel Robert Behnken did this afternoon was pure American genius and courage. They join the ranks of just seven prior American astronauts who have made the perilous maiden voyage to test a new class of spacecraft.

NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley.
Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA astronaut Robert Behnken.
Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The names of Hurley and Behnken will stand in the history books alongside those of legends like Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Young. Now these brave and selfless astronauts will continue their mission to advance the cause of human knowledge as they proceed to the International Space Station before returning to Earth. We wish them Godspeed on their journey, and as one proud nation, we salute their fearless service.

Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you.

I also want to send our nation’s gratitude to the wives of these valiant astronauts, both of whom are astronauts themselves: Karen Nyberg and Megan McArthur. We join them in praying for our heroes’ safe return.

As you know, this spring, our nation has endured the pain and hardship of a global pandemic. As we usher in a new era of manned spaceflight, we are reminded that America is always in the process of transcending great challenges. Our nation is blessed with limitless reserves of talent, tenacity, and resolve. The same spirit of American determination that sends our people into space will conquer this disease on Earth. It should’ve never happened. Nothing — not even gravity itself — can hold Americans down or keep America back.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks inside the Vehicle Assembly Building following the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission.
Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

We are grateful to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Director of the Kennedy Space Center Bob Cabana for welcoming us this evening. Very special. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Great job. Great job. Come a long way in three and a half years, Jim, haven’t we? Huh? A long way.

To the incredible men and women of NASA, from here at Kennedy Space Center, to the Johnson Space Center in Texas — we love you too — to NASA Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio: Thank you all for working so hard to make this day a reality. We have many other great days almost ready to happen.

Also with us are many members of my Cabinet, including our great new DNI, John Ratcliffe. Thank you, John. Thank you. (Applause.) We have a great friend of mine, a special man, ran a great, great campaign: Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis. (Applause.) Thank you, Ron. Thank you, Ron.

Your Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Leader Kevin McCarthy. Kevin, thank you very much. (Applause.) Great job you do, Kevin.

And Representatives Matt Gaetz, John Rutherford, Michael Waltz, Bill Posey, Gus Bilirakis, Daniel Webster, Brian Mast, Elise Stefanik, Bill Flores, Brian Babin, Rodney Davis, Roger Marshall, and Steven Palazzo. Thank you very much, fellas. Thank you. (Applause.) What a great group of people. They’re warriors. They’re really warriors. They helped so much get this done, and so many other things.

With us also is our Air Force Chief of Staff, General David Goldfein. General, thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you, General. Thank you. And Chief of Space Operations — the first-ever named — and now a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, because we created the United States Space Force — General Jay Raymond. Thank you very much. Jay. (Applause.) Thank you, Jay. And senior members, also, of our great United States military. It’s never been stronger than it is right now.

Also, Attorney General of Florida, Ashley Moody, and Chief Financial Officer of Florida, Jim Patronis, and many other distinguished guests.

Thank you very much for being here. (Applause.) We appreciate it.

Elon Musk, SpaceX Chief Engineer, speaks with NASA managers following the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on the Demo-2 mission.
Photo Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

I especially want to congratulate someone who truly embodies the American ethos of big thinking and risk-taking. After achieving success as an Internet entrepreneur, he could have spent his fortune doing anything, including yachting, lots of things. He could do lots of things. But in 2002, he began pouring tens of millions of dollars of his own money into research and development for a new rocket. He’s a little different than a lot of other people. He likes rockets. He assembled a crew of some of the greatest minds and talent in American aerospace.

In the years since, SpaceX has become the first private company to develop and successfully launch its own rocket into orbit, the first to launch and recover its own capsule, and of course, moments ago, Space X became the first private company to put humans into orbit around the Earth.

Elon Musk, congratulations. Congratulations, Elon. (Applause.) Thanks, Elon.

For Elon and 8,000 SpaceX employees, today is the fulfillment of a dream almost two decades in the making. For years on end, they have worked hand-in-hand with NASA, sculpting aluminum, tightening valves, tuning nozzles, testing parachutes, and filling massive tanks with thousands and thousands of pounds of kerosene and liquid oxygen.

Credit: NASA

Today, the groundbreaking partnership between NASA and SpaceX has given our nation the gift of an unmatched power: a state-of-the art spaceship to put our astronauts into orbit at a fraction of the cost of the Space Shuttle. And it’s much better.

From now on, the United States will leverage the fast-growing capabilities of our commercial sector and the finest pieces of real estate on Earth — which you need very badly — to send U.S. astronauts into space.

Under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, we will use rockets and spacecraft designed, built, owned, and launched by private American companies, at a fixed price for the American taxpayer.

Today’s launch makes clear the commercial space industry is the future. The modern world was built by risk-takers and renegades, fierce competitors, skilled craftsmen, captains of industry who pursued opportunities no one else saw and envisioned what no one else could ever think of seeing. The United States will harness the unrivaled creativity and speed of our private sector to stride ever further into the unknown.

This launch also marks an exciting turning point for NASA. This agency will now focus its unmatched ex- — expertise, like nobody has ever seen, and power and integrity to do what NASA does better than anyone else — and it’s not even close: embark on the most difficult, most daring, most audacious missions in the history of humankind.

When I first came into office three and a half years ago, NASA had lost its way, and the excitement, energy, and ambition, as almost everybody in this room knows, was gone. There was grass growing through the cracks of your concrete runways. Not a pretty sight. Not a pretty sight at all.

Kennedy Space Center.
Credit: NASA

The last administration presided over the closing of the Space Shuttle and almost all of the giant facility that keeps so many people working, so many brilliant minds going. People were crying. They were devastated. But now it’s the greatest of its kind anywhere in the world and will get greater and greater with years to come. I promise you that. (Applause.)

We have created the envy of the world and will soon be landing on Mars, and will soon have the greatest weapons ever imagined in history. I’ve already seen designs. And even I can’t believe it.

The United States has regained our place of prestige as the world leader. As has often been stated, you can’t be number one on Earth if you are number two in space. (Applause.) And we are not going to be number two anywhere. (Applause.)

President Donald Trump signs S.1790, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 on, Friday, Dec. 20, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews. The act directed the establishment of the U.S. Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.
Credit: Airman 1st Class Spencer Slocum, 11th Wing Public Affairs

Nowhere is this more true than with our military, which we have completely rebuilt. Under my administration, we have invested two and a half trillion dollars in new planes, ships, submarines, tanks, missiles, rockets — anything you can think of. And last year, I signed the law creating the sixth branch of that already very famous United States Armed Forces: the Space Force. (Applause.)

For every citizen who has eagerly waited for America to reignite those engines of will, confidence, and imagination that put a man on the Moon, I stand before you to say: You need wait no longer.

Through NASA’s Artemis program, the United States is preparing for a crewed mission to Mars. Earlier this week, I saw the Orion capsules being worked on in this building. As part of the Artemis Moon-to-Mars program, those capsules will soon return Americans to lunar orbit for the first time in over 50 years — half a century.

NASA has orchestrated the Artemis Accords that sets the stage for America returning to the Moon.
Credit: NASA

By 2024, our astronauts will return to the lunar surface to establish a permanent presence and the launching pad to Mars. (Applause.) And the first woman on the moon will be an American woman. And the first nation to land on Mars will be the United States of America. (Applause.)

Since I signed the order to establish these goals shortly after taking office, we have made rapid gains. A new 22,000- pound capsule is already built. The next generation of space suits are already made. Colossal rockets are now being tested. And the contracts for three separate lunar landers have been awarded and signed, and they are magnificent.

In the years ahead, America will go bigger, bolder, further, faster, and America will go first. America will always be first. (Applause.)

To be certain, we will meet the adversity and hardship along the way. There may even be tragedy, because that is the danger of space. There’s nothing we can do about that. The power that we’re talking about is unrivaled. There’s nothing we can do about problems. But we’ll have very few of them.

We will confront all of those challenges, knowing that the quest for understanding is the oldest and deepest hope in our souls. The innate human desire to explore and innovate is what propels the engines of progress and the march of civilization. We will preserve and persevere, and we will ensure a future of American dominance in space.

Credit: NASA

To that end, over the last three years, I reestablished the National Space Council. I issued a directive cutting red tape for innovative space companies such as SpaceX. We created the world’s first comprehensive space traffic management system. Last month, I signed an executive order establishing U.S. policy for the recovery and use of space resources and minerals. Administrator Bridenstine announced the Artemis Accords to govern the future of space exploration and development.

Together, we will assert America’s rightful heritage as the greatest space-faring nation on the planet. And already, it’s not even close.

In the half a century since the United States stopped sending astronauts to deep into space — 1972 — no other country has ever done it. The reasons are simple: cost, technological complexity, and tremendous danger.

For instance, I was told that the rocket you just witnessed had to be launched within one second, or it would be impossible for it to hit its target. And I was here two days ago, and I said to Jim: “Jim, it’s okay. Why don’t you wait 5 or 10 minutes?” (Laughter.) And he said, “Sir, we only have a window of one second.” And I walked out of here shaking my head. (Laughter.) Is that true, Jim? Yes, it true.

NASA’s Artemis return humans to the Moon by 2024 program.
Credit: NASA

Space travel is not a feat of engineering alone. It’s also a moral endeavor — a measure of a nation’s vision, its willpower, its place in the world. Exploration is a test of our values and of our faith. America is a nation defined by its commitment to discovery — to solve mysteries, to chart the unknown, to press the limits, to achieve the fullest expression of life’s potential, and to ensure that America is the nation that always leads the way, and especially in space.

This evening, I am more confident than ever before that America stands poised to thrive in this grand undertaking. It’s incredible. We are a nation of pioneers. We are the people who crossed the ocean, carved out a foothold on a vast continent, settled a great wilderness, and then set our eyes upon the stars. This is our history, and this is our destiny.

Now, like our ancestors before us, we are venturing out to explore a new, magnificent frontier. It’s called: space. Our most daring feats, our most epic journeys, our biggest adventures, and our finest days are just beginning. America’s proudest moments are still ahead. We are on the verge of our most exciting years, and next year may be the most exciting of all. You just watch.

Confirmation of the existence and extent of life on Mars, whether ancient or current, will benefit human exploration. Here an exobiologist examines what appears to be a porous relic of a hot spring that has fallen from the canyon wall.
Credit: NASA/Pat Rawlings

So today, as our brave American astronauts shake the Earth and blaze a trail of fire and steel into the heavens, we proclaim for all to hear that we have not yet tested the full strength of the American character, and the world has not yet seen the full glory of the American spirit. For our country, for our children, and for humanity’s march into the stars, the best is yet to come. (Applause.)

It was a great honor for me to deliver this speech. God bless our brave astronauts now soaring through the heavens. God bless the men and women of NASA. And God bless America. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

END 5:49 P.M. EDT

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B photo taken on Sol 2777, May 29, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2778 duties.

“This week the science team decided not to drill a second hole next to the ‘Glasgow’ target, and so we’re able to hit the road again this weekend,” reports Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Curiosity Rear Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image acquired on Sol 2777, May 29, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“We’re heading east, past a large sand sheet, and toward the sulfate unit farther up the slopes of Mt. Sharp that Curiosity will be exploring in the future,” Guzewich adds. “The sulfate unit is the last unexplored region that originally led to Gale Crater’s selection as the landing site for Curiosity.”

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera image taken on Sol 2777, May 29, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Wrapping up activities

Before driving this Sunday, Curiosity is wrapping up activities at Glasgow with a very full science plan and the opportunity to complete several activities that are rather infrequent.

A series of observations with Mastcam and Navcam will monitor sand and dust motion on the surface.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo taken on Sol 2775, May 27, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“We call these ‘change detection’ images and they help inform us about how Mars’ many sand dunes form and move and how the surface has been eroded over billions of years of history,” Guzewich notes.

Argon monitoring

Curiosity’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) will monitor the atmosphere.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo taken on Sol 2775, May 27, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“Usually, APXS is placed down on the surface for contact science on a rock target, but the instrument is also sensitive to argon, a trace gas in both Earth’s and Mars’ atmospheres,” Guzewich explains. “Because of Mars’ climate, where a large amount of the atmosphere freezes onto the polar caps in winter, the relative amount of argon in the atmosphere changes, and APXS can monitor that cycle.”

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo taken on Sol 2775, May 27, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left photo taken on Sol 2775, May 27, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Storm watch

Lastly, Mars researchers have planned a Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) observation (a “passive sky”) where they use ChemCam, without the laser, to look at the atmosphere and monitor how gases like water vapor and dust amounts change seasonally.

“We’re in the early portion of the dusty season on Mars,” Guzewich concludes, “so we’re keeping a close eye on the sky to watch for storms.”


European Large Logistic Lander enables a series of proposed ESA missions to the Moon that could be configured for different operations such as cargo delivery, returning samples from the Moon or prospecting resources found on the Moon.
Credit: ESA/ATG-Medialab

Key steps are underway in Europe to develop its first ever lunar lander.

Set to launch on an Ariane 64 rocket later this decade and return to the Moon on a regular basis, the large lander idea comes hot on the heels of the European Space Agency (ESA) signing an agreement to start building the third European Service Module for NASA’s Artemis program. This module will drive the spacecraft that ferries the next astronauts to the Moon.

Autonomous access

The European-led large lunar lander program provides autonomous access to the Moon, delivering 1.5 tons of material from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

The program, currently known as the European Large Logistics Lander or EL3 for short, is designed to incorporate different types of uncrewed missions, from supply runs for Artemis astronauts, to stand-alone robotic science and technology demonstration missions and even a lunar return mission to bring samples to laboratories on Earth.

Unloading cargo frp, European Large Logistic Lander.
Credit: ESA/ATG-Medialab

Configured for different operations

“This European lander will be able to access locations all over the Moon from the equator to the poles, from the near side to the farside, opening up tremendous opportunities to deliver science, research technology and infrastructure,” says James Carpenter, ESA’s Exploration science and research coordinator. “Developing this capability is a hugely important strategic step for Europe. It will allow us to take a lead in future robotic missions and support international activities at the Moon’s surface.”

The EL3 enables a series of proposed ESA missions to the Moon that could be configured for different operations such as cargo delivery, returning samples from the Moon or prospecting resources found on the Moon.


Lunar south pole

An EL3 sample return package, for example, could be sent to a previously unexplored region near the lunar South Pole – an interesting area for researchers.

Other goals of the missions include testing new hardware, demonstrating technology and gaining experience in operations while strengthening international partnerships in exploration. Its development will provide an Ariane 64-based lunar cargo lander available for potential future commercialization by European industry, according to an ESA statement.

“The lunar lander program is not a one-shot mission,” ESA says, “but promises regular launches starting in the later part of this decade and continuing into the 2030s.”

This 8-minute film gives an overview of the past, present, and future of Moon Exploration, from the Lunar cataclysm to ESA’s vision of what Lunar exploration could be.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Scientists will be included among China’s next batch of astronauts as the country opens up its space program to a wider range of talents, said Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s manned space program, in Beijing on Tuesday.

The third batch of astronauts, which follows the previous selections in 1995 and 2009, will participate in the construction of China’s space station, the third step of China’s manned space program.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Flight engineers and scientists will be selected besides fighter pilots. The selection will be completed around July, said Zhou in an online interview posted by China Central Television (CCTV).

Scientific devices

“When we send a scientist to the space, he can adjust and improve the plans accordingly with his expertise and personal operation. Higher efficiency will be achieved in this way,” Zhou said in the CCTV interview.

A large number of scientific experimental devices will be deployed at the space station, including those for space life science, space material science, space microgravity science, combustion science, and basic physics and astronomy.

Credit: Weibo

“The successful maiden flight of the Long March-5B carrier rocket marks the start of the construction of the space station,” Zhou added. “Greater challenges are ahead.”

Space station construction

Zhou explained that China will launch space station modules starting next year.

Credit: CMS/CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“We will finish the construction of the space station and test of key technologies in over two years. During this period of time, we will launch the core module and two experimental capsules of the station, as well as four manned spacecraft and four cargo spacecraft. All the work, in 11 flight missions, will be completed in two years,” Zhou said.

Credit: CMS/CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

A sky survey optical module will also be established as part of space station operations to explore origin of the space and habitable planets.

Humans to Moon

China will also extend its exploration to the Moon and prepare manned spacecraft for the Moon, Zhou said.

China’s New-generation spaceship.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“The test spaceship that was successfully retrieved was designed both for the requirement of Earth orbit and the future manned exploration of the Moon, or even for manned deep space exploration,” Zhou said. “It will take the mission of manned spacecraft for the Moon in the future.”

To view the CCTV interview, go to:

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 2775, May 27, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2775 tasks.

Curiosity is finishing up at “Glasgow,” having spent almost exactly one month here,” reports Roger Wiens, a geochemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

A decision will be made shortly, Wiens adds, whether to do another drill hole nearby, or possibly back at “Glen Etive,” or forego another drill operation.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image acquired on Sol 2775, May 27, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The drill material would be used for a wet chemistry experiment by the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite before Curiosity leaves the clay-bearing unit.

“Once all the drilling is finished, Curiosity is scheduled to hit the road (in this case only figuratively, since no roads exist on Mars) toward the sulfate unit,” Wiens explains.

Dust storm prospects

Meanwhile, it’s that time of the Mars year (southern spring) when Mars researchers expect more dust storm activity.

Image taken by Mast Camera onboard Curiosity on Sol 2772. This horizon view shows decreased visibility inside the crater due to increased dust levels.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

“The last Mars global dust storm started almost exactly two Earth years ago, and knocked out the plucky Opportunity rover. The reduction of sunlight during that dust storm, which grew to become global, was too much for that solar-powered rover. Fortunately, Curiosity had no issues, thanks to its nuclear power pack,” Wiens says.

Even so, global storms – which only occur in about one in three Mars years – are fascinating events to study, as scientists still don’t fully understand how they begin or how they grow to become global.

“So the team has been watching for signs of another global storm by making more frequent measurements of ‘tau’ (the opacity of the dust column above the rover) and other indicators of local dust activity, and also by checking the shape of the daily pressure cycle, which is very sensitive to the planet-wide dust distribution,” Wiens adds.

Dump pile on Mars. Curiosity Mast Camera Right image taken on Sol 2773, May 25, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Over last weekend, tau rose slightly, but this sort of variability is typical of the past few months. “It’s still within normal seasonal values and does not indicate a major dust storm is beginning,” Wiens notes.

Last activities at Glasgow

“Never daunted by a little dust, Curiosity is busy packing in the last activities at ‘Glasgow.’ We are planning three sols of activity, and every single instrument gets in on the act,” Wiens reports.

Curiosity Mast Camera Right photo taken on Sol 2774, May 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS



The robot’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) will do an evening analysis of the dump pile, and an overnight observation of the drill tailings, with follow-up Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) images.

Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) and Mastcam will do observations of “Hiort” and “Fishnish.” ChemCam will take a Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) mosaic of “Ptarmigan,” which is another view of the top of “Tower Butte.”

Mastcam will take a Sun tau measurement, and will take a multispectral image of the “Glasgow” dump pile. It will also image “Salmons Burn,” a possible meteorite, Wiens reports.

Curiosity’s Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) will take an image of the ground below the rover, and Navcam will take dust-devil movies.

Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) and SAM both have activities supporting their experiments.

The rovers Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) and the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) will also take data.

Credit: CGTN

China’s first Mars exploration mission, named Tianwen-1, is on schedule for a July liftoff, joining NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover and the United Arab Emirates’ Hope Mars orbiter during the Mars launch window this July.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

In a People’s Daily Online report, Tianwen-1 aims to orbit, land and rove in one go to conduct a global and comprehensive exploration of Mars and carry out detailed surveys of key areas of the Martian surface, said Zhao Xiaojin, Party chief of the China Academy of Space Technology.

China’s Mars Orbiter, Lander, Rover effort.
Credit: China Aerospace Technology Corporation

No country has completed such an undertaking in its exploration of the red planet, Zhao noted, adding that this means the Chinese mission faces unprecedented challenges.

Zhao added that Tianwen-1 along with the combined Mars orbiter and lander is expected to be launched by a Long March 5 Y4 carrier rocket.

China is exploring a new path for Mars exploration rather than repeating what other countries have already done, Zhao said in the new report, which demonstrates the country’s technological development and great confidence in its aerospace sector.

China’s Mars mission elements.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Close the gap

If the mission is successful, it will close the gap in deep space exploration technology between China and other aerospace powers such as the U.S. and Russia, said Bao Weimin, head of science and technology at China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp and academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

According to Bao, the mission has laid out five scientific objectives, mainly related to the study of Mars’ space environment, its physical features and its surface structure.

China’s Mars landing regions.
Courtesy: James Head

The biggest challenge is the “seven minutes of terror”, a phrase describing the entry, descent, and landing process. During this period, the landing segment for the rover is required to reduce its speed from 20,000 kilometers per hour to zero.

China also plans to conduct a Mars sample return mission by around 2030, as well as a Jovian System probe mission, said Bao.

In a related story, Xinhua news agency reports that Wan Weixing died of illness in Beijing at the age of 62. Wan was the lead scientist of China’s Mars exploration mission.


What will the space industry look like in 2030? Read the perspectives of 30 space industry leaders.

30 Voices on 2030 – The future of space brings together the different perspectives of 30 senior leaders from the space industry around the world – from heads of agency, engineers, and lawyers to entrepreneurs and politicians – who paint a vision of what we can expect.

This report explores the potential of space to open up to new businesses and customers, create new products and services and speak to our sense of curiosity and desire to understand the world beyond our planet. Organizations across different industries – and not just traditional space industry players – that lack adaptability and imagination will be left behind.

Pivotal point

With the world at a “pivotal point for space”, the global space industry is expected to be worth U.S. $600 billion by 2030.

A central international governing body will also need to be established to manage space data, which will increase in volume and value. Much of the data collected will be analyzed by leading edge analytics in-orbit to reduce the volume of data that needs to be transmitted to Earth and stored. AI will also be used in deep space missions to overcome communications delays due to distance and help pre-empt and correct problems.

Credit: James Vaughan (Used with permission)


Partnerships: public and private sectors

By 2030, the report predicts, manufacturing in space will be real and viable and there will be assets such as mines operated remotely on the Moon. Rather than space programs being purely government-led, there will be more and more partnerships between the public and private sectors, with Government as a customer of civil space business.

While people won’t be living on the Moon quite like the Jetsons, with space travel remaining costly, there will be an increased human presence in space. This will enable more research, such as medical research in zero gravity.

The report also predicts that the human genome may be altered to further support humanity’s sustained exploration of space.

Credit: CORDS

Challenges ahead

At the same time there will be challenges in terms of sustainability: a moratorium on space debris and recognition of the importance of the ecology of space for future generations.

“Today’s ‘small space startups’ will be the sector leaders in 2030,” says Mike Kalms, Partner-in-Charge, Space & Defence Industry, KPMG Australia.

“Already many multi-national businesses are investing in the space sector and understanding how it can add value to their business on Earth,” Kalms notes in a KPMG press statement. “By 2030 we expect many businesses across all industries to have dedicated space teams and resources. The majority of space companies will be valued in the billions of dollars and operate across multiple countries. Global levels of cooperation will help enhance economic and political ties between nation states.”

Clutter in the cosmos.
Credit: Used with permission: Melrae Pictures/Space Junk 3D

Kalms explains that businesses are already putting sustainability at the forefront of what they do on Earth.

“We anticipate the same will be applied to space activities in the years ahead,” Kalms adds. “Debris in space has long been an area of concern, which will only escalate. We will need international agreements, and ways to recover and recycle decommissioned satellites. Legislation and treaties will need to evolve as space becomes its own legal jurisdiction.”

NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Expedition 24 flight engineer, looks through a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station. A blue and white part of Earth and the blackness of space are visible through the windows.
Credit: NASA


In summary form from the report, here are 30 predictions for 2030.

Humans will live, work and holiday in space

— Space travel will be a collaborative multinational venture
— Living in space will be easier but not easy
— Zero gravity – new medical conditions and new treatments will be created
— Many will experience space – but not all will go
— You will know an astronaut
— The human genome will change to support human deep space exploration

Confirmation of the existence and extent of life on Mars, whether ancient or current, will benefit human exploration. Here an exobiologist examines what appears to be a porous relic of a hot spring that has fallen from the canyon wall.
Credit: NASA/Pat Rawlings

Deep space exploration

— We’ll successfully mine the Moon for water by 2030
— We may finally discover evidence of life in space
— We’ll operate assets remotely on the Moon like mines in the Pilbara
— Growing and eating food in space will be commonplace
— Virtual companions will assist with the mental health challenges of long space travel
— We will look back in time more than 4 billion years

Space business models

— Every business will be a space business
— The leading space businesses of 2030 are start-ups today
— Long-established terrestrial industries will build a presence in space
— Government will be a customer of civil space businesses
— Multinational co-operation, while challenging, will drive the peace dividend
— Manufacturing in space will be real and viable

Credit: ISECG


Sustainability in space

— Sustainability in space will benefit sustainability on Earth
— There will be a ‘CFC moment’ in space which will trigger a moratorium on space debris
— Space ecology will be imperative for our millennial generation
— Space will get its own legal jurisdiction
— Space will be forced to accelerate quickly as an operational domain for armed forces
— A Masters of Space Ecology will be offered at universities

Space data comes back to Earth

— Space data will become completely commoditised
— An international regulatory body for space data will be established– AI will be commonplace in space
— Data will not be owned – rather shared
— Governments will conduct their census from space
— Personal privacy will be challenged

For the full report – 30 Voices on 2030: The future of space – Communal, commercial, contested – go to:

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2773, May 25, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now wrapping up Sol 2774 tasks.

Curiosity Mast Camera Right photo taken on Sol 2773, May 25, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Reports Catherine O’Connell-Cooper, a planetary geologist at University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada: “Drilling on Mars is an exciting business…those first images of a successful drill hole are always thrilling, even after 26 successful drill holes. Once the drilling is done though, each planning day becomes a battle to cram activities in, aiming to glean as much information as possible from the drill target, as efficiently as possible.”

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image acquired on Sol 2774, May 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity’s geology theme group (GEO) planned a large four-sol (Sols 2771-2774) plan (the U.S. holiday Memorial Day on Monday is not a planning day), and Mars scientists had to work hard to fit in everything they wanted.


The wishlist of activities included continuing analysis of cached drill sample with the rover’s Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin), and then dumping the remaining sample (“drill fines”) and investigating it with Mastcam, the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and the robot’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS).

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro Imager (RMI) photo acquired on Sol 2772, May 24, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL


“We also wanted to continue our analysis of the bedrock and surroundings with ChemCam and Mastcam,” O’Connell-Cooper, adds, which will investigate the targets “Stony Breck,” “Melodious Cave,” “Haymarket,” and redo an earlier target, “Rob Roy Way.”

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 2773, May 25, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

On top of these GEO activities, O’Connell-Cooper says, the environment theme group (ENV) planned observations to monitor environmental conditions (dust, wind, temperature).

Curiosity Mast Camera Right photo taken on Sol 2773, May 25, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“Incredibly, we managed to fit everything in without having to sacrifice any of our coveted science activities,” O’Connell-Cooper concludes, “so Curiosity will be hard at work across this Memorial Day weekend!”

Apollo 17’s Harrison Schmitt
Credit: NASA

The sixth installment of Apollo 17 Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt’s saga, Apollo 17: Diary of the 12th Man has been published on his website.

This new chapter of the diary – “Contact!” — is now online and recounts the events of the 6th day of the Apollo 17 mission, America’s last deep space manned mission of the 20th century.

At 200 feet altitude, a clear view of both the Challenger shadow with landing struts deployed.
Credit: NASA

“It includes wakeup activities; my entry into [Lunar Module (LM)] Challenger to begin the Challenger’s activation; a complete activation of Challenger’s systems; Descent Orbit Insertion-1 (DOI-1) while still docked with the CSM; preparation for undocking from America; undocking; preparation and implementation of DOI-2 by Challenger; and, of course, Powered Descent on to the lunar surface in the valley of Taurus-Littrow,” Schmitt explains in his author’s note.

The switches for the LM rendezvous radar settings.
(Base photo NASA/ALSJ/Paul Fjeld)

Complex flying machine

“The reader is taken through the real checkout procedures activating the LM in lunar orbit, and riding with the astronauts down to the lunar surface,” explains Ronald Wells, editor-in-chief of the revealing and instructive website.

The ground track of the flight trajectory of Challenger into the valley of Taurus-Littrow coming from the right.
(Base photo NASA AS17-M-0595)

It has been illustrated with photos of the actual LM instrument panels that Jack Schmitt and Gene Cernan operated in flight, “so the reader hopefully will get a very good idea of how complex flying the LM actually was by seeing all the switches that they had to operate,” Wells told Inside Outer Space. “This very important chapter, of course,” he adds, “is a must read for the Artemis astronauts in training to return to the Moon!”










To view “Contact!” by Apollo 17’s Harrison H. Schmitt, a fascinating read with excellent endnotes, go to:

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2771 duties.

Here are a few recent images taken by the Red Planet robot:

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B photo taken on Sol 2770, May 22, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 2770, May 22, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 2770, May 22, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 2769, May 21, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Right image taken on Sol 2769, May 21, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS