Archive for the ‘Wait a Minute!’ Category

Wait a minute!
Image credit: Barbara David

 
A congressionally mandated study is underway to review NASA’s critical facilities, workforce, and technology – the key ingredients needed for the space agency to apply full-power to its long-term strategic goals and mission objectives, such as back to the Moon…onward to Mars endeavors.
 
 
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine study is led by Norman Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation.
 
For Augustine it must be partially “déjà vu all over again” – as the saying goes. He led the 1990 Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program. 
 
That December 1990 report is available at:
 
Statement of work
 
Fast forward to today. Augustine leads the Committee on NASA Mission Critical Workforce, Infrastructure, and Technology. In meeting number six, the blue-ribbon group will convene July 27-28 at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Image credit: NASA

 
Lots to discuss…lots to look at including a Lunar Control Area, a Nuclear Thermal Rocket Element Environmental Simulator, as well as work on the Mars Ascent Vehicle and habitation systems.
 
A statement of work explains that committee members “will consider emerging technologies in selected engineering and science disciplines as well as critical facilities needed, and workforce skills required to perform and support the work of the mission directorates, both now and in the future.”

Image credit: NASA

 
 
As NASA’s “re-booting” of human exploration of the Moon picks up steam – with an eye on placing the first boot marks on Mars – the committee has a full agenda of action items to discuss.

Image credit: NASA

Image credit: NASA

 

Image credit: Barbara David

 

Wait a minute – here we go again!

Next week, the House Oversight Committee’s National Security Subcommittee in Congress will hold a hearing on Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena, or UAP.

The July 26 hearing is titled “Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena: Implications on National Security, Public Safety, and Government Transparency.”

Image credit: Yannick Peings, Marik von Rennenkampff/AIAA

Firsthand accounts

According to a statement the subcommittee hearing “will explore firsthand accounts of unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP) and assess the federal government’s transparency and accountability regarding UAPs’ possible threats to U.S. national security.”

A key effort of the hearing is to bring transparency to the issue of UAPs.

“The Pentagon and Washington bureaucrats have kept this information hidden for decades, and we’re finally going to shed some light on it. We’re bringing in credible witnesses who can provide public testimony because the American people deserve the truth. We’re done with the cover-ups,” said Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.).

Show and tell time

Hearing witnesses are:

  • Ryan Graves, Executive Director, Americans for Safe Aerospace
  • Retired Commander David Fravor, Former Commanding Officer, Black Aces Squadron, U.S. Navy
  • David Grusch, Former National Reconnaissance Office officer and representative, Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Task Force, Department of Defense

Grusch has recently claimed, citing unnamed officials, that the U.S. has retrieved “intact and partially intact” vehicles of non-human origin and that the U.S. federal government maintains a hush-hush recovery program that has stashed away exotic spacecraft, even dead pilots.

Shown at Congressional hearing, Video 1 2021 flyby movie showing a purported UAP.
Credit: Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation Subcommittee/Inside Outer Space screengrab

 

 

American public: in the dark

In 2022, at the direction of Congress, the Department of Defense created the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) to investigate UAP reports.

According to the statement, the federal government spends millions of dollars examining UAPs yet refuses to be forthcoming with the American people as it continues to declassify certain videos and studies on various UAP incidents with little clarity on the subject’s origins.”

“The status quo on the part of the U.S. government has been to leave the American public in the dark regarding information about UAPs, refuse to answer questions posed by whistleblowers, avoid the concerns Americans have about the possible threats UAPs pose to our national security and public safety, and default to extreme and unnecessary over-classification,” said Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.).

UAP have been reported by Navy pilots unlike anything they have ever witnessed.
Image credit: Enigma Labs/Lt. Cmdr. Alex Dietrich

Lawmaker Luna added: “If the last few months have taught me anything, it is that this is an issue that matters to Americans. It also impacts the transparency and accountability our government is supposed to grant to the people who it serves. I look forward to bringing this topic to light.”

Image credit: Statista

Solve this mystery

“My goal is to share my experience, but also elevate the voices of other pilots who are seeing UAP every day and deserve answers,” said Ryan Graves in a Americans for Safe Aerospace statement. More than 30 commercial aircrew and military UAP witnesses have approached the Americans for Safe Aerospace, he said, and the group is working to help share their reports with Congress and the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office.

“It is encouraging to see Congress taking UAP witnesses seriously,” Graves added. “For too long stigma has clouded transparency on this topic, and I am encouraged by the continued pressure from elected officials to solve this mystery.”

The July 26 hearing begins at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, open to the public and live-streamed online at:

https://oversight.house.gov/

Image credit: Congressional Record/Inside Outer Space screengrab

UAP disclosure act

On July 13, in the Congressional Record of the U.S. Senate, a “UAP Disclosure Act of 2023” calls for public disclosure of all Federal, State, and local government, commercial industry, academic, and private sector endeavors that have collected, exploited, or used reverse engineer technologies of unknown origin or examined biological evidence of living or deceased non-human intelligence that pre-dates the date of the enactment of this Act.

The term ‘‘non-human intelligence’’ means, according to the Act, any sentient intelligent non-human lifeform regardless of nature or ultimate origin that may be presumed responsible for unidentified anomalous phenomena or of which the Federal Government has become aware.

Up close and personal! Scene from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers circa 1956.
Credit: Columbia Pictures

Object observables

In addition, the Act says that the term ‘‘unidentified anomalous phenomena’’ includes what were previously described as flying discs; flying saucers; unidentified aerial phenomena; unidentified flying objects (UFOs); and unidentified submerged objects (USOs).

The Act also stated that UAP are differentiated from both attributed and temporarily non-attributed objects by one or more of the following observables:

  • Instantaneous acceleration absent apparent inertia.
  • Hypersonic velocity absent a thermal signature and sonic shockwave.
  • Transmedium (such as space-to-ground and air-to-undersea) travel.
  • Positive lift contrary to known aerodynamic principles.
  • Multispectral signature control.
  • Physical or invasive biological effects to close observers and the environment.

To take a look at details of the UAP Disclosure Act of 2023, go to:

https://www.congress.gov/118/crec/2023/07/13/169/120/CREC-2023-07-13-pt1-PgS2953.pdf

Image credit: Barbara David

 

 

Wait a minute!

Perhaps it is a case of re-inventing the wheel?

The European Space Agency (ESA) has been busy testing the Lunar Equipment Support Assembly (LESA).

The idea is to develop wheeled carriers to assist Artemis astronauts during moonwalks – a way to transport equipment and tools.

Image credit: ESA/Novespace

Recently tested is the LESA-NEST (Near-by Equipment Support Trolley), making use of parabolic flight in an aircraft to mimic the Moon’s one-sixth gravity.

In pre-flight training, Alan Shepard tries out the MET cart.
Image credit: NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal

 

Rickshaw trouble

This ESA work may have all the makings of an Apollo 14 mission replay from 1971, one that served up deep dust and dubious results.

Apollo 14’s Modular Equipment Transporter (MET) was a two-wheeled, hand-pulled vehicle that was used as an equipment hauling device on traverses across the lunar surface.

Drawing credit: NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal

The MET earned the nickname by astronauts as the “the rickshaw”. It was hauled about by using a pulling bar in the front.

Field testing! Alan Shepard tries out MET cart.
Image credit: NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal

But at one point, the MET was carried by both Apollo 14 moonwalkers – Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell. The MET was termed “adequate,” with Shepard and Mitchell disappointed by its performance. It was too difficult to pull the MET through the rough lunar terrain.

 

 

So big wheel (s) keep on turnin’…I’m thinking “carte blanche,” maybe even cart before the horse – but it’s Friday.

Apollo 14’s Alan Shepard next to Modular Equipment Transporter (MET)
Image credit: NASA

Wait a minute!
Image credit: Barbara David

 

Perhaps there’s a new sidebar to looking for Unidentified Anomalous Phenomenon (UAP)?

That topic keeps me up and night, armed with my telescopes, binoculars and other “all seeing” instruments.

UAP, Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs), crashed or still in the air flying saucers, alien visits…on and on!

This morning, in my daytime off-hours of sky patrolling, I’ve taken a read of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024.

Something caught my eye in the NDAA called “Moving Target Indicator Programs” of the Department of Defense.

I haven’t paid much attention to this topic, but maybe I should.

UAP have been reported by Navy pilots unlike anything they have ever witnessed.
Image credit: Enigma Labs/Lt. Cmdr. Alex Dietrich

Working group grope

Words of tactical intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, along with tasking, collection, processing, exploitation, and dissemination of data collected by moving target indicator systems – lots of lingo attached to whatever moving targets the Act is embracing.

The Act calls for the Secretary of Defense to establish a working group, to be known as the ‘‘Moving Target Indicator Working Group.” Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Space Force members are to be assigned to the working group.

“Not less frequently than biannually, the working group shall provide to the congressional defense committees a briefing on the status of any moving target indicator programs being developed,” the Act notes.

Image credit: Statista

Bottom line

Being the obsessive “Googleier,” I revved up the search engine for Moving Target Indicator Programs – lots of chat about radar techniques to find moving objects, like an aircraft, and filter out unmoving ones.

There are also advocates calling for a space-based, ground moving target indicator capability.

Whatever all this adds up to, the need for day/night, all-weather detection and tracking of ground and maritime targets for the warfighter is one bottom line, maybe a bottomless pit of uses.

Image credit: C-SPAN/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Synchronize efforts

Back in July 2022, the U.S. Department of Defense announced the establishment of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, longhand for AARO.

“The mission of the AARO will be to synchronize efforts across the Department of Defense, and with other U.S. federal departments and agencies, to detect, identify and attribute objects of interest in, on or near military installations, operating areas, training areas, special use airspace and other areas of interest, and, as necessary, to mitigate any associated threats to safety of operations and national security. This includes anomalous, unidentified space, airborne, submerged and transmedium objects.”

Image credit: Yannick Peings, Marik von Rennenkampff/AIAA

One wonders whether there’s some prospect for synchronizing UAP study with the call for moving target indicator programs?

As George Harrison of the Fab Four wrote: “Something in the way she moves” most certainly not noting the wheels of government bureaucracy. But on the other hand, “You stick around now it may show…I don’t know, I don’t know.”

And if you have read this far…blame the coffee.

This morning I accidentally mixed Colombian and French Roast.

Wait a Minute.
Image credit: Barbara David

 

If you have been abducted in space and time by the increasing government and public interest in Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) – rightly or wrongly now dubbed Unidentified Anomalous Phenomenon (UAP) – tighten your seat belts and secure those tray tables as they need to be in an upright and locked position during takeoff and landing.

The scene is the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. On Monday, June 12, “Disclosure 2.0” was convened by Steven Greer, founder of the Disclosure Project.

Image credit: Disclosure Project/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Greer presented “definitive evidence” of illegal and unacknowledged black budget projects related to UFO/UAP operations in Washington D.C.

 

Whistleblowers, legal action

The event featured whistleblowers, locations of illegally operated UFO projects and corporations – and that’s not all.

Image credit: Disclosure Project/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Plans for a civilian initiated RICO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization) lawsuit against illegal military and corporate projects was announced and outlined. A newly formed Disclosure legal team is comprised of pro bono attorneys, legal professionals, and law students from a broad range of expertise and backgrounds to join in on this effort.

The Disclosure Project Legal Team for UFO Disclosure is focused on achieving widespread acknowledgment of UFOs, UAPs, and advanced energy technologies for solving the global climate crisis.

Spotlighted were the legal implications of filing a RICO lawsuit on behalf of those wronged by the actions of the “corrupt entities that have been controlling the UFO issue.”

Artwork of up-close encounter – a Fort Irwin incident based on “Top Secret military Witness.”
Image credit: Disclosure Project

Bumpy ride

During the event, some of the cataloged 119 crash/retrieval events of extraterrestrial vehicles were summarized and presented.

If the truth is out there…it’s going to be a bumpy ride to excavate reality when it comes to ET, close encounters of whatever kind, and sorting out purported government hanky-panky on this subject.

For the video of the National Press Club-held event, go to:

https://www.youtube.com/live/zDY7t6HihCw?feature=share

Let me know what you think!

Wait a minute!
Photo credit: Barbara David

If you’re following the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon trajectory, it’s an enigma wrapped in a riddle, seemingly packaged like a cosmic scene investigation (CSI) wanting of true detective work.

A new paper provides a detailed roadmap to tackle the swerving UAP issue that has resisted explanation and received little formal scientific attention for countless years – tied, perhaps inappropriately, to Unidentified Flying Objects that often bubbles up to “flying saucer” status.

Shown at Congressional hearing, Video 1 2021 flyby movie showing a purported UAP.
Credit: Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation Subcommittee/Inside Outer Space screengrab

True detections

“The use of multispectral instruments and multiple sensor modalities will help to ensure that artifacts are recognized and that true detections are corroborated and verifiable,” states the paper. “Data processing pipelines are being developed that apply state-of-the-art techniques for multi-sensor data fusion, hypothesis tracking, semi-supervised classification, and outlier detection.”

Image credit: Galileo Project/Avi Loeb

The peer-reviewed and open access paper – “The Scientific Investigation of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) Using Multimodal Ground-Based Observatories” – has been published in the Journal of Astronomical Instrumentation.

“The gold standard of scientific work is to make quantitative measurements using well-calibrated instruments under well understood conditions, and this is the approach taken in this work,” the paper explains.

Recognize anomalies

Highlighted in the research paper is the Galileo Project, an effort led by Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb to build an integrated software and instrumentation system designed to conduct a multimodal census of aerial phenomena and to recognize anomalies.

“UAP present a long-standing mystery that can and should be investigated by the tools of contemporary science,” the paper notes.

The primary science goal of the Galileo Project’s UAP investigation is to determine whether there are measurable phenomena in or near Earth’s atmosphere that can be confidently classified as scientific anomalies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For access to the paper, led by Wesley Andrés Watters of the Whitin Observatory, Department of Astronomy at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, go to:

https://www.worldscientific.com/doi/epdf/10.1142/S2251171723400068

Wait a minute!
Image credit: Barbara David

How to cut to the chase regarding reported Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) – now linked, for better or worse, to Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs)?

That’s at the underbelly of a recent paper authored by Harvard University’s Avi Loeb, conducted in partnership with Loeb’s Galileo Project and the newly established Department of Defense, All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office.

Image credit: Galileo Project/Avi Loeb

“We derive physical constraints on interpretations of ‘highly maneuverable’ Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) based on standard physics and known forms of matter and radiation,” notes the paper, published in “Draft Under Review” status on a Harvard website.

Interpretations of data

Claims of objects exceeding the transonic to supersonic range should be evaluated against the known physics of ionization, radar reflectivity, temperature, sonic booms, and fireballs, according to Loeb.

“All of which can more effectively and accurately bound the velocity, and hence drive the range calculation. This will, in turn, when matched with the specifics of the sensor, allow for better estimates of the size, shape, and mass of the object in question,” the paper concludes.

Shown at Congressional hearing, Video 1 2021 flyby movie showing a purported UAP.
Credit: Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation Subcommittee/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The draft research paper, dated March 7, 2023, implies a “useful limit on observations of UAP which bound the hypothetical explanations and can support limitations on interpretations of data.” 

What is distinctive is that the paper is authored by astrophysicist Loeb and Sean Kirkpatrick, Director of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office.

Comments and criticisms

The Loeb/Kirkpatrick paper “Physical Constraints on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” has spurred a variety of comments and criticisms.

Responding to the jabs, Loeb told Inside Outer Space:

“I am not trying to be popular, just speak the truth about reality which so far follows known physics to exquisite precision.”

Mick West, debunker, skeptic, writer.
Credit: Mick West/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Says Mick West, a noted debunker, skeptic, writer, UFO investigator, and former video game programmer: “Loeb and Kirkpatrick risk alienating the broader UFO community by excluding the possibility that a UFO might employ principles of physics that are, as yet, unknown to humans.”

“Insisting that visiting spacecraft must be understandable effectively debunks several famous UFO sightings reported to involve very high speed, and in particular, the Nimitz encounters,” West told Inside Outer Space. “It would also seem to exclude high-speed “transmedium” craft that supposedly transition from air to water travel without slowing down.”

West said that while Loeb and Kirkpatrick are likely correct, their paper has not been well received in certain saucer circles.

Artist’s concept of interstellar object1I/2017 U1 (‘Oumuamua) as it passed through the solar system after its discovery in October 2017. The aspect ratio of up to 10:1 is unlike that of any object seen in our own solar system. Image Credit: European Southern Observatory / M. Kornmesser

Interstellar interlopers

Robert Powell, executive board member of the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU), has read the yet-to-be-peer-reviewed draft of the paper, noting that the authors delve into those interstellar interlopers: meteor IM2 and that cosmic oddball named ‘Oumuamua.

The paper states a possible hypothesis: “Nevertheless, the coincidences between some orbital parameters of ‘Oumuamua and IM2 inspires us to consider the possibility that an artificial interstellar object could potentially be a parent craft that releases many small probes during its close passage to Earth, an operational construct not too dissimilar from NASA missions.”

Powell said that in his personal view, and not necessarily that of SCU’s, there’s nothing wrong with a hypothesis as it is simply a possible explanation for something that is observed.

Credit: Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU)

“Nonetheless, this is a hypothesis that surely stretches the imagination. A scientist may consider such a hypothesis and quickly drop it when the information that becomes available changes. But the media and the public have difficulty with that concept and what begins as a hypothesis is soon expressed as a fact or a likely fact.”

Important turning point

Powell said such a statement in the draft of an academic paper can result in media articles such as this recently published eye-catcher in Tell Me Best:

Government Officials Say An Alien Mothership Is Close To Earth”

“The study of UAP is at an important turning point,” Powell adds. “The stigma related to the subject has been reduced. More and more scientists are becoming involved in investigating the subject. But in investigating UAP, unnecessary and provocative hypotheses should be avoided whenever possible,” he told Inside Outer Space.

To view the draft paper – “Physical Constraints on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” – go to:

https://lweb.cfa.harvard.edu/~loeb/LK1.pdf

Wait a Minute! Image credit: Barbara David

Image credit: NASA

 

NASA is set next week to unveil the Artemis II crew that will sojourn around the Moon, now eyed for November 2024. The four-person team would make the trek secure in their Orion spacecraft – the first piloted spacecraft to travel to the Moon, or beyond low Earth orbit, since Apollo 17 in December 1972.

But there appears to be a tad more look-see at the results of the uncrewed Orion on its Artemis I flight last year. Orion’s heat shield took on the 25,000 miles per hour re-entry, but NASA and contractors are wrestling with the results.

Engineers and technicians conduct inspections of the heat shield on the Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft after splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11, 2022.
Image credit: NASA/Skip Williams

The heat shield features the same ablative material called AVCOAT used in Apollo lunar outings and return-to-Earth missions. However, the building process has changed, according to Lockheed Martin that fashioned Orion’s thermal protection system.

Timesaver

“Instead of having workers fill 300,000 honeycomb cells one by one with ablative material, then heat-cure the material and machine it to the proper shape, the team now manufactures AVCOAT blocks – just fewer than 200 – that are pre-machined to fit into their positions and bonded in place on the heat shield’s carbon fiber skin,” the aerospace firm’s website explains. That process is a timesaver in putting on the AVCOAT – about a quarter of the time.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

As NASA stated, pre-Artemis 1 liftoff: “The primary goals for Artemis I are to demonstrate Orion’s systems in a spaceflight environment and ensure a safe re-entry, descent, splashdown, and recovery prior to the first flight with crew on Artemis II.”

So what’s up with the Orion heat shield and how concerned is NASA?

Heat shield hiccups

Inside Outer Space contacted the Orion program office at NASA Johnson Space Center for comment regarding the heat shield hiccups.

Completion of Avcoat block bonding on Artemis heat shield.

 

“During Artemis I post-flight inspection, engineers observed variations of Avcoat material across the appearance of Orion’s heat shield. Some areas of expected charred material ablated away differently than computer modeling and ground testing predicted, and there was slightly more liberation of the charred material during re-entry than anticipated,” the program office stated.

“We expect the material to ablate with the 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit the spacecraft encounters on a re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere, and to see charring of the material through a chemical reaction, but we didn’t expect the small pieces that came off, versus being ablated,” the NASA statements adds.

“We don’t know yet exactly how much was liberated, which is why we’re analyzing the data, but there was a healthy margin remaining of virgin Avcoat, and temperature data inside the cabin remained at expected levels, so if crew were on board they would not have been in danger,” explains the program office statement.

Artwork depicts Orion spacecraft plowing through Earth’s atmosphere at high speed.
Image credit: NASA

Dedicated investigation

What kind of efforts, testing, are underway to try to understand what happened?

NASA responded that there are 186 blocks of Avcoat and their team is looking at each block. “We have a dedicated investigation underway that includes planned testing, detailed analysis, extensive sampling of the heat shield, and review of data from sensors.”

Data was collected from images and videos from the Orion’s spacecraft’s re-entry. Those are being correlated with the heat shield sensors onboard Orion, “then looking at our computer models to see how we can understand what we experienced on re-entry,” the Orion program office said.

“We’ve extracted samples from the heat shield, which will be X-rayed, and we’re also getting a more precise understanding of how much Avcoat is still remaining on the heat shield—which is significant,” the NASA statement continues. “As we get all these pieces of information together, we’ll arrive at an assessment to determine what additional testing is needed in finding the root cause or to better understand the phenomenon.”

On Dec. 11, 2022, the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission splashed down in the Pacific Ocean after a 25.5-day mission to the Moon.
Image Credit: NASA/James M. Blair

Avcoat changes?

Is it possible that changes in the Avcoat may be needed?

“It’s still too early in our testing and analysis to arrive at any potential recommendations or solutions that address additional char liberation,” NASA responded. “It’s possible the phenomenon may just [be] part of what the heat shield is, and what we would expect as we return from the Moon, but we’ll let the data inform us.”

Lastly, the NASA Orion program office stated: “We’ll continue to protect for variations that could happen during re-entry as we want to ensure we have significant margin against the various types of uncertainties that might occur as the spacecraft re-enters the atmosphere. Our teams want the confidence that we have the best heat shield possible to fly humans going forward.”

Wait a minute!
Image credit: Barbara David

The highly productive NASA New Horizons mission is on “extended leave” after departing Earth in January 2006 – and the agency is now considering a new assignment for the nuclear-powered craft after over 6,267 days in space.

New Horizons was built by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratotry.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Steve Gribben/Alex Parker

New Horizons zoomed past Pluto and its moons in July 2015, before conducting the first reconnaissance of a Kuiper Belt object (KBO), Arrokoth, on New Year’s 2019.

With the completion of the New Horizons prime mission to Pluto, and its extended mission to Arrokoth, mission operations of the spacecraft would be terminated at the end of its second extended mission at the end of fiscal year 2024 (FY24).

Pluto flyby of New Horizons continues to offer a scientific bounty of new findings.
Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/SwRI/James Tuttle Keane

“However, it is in the best interest of NASA, the New Horizons mission, the scientific community, and the American taxpayer for the New Horizons mission to continue operations and utilize its unique position in the solar system to answer important questions about our heliosphere and its interaction with the interstellar medium, while allowing for scientific opportunities that present themselves beyond Heliophysics.”

That’s the word from a just-issued NASA Request for Information regarding a New Horizons Interstellar Mission (NIHM).

Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) Arrokoth as viewed by New Horizons.
Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/SwRI

Level of interest

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is exploring whether interested science teams have a set of science objectives to propose to the space agency for use of the mission beyond FY24.

The Request for Information (RFI) issued on March 15 is designed to gauge the level of interest of the wider science community in pursuing the next phase of science leadership for the mission, and to estimate appropriate annual costs.

That RFI seeks to define three years of science goals for a new mission concept utilizing the New Horizons observatory, including the definition of operations modes of the spacecraft and its instruments to address these science goals. The New Horizons mission carries seven scientific instruments.

The RFI emphasizes that NASA is obtaining information for planning purposes only, and the Government does not intend to award a contract at this time.

All responses to the RFI must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on April 17, 2023.

By continuing the New Horizons mission operations and utilizing its unique position in the Solar System, important questions can be answered about the heliosphere and its interaction with the interstellar medium “while allowing for scientific opportunities that present themselves beyond Heliophysics,” the RFI adds.

Scientific leadership

While on the face of it, the RFI is welcomed news for deep diving space exploration. But there seems to be a bit of disconcerting news too.

“The solicitation may allow teams and/or organizations to propose for scientific leadership of a New Horizons Interstellar Mission.” In non-NASA speak, what appears to be afoot is the disbanding of the current New Horizons science team that scored over the years milestone-making observations by the spacecraft – a group shaped by some 20 years of work to assure the scientific output from the probe.

As noted in the RFI: “It is expected that spacecraft operations will continue to be conducted by the existing operations team.”

So as New Horizons continues to fly outward, those bureaucratic wheels of space science at NASA are likely to hit a speed bump within certain scientific community circles. 

Stay tuned!

For a look at the RFI, go to: https://go.nasa.gov/NewH23IMRFI

Wait a Minute!

Wait a minute!

A number of Moon exploration missions by numbers of nations are planned for the next decade. The target areas of the Moon being eyed are likely to be a handful of small sites of interest, to carry out science investigations as well as process lunar materials to churn out construction materials, rocket fuel, oxygen and water, etc.

Image credit: NASA

Is there potential for creating risks of crowding and interference at these special lunar locales?

 

A research paper explores that prospect.

“Concentrated lunar resources: imminent implications for governance and justice,” has been made available by The Royal Society in the United Kingdom. The paper appeared in a special issue of the journal Philosophical Transaction A, published in 2020.

Image credit: JAXA/NHK/Paul Spudis

Small regions

“Many of the useful and valuable resources on the Moon are concentrated into a modest number (tens) of quite small regions (in the order of a few kilometers),” the research paper notes.

Locations of interest include the Peaks of Eternal Light, the coldest of the cold traps on the Moon and smooth areas on the lunar far side.

“Over the next decade, forms of interference and related disputes and conflicts over these concentrated resources may arise, as many actors, sovereign, philanthropic and commercial, descend onto just a handful of small, high-value sites on the lunar surface,” the research paper suggests.

Image credit: NASA

Lead author is astrophysicist Martin Elvis of Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Need for action

“The need for action is perhaps most acutely felt by the astronomy community,” the paper explains. “If astronomers do not take the initiative to identify and raise awareness of the scientific and public interest in protecting unique lunar features now, they may find themselves unable to do so once these features are under threat from interference and crowding.”

Concept art credit: Volodymyr Vustyansky

 

Astronomers will find common cause with other scientists, such as astrobiologists, and other researchers for whom planetary protection measures are crucial. “The scientific community today faces both an opportunity and a responsibility to help guard precious lunar sites from the irreversible damage threatened by crowding and interference,” the paper observes.

Extraterrestrial commons

When is the appropriate time to begin developing a governance framework? Now says Elvis and colleagues, suggesting that a study of commons on Earth can provide lessons applicable to efforts at governing lunar sites of interest.

Lessons from the management and mismanagement of terrestrial commons, the paper adds, suggest that “action should be taken now rather than later, or at least now as well as later, to develop the governance structures needed to prevent (and later on contain) avoidable and undesirable problems of crowding and interference.”

Image credit: For All Moonkind

Diverse actors

How to responsibly coordinate diverse actors’ activities on the Moon requires recognizing and accommodating their distinct interests and purposes.

“Any proposed governance arrangement may have to contend with irreducible practical and conceptual tensions between different actors’ designs: scientific, commercial and human-exploration activities may often be incompatible with each other,” the paper explains. “Moreover, it is likely that these varied actors’ plans are best served by different governance arrangements.”

To read the full paper – “Concentrated lunar resources: imminent implications for governance and justice” – go to:

https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsta.2019.0563