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Marshall selected to lead NASA human lunar lander program – SpaceNews

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DALLAS — NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will manage the agency’s efforts to develop a lander needed to achieve the goal of landing astronauts on the moon by 2024, an announcement overshadowed by political wrangling about what center should be responsible.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, speaking at Marshall and flanked by three House members from Alabama and Tennessee, said that the Huntsville, Alabama, center will have overall responsibility for the Human Landing System program, which will oversee industry development of a human-rated landing system.

“This was not a decision that was made lightly,” Bridenstine said. “A lot of hard work has been done here in Huntsville over, really, well over 10 years now regarding landing systems.” He cited as evidence past projects like the International Lunar Network and the lander for the proposed Resource Prospector mission, although neither resulted in actual lunar landing missions.

Other centers will be involved in various aspects of the lunar lander program. That includes the Johnson Space Center, which will be responsible for the ascent module of the lunar lander that will carry the astronauts and return them to the lunar Gateway.

However, several members of Congress from Texas, in an Aug. 15 letter to Bridenstine, objected to those plans, first reported Aug. 13 by Ars Technica. They argued that, given its history in managing human spaceflight programs, Johnson, and not Marshall, should lead lander development.

“We are deeply concerned that NASA is not only disregarding this history but that splitting up the work on the lander between two different geographic locations is an unnecessary and a counterproductive departure from the unquestionable success of the previous lunar lander program,” stated the letter, signed by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas).

The three members asked that NASA “hold off on any formal announcements until we receive a briefing on this matter that includes the timeline, projected cost, and rationale for this decision.” Babin, who was previously scheduled to be at the event, did not attend.

NASA went ahead with the announcement, but Bridenstine had to handle several questions about the controversy. “I understand some of their concerns,” he said of the Texas members of Congress. “We love the work that Johnson does.”

Bridenstine also noted that, even though Marshall will manage the program, there will not be a significant difference in jobs between the two centers. He said that of the 363 jobs associated with the lander program, 140 would be at Marshall and 87 at Johnson, with the rest at other NASA centers.

Marshall, he argued, was the best center to lead the overall effort because of its expertise in propulsion. NASA’s baseline architecture for the lunar lander system involves three elements: a transfer stage to move from the Gateway to low lunar orbit, a descent module and an ascent module. Two of them, the transfer stage and descent module, “are highly focused on propulsion, and I would argue that when it comes to propulsion, there is no place in the world that is more experienced and better than the Marshall Space Flight Center.”

While Marshall will manage the overall lunar lander program, much of the work will be done elsewhere by companies, as NASA plans to develop the lander systems using public-private partnerships.

“That’s kind of new to us,” said Lisa Watson-Morgan, the Marshall official selected to manage the lander program. “In the past, typically we’ve had a government reference design and we’ve handed that over to commercial and let them prime it. We’re doing it a little differently this time.”

However the program is managed, the success of the lander effort will depend on getting appropriate funding. NASA, in a supplemental budget request in May, sought an additional $1.6 billion for exploration programs, including $1 billion for lander development. The House did not take up the request when it drafted appropriations bills in May, and the Senate has yet to take up its version of a fiscal year 2020 spending bill.

Bridenstine was optimistic that the funding would come from Congress. “We’ve had great support from Congress, from both sides of the aisle in both chambers,” he said.

The three members of Congress who attended the event were all House Republicans. “It’s also important that we have congressmen and senators who are willing to put together the funding that is necessary to make this happen,” said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), whose district includes Marshall.

Brooks estimated that NASA would need $25 billion to $30 billion in additional funding over the next five years to land humans on the moon by 2024. By contrast, Bridenstine has backed away from a previous cost estimate of $20 billion to $30 billion, saying it could be done for less than $20 billion but that a formal cost estimate may not be ready until the next budget request in February 2020.

“The request that NASA has put in through the administration for $1.6 billion, we’ll make that happen,” vowed Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), ranking member of the commerce, justice and science appropriations subcommittee, which funds NASA. “We can make sure NASA has the resources to make sure the president’s vision to have a man and woman on the moon, on the south pole of the moon, by 2024 happens.”

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A giant full beaver moon set to dazzle Metro Vancouver skies – Vancouver Courier

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While it is getting darker earlier in Metro Vancouver, this month’s full beaver moon promises to illuminate the night sky.

The November full moon is thought to have derived its funny name because it occurred during the optimal time to trap the furry creatures. In fact, both colonial Americans as well as the Algonquin tribes referred to it as such.

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“Why this name? Back then, this was the month to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs,” reports Farmer’s Almanac.

While it is commonly known as the beaver moon, it was also called the Full Frost Moon by other North American Tribes.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the moon will be fullest during the day on Tuesday, Nov. 12. However, Vancouver stargazers will still be able to see the nearly-full moon in all her celestial glory the night before (Nov. 11) as well as later that night (Nov. 12).

What’s more, this full moon casts long, hauntingly beautiful shadows in the Northern Hemisphere. They are similar to those cast by the midday summer sun, as the moon is extremely high in the sky during this time.

Stargazers should opt to travel as far away from city lights as possible in order to avoid light pollution that will obscure the clarity of heavenly bodies. While this works best the in more remote places, anywhere that has a higher elevation will also provide more ideal viewing conditions.

Click here for original article.

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All-female space walk a starry-eyed achievement: The Statesman – The Straits Times

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NEW DELHI (THE STATESMAN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – It is a starry-eyed achievement almost literally.

Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, two NASA astronauts, have crafted space history by embarking on what they call the first all-female space walk.

Tasked with replacing a failed power control unit, their performance has been decidedly spectacular as they floated feet-first out of the International Space Station’s (ISS) Quest airlock on Friday (Oct 18).

The spacewalk, known as an extra-vehicular activity (EVA) in the jargon of astronauts, took place seven months after the originally scheduled date for an “all-female outing”, which had to be dropped because the ISS had only one medium-sized spacesuit on board.

The agency sent up a second medium spacesuit in October.

From space to ground zero, the happiest thought at the moment must be that both the achievement and empowerment of women are now manifest in the rarified atmosphere of space.

Very appropriately has the significance of the spacewalk been summed up by Christina: “I think it’s important because of the historical nature of what we’re doing,” she said ahead of the spacewalk.

“In the past, women haven’t always been at the table. It’s wonderful to be contributing to the space programme at a time when all contributions are being accepted, when everyone has a role. That can lead in turn to increased chance for success.”

On closer reflection, more than the space-walk, it is the assignment that is historic to fix a failed power control unit.

Previously, 14 women and 213 men had carried out spacewalks. The first woman was the Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya, who went outside the USSR’s Salyut 7 space station in 1984.

Video footage from the astronauts’ helmet cameras, as they dangled 260 miles above Earth, provided a live stream of the painstaking operation to carry the new hardware, install it and then return the faulty battery to the airlock for a postmortem back on Earth into why it failed.

Their work in space will, therefore, be followed up by the labs on Earth.

Exceptional must be the projected coordination between space science and pure science as the world knows it.

At 40, Christina is due to remain on the ISS until February, bringing her total time in space to 328 days, the longest single spaceflight by a woman and just short of Scott Kelly’s 340-day record.

Researchers are collecting extensive biomedical data on the impact of spaceflight on her system.

The majority of data available is on male astronauts, but there is some evidence that there are sex differences in response to a space environment.

One study found that women are more likely than men to suffer faintness as a result of “orthostatic hypotension”, a cardiovascular issue.

Men appear more prone to vision changes caused by spaceflight associated neuroocular syndrome (Sans).

A flight to space has a lot to bear on human health. The contretemps notwithstanding, NASA has reached a milestone.

The Statesman is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media entities.

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NASA Invites Media to Next SpaceX Space Station Cargo Launch – PRNewswire

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Media accreditation is open for the launch of the next SpaceX delivery of science investigations, supplies, and equipment to the International Space Station.

A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft is scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida no earlier than Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 12:48 p.m. EST.

Media prelaunch and launch activities will take place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and neighboring CCAFS. Credentialing deadlines are as follows:

  • International media without U.S. citizenship must apply by 4:30 p.m. EDT Sunday, Oct. 27.
  • U.S. media must apply by 4:30 p.m. EST Friday, Nov. 15.

All media accreditation requests should be submitted online at:

https://media.ksc.nasa.gov

For questions about accreditation, please email ksc-media-accreditat@mail.nasa.gov. For other questions, contact Kennedy’s newsroom at 321-867-2468.

Each resupply mission to the station delivers scientific investigations in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, Earth and space science. Advances in these areas will help to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars. Space station research through the ISS National Lab also provides opportunities for other U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions, to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments, and products that improve life on Earth.

Highlights of space station research that will be facilitated by research aboard this SpaceX Dragon mission include testing the effectiveness of a device to separate and capture water droplets suspended in an air stream, delivering a next-generation spaceborne system to image Earth in higher spectral resolution than currently possible onboard the TERRA satellite, and testing conditions to develop an inexpensive and scalable process to manufacture optical materials in space.

Cargo resupply from U.S. companies ensures a national capability to deliver critical science research to the space station, significantly increasing NASA’s ability to conduct new investigations at the only laboratory in space. This is the 19th SpaceX mission under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

The International Space Station is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that demonstrates new technologies and enables research not possible on Earth. The space station has been occupied continuously since November 2000. In that time, 239 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft have visited the orbiting laboratory. The space station remains the springboard to NASA’s next great leap in exploration, including future missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

For launch countdown coverage, NASA’s launch blog, and more information about the mission, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/spacex

SOURCE NASA

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