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Senate deals major blow to Bridenstine's Moon ambitions – ROOM Space Journal



News of an up and of a down for the US space programme came this week on the heels of NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine’s admission that he wouldn’t continue in the job under US President-elect Joe Biden.

Four astronauts are headed up to the International Space Station (ISS) this weekend in the first newly certified crew vehicle in decades, while lawmakers in the US Congress turned down a request that Bridenstine said would have allowed him to keep his signature promise.

As Washington, DC, began to reorganise for the political transition, Bridenstine told Aviation Week’s Defense Daily on 8 November that he wouldn’t continue under Biden.

Likely the more consequential is a new development to Bridenstine’s own legacy – members of the Senate may have dealt the final blow to Bridenstine’s most widely hyped goal: to return US astronauts to the Moon’s surface by 2024.

Riding the wave of nostalgia leading into the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, Bridenstine announced the #Moon2024 goal in March 2019 together with US Vice President Mike Pence.

Their plan would have launched the first Space Launch System (SLS) rocket this year, sending an uncrewed Orion capsule around the Moon and back on a mission that came to be known as Artemis 1, followed later by a crewed mission to lunar orbit, and culminating in a human landing on the Moon’s surface in 2024 — famously by at least one man and one woman — during the final year of a second Trump presidency.

Bridenstine tied the #Moon2024 goal intrinsically to a second Trump term, saying the strategy would “retire the political risk” to the programme — risk like when the administration of Barack Obama and Joe Biden cancelled the George W Bush administration’s Constellation programme that also planned to return astronauts to the Moon.

Having resigned from his seat in the House of Representatives to take the job of NASA administrator, Bridenstine is seen as drawing bipartisan support during his tenure, but Congress doesn’t appear as though it will come through for #Moon2024.

Although Bridenstine told senators in September that NASA would need more than $3 billion in fiscal year 2021 to have lunar landers built quickly enough to achieve the goal, even the Trump-loyal Senate has signaled that it likely won’t go along with the idea. A committee recommended on 10 November funding only $1 billion of that, potentially cementing Bridenstine’s legacy.

Meanwhile he had the good fortune as administrator to take part in some historic achievements, including the events surrounding SpaceX’s crewed test flight of its Crew Dragon capsule. SpaceX built the capsule under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which started under the Obama administration.

NASA also announced on 10 November that it had certified the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule to legally carry humans, clearing the way for regular trips to the ISS.

Other memorable aspects of Bridenstine’s time at NASA have included a social-media tiff with Elon Musk over priorities; the nearly disastrous uncrewed test flight of Boeing’s Starliner capsule; and a popular surge in private-sector contracts for lunar exploration.

When first asked to approve Bridenstine’s nomination as administrator, some members of Congress objected to putting a politician in charge of NASA. As Bridenstine told Aviation Week, politics also dictated his decision to step aside:

“Whoever the president is, they have to have somebody they know and trust and somebody the administration trusts. That person is not going to be me,” he stated.

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Chinese spacecraft has fresh moon rock samples to return to Earth –



China said Thursday its latest lunar probe has finished taking samples of the moon’s surface and sealed them within the spacecraft for return to Earth, the first time such a mission has been attempted by any country in more than 40 years.

The Chang’e 5, the third Chinese probe to land on the moon, is the latest in a series of increasingly ambitious missions for Beijing’s space program, which also has a probe en route to Mars carrying a robot rover.

The Chang’e 5 touched down Tuesday on the Sea of Storms on the moon’s near side, on a mission to return lunar rocks to Earth for the first time since 1976.

The probe “has completed sampling on the moon, and the samples have been sealed within the spacecraft,” the China National Space Administration said in a statement.

This image of the moon’s surface was taken by a panoramic camera aboard the lander-ascender combination of the Chang’e 5 spacecraft Wednesday. (China National Space Administration/Xinhua via AP)

Plans call for the upper stage of the probe known as the ascender to be launched back into lunar orbit to transfer the samples to a capsule for return to Earth. The timing of its return was not immediately clear and the lander can last up to one moon day, or 14 Earth days, before falling temperatures would make it inoperable.

Chang’e is equipped to both scoop samples from the surface and drill two metres to retrieve materials that could provide clues into the history of the moon, Earth other planets and space features.

WATCH | An animation shows how Chang’e 5 was to land on the moon and collect samples:

China says the lander-ascender of its Chang’e-5 probe separated from the orbiter-returner and landed on the moon to collect samples, as this animated video shows. 1:03

While retrieving samples is its main task, the lander is also equipped to extensively photograph the area surrounding its landing site, map conditions below the surface with ground-penetrating radar and analyze the lunar soil for minerals and water content.

Chang’e 5’s return module is supposed to touch down around the middle of December on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, where China’s crewed Shenzhou spacecraft have made their returns since China first put a person in space in 2003, becoming only the third country do so after Russia and the United States.

Chang’e 5 has revived talk of China one day sending a crewed mission to the moon and possibly building a scientific base there, although no timeline has been proposed for such projects.

China also launched Its first temporary orbiting laboratory in 2011 and a second in 2016. Plans call for a permanent space station after 2022, possibly to be serviced by a reusable space plane.

While China is boosting co-operation with the European Space Agency and others, interactions with NASA are severely limited by concerns over the secretive nature and close military links of the Chinese program.

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NASA buying Moon dust for $1 – FRANCE 24



Issued on: 03/12/2020 – 22:26


Washington (AFP)

The US space agency NASA awarded contracts to four companies on Thursday to collect lunar samples for $1 to $15,000, rock-bottom prices that are intended to set a precedent for future exploitation of space resources by the private sector.

“I think it’s kind of amazing that we can buy lunar regolith from four companies for a total of $25,001,” said Phil McAlister, director of NASA’s Commercial Spaceflight Division.

The contracts are with Lunar Outpost of Golden, Colorado for $1; ispace Japan of Tokyo for $5,000; ispace Europe of Luxembourg for $5,000; and Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California for $15,000.

The companies plan to carry out the collection during already scheduled unmanned missions to the Moon in 2022 and 2023.

The firms are to collect a small amount of lunar soil known as regolith from the Moon and to provide imagery to NASA of the collection and the collected material.

Ownership of the lunar soil will then be transferred to NASA and it will become the “sole property of NASA for the agency’s use under the Artemis program.”

Under the Artemis program, NASA plans to land a man and a woman on the Moon by 2024 and lay the groundwork for sustainable exploration and an eventual mission to Mars.

“The precedent is a very important part of what we’re doing today,” said Mike Gold, NASA’s acting associate administrator for international and interagency relations.

“We think it’s very important to establish the precedent that the private sector entities can extract, can take these resources but NASA can purchase and utilize them to fuel not only NASA’s activities, but a whole new dynamic era of public and private development and exploration on the Moon,” Gold said.

“We must learn to generate our own water, air and even fuel,” he said. “Living off the land will enable ambitious exploration activities that will result in awe inspiring science and unprecedented discoveries.”

Any lessons learned on the Moon would be crucial to an eventual mission to Mars.

“Human mission to Mars will be even more demanding and challenging than our lunar operations, which is why it’s so critical to learn from our experiences on the Moon and apply those lessons to Mars,” Gold said.

“We want to demonstrate explicitly that you can extract, you can utilize resources, and that we will be conducting those activities in full compliance with the Outer Space Treaty,” he said. “That’s the precedent that’s important. It’s important for America to lead, not just in technology, but in policy.”

The United States is seeking to establish a precedent because there is currently no international consensus on property rights in space and China and Russia have not reached an understanding with the United States on the subject.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty is vague but it deems outer space to be “not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”

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Possible meteor sighting over Norfolk – The Sudbury Star



Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

File Photo / Getty Images

Experts believe that a large, explosive sound and fireball reported over Ontario and New York state Wednesday afternoon was likely caused by a meteor. 

Denise Eighteen, a Port Dover resident, says she was driving towards Dover on Radical Road when she saw the light in the sky.  

I saw this huge fireball coming out of the sky, it was massive,” she said in a phone interview on Thursday. It must have been going towards the lake because the tail was growing, and it was flaming.”  

People in other areas, including Mississauga and Hamilton, also reported seeing the fireball. In Onondaga County, N.Y., there were reports of a large explosive sound being heard from above, reported. 

Eighteen said her husband, who was also in the vehicle with her, just caught the end of it and thought it might have been a blade flying off of a wind turbine.  

It was the most beautiful thing Ive seen in my life, it was just breathtaking,” she said. It was some sort of cool event in my life, it was special. I need to keep it in my minds eye for as long as I can. 

The Eighteen posted about the sighting in a Facebook group and received several messages from others saying they also spotted it around the county.  

York University physics and astronomy professor Paul Delaney told 680 News the fireball was likely a meteor. 

Delaney said the meteor would likely have to be fairly large in order to be seen in the sky midday. As a meteor enters the Earths atmosphere, it heats up, causing the air around it to glow. 

Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society told the large boom heard was likely caused by a sonic boom from the meteor. A sonic boom occurs when the meteor flies through the atmosphere, said Lunsford. 

Lunsford said its uncommon to see a meteor in broad daylight, stating most rocks burn up while still high in the atmosphere. 

This must be a big one,” he said. It has to be a pretty large size chunk of rock to survive. 

Delaney told 680 News theres no risk of the meteorite causing a fire on the ground because its cooled off by the time it lands. 

– With files from Ashley Taylor 

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