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      Government watchdog says first Artemis lunar landing may slip to 2027

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 4 December, 2023 - 23:43

    A crescent Earth rises over the horizon of the Moon in this view from NASA's Orion spacecraft on the unpiloted Artemis I test flight in December 2022.

    Enlarge / A crescent Earth rises over the horizon of the Moon in this view from NASA's Orion spacecraft on the unpiloted Artemis I test flight in December 2022. (credit: NASA )

    A new report from the Government Accountability Office suggests NASA's Artemis III mission, which aims to return humans to the Moon's surface for the first time in more than 50 years, could be delayed from late 2025 until 2027.

    The readiness of SpaceX's human-rated lander and new commercial spacesuits developed by Axiom Space are driving the schedule for Artemis III. Both contractors have a lot of work to do before the Artemis III landing, and the government watchdog's report said delays with SpaceX's Starship program and design challenges with Axiom's spacesuits threaten NASA's schedule.

    "NASA and its contractors have made progress, including completing several important milestones, but they still face multiple challenges with development of the human landing system and the space suits," the GAO said in a report published Thursday . "As a result, GAO found that the Artemis III crewed lunar landing is unlikely to occur in 2025."

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      Rocket Report: Japan launches Moon mission; Ariane 6 fires up in Kourou

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Friday, 8 September, 2023 - 11:00 · 1 minute

    A Japanese H-IIA rocket lifts off from the Tanegashima Space Center with an X-ray astronomy satellite and a robotic Moon lander.

    Enlarge / A Japanese H-IIA rocket lifts off from the Tanegashima Space Center with an X-ray astronomy satellite and a robotic Moon lander. (credit: Photo by STR/JIJI Press/AFP via Getty Images )

    Welcome to Edition 6.10 of the Rocket Report! A Japanese spacecraft has joined the international flock of missions traveling to the Moon this year, but you'll need to practice patience on this one. It will take about four months for Japan's small lander to get into lunar orbit, then more weeks to align with the mission's target landing site. We're crossing our fingers this lander will see the same success as India's Chandrayaan 3 mission.

    As always, we welcome reader submissions , and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets, as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

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    India launches its first solar research satellite . Less than two weeks after landing its first mission on the Moon, India launched a solar observatory on September 2 toward an orbit nearly a million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth around the L1 Lagrange point. This mission, named Aditya-L1, lifted off on India's workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle and entered orbit around the Earth, where the spacecraft is expected to perform five maneuvers to escape Earth's gravity and head to its distant observation post.

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      Four-person crew returns to Earth aboard SpaceX’s Dragon capsule

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 5 September, 2023 - 17:17

    SpaceX's Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean early Monday off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida.

    Enlarge / SpaceX's Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean early Monday off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. (credit: NASA TV )

    A SpaceX Dragon capsule with a crew of four returning from the International Space Station streaked through the atmosphere over Florida and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean early Monday, closing out the company's initial commercial crew contract with NASA.

    But SpaceX has at least eight more space station crew rotation missions under contract with the US space agency, plus additional flights for private customers using the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The first of the crew rotation missions covered in the NASA contract extension launched on August 26 , and the spacecraft is currently docked at the ISS.

    The mission that launched last month, designated Crew-7, is SpaceX's seventh operational crew rotation flight to the space station. The four-person crew that arrived at the station on Crew-7 will live and work aboard the orbiting outpost until February, replacing the Crew-6 mission that returned to Earth early Monday.

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      Mars rover finds signs of seasonal floods

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 9 August, 2023 - 19:34

    two images. At left, a sandy, brownish area filled with hexagonal shapes. At right, this image is faded out, but the hexagonal shapes are outlined in red.

    Enlarge / The newly described deposits (left) have their shapes highlighted in red at right. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/IRAP )

    The prodigious evidence for water on Mars has eliminated scientific debate about whether Mars had a watery past. It clearly did. But it has left us with an awkward question: What exactly did that past look like? Some results argue that there were long-lived oceans and lakes on Mars. Others argue that the water largely consisted of ice-covered bodies that only allowed water to burst out onto the surface on occasions .

    The picture is further confused by the fact that some or all of these may have been true at different times or in different locations. Creating a clear picture would help shape our understanding of an environment that might have been far more conducive to life than anything that exists on present-day Mars.

    A new paper describes evidence that at least one part of Mars went through many wet/dry cycles, which may be critical for the natural production of molecules essential to life on Earth—though they don't necessarily mean conditions in which life itself could thrive.

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      NASA’s Artemis II crew meets their Moonship

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 9 August, 2023 - 00:25

    Artemis II commander Reid Wiseman, pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialists Christina Koch and Jeremy Hansen pose with their Orion spacecraft at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

    Enlarge / Artemis II commander Reid Wiseman, pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialists Christina Koch and Jeremy Hansen pose with their Orion spacecraft at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

    The three Americans and one Canadian slated to fly on NASA's Artemis II circumlunar mission had a "pinch me" moment Monday when they got their first chance visit the Orion spacecraft that will carry them around the Moon and back to Earth.

    The astronauts had an opportunity to peer through the hatch of the Orion crew capsule for the Artemis II mission, now largely complete and going through some final tests before it is connected to its power and propulsion module at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

    "We all said when we walked up to it the first time, that it gave us chills, and it really does," said Christina Koch, a mission specialist on the Artemis II mission. "So it's a new way that I feel bonded with this crew and also with the team."

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      A nearly 20-year ban on human spaceflight regulations is set to expire

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 27 July, 2023 - 11:00

    A crew of six passengers, including former professional football player and television anchor Michael Strahan, stroll past the Blue Origin New Shepard booster they rode into space in December 2021.

    Enlarge / A crew of six passengers, including former professional football player and television anchor Michael Strahan, stroll past the Blue Origin New Shepard booster they rode into space in December 2021. (credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images )

    In 2004, Congress passed a law that established a moratorium on federal safety regulations for commercial astronauts and space tourists riding to space on new privately owned rockets and spacecraft. The idea was to allow time for new space companies to establish themselves before falling under the burden of regulations, an eventuality that spaceflight startups argued could impede the industry's development.

    The moratorium is also known as a "learning period," a term that describes the purpose of the provision. It's supposed to give companies and the Federal Aviation Administration—the agency tasked with overseeing commercial human spaceflight, launch, and re-entry operations—time to learn how to safely fly in space and develop smart regulations, those that make spaceflight safer but don't restrict innovation.

    Without action from Congress, by the end of September, the moratorium on human spaceflight regulations will expire. That has many in the commercial space industry concerned.

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      The US government is taking a serious step toward space-based nuclear propulsion

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 26 July, 2023 - 21:01

    Artist concept of Demonstration for Rocket to Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) spacecraft, which will demonstrate a nuclear thermal rocket engine.

    Enlarge / Artist concept of Demonstration for Rocket to Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) spacecraft, which will demonstrate a nuclear thermal rocket engine. (credit: DARPA)

    Four years from now, if all goes well, a nuclear-powered rocket engine will launch into space for the first time. The rocket itself will be conventional, but the payload boosted into orbit will be a different matter.

    NASA announced Wednesday that it is partnering with the US Department of Defense to launch a nuclear-powered rocket engine into space as early as 2027. The US space agency will invest about $300 million in the project to develop a next-generation propulsion system for in-space transportation.

    "NASA is looking to go to Mars with this system," said Anthony Calomino, an engineer at NASA who is leading the agency's space nuclear propulsion technology program. "And in this test is really going to give us that foundation."

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      Rover sampling finds organic molecules in water-altered rocks

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 12 July, 2023 - 22:18 · 1 minute

    Greyscale image of a large fan of material spread out across a crater floor.

    Enlarge / Jezero crater shows clear signs of water-formed deposits, so it's not a surprise to find water-altered material there. (credit: NASA/MSSS/USGS )

    Organic chemicals, primarily composed of carbon and hydrogen, underly all of life. They're also widespread in the Universe, so they can't be taken as a clear signature of the presence of life. That creates an annoying situation regarding the search for evidence of life on Mars, which clearly has some organic chemicals despite the harsh environment.

    But we don't know whether these are the right kinds of molecules to be indications of life. For the moment, we also lack the ability to tear apart Martian rocks, isolate the molecules, and figure out exactly what they are. In the meantime, our best option is to get some rough information on them and figure out the context of where they're found on Mars. And a big step has been made in that direction with the publication of results from imaging done by the Perseverance rover.

    Ask SHERLOC

    The instrument that's key to the new work has a name that pretty much tells you it was designed to handle this specific question: Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals (SHERLOC). SHERLOC comes with a deep-UV laser to excite molecules into fluorescing, and the wavelengths they fluoresce at can tell us something about the molecules present. It's also got the hardware to do Raman spectroscopy simultaneously.

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      NASA decides not to launch two already-built asteroid probes

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 12 July, 2023 - 00:21 · 1 minute

    An artist's illustration of NASA's two Janus spacecraft as they would have appeared in space.

    Enlarge / An artist's illustration of NASA's two Janus spacecraft as they would have appeared in space. (credit: Lockheed Martin )

    Two small spacecraft should have now been cruising through the Solar System on the way to study unexplored asteroids, but after several years of development and nearly $50 million in expenditures, NASA announced Tuesday the probes will remain locked inside a Lockheed Martin factory in Colorado.

    That’s because the mission, called Janus, was supposed to launch last year as a piggyback payload on the same rocket with NASA’s much larger Psyche spacecraft , which will fly to a 140-mile-wide (225-kilometer) metal-rich asteroid—also named Psyche—for more than two years of close-up observations. Problems with software testing on the Psyche spacecraft prompted NASA managers to delay the launch by more than a year.

    An independent review board set up to analyze the reasons for the Psyche launch delay identified issues with the spacecraft’s software and weaknesses in the plan to test the software before Psyche’s launch. Digging deeper, the review panel determined that NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the Psyche mission, was encumbered by staffing and workforce problems exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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