Statement of Jason Crusan Director, Advanced Exploration Systems Division Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Subcommittee on Space Committee on Science, Space, and Technology U. S. House of Representatives
Lunar CATALYST: Promoting Private Sector Robotic Exploration of the Moon
As part of the Agency’s overall strategy to conduct deep space exploration, NASA is also supporting the development of commercial lunar exploration. In 2014, NASA introduced an initiative called Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST). The purpose of the initiative is to encourage the development of U.S. private-sector robotic lunar landers capable of successfully delivering payloads to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial launch capabilities.
Space agencies around the world are planning to launch four missions to other worlds this year, evenly split between the moon and Mars. NASA will orbiters to each destination, while China will attempt to become only the third nation to soft land on the moon. India also looks to make history with its first mission to Mars. (more…)
The Times of India has an interesting Q&A interview with U.R. Rao, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Space Sciences that chose the instruments for ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 orbiter and lander. He explains why the U.S. and Europe have been shut out of this mission and describes the failures by its predecessor, Chandrayaan-1, that require a follow-up mission.
Later this month, if the Indian space agency’s attempt to launch its largest rocket, the GSLV-D3 with an indigenous cryogenic engine succeeds, then India will join the elite club of five nations in the world to have successfully developed such technology.
For the country’s rocket scientists, the yet-to-be-achieved breakthrough is significant on two fronts–one, they will achieve self reliance and confidence in space technology. Two, India will emerge as a serious player in the $4 billion global satellite launch market.
Using data from a NASA radar that flew aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists have detected ice deposits near the moon’s north pole. NASA’s Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters with water ice. The craters range in size from 1 to 9 miles (2 to15 km) in diameter. Although the total amount of ice depends on its thickness in each crater, it’s estimated there could be at least 1.3 trillion pounds (600 million metric tons) of water ice.
Chandrayaan-1 Project Director M Annadurai has been honored with the H.K. Firodia award for his contribution to India’s first lunar mission. Scientist Yash Pal also was honored for his work in promoting science communication and education.
The awards, which recognize Indian scientific achievements,Â are named after the late H.K. Firodia, a leader of the country’s auto industry. Yash Pal was given a cash award of Rs two lakh ($4,298) while Annadurai received Rs one lakh ($2,149).
Why fundamental scientific research has not caught on in India (Comment) Thaindian News
Even as the nation continues to celebrate the success of Chandrayaan, the countryâ€™s first space mission to moon, this is not something one of the seniormost scientists in India, Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao, is particularly thrilled about….
An update on the Stewart David Nozette spy case from Talking Points Memo:
The spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington tells TPMmuckraker that it is watching the espionage case of Stewart Nozette closely following a report that the high-level U.S. government scientist traveled to India with two computer thumb drives in January.
“Definitely we have interest in the news,” said spokesman Nadeen Kiani. “The concerned desk officer is watching [developments].”
When contacted, agency spokesperson S Satish said: â€œI have consulted the concerned department but that information cannot be divulged as it is classified.â€
The silence comes amid speculation that India is the “Country A” named in the government’s indictment against Nozette. Although Nozette was arrested for allegedly trying to sell secrets to an undercover FBI agent posing as a representative of the Mossad, there are suspicions that he might have been already spying for “Country A.”
The Moon is a big sponge that absorbs electrically charged particles given out by the Sun. These particles interact with the oxygen present in some dust grains on the lunar surface, producing water. This discovery, made by the ESA-ISRO instrument SARA onboard the Indian Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter, confirms how water is likely being created on the lunar surface.
There’s an interesting piece in the Huffington Post by Pinaki Bhattacharya about how the recent announcement about lunar water helped to restore ISRO’s damaged reputation:
For weeks before this, ISRO was being pilloried for the failure and eventual abandonment of the Chandrayaan 1. On 29 August. 2009 the Indian Deep Space Network in Byalalu near Bangalore, lost total contact with Chandrayaan 1. The end was not sudden, nor unexpected. The final failure was a culmination of a number of technical glitches that started to surface soon after the launch of the lunar vehicle.
Scientists would have gathered higher quality data about lunar water if India’s Chandrayaan-1 had fulfilled its full mission at the moon, Aviation Weekreports:
M3 managed to map 90 percent of the lunar surface at low resolution before Chandrayaan-1 stopped transmitting signals from lunar orbit on Aug. 29, having completed 10 months of a planned two-year mission.
Had the mission continued, M3 would now be gathering high-resolution data.