Airbus Wins Two ESA Studies for Mars Sample Return Mission

Mars in opposition. [(Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), J. Bell (ASU), and M. Wolff (Space Science Institute) ]

Sample Fetch Rover to retrieve cached samples on Mars
Earth Return Orbiter to capture the samples and return them to Earth

STEVENAGE/TOULOUSE (Airbus PR) – Airbus has won two studies from the European Space Agency (ESA) to design a Sample Fetch Rover and an Earth Return Orbiter. These two elements will be critical parts of a mission to return samples of the planet Mars to Earth before the end of the next decade. NASA and ESA signed a letter of intent in April 2018 to pursue a Mars Sample Return mission.

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Mid-Year Global Launch Report: China & USA Continue to Battle for Lead

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-47 mission lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s launch providers were extremely busy in the first half of 2018, with China and the United States battling for the lead.

There with 55 orbital launches through the end of June, which amounted to a launch every 3.29 days or 79 hours. The total is more than half the 90 launches attempted in 2017. With approximately 42 missions scheduled for the last six months of the year, the total could reach 97. (more…)

UK Industry to Design a Future Mars Rover

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — UK industry will design a future Mars rover, Science Minister Sam Gyimah announced today after a visit to the Harwell space cluster with Tim Peake.

A new rover set to visit Mars and collect the first ever samples from the planet to be brought back safely to Earth, will be designed in Stevenage by Airbus following the award of a £3.9 million contract by the European Space Agency (ESA).

The sample fetch rover will retrieve samples left by NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and transfer them to an ascent vehicle. This will put them into orbit about the planet, where they will then be brought back to Earth by a separate spacecraft.

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Rogozin Lays Out 10 Principles to Guide Roscosmos

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Today, June 28, 2018, Moscow hosted the scientific and practical conference “The main tasks and prospects for the development of Roscosmos”, at which the General Director of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin announced ten principles on which the State Corporation and enterprises of the industry will operate.

At the event, not only the heads of Roscosmos, but also all the enterprises of the industry gathered, there were altogether more than 250 people. The moderator of the conference was acting. Nikolay Sevastyanov, First Deputy General Director of Roscosmos State Corporation, who outlined the program of the meeting.

Opening speech delivered by Dmitry Rogozin, at the very beginning of which he cited Academician Andrei Sakharov: “Life is an expansion.” He also stressed that the Russian cosmos is the crown of self-identification of our people.

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National Academies’ Recommendations to NASA on Planetary Protection

This self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on Feb. 3, 2013, plus three exposures taken on May 10, 2013. (Credit: NASA)

Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
June 2018

Full Report

Findings & Recommendations

Recommendation 3.1

Finding: In connection with Mars sample return, planetary protection requirements for the sample containment, verification of containment, return vehicle and sample receiving facility are not yet in place.

Recommendation 3.1: NASA’s process for developing planetary protection policy for sample return missions should include early consultation with mission developers and managers, mission and receiving facility science teams, and microbiologists and include providing a means to use the best available biological and technological knowledge about back contamination and containment.
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Tethers Unlimited Delivers In-Space Recycler to NASA


BOTHELL, Wash. (Tethers Unlimited PR) — Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) announced that it has successfully delivered the Refabricator payload to NASA in preparation for launch to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.

The Refabricator is a mini-fridge sized experimental payload that combines a plastics-recycling system with a 3D printer. NASA will use this payload to demonstrate the ability for astronauts to recycle plastic waste and use the material to create new parts and tools to support long-duration manned missions to the Moon, Mars, and deep space.

Martian Dust Storm Grows Global: Curiosity Captures Photos of Thickening Haze

In June 2018 NASA’s Curiosity Rover used its Mast Camera, or Mastcam, to snap photos of the intensifying haziness the surface of Mars, caused by a massive dust storm. The rover is standing inside Gale Crater looking out to the crater rim. The photos span about a couple of weeks, starting with a shot of the area before the storm appeared. (Credits: NASA)

GALE CRATER, Mars (NASA PR) — A storm of tiny dust particles has engulfed much of Mars over the last two weeks and prompted NASA’s Opportunity rover to suspend science operations. But across the planet, NASA’s Curiosity rover, which has been studying Martian soil at Gale Crater, is expected to remain largely unaffected by the dust. While Opportunity is powered by sunlight, which is blotted out by dust at its current location, Curiosity has a nuclear-powered battery that runs day and night.

The Martian dust storm has grown in size and is now officially a “planet-encircling” (or “global”) dust event.

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ESA Council Backs Lunar Gateway & Exploration, Mars Sample Return

The space station formerly known as the Deep Space Gateway (Credit: NASA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Over the past 18 months, ESA and its Member States have gathered in a series of space exploration workshops culminating in a discussion in the ESA Council held in Paris on 13 June 2018.

The Council discussed Europe’s ambition to play a leading role in the global exploration of space based on its European Exploration Envelope Programme, (known as E3P) that was created by ESA’s ministers when they met in December 2016 in Lucerne, Switzerland.

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NASA Encounters the Perfect Storm for Science

These two views from NASA’s Curiosity rover, acquired specifically to measure the amount of dust inside Gale Crater, show that dust has increased over three days from a major Martian dust storm. The left-hand image shows a view of the east-northeast rim of Gale Crater on June 7, 2018 (Sol 2074); the right-hand image shows a view of the same feature on June 10, 2018 (Sol 2077). The images were taken by the rover’s Mastcam. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — One of the thickest dust storms ever observed on Mars has been spreading for the past week and a half. The storm has caused NASA’s Opportunity rover to suspend science operations, but also offers a window for four other spacecraft to learn from the swirling dust.

NASA has three orbiters circling the Red Planet, each equipped with special cameras and other atmospheric instruments. Additionally, NASA’s Curiosity rover has begun to see an increase in dust at its location in Gale Crater.

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New NASA Position to Focus on Exploration of Moon, Mars and Worlds Beyond

Steve Clarke (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is taking a giant leap focusing the agency’s exploration of the Moon, Mars and our Solar System.

Effective immediately, Steve Clarke is SMD’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration. He will serve as the agency’s interface between the NASA mission directorates, the scientific community, and other external stakeholders in developing a strategy to enable an integrated approach for robotic and human exploration within NASA’s Exploration Campaign.

Clarke returns to NASA after serving as a senior policy analyst with the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President, where he was responsible for a number of important initiatives.

“Steve returns to a position ideally suited for him and the agency as we return to the Moon,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “He’ll help integrate near-term and long-term lunar exploration with science missions and other destinations, including Mars.”
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Busek Company Selected for NASA Funding to Develop Spacecraft Advanced Propulsion

Busek Company will develop advanced CubeSat propulsion and Hall Effect thrusters (HETs) with the help of NASA funding.

The space agency has selected the Massachusetts-based company for five Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 awards. The contracts are worth up to $125,000 apiece over 13 months.

The three proposals focused on CubeSats and small satellites include:

  • a low impulse bit electrospray thruster control system;
  • a compact high performance plasma propulsion system (CHPPPS); and,
  • an iodine-compatible photocathode for RF ion thrusters.

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NASA Finds Ancient Organic Material, Mysterious Methane on Mars

This self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on Feb. 3, 2013, plus three exposures taken on May 10, 2013. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.

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Paragon Developing Advanced Radiator for Inflatable Habitats

Paragon Space Development Corporation will develop a flexible radiator for inflatable habitats and an improved condenser for use on human space missions with the help of NASA funding.

The space agency has selected the Tuscon, Ariz.-based company for two contracts under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 program. The agreements are worth up to $125,000 apiece over 13 months.

The target market for Paragon’s Flexible Radiator (FlexRAD) is “long duration human spaceflight exploration missions and other spacecraft” that use a single loop  active thermal control system (ATCS).

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NASA to Host Live Discussion on New Mars Science Results on Thursday

This self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on Feb. 3, 2013, plus three exposures taken on May 10, 2013. (Credit: NASA)

The media and public are invited to ask questions during a live discussion at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 7, on new science results from NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover. The results are embargoed by the journal Science until then.

The event will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Michelle Thaller, assistant director of science for communications, in NASA’s Planetary Science Division will host the chat. Participants include:

  • Paul Mahaffy, director of the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland
  • Jen Eigenbrode, research scientist at Goddard
  • Chris Webster, senior research fellow, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
  • Ashwin Vasavada, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist, JPL

The public can send questions on social media by using #askNASA. The event can also be watched on Facebook LiveTwitch TVUstreamYouTube and Twitter/Periscope.

For information about NASA’s Curiorsity rover, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/msl

NASA CubeSats Steer Toward Mars

An artist’s rendering of the twin Mars Cube One (MarCO) spacecraft on their cruise to Mars. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has achieved a first for the class of tiny spacecraft known as CubeSats, which are opening new access to space.

Over the past week, two CubeSats called MarCO-A and MarCO-B have been firing their propulsion systems to guide themselves toward Mars. This process, called a trajectory correction maneuver, allows a spacecraft to refine its path to Mars following launch. Both CubeSats successfully completed this maneuver; NASA’s InSight spacecraft just completed the same process on May 22.

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