2. Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019: 7-8:30 pm PST (9-10:30 pm CST, 10-11:30 pm EST): We welcome back Bernie Taylor for a discussion about “adding “M” to the Drake Equation.
3. Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019: Hotel Mars. See Upcoming Show Menu and the website newsletter for details. Hotel Mars is pre-recorded by John Batchelor. It is archived on The Space Show site after John posts it on his website.
5. Sunday, March 3, 2019: 12-1:30 pm PST (3-4:30 pm EST, 2-3:30 pm CST): We welcome an Open Lines discussion. All callers welcome, especially first time callers. All space, science, STEM and STEAM topics welcome.
The Lunar Polar Hydrogen Mapper (LunaH-Map) is a 6U CubeSat mission recently selected by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate to fly as a secondary payload on first Exploration Mission (EM-1) of the Space Launch System (SLS), scheduled to launch in July 2018. LunaH-Map is led by a small team of researchers and students at Arizona State University, in collaboration with NASA centers, JPL, universities, and commercial space businesses. The LunaH-Map mission will reveal hydrogen abundances at spatial scales below 10 km in order to understand the relationship between hydrogen and permanently shadowed regions, particularly craters, at the Moon’s South Pole.
KickSat-2 is scheduled to deploy up to 104 tiny Sprite satellites into low Earth orbit. The Sprites then would transmit on 437.240 MHz at 10 mW, communicating with each other via a mesh network and with command stations on Earth. The Sprites, which are less than 2 square inches, are expected to reenter Earth’s atmosphere within weeks. Manchester did not indicate if attempts would be made to deploy the Sprites.
NASA calls KickSat-2 a technology demonstration mission that’s designed to demonstrate the deployment and operation of prototype Sprite “ChipSats,” also known as “femtosatellites.”
The FCC recently imposed a $900,000 penalty on a commercial concern, Swarm Technologies, for launching similar tiny satellites after the FCC had denied permission.
“These spacecraft are therefore below the size threshold at which detection by the Space Surveillance Network can be considered routine,” the FCC told Swarm Technologies.
Manchester had been trying without success to convince the FCC to allow him to deploy the Sprites from KickSat-2, but, apparently gun shy after the Swarm action, the agency denied permission at the last moment.
Once NASA adopted KickSat-2 as its own mission, however, the regulatory body shifted to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the launch went forward.
The spacecraft dropped a pair of Japanese robots to hop across Ryugu’s surface in September, then released a European mobile scout to land on the asteroid in October. The miniature landers became the first mobile vehicles to explore the surface of an asteroid. All three robots returned imagery and science data.
Mission managers hoped to grab the first sample with Hayabusa 2 in late October, but officials postponed the descent to complete additional analysis and surveys after the spacecraft found the asteroid is more rocky and rugged than expected. Managers decided to deploy a target marker at their preferred landing site for Hayabusa 2’s first sampling attempt, helping the spacecraft navigate a narrow corridor to safely reach a location free of boulders, which could have endangered the mission.
“Ryugu turned out to be more difficult than we expected, so we decided to deploy all kinds of technologies that are available,” Tsuda said.
Hayabusa 2 could try to gather two more samples from other locations on Ryugu before departing the asteroid in November or December. The spacecraft must begin its journey back to Earth by the end of the year to return home in December 2020, when Hayabusa 2 will release a sample carrier to re-enter the atmosphere and parachute to a landing in Australia.
Scott Manley posted a video before the launch in which he discussed the SpaceIL mission:
Japan’s ispace is another organization that began as an entrant in the Google Lunar XPRIZE and then continued after the GLXP ended. ispace, however, is a commercial company rather than a non-profit like SpaceIL. The company has raised nearly $100M in investments and has contracts with several companies and government institutions.
The latest contract is with the NGK Spark Plug company and involves testing a solid-state a battery under the harsh conditions on the Moon, particularly the extremely cold temperatures during the 2 week long nights.
Mission 1 will entail an orbit around the Moon, while Mission 2 will perform a soft lunar landing and deployment of rovers to collect data from the lunar surface.
ispace has contracted with SpaceX to carry its Lunar Lander (Moon landing spacecraft) and Lunar Rovers (Moon surface exploration robots) for the HAKUTO-R Program as secondary payloads on it’s Falcon-9 rocket. The launches for the first and second missions for HAKUTO-R will occur in mid-2020 and mid-2021, respectively.
Here is a video showing the phases of the mission to land on the Moon and deploy a small rover to explore:
This video introduces some of the people working at ispace:
And this video presents the company’s long term vision:
The mission team called it a “stretch goal” – just before closest approach, precisely point the cameras on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft to snap the sharpest possible pics of the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule, its New Year’s flyby target and the farthest object ever explored.
Now that New Horizons has sent those stored flyby images back to Earth, the team can enthusiastically confirm that its ambitious goal was met.
These new images of Ultima Thule – obtained by the telephoto Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) just 6½ minutes before New Horizons’ closest approach to the object (officially named 2014 MU69) at 12:33 a.m. EST on Jan. 1 – offer a resolution of about 110 feet (33 meters) per pixel. Their combination of high spatial resolution and a favorable viewing angle gives the team an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the surface, as well as the origin and evolution, of Ultima Thule – thought to be the most primitive object ever encountered by a spacecraft.
“Bullseye!” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). “Getting these images required us to know precisely where both tiny Ultima and New Horizons were — moment by moment – as they passed one another at over 32,000 miles per hour in the dim light of the Kuiper Belt, a billion miles beyond Pluto. This was a much tougher observation than anything we had attempted in our 2015 Pluto flyby.
And here is a clip of the fly-by:
New Horizons scientists created this movie from 14 different images taken by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) shortly before the spacecraft flew past the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule (officially named 2014 MU69) on Jan. 1, 2019. The central frame of this sequence was taken on Jan. 1 at 5:26:54 UT (12:26 a.m. EST), when New Horizons was 4,117 miles (6,640 kilometers) from Ultima Thule, some 4.1 billion miles (6.6 billion kilometers) from Earth. Ultima Thule nearly completely fills the LORRI image and is perfectly captured in the frames, an astounding technical feat given the uncertain location of Ultima Thule and the New Horizons spacecraft flying past it at over 32,000 miles per hour.
(Note: To loop the video, right button click on it and select “Loop” from the list of options shown.)
Here are the two parts of the documentary, New Horizons – Summiting the Solar System, about the New Horizons fly-by of Ultima Thule:
Summiting the Solar System is a story of exploration at its most ambitious and extreme. On January 1, 2019, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flies by a small Kuiper Belt Object known scientifically as 2014 MU69, but nicknamed “Ultima Thule.” Ultima is four billion miles from Earth, and will be the most ancient and most distant world ever explored close up. It is expected to offer discoveries about the origin and evolution of our solar system. Chosen by the team and the public, the nickname honors the mythical land beyond the edges of the known world. But “Summiting” is much more than the story of a sophisticated, plutonium-fueled robotic spacecraft exploring far from the Sun. The New Horizons mission is powered as much by the passions of a small team of humans—men and women, scientists and engineers—for whom pushing the frontiers of the known, climbing the very peaks of the possible, has been the dream of many decades.
“Summiting” goes behind the scenes of the most ambitious occultation campaigns ever mounted, as scientists deployed telescopes to Senegal and Colombia in 2018, and Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand in 2017, to glimpse Ultima as it passed in front of a star, and gathered data on the object’s size and orbit that has been essential to planning the flyby. Mission scientists recall the astonishing scientific success of flying through the Pluto system in 2015, and use comparative planetology to show how Earth and Pluto are both amazingly different and—with glaciers, tall mountains, volcanoes and blue skies—awesomely similar. Appealing to space junkies and adrenaline junkies alike, “Summiting” brings viewers along for the ride of a lifetime as New Horizons pushes past Pluto and braves an even more hazardous unknown.