** Down to Earth – All in This Together – NASA Johnson
In this episode of Down to Earth – All in This Together, NASA Astronaut Jessica Meir recalls her recent time living and working aboard the International Space Station, “I never appreciated how fragile and beautiful and special the Earth was… we have one planet and we are all inhabitants of the same home.” #SpaceStation20th
** It’s A Great Day to be Alive – NASA Johnson
From 250 miles above the Earth, Expedition 63 is very much aware of the hard times which exist in the neighborhoods of the world rotating below. Even amid the uncertainty and difficulties of battling through these challenging times, we encourage everyone to be the best “crewmates” & take care of each other. Cherish the people you love. – Commander Chris Cassidy
** Expedition 63 Inflight with the Center for the Advacement of Science in Space – August 7, 2020
Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA discussed life and work aboard the orbital laboratory as he answered pre-recorded questions Aug. 7 from students affiliated with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Melbourne, Florida. Cassidy is in the midst of a six-and-a-half month mission on the outpost.
Girl Scouts from across the nation will pose questions next week to NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy aboard the International Space Station. The educational downlink event will air live at 10:55 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 11, on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
Cassidy will answer prerecorded questions selected from the 1.7 million girls who are members of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America. Girl Scouts works to provide girls in grades K-12 with engaging opportunities that increase their interest in STEM, including space science badges, training, and events that inspire them to explore space science.
Here is a sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to human expansion into the solar system (see also previous space settlement postings). This roundup is particularly focused on items related to commercial involvement in lunar development.
The 2020 Lunar Development Conference was organized as an all-virtual event on July 19th and 20th, 2020 and featured prominent government, business, academic and advocacy speakers covering topics across the entire range of lunar science, development and settlement.
Assembly of the lander will begin in Japan in 2021 at a JAL Engineering Co., Ltd. facility in Narita, Japan. Final assembly, integration, and testing (AIT) activities for the lander will be carried out by ArianeGroup GmbH at its facilities in Lampoldhausen, Germany. After assembly and final testing in Germany, the lander will be delivered to Cape Canaveral in the United States for its launch.
The target launch date of 2021, announced in September 2018 following the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) phase, has been adjusted to 2022 in response to technical issues which arose in recent months. The new target launch date was chosen in order to ensure higher reliability for HAKUTO-R customers and overall mission success. The lander is still planned to launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
Two members of the Astrobotic team join me for a conversation: Laura Klicker, Payload Systems Management Lead, and Daniel Gillies, Mission Director for the Griffin/VIPER mission. We talk about Astrobotic’s first Peregrine mission coming up next year, the very exciting VIPER mission to the south pole of the Moon in 2023, payload management across multiple flights, the technical aspects of their various vehicles, and a whole lot more.
German space company OHB is moving ahead with plans to launch a commercial lunar lander mission in cooperation with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in late 2022 as it looks for government and commercial customers.
OHB and IAI announced an agreement in January 2019 to cooperate on an initiative to deliver payloads to the lunar surface. Under that Lunar Surface Access Service (LSAS) program, OHB would serve as the prime contractor and handle payloads, while IAI provided a lander based on the design of SpaceIL’s Beresheet lander, which at time was approaching launch.
NASA’s Artemis program has been called ambitious for its goal of returning humans to Earth’s moon as early as 2024. But its most audacious aspiration is something else entirely: a plan to usher in an era of sustainable lunar operations by mining the moon’s reserves of water ice. Once tapped, this extraterrestrial reservoir could become the elixir of life to support human outposts, supplying not only drinking water but also oxygen and even rocket fuel.
The moon is a treasure trove of valuable resources. Gold, platinum, and many rare earth metals await extraction to be used in next-generation electronics. Non-radioactive helium-3 could one day power nuclear fusion reactors. But there’s one resource in particular that has excited scientists, rocket engineers, space agency officials, industry entrepreneurs—virtually anyone with a vested interest in making spaceflight to distant worlds more affordable. It’s water.
Why? If you split water into hydrogen and oxygen, and then liquefy those constituents, you have rocket fuel. If you can stop at the moon’s orbit or a lunar base to refuel, you no longer need to bring all your propellant with you as you take off, making your spacecraft significantly lighter and cheaper to launch. That’s important because Earth’s atmosphere and gravitational pull necessitate use of tons of fuel per second when rockets launch. Creating a sustainable source of fuel in space could reduce the costs and hazards associated with heavy liftoffs. One NASA estimate suggests there might be 600 million metric tons of lunar ice to harvest, and other higher-end estimates sayone billion metric tons is a possibility.
In other words, if you could mine it effectively, the moon would become a cost-cutting interplanetary gas station for trips to Mars and elsewhere.
Reston, VA, June 16, 2020: CommStar Space Communications™ LLC, (“CommStar Space”), announced its intention today to deploy an advanced, proprietary data relay satellite (“CommStar-1”) to be located between the Earth and the Moon by 2023. CommStar Space is also excited that its decision to deploy CommStar-1 is a major step by the private sector in accelerating the transition of the government out of building and operating taxpayer-funded communications infrastructure in favor of a new role as customer.
Serving as an advanced network access point located in the Cislunar service area, CommStar-1 will be capable of receiving and relaying both optical and radio frequency communications between the Moon and the Earth. CommStar-1 will provide active, “always on,” advanced data services over the more than 225,000-mile distance but will be situated closer to the Moon, i.e. 41632 miles. CommStar-1 relay infrastructure will be designed as a hybrid system for both radio frequency and optical (laser) communications. CommStar-1 will be a larger communications platform than anything currently contemplated to be located on the lunar surface or in orbit around the Moon, with significant space, weight, and power (“SWaP”) dedicated for enhanced relay data transmission. Customers of CommStar-1 can design their lunar payloads for higher speed connectivity and robust bandwidth capacity on their platforms whilst avoiding the critical trade-offs of costly “SWaP” dedicated solely for ultra-long-haul communications. These returned benefits will allow critical “Price per LB to Space” costs to be reallocated away from solely communications to more valuable tasks.
A research team in western China says it has developed a material from artificial lunar dust that might be strong enough to build a base on the moon, and could potentially be made using volcanic rock on site.
Scientists at the Xinjiang Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry in Urumqi turned the artificial dust into a high-performance construction material called basalt fibre. Put through testing, they said it achieved a tensile strength of up to 1.4 gigapascals – or 1,400 megapascals.
To put that into perspective, a European Space Agency team in February used lunar dust and urea, a compound in urine, with a 3D-printed rod to make a construction material that could withstand 32 megapascals of pressure – about half the strength of some commercial concrete. And back in 1998, Nasa’s “waterless concrete” made from simulated moon dust broke apart when it was pulled at a force of 3.7 megapascals.
From the July issue, here is a description of the MOXIE system on the Perseverance rover, which launched last week. MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment) will demonstrate production of oxygen from the C02 in the Martian atmosphere:
MOXIE to pave the way for future Martian oxygen production plants. As one of seven instruments on the NASA Perseverance rover, MOXIE will convert the abundant carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere into valuable oxygen. 300 watts of electricity will be used to split the carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon monoxide, where the purity of oxygen output will be analyzed before being released back into the Martian atmosphere. While not utilized for this particular demonstration, oxygen production on Mars is required for human habitation, propellant production, and industrial processing.
MOXIE is one of the first dedicated in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) experiments to be tested on Mars, and the technology developed is already being utilized for larger follow-on systems. MOXIE is expected to generate six to ten grams of oxygen per hour, whereas 30 to 40 grams are the budget NASA sets for each astronaut on the International Space Station. Fueling a rocket will require kilograms of oxygen per hour, so larger scale systems with appropriate power systems will be required for sustained presence on Mars.
Joan-Pau Sanchez, PhD, is a lecturer in space engineering at Cranfield University. He was one of the first to publish a Near Earth Orbit asteroid map. With host Jason Kanigan of the Cold Star Project, Dr. Sanchez discusses:
– what some of the “new rich families of exploitable orbits which may enable radically new mission applications and services” are – his thoughts about the current alarm of “cluttered Earth orbit”, which we are moving towards with the planned launches of tens of thousands of smallsats – what the “Traveling Salesperson Problem” is in ADR/servicing satellites – how algorithms to solve such problems can be developed without the help of supercomputers – his experience with the Comet Interceptor program and working with ESA – the uses of his paper, “Optimal Sunshade Configurations for Space-Based Geoengineering near the Sun-Earth L1 Point” – the project he lead, also covered by his student Florian Gautier in Episode 50, researching landing cubesats on an asteroid using the ZARM drop tower.
Our mission is to build a large self-sustaining facility that will house hundreds of people and to start construction by 2026. United Space Structures (USS) has developed a unique construction process for building very large permanent structures within lunar lava tubes. The advantage of building within lava tubes is that the lava tube provides protection from radiation and meteor strikes and so the habitat structure does not require to be hardened from these elements. The structures only need to create an atmospheric structurally stable enclosure that is thermally insulated.
** Gary Calnan – The Space Foundry Lab: A Cislunar Industrial Base – Cold Star Project S02E40
Gary Calnan, co-founder & CEO @ CisLunar Industries out of Denver CO, is on the Cold Star Project. They’re on a mission to create industrial capabilities in cislunar space that will enable sustainable space exploration and a permanent human presence beyond Earth. To make this a reality, their goal is to create the Space Foundry: the first in-space capability for recycling metal already in orbit and reprocessing it into refined raw materials for in-space manufacturing and construction. With host Jason Kanigan, Gary explores:
– at what point (or number) a “permanent human presence” beyond Earth exists – what “industrial capabilities” he believes need to be developed first – the purpose, elements and implementation plan of the Space Foundry – his recent proposal to the ISS NL (“Electromagnetic Control and Manipulation of Liquid Metal in Micro-g”) – what legal issues Gary foresees for capturing and recycling metal already in orbit – what he believes it will take to reach a point of in-space manufacturing and construction – whether the development of manufacturing and refueling capabilities on the moon impacts in-space efforts more or less than developing in-orbit capabilities.
To do this, humanity needs to develop the necessary strategies for sustainable living in hostile environments and enclosed spaces. To prepare humans for this kind of experience, groups like Habitat Marte (Mars Habitat) and others are dedicated to conducting simulated missions in analog environments. The lessons learned will not only prepare people to live and work in space but foster ideas for sustainable living here on Earth.
Between December of 2017 and 2020, Habitat Marte has conducted 42 missions with more than 150 participants, totaling almost 1300 hours (98 days) of mission time. As Prof. Rezende indicated, these activities have generated large volumes of data that has resulted in a variety of scientific studies and publications.
** A look at using the local resources to support human missions on Mars:
Extending humanity to other worlds in the Solar System is at the very limits of our modern technology. And unless there are dramatic discoveries in new propulsion systems or we learn how to build everything out of carbon nanotubes, the future of space exploration is going to require living off the land. The technique is known as In-Situ Resource Utilization or ISRU, and it means supplying as much of your mission from local resources as possible. And many of our future exploration destinations, like Mars, have a lot to work with. Let’s look at the raw materials on Mars that missions can use to live off the land and the techniques and technologies that will need to be developed to make this possible.
** How many people are needed to sustain a Martian colony?
…The use of in situ resources and different social organizations have been proposed [3–6,12–19] but there is still a poor understanding of the problem’s variables. I show here that a mathematical model can be used to determine the minimum number of settlers and the way of life for survival on another planet, using Mars as the example [6,15]. It is based on the comparison between the time requirements to implement all kinds of human activities for long term survival and the available time of the settlers. An important parameter of the model is called the sharing factor, which allows some reduction of time requirements per individual if, for example, the activity concerns the construction of an object that can be shared by several individuals…
GrowBotHub, which recently became an EPFL-accredited association, is the school’s sole contribution to IGLUNA 2020. There are some thirty student members, most of them in Master’s programs. The team is pooling their knowledge from a variety of disciplines – such as robotics, chemistry, life sciences, data management, communication systems, microengineering, materials science and electrical engineering – to create an aeroponics system to grow and harvest vegetables without human intervention.
Aeroponics does not require soil. Instead, the plants’ roots are regularly sprayed with nutrient solutions. GrowBotHub’s robotic system intelligently calculates the variables based on each plant’s needs, including the composition and quantities of nutrients, pH, humidity, light and ambient temperature.
** Expedition 63 Demo 2 In flight Crew News Conference – July 31, 2020 – NASA Johnson
Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and Flight Engineers Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken of NASA discussed the progress of their mission and preparations for the homecoming of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft during a crew news conference from orbit July 31. Hurley and Behnken are scheduled to return to Earth Aug. 2 aboard the Crew Dragon vehicle to wrap up an historic nine-week mission which was the first crewed flight on a privately owned spacecraft, while Cassidy is in the midst of a six-and-a-half month mission on the orbital complex.
** Expedition 63 In flight with EAA Young Eagles NASA ARMD – July 14, 2020
Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 63 Flight Engineers Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken of NASA discussed life and work aboard the orbital laboratory July 14 as they answered pre-recorded questions from students involved with the Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles program. The group is associated with NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. Hurley and Behnken launched May 30 on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft to the station, inaugurating the era of commercial crew launch capability from U.S. soil on an American space vehicle. Hurley and Behnken plan to return to Earth in August on the Crew Dragon craft for the first parachute-assisted splashdown of U.S. astronauts since the Apollo-Soyuz mission 45 years ago.
** SpaceCast Weekly – July 31, 2020
SpaceCast Weekly is a NASA Television broadcast from the Johnson Space Center in Houston featuring stories about NASA’s work in human spaceflight, including the International Space Station and its crews and scientific research activities, and the development of Orion and the Space Launch System, the next generation American spacecraft being built to take humans farther into space than they’ve ever gone before.
** Fruit Punch and Foam: Managing Liquids in Space – NASA Johnson
When NASA astronaut Doug Hurley squeezed a bag of fruit punch aboard the International Space Station last month, he did not get a refreshing drink. Instead, the red fluid that emerged from his drink bag wound down a clear tube, and soaked into a block of white foam. While it might not look like much, this simple experiment is providing researchers with better information about managing liquids in microgravity. Learn more here: https://go.nasa.gov/32JQUPM Learn more about the research being conducted on station: https://www.nasa.gov/iss-science
** SpaceX Crew Dragon Flies Through Habitability Testing – NASA Johnson
It is a “demonstration” mission, so the crew of the SpaceX Crew Dragon are demonstrating that the systems on this new commercial spaceship all work as designed while it’s docked to the International Space Station. Take a look inside while the Expedition 63 crew members verify that astronauts and cosmonauts can live, work, and sleep as planned when the vehicle is executing its mission in space. Additional footage from the Habitability tests on July 8, 2020
** Expedition 63 Inflight interview with Yahoo Finance KPRC TV – July 24, 2020
Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and NASA Flight Engineers Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken discussed life on the orbital outpost and preparations for a return to Earth for Hurley and Behnken on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft during a pair of in-flight interviews July 24 with Yahoo Finance News and KPRC-TV, Houston. Cassidy is in the midst of a six-hand-a-half month mission on the laboratory while Hurley and Behnken are in the final days of their mission following their launch on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket May 30 that restored a U.S. launch capability from U.S. soil. Hurley and Behnken are scheduled to return to Earth on the Crew Dragon vehicle Aug. 2 for the first splashdown of U.S. astronauts since the Apollo-Soyuz mission in July 1975.
** Expedition 63 Progress 76 Docking – NASA TV
An unpiloted Russian cargo ship blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan July 23 on a delivery mission to bring some three tons of food, fuel and hardware to the residents of the International Space Station. The ISS Progress 76 craft arrived at the complex less than four hours after launch, automatically docking to the Pirs Docking Compartment on the Russian segment of the station where it will spend a little more than three months.
** Down to Earth – Reach for the Stars – NASA Johnson
In celebration of the upcoming #SpaceStation20th anniversary, Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori from the United Arab Emirates, who recently flew in space with other International Astronauts, shares his thoughts on his journey to reach the stars and his perspective on the power of us all working together in space in this episode of Down to Earth – Reach for the Stars.
The two NASA astronauts completed all the work to replace batteries that provide power for the International Space Station’s solar arrays on the starboard truss of the complex. The new batteries provide an improved and more efficient power capacity for operations.
The spacewalkers removed six aging nickel-hydrogen batteries for the second of two power channels for the starboard 6 (S6) truss, installed three new lithium-ion batteries, and installed the three associated adapter plates that are used to complete the power circuit to the new batteries. Mission control reports that all three new batteries are working.
Behnken and Cassidy are scheduled to conduct one more spacewalk Tuesday, July 21, during which they will remove two lifting fixtures used for ground processing of the station’s solar arrays prior to their launch. They’ll also begin preparing the Tranquility module for the installation of a commercial airlock provided by NanoRacks and scheduled to arrive on a SpaceX cargo flight later this year. The airlock will be used to deploy commercial and government-sponsored experiments into space.
** Expedition 63 Inflight with US Ambassador to Russia on Apollo Soyuz 45th Anniversary – July 17, 2020 – NASA
Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and Russian Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos marked the 45th anniversary of the historic docking of an Apollo command module and a Soyuz spacecraft during an in-flight conversation July 17 with the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, John J. Sullivan and Vasily Boryak, the Deputy Director of the North American Division of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Apollo command module, with Tom Stafford, Vance Brand and Deke Slayton aboard and the Soyuz spacecraft with Alexey Leonov and Valery Kubasov, linked up on July 17, 1975, two days after their respective launches from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida and the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to mark the beginning of the international cooperation between the United States and Russia that has been recognized as the springboard for the development and assembly of the International Space Station.