** Look Back at Earth with NASA Astronaut Andrew Morgan
On Friday, April 6, 2020, NASA Astronaut Andrew Morgan began his day by taking a peaceful look back at our planet, out of the International Space Station’s cupola. The cupola serves as a place for astronauts to gaze back at Earth, and take photographs as a part of the Crew Earth Observations investigation. Images like the ones Morgan is taking here, can help us monitor how our planet is changing over time, and inform important scientific research. https://go.nasa.gov/2Vk48xC
** Expedition 62 Inflight Interview with the State of Maine – April 13, 2020
Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 62 Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Chris Cassidy of NASA, both natives of Maine, answered questions submitted by students from schools in Maine during an in-flight educational event April 13. Meir is completing a six-and-a-half month mission on the orbital outpost, heading for a landing in Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz spacecraft April 17. Cassidy arrived on the station April 9 to begin a six-and-a-half month sojourn.
** Expedition 62 to 63 Change of Command Ceremony – April 15, 2020
Expedition 62 Crew Hands over Space Station to Expedition 63 Command of the International Space Station was passed from Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos to Chris Cassidy of NASA during a ceremony on the orbital outpost on April 15. Skripochka is returning to Earth April 17 with Expedition 62 crewmates Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir in the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft for a landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan. Skripochka and Meir will have completed 205 days in space, while Morgan will have spent 272 in orbit. Cassidy remains on the station as commander of Expedition 63 with crewmates Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos.
** Expedition 62 Landing – April 17, 2020
International Space Station’s Expedition 62 Crew Lands Safely in Kazakhstan Expedition 62 Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos and Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan of NASA landed safely on Earth near the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, April 17 after bidding farewell to their colleagues on the complex and undocking their Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft from the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module on the International Space Station. Skripochka and Meir completed 205 days in space, and Morgan wrapped up a 272-day mission on the orbital outpost.
** NASA hang-out examined the role of civil engineering in developing the initial landing site on Mars: Paving the Road to Mars: Civil Engineering at the Human Landing Site – Feb.2020
Speakers from Bechtel, Kennedy Space Center, Langley Research Center, and NASA Headquarters join HLS2 steering committee co-chairs Paul Niles and Richard (Rick) Davis to discuss the use of Civil Engineering on Mars.
• Pete Carrato (Bechtel, Fellow Emeritus) • Rob Mueller (Swamp Works Kennedy Space Center, Senior Technologist/Primary Investigator) • Michelle Munk (Langley Research Center, EDL System Capability Lead)
How will we build the structures, roads and landing pads humans will someday need on Mars? Civil engineer Peter Carrato has been building grand structures on Earth for decades. He says the skills we’ve learned over thousands of years are well-suited for the much more challenging Martian environment.
Some people have claimed that a “business case” for profitable interplanetary trade with a Mars settlement, or at least the identification a saleable product for trade, is required before such a settlement can be established or supported by business or government. But there is no reasonable prospect for trade in any significant mass of physical material from a Mars settlement back to Earth in the near future due to the high transport costs. In his recent article in the National Review, “Elon Musk’s Plan to Settle Mars,” Robert Zubrin makes exactly the same point: a business case based on physical trade is not necessary and makes little sense. Later trade and commerce via non-physical goods such as software is probable once a settlement is fully operational. More significant and interesting economic situations will occur on Mars.
A good model for the expenditures needed to found colonies is the Greek and Phoenician expansion all across the Mediterranean and Black Sea areas in the period early in Greek history (before about 600 BC), leading to the founding of one of the greatest trading cities in history, Carthage. The cities who founded each colony did not expect immediate profit, but wanted good places for an expanding population and knew that, once the new cities were established, trade would also become established. Most of the cost was probably in building more ships. When European colonies were first established in the New World by Spain and Portugal, the emphasis was initially on a search for treasure, not production of products. English and Dutch colonies later led the way to commerce across the Atlantic, with tobacco, sugar, and cotton suddenly becoming a major part of world trade.
A look at some of the steps required to create a Mars settlement will help us understand at least a little about Mars settlement economics. For a Mars settlement, motivation and economics are interwoven. It is possible for at least a partial business case to be made for the transport of settlers and the materials they will need to initiate some phase of Mars settlement. This includes the current effort to create a large number of reliable, low cost, and reusable super-heavy boosters and spacecraft, able to take payloads of 100 tons or more of cargo and passengers to Mars and land them at the right location. Part of this development and construction cost will be defrayed by commercial and government uses of the same vehicles, such as placing very heavy payloads in LEO and taking equipment and passengers to and around the Moon.
We present a two-sphere dumbbell configuration of a rotating settlement at Earth-Moon L5. The two-sphere configuration is chosen to minimize the radiation shielding mass which dominates the mass budget. The settlement has max 20 mSv/year radiation conditions and 1 g artificial gravity. If made for 200 people, it weighs 89000 tonnes and provides 60 square meters of floor space per person.
The radiation shield is made of asteroid rock, augmented by a water layer with 2% of the mass for neutron moderation, and a thin boron-10 layer for capturing the thermalized neutrons. We analyze the propulsion options for moving the material from asteroids to L5. The FFC Cambridge process can be used to extract oxygen from asteroid regolith. The oxygen is then used as Electric Propulsion propellant. One can also find a water-bearing asteroid and use water for the same purpose. If one wants to avoid propellant extraction, one can use a fleet of electric sails. The settlers fund their project by producing and selling new settlements by zero-delay teleoperation in the nearby robotic factory which they own.
The economic case looks promising if LEO launch costs drop below about $300/kg.
I’ll note that SpaceX‘s Starship is aimed at achieving launch costs even below the $300/kg range at high flight rates.
* Gateway Foundation releases an update on the design of a first-generation large scale space habitat, which they now call Voyager Station. This video discusses how the development of the SpaceX Starship could benefit the project.
The experts agreed that collaboration between terrestrial mining and commercial space will be crucial to the development technology and mission capabilities needed for a viable space resources industry.
Suggestions which might help jump start the collaboration process included a global competition based on the Google Lunar XPRIZE model and the development of ‘dual use’ Earth/space technologies.
Demand for space resources could potentially be driven by offworld outposts, space laboratories, Moon-based facilities and space tourism.
However, early development will require support from governments around the world, with sound legal agreements on ownership of resources and stable markets to sell them.
Governments and their agencies will also play a central role as the primary source of demand for this fledgling market.
The second Mining Space Summit was a great success, as was the whole Space Resources Week. By attracting more representatives from the terrestrial resources industry, it represents an important step forward towards establishing a meaningful connection between two industrial sectors, terrestrial resources and space resources.
With the attendance of more than 180 experts, we had a significant increase of participants, only limited by the size of the breakout session groups. One important metric was the participant representation -58% from space, including start-ups and global players, and 42% from mining, oil and gas industries, finance,and (non-space) government sectors.
The Summit focused on two challenges that are key in enabling the success of the space resources sector: the viability of their business models and the development of critical technologies and operations.
This summary paper has provided the major results of the discussions, and will help to set the foundation for future work.
The 2019summit was only an intermediate step of a long-term process to identify areas of collaboration between the two industrial sectors.Space Resources Week2020, announced at the end of the ESA ISRU Workshop, will happen between the 5thand 9thOctoberandwill build on these results.
The Lunar Polar Mining Outpost (LPMO) (see quad chart graphic) is a breakthrough mission architecture that promises to greatly reduce the cost of human exploration and industrialization of the Moon. LPMO is based on two patent pending inventions that together solve the problem of affordable lunar polar ice mining for propellant production.
The first invention, Sun Flower™ stems from a new insight into lunar topography. We have found multi kilometer landing areas in lunar polar regions on which the surface is likely ice rich regolith in perpetual darkness but with perpetual sunlight available at altitudes of only 100s of meters. In these landing sites, which we found and mapped in our Phase 1 study, deployable reflectors on towers a few hundred meters tall (lightweight and feasible in lunar gravity) can provide nearly continuous solar power.
A large lander, such as the Blue Moon vehicle proposed by Blue Origin or lunar ice mining outpost can sit on mineable ice at ground level in perpetual sunlight provided by lightweight reflectors. A single New Glenn launch can deliver a Sun Flower with over 1 MW of solar arrays, tower, and reflector in an integrated package.
The second enabling innovation for LGMO is Radiant Gas Dynamic (RGD) mining. RGD mining is a new Patent Pending technology invented by TransAstra to solve the problem of economically and reliably prospecting and extracting large quantities (1,000s of tons per year) of volatile materials from lunar regolith using landed packages of just a few tons each….
** Several other NIAC awards went to technology projects relevant to space settlement. For example,
Fueling a Human Mission to Mars – Caroline Genzale (Georgia Tech Research Corporation): Development of “a renewable, liquid, storage stable rocket propellant that can be produced and burned on Mars using bioorganisms to perform atmospheric in-situ resource utilization (ISRU). Utilizing 100% ISRU for propellant production, we aim to reduce the Entry Descent Landing (EDL) mass of a crewed mission to Mars by approximately 7 tons. This technology will enable long-term human presence on Mars and beyond because costly propellant deliveries from Earth would be unnecessary. We will genetically engineer organisms to efficiently convert the abundant CO2 in the Martian atmosphere into liquid hydrocarbons suitable for rocket propulsion and other energy needs on Mars. “
Aqua Factorem: Ultra Low-Energy Lunar Water Extraction – Philip Metzger (University of Central Florida) – To extract water from lunar polar crater floors, this proposal takes “advantage of the processing that the unique lunar geology has already performed. Micrometeoroid bombardment has already broken most solid material in the upper part of the regolith into fine grains. This includes solid material of all compositions, including the ice, which is as hard as granite at PSR temperatures and is therefore essentially another type of rock. These ice grains are intermixed with all the other minerals, so a simple, ultra-low-energy grain-sorting process can extract the ice without phase change. As another benefit it can extract the 1 wt% free metal known to be in lunar soil, again with very little energy. The ice can then be hauled to the chemical processing unit in solid phase and converted into rocket propellant. We estimate the 800 kW power needed for thermal extraction can be reduced to less than 100 watts using the new method. This affects the entire architecture of the mining operation producing extensive economic benefit, which we will quantify in this study.“
Instant Landing Pads for Artemis Lunar Missions – Matthew Kuhns (Masten Space Systems) – “The Masten in-Flight Alumina Spray Technique (FAST) Landing Pad changes the approach to landing on planetary bodies by mitigating the landing plume effects by creating a landing pad under the lander as it descends onto a surface. This approach uses engineered particles injected into the rocket plume to build up a coating over the regolith at the landing location. The hardened regolith would have greater thermal resistance and ablation resistance to reduce regolith erosion rates and deep cratering. This innovation would enable large and small landers to safely perform transportation to any region on the Moon without major risks posed by engine plume effects.“
Intuitive Machines (IM) engineers selected an area in Oceanus Procellarum near Vallis Schröterias the landing site for its upcoming IM-1 lunar mission with an anticipated launch date in October 2021.
Vallis Schröteri, also known as Schröter’s Valley, is the largest valley on the Moon (comparable in size to the Grand Canyon) and is surrounded by Oceanus Procellarum, the largest lunar maria on the Moon. Oceanus Procellarum, also called the Ocean of Storms, covers over 10 percent of the entire Moon and has a diverse array of geological features. NASA considered a site near Vallis Schröteri for Apollo 18; now, IM is taking up the baton to conduct the initial survey.
Nova-C, the first lander wholly developed by a private company, will deliver commercial cargo and five NASA-provided payloads to the lunar surface. These payloads will conduct scientific research and technology demonstrations as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, in preparation for sending astronauts back to the Moon in 2024.
Last week, NASA announced the selection of Masten Space (see post here) to
deliver and operate eight payloads – with nine science and technology instruments – to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022, to help lay the foundation for human expeditions to the lunar surface beginning in 2024.
The payloads, which include instruments to assess the composition of the lunar surface, test precision landing technologies, and evaluate the radiation on the Moon, are being delivered under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative as part of the agency’s Artemis program.
Masten’s XL-1 lander will incorporate lessons and technologies derived from the company’s long experience with vertical takeoff and landing rockets. In addition to the NASA payloads, Masten expects to carry payloads from commercial customers.
Scott Manley gives a video report on Masten and the company’s lander:
Xplore Inc., a commercial space company has announced they have won an Air Force award to study positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) solutions for cislunar space. The award category, for commercial and technical innovations between the Earth and the Moon — is entirely new for the Air Force, which is investigating the capabilities necessary to extend operations beyond geosynchronous orbit to now include cislunar space.
The Xplore plan would involve the company’s Xcraft, a standardized spacecraft platform that can be implemented for a variety of deep space missions:
Navigation considerations have been an integral part of Xplore’s development strategy since the company started rigorously developing its platform and multi-mission Xcraft™ — an ESPA-class space vehicle that will fly missions at destinations from Earth to the Moon, Mars, Venus, Lagrange points, near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) and other locations across the inner solar system. Beyond the more obvious hardware requirements for operating in extreme environments, Xplore will maximize the full value of its orbital assets by designing a PNT architecture that mirrors the accessibility and reliability of GPS for cislunar space. The Xcraft’s ability to operate across these vast distances provides tremendous value to customers in academia, industry, civil space and national security agencies.
** Astronaut Moments: Chris Cassidy – NASA Johnson
Life on board the International Space Station may not be exactly what you’re imagining. But as he heads back for his third mission, astronaut Chris Cassidy says he’ll be savoring every minute of it.
** Expedition 63 Docking and Hatch Open – April 9, 2020 – NASA
Expedition 63 Soyuz Commander Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos and Flight Engineers Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos and Chris Cassidy of NASA arrived at the International Space Station April 9, docking their spacecraft to the Poisk module on the Russian segment of the complex. They completed the six-hour journey after launching earlier in the day in their Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. A few hours after docking, Ivanishin, Vagner and Cassidy opened hatches between the spacecraft and were greeted by station Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos and Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan of NASA. As the hatches were opened, the families of the newly arrived crew members and American and Russian space officials viewed the activities from Baikonur and offered their congratulations to the newest residents of the outpost.
** Expedition 62 Crew News Conference – April 10, 2020
Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 62 Flight Engineers Chris Cassidy, Jessica Meir and Drew Morgan discussed the status of their respective missions on the orbital outpost during an-flight crew news conference April 10. Cassidy arrived at the station April 9 on the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft with two Russian cosmonauts for a six-and-a-half month mission while Meir and Morgan are preparing to return to Earth on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft to wrap up their long duration flights on the complex.
** NASA Live: Earth Views from the Space Station
Currently, live views from the International Space Station (ISS) are streaming from an external camera mounted on the ISS module called Node 2. Node 2 is located on the forward part of the ISS. The camera is looking forward at an angle so that the International Docking Adapter 2 (IDA2) is visible. If the Node 2 camera is not available due to operational considerations for a longer period of time, a continuous loop of recorded HDEV imagery will be displayed. The loop will have “Previously Recorded” on the image to distinguish it from the live stream from the Node 2 camera. After HDEV stopped sending any data on July 18, 2019, it was declared, on August 22, 2019, to have reached its end of life.
** Expedition 63 Space Station Crew Prepares for Launch in Kazakhstan
At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the International Space Station’s Expedition 63 crew Soyuz Commander Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos, Flight Engineers Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos and Chris Cassidy of NASA and their backups, Sergei Ryzhikov and Andrei Babkin of Roscosmos and Steve Bowen of NASA, participated in a variety of activities March 24-March 27 as they prepared for the upcoming mission. Ivanishin, Vagner and Cassidy are set to launch April 9 from Baikonur in the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft for a six-month mission on the International Space Station. The footage includes the crew’s Soyuz fit check in the Cosmodrome’s Integration Facility, the ceremonial Cosmonaut Hotel flag-raising ceremony, laying of flowers at the site at the cosmonaut Hotel where Yuri Gagarin’s tree is planted and other training milestones.
** Anne McClain’s Tips for Living in Close Quarters
It’s okay to not be okay. But it’s what you choose to do about that that’s important.” One of our NASA Astronauts, Anne McClain, shares some tips she learned living in the isolated environment of the International Space Station:
** Jessica Meir Speaks with Physiologist Magazine
Expedition 62 – Aboard the International Space Station NASA Astronaut and Flight Engineer Jessica Meir participates in an in-flight event with Physiologist Magazine.
In this episode of “Down to Earth – Shining Oasis,” David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency recalls the first time he caught a glimpse of the Earth from the Soyuz capsule on his way to the space station. #SpaceStation20th
** Expedition 63 Crew Activities – March 23, 2020
Expedition 63 Space Station Crew Conducts Traditional Ceremonies in Star City, Russia The International Space Station’s Expedition 63 crew, Soyuz Commander Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos and Flight Engineers Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos and Chris Cassidy of NASA and their backups, Sergei Ryzhikov and Andrei Babkin of Roscosmos and Steve Bowen of NASA, visited the Gagarin Museum at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia March 23 after laying flowers at the statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first human to fly in space. The footage also includes questions posed to Cassidy on the eve of the crew’s departure for their launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan from where they will launch on April 9 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft for a six-month mission on the International Space Station.
** NASA Television Video File – Expedition 63 Crew Departure for Launch Site – March 24, 2020
Expedition 63 Space Station Crew Departs for Kazakh Launch Site The International Space Station’s Expedition 63 crew Soyuz Commander Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos, Flight Engineers Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos and Chris Cassidy of NASA and their backups, Sergei Ryzhikov and Andrei Babkin of Roscosmos and Steve Bowen of NASA, participated in traditional prelaunch ceremonies at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, outside Moscow on March 24. Afterward, they departed for the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to complete their training for the launch of Ivanishin, Vagner and Cassidy on April 9 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft for a six-month mission on the International Space Station.
** Astronaut Anne McClain’s Tips for Living in Close Quarters
NASA astronaut Anne McClain spent 204 days living on the International Space Station and shares her tips for living in close quarters with only a few other people. She shares what human behaviors create a healthy culture for living and working remotely in small groups. Read her advice at: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/an-astro… Learn more about how NASA helps prepare astronauts for the social isolation they will experience: https://www.nasa.gov/hrp/social-isola…