** A brief item about NASA astronaut Anne McClain:
What does the game of rugby have to do with spaceflight? Former U.S. national rugby team player and current NASA astronaut Anne McClain explains how her time playing rugby has helped her prepare for a space mission.
** Rocket Ranch Podcast E06: Starting Up the Space Station
In this episode, we sit down with the Space Shuttle commander who officially began construction of the ISS in space. Former astronaut Bob Cabana recounts his experiences in being the first American on station and turning on the lights.
… coming days, the mission team will unstow InSight’s robotic arm and use the attached camera to snap photos of the ground so that engineers can decide where to place the spacecraft’s scientific instruments. It will take two to three months before those instruments are fully deployed and sending back data.
In the meantime, InSight will use its weather sensors and magnetometer to take readings from its landing site at Elysium Planitia — its new home on Mars.
As an aside here, Bob also has an interesting posting about Mars water. While it has been known for many decades that Mars has substantial amounts of water in its surface, much has been learned in recent years about the extent and distribution of that water and much more remains to be discovered. An example of this is the recent finding in Mars orbiter images of layers of water ice exposed on a number of cliffs in the mid-latitudes of the planet:
The ice was likely deposited as snow long ago. The deposits are exposed in cross section as relatively pure water ice, capped by a layer one to two yards (or meters) thick of ice-cemented rock and dust. They hold clues about Mars’ climate history. They also may make frozen water more accessible than previously thought to future robotic or human exploration missions.
As Bob notes, such easily accessible water resources will be useful for more than scientific research:
There will come a time when Martian settlers will set up operations here, mining the water for their use. This could very well be extremely valuable real estate on Mars.
The CubeSats launched with Insight proved their worth by relaying communications to earth during the lander’s descent and touch down. Furthermore, they have proved the worth of CubeSats for deep space exploration in general, opening up the potential for lower cost and more frequent exploration missions throughout the solar system:
Neither of the MarCO CubeSats carry science instruments, but that didn’t stop the team from testing whether future CubeSats could perform useful science at Mars. As MarCO-A flew by, it conducted some impromptu radio science, transmitting signals through the edge of Mars’ atmosphere. Interference from the Martian atmosphere changes the signal when received on Earth, allowing scientists to determine how much atmosphere is present and, to some degree, what it’s made of.
“CubeSats have incredible potential to carry cameras and science instruments out to deep space,” said John Baker, JPL’s program manager for small spacecraft. “They’ll never replace the more capable spacecraft NASA is best known for developing. But they’re low-cost ride-alongs that can allow us to explore in new ways.”
Scott Manley gives an overview of the Insight mission:
The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch of over 60 smallsats previously scheduled for launch on the same day as the PSLV was postponed to next Sunday due to high altitude winds. (See earlier posting about the two missions.)
Now targeting December 2 for launch of Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Meanwhile, South Korea successfully carried out a suborbital launch of a single-staged rocket. The goal of the flight was to test a domestically developed 75 ton thrust engine that will be used for the three-stage orbital Korea Space Launch Vehicle-2 (KSLV-2). The kerosene/liquid oxygen powered engine appears to have performed as planned:
Sotheby’s on Thursday (Nov. 29) auctioned the only known pieces of Earth’s natural satellite to be collected from the lunar surface and be legally sold for $855,000. The three tiny pebbles were among a small cache of moon material that was brought back by the former Soviet Union’s Luna 16 robotic probe in 1970.
The same moon rocks — which were originally presented to Nina Ivanovna Koroleva, the widow of Sergei Korolev, the “Chief Designer” of the Soviet space program — were sold by Sotheby’s in December 1993 for $442,500. With inflation, Thursday’s sale in New York City reflected an increase of about $87,500.
Sotheby’s is holding a Space Exploration auction in New York today. The space collectibles and memorabilia items on sale include actual material obtained from the Moon’s surface:
The top lot in the sale was originally sold in the 1993 Russian Space History Sale here at Sotheby’s – a sample of lunar rocks returned to Earth by the Russian Luna-16 unmanned mission. It was the first time a piece of another world had ever been offered for sale to the public. It remains to this day, the only known legal sale of moon rocks to have ever occurred. We look forward to once again offering this tremendously rare and historic artifact to the public.
In addition there is
a wide variety of material from both the American & Soviet space programs — from lunar & space photography, original artwork by artists such as Chesley Bonestell and Alan Bean, flown mission artefacts and hardware, items from the personal collections of astronauts, autographed items, maps & charts, signed books, models, spacesuits, and much more, with material suited for both new and seasoned collectors.
Purdue University professor, David Spencer is leading an effort to send a CubeSat up for an attempted controlled solar sailing in Earth’s orbit. Solar sailing uses reflective sails to harness the momentum of sunlight for propulsion….
This project is sponsored by the citizen-funded Planetary Society, whose CEO is Bill Nye the Science Guy.
The CubeSat, LightSail 2, is one payload as part of the Air Force’s Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission that will launch on the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in early 2019. Spencer’s research team will be tracking LightSail 2, receiving the signal from the spacecraft as well as commanding the spacecraft during operations, from the Space Flight Projects Lab at the Purdue Technology Center.https://engineering.purdue.edu/SFPL
An increasing number of interplanetary missions are aiming at visiting asteroids and other small bodies, since these may provide clues to understand the formation and evolution of our Solar System. CubeSats allow a low-cost solution to land on these objects, as opposed to risking a much more expensive mothership. The weak gravitational field on these small bodies may also enable the possibility of simply dropping a CubeSat from afar (i.e. ballistic landing).
However, ballistic landing of an unpowered spacecraft may be feasible solely within certain asteroid locations, and only if sufficient energy can be dissipated at touchdown. If such conditions are not met, the spacecraft will rebound off the surface. It is likely that the necessary energy dissipation may already occur naturally due to energy loss expected through the deformation of the regolith during touchdown. Indeed, previous low-velocity impact experiments in microgravity seem to indicate that this is exactly the case. However, data from past asteroid touchdowns, Hayabusa and Philae, indicate the contrary.
This paper describes the development of an experiment which aims to bridge the aforementioned disagreement between mission data and microgravity experiment; to understand the behaviour of CubeSat landing on asteroids. …
While Cal Poly’s ninth CubeSat tests a way to reduce vibrations aboard orbiting satellites, the softball-sized satellite also has been busy snapping photos of the Earth.
DAVE, or Damping and Vibrations Experiment, launched Sept. 15 from Vandenberg Air Force Base with three other small satellites, or CubeSats, as secondary payload on NASA’s ICESat-2 (Ice Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2) mission.
PolySat, the student-run research lab, released its first high-resolution image that was snapped just hours after the launch. The photo shows Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago located between Norway and the North Pole.
“This is one of our better pictures,” said Grigory Heaton, a senior studying aerospace engineering and physics. “Our satellite is not controlled. It’s just spinning, so we have to get lucky with the pictures. This one, we were right overhead and got almost the entire archipelago.”
iCubeSat – Interplanetary CubeSat Workshop – Milan, Italy – May 28-29, 2019.“iCubeSat 2019, the 8th Interplanetary CubeSat Workshop, will address the technical challenges, opportunities, and practicalities of interplanetary space exploration with CubeSats. The workshop provides a unique environment for open wide ranging practical collaboration between academic researchers, industry professionals, policy makers and students developing this new and rapidly growing field.”