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Today’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from around the globe. NASA’s Space Launch System could become a multi-use heavy lift rocket available for new space science and national security payloads as well as for starting U.S. explorers on missions to deep space, NASA’s contractor team for the project explains to a Washington round table earlier this week. MAVEN, NASA’s next Mars mission, is set for lift off on Monday to investigate profound but long running changes in the red planet’s environment. New videos trace the Martian transition and check in on the latest from the Curiosity rover. Strange object detected in the distant Kuiper Belt. A strategy for observing comet ISON. A chorus of comets. Saturn debuts in natural colors thanks to Cassini montage. NASA auditor warns the agency’s Commercial Crew Program faces new delays without adequate budgets; IG Paul K. Martin says start up could slip from 2017 to 2020. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden marks successes of Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems program that fostered two U.S. commercial International Space Station re-supply services. DARPA looks to a new space plane for the rapid fire launch of small satellites.
Human Deep Space Exploration
Space News (11/13): NASA’s Space Launch System, a pillar in the agency’s future human deep space exploration planning, could find additional space science and U.S. national security mission roles, major contractors involved in the development of the heavy lift rocket and the Orion crew exploration capsule told a Washington round table earlier this week. Multiple versions of the SLS could lift payloads of from 70 to 130 metric tons to low Earth orbit while varying the diameter of the fairing.
NASAspaceflight.com (11/13): NASA’s Space Launch System team is working towards a 2017 debut launch for the initial version. NASA’s contractor team looking beyond human deep space for missions of the SLS with a range of configurations.
Unmanned Deep Space Exploration
Los Angeles Times (11/13): NASA’s MAVEN mission launch is set for Monday at 1:28 p.m., EST, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. At Mars, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution orbiter will unravel the dramatic changes that accompanied the planet’s evolution. A NASA video illustrates what may have once been a rugged Martian landscape with flowing streams that stretched beneath puffy clouds.
NASA (11/14): Check in with NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars. This video sweeps across the rover’s August 2012 landing site in Gale crater, then follows the mobile lander’s path to the base of the mountain. Up ahead: sand dunes and then a climb.
Spaceflightnow.com (11/13): Curiosity’s goal is to reach the base of 3 1/2 mile high Mount Sharp in the spring of 2014. The rover is moving again after overcoming a software issue that halted activities in Gale Crater last week. Curiosity entered safe mode Nov. 7 during a software upgrade.
Discovery.com (11/13): Astronomers are puzzling over 2002 UX25, one of thousands of planetary bodies that lie in the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune. This one measures 400 miles across, yet has a density lower than water ice.
Wall Street Journal (11/13): A video presentation of Cassini’s montage of planet Saturn. The big ringed planet appears as it would if witnessed close up by human eyes.
Space.com (11/13): Tips on observing comet ISON. ISON is nearing a Nov. 28 encounter with the sun. If it survives, ISON would become spectacular to observe if you know where to look and how. And binoculars may trump a telescope for viewing by casual observers.
Astronomy Now (11/13): More than ISON. Spotting comets Encke, Lovejoy and LINEAR in the morning skies while awaiting ISON’s solar encounter late this month.
Commercial to Low Earth Orbit
Florida Today (11/13): NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, a major agency initiative to restore a U. S. human launch capability and provide astronauts with transportation to and from the International Space Station, faces further delay if not adequately funded, NASA’s Inspector General Paul K. Martin cautioned Wednesday. Commercial flights could be pushed back to 2020, Martin warned Congress has not embraced the initiative that has already slipped from a start date of 2015 to 2017. Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX are participating.
NASA (11/13): Administrator Charles Bolden extends praise to a pair of U.S. space companies as well as the NASA staff that partnered to establish commercial cargo services in support of the International Space Station. Next up, use the format to establish commercial crew transportation services for the space station. A NASA request for proposals will be issued to the U.S. commercial space community on Nov. 19 for the next phase of crew transportation systems that could be operating as soon as 2017.
Space News (11/13): The U.S. Defense Advanced Projects Agency plans to spend $14 million next year with U.S. industry to develop a reusable space plane that could launch as many as 10 payloads in 10 days. DARPA is looking to 2018 for the first flight.
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