This week we’re (mostly) back to our regular programming, kicking off with two of our favorite subjects – the launches and landings of International Space Station crews, and it’s a busy season of shift changes via Kazakhstan. Since our last regular episode, we saw the conclusions of Expeditions 48 and 49 with some beautiful landings and the beginning of Expedition 50, with an additional 3 crewmembers scheduled to launch next week. Peggy Whitson, legendary astronaut, commander, and current holder of the record for spaceflight time for women, will not only add another long-duration mission to her impressive list of accomplishments, but will resume command for Expedition 51.
In other launch news, China’s Long March 5 joined the list of successfully-launched heavy lift vehicles last week while Worldview 4’s Atlas 5 launch issues spread across the country to affect GOES-R. It’s not all bad news for United Launch Alliance and their workhorse rocket, though, as Orbital ATK announced they will use it to launch another Cygnus on an ISS cargo mission. This time, rather than using it as a backup, it is for the additional rocket power enabling Orbital ATK pack a bit more cargo into Cygnus. Meanwhile, their competition, SpaceX, is narrowing down their investigation of the anomaly that took out the AMOS-6 mission, and is still planning to return to flight this year.
Moving from launches to space itself, we turn to NASA Goddard for some celebration and investigation. The Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS) set yet another world record, this time for using GPS at the highest altitude. We also had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Noah Petro, also at NASA Goddard, about his background in lunar geology and the upcoming supermoon. Be sure to check out this cool visual! Finally, we close out this episode with a discussion of the successful failure of the ESA’s Schiaparelli lander.
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This week we divert a little from our usual format to bring you some very special information. Most importantly, we respond to listener Kevin Streitmatter, who was wondering where the candidates for President of the United States stand on our favorite issue. Since the winner will set America’s space policy for the next 4-8 years and could deeply affect not only the current and future missions of NASA but the burgeoning commercial space industry, knowing their positions on space is crucial for any space advocate. However, since space is hardly a hot campaign topic, finding this information requires a bit of digging. Fortunately, we not only lay out and discuss the stated positions of the candidates on this episode, but Kat Robison has turned our voter guide into a handy cheat sheet to help U.S. voters make an informed decision, including links to great sources to learn even more.
Continuing our coverage of the 67th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) from the previous episode, we dip into this year’s theme, Making Space Accessible and Affordable to all Countries by bringing you an exclusive interview with the CEO, Stefan Gardefjord, and Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Guillermo Bosch, of SSC, the umbrella of the Swedish Space Corporation and their varied group of companies. From their 50-year history to what’s now and coming next, they lay out their vision for the future of the industry and the role they can play in making access to space a reality for a far wider range of clients.
Sometimes Talking Space doesn’t just cover the news but becomes part of the story, as both our correspondents pulled double-duty by presenting at IAC this year....
We begin this episode with an ending, as Rosetta joined its companion, Philae, on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on September 30, with confirmation arriving at mission control in Darmstadt at 11:19 UTC. This is hardly a time for mourning, but rather the celebration of an ambitious mission accomplished and still more data to learn from. While we await those studies we invite you to check out the latest installment of Rosetta’s cartoon and the short film Ambition.
Meanwhile, back in the States, Orbital ATK was preparing to return the Antares to flight. Carrying their Cygnus cargo ship full of supplies headed to the International Space Station, this launch has been plagued by storms in the Atlantic and other delays, and our own Gene Mikulka headed down early to keep an eye on the process and discusses what this launch means for the launch facility, the area around it, as well as for Orbital ATK and NASA.
Speaking of recovering from mishaps, this brings us down to the Kennedy Space Center and the investigation of what happened with SpaceX’ AMOS-6. Was it the second stage helium tank… or could it have been sabotage? The Washington Post reports that an official from SpaceX wanted to investigate the roof of a United Launch Alliance building known as the SMARF. We discuss the rumors, innuendo, known facts, and when there might be some concrete answers that will allow SpaceX to prepare for future launches safely. Looking further ahead, how will this incident affect the larger space industry?
Looking still further ahead, we begin our coverage of the 67th International Astronautical Congress with a breakdown of Elon Musk’s presentation, Making Humans an Interplanetary Species with insights from in the room by Kat Robison and Kassy Tamanini. Is Musk’s plan to not only have SpaceX be the first to land on Mars but to move 100 people at a time to the red planet realistic? From the details he revealed (and didn’t) to the way the event was managed, we’ve got plenty to comment on.
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