This week we must sadly open with the news of the passing of John Glenn, whose list of accomplishments has been surpassed by none, serving America with honor both on and off our planet for almost all of his 95 years. Unfortunately, the news doesn’t get much better quickly as we discuss the recent failure of the Progress 65 resupply mission. We discuss the impact on ISS operations and the reliability of not just Progress, but other cargo resupply providers and what sort of payloads might be a bit more critical than others.
On the brighter side, we get an update on a SpaceX return to flight following their September 1, 2016 anomaly. Still brighter, after numerous attempts were thwarted by bad luck with weather and small glitches, Virgin Galactic completed the first free flight test of the VSS Unity, successfully gliding the new craft for the first time since the tragic loss of the VSS Enterprise.
Perhaps brightest of all, though, is our coverage from the successful launch of the first in a new line of extremely powerful weather satellites, NOAA/NASA GOES-R (now GOES-16). Our own Sawyer Rosenstein was at Cape Canaveral to capture the sights and sounds of what turned out to be a spectacular night launch, and you really don’t want to miss our exclusive audio on this one (grab the headphones!).
Then again, what’s brighter (to us) than our own sun? Pulling double special-duty this week, Sawyer brings an exclusive interview with Terry Kucera, an astrophysicist from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Solar Physics Laboratory and the STEREO Deputy Scientist. She brings us an update on the recently-recovered STEREO-B and hits home the importance of and ongoing efforts in understanding our local variable star in the Space Age.
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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....