December 21-27, 2015 / Vol 34, No 51 / Hawai`i Island, USA

Steps into the Solar System: Mars Express Enters 13th Year at Mars, Hawai`i HI-SEAS Simulation Ongoing


The European Space Agency spacecraft Mars Express will enter its 13th year at Mars on December 25. It is one of 7 operating at the Red Planet alongside ISRO MOM, and NASA’s MAVEN, Odyssey, MRO, Curiosity Rover, and Opportunity Rover. Mars Express, with 8 science payloads weighing 116 kg, is collecting images of surface features to map terrain, mineralogy and geologic activity, monitoring brief ultraviolet auroras produced in the atmosphere, and mapping global atmospheric circulation / identifying ozone layers. The Beagle 2 lander, a 60-kg craft which was deployed by Mars Express in 2003 and failed to communicate, was finally located by MRO early this year showing it was on Mars surface intact. As the robotic craft gather information from the Mars, the HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) mission 4 on the slopes on Mauna Loa Hawaii is studying the human element of space exploration. Simulating missions over a 365-day period, ending August 28, 2016, Commander Carmel Johnston (L-R) is leading Christiane Heinicke, Sheyna Gifford, Andrzej Stewart, Cyprien Verseux and Tristan Bassingthwaighte on EVAs, experiments and psychological studies which can be applied to Moon, Mars, Asteroid and deeper Solar System missions at Jupiter and the Kuiper Belt. (Image Credit: ESA, ATG Medialab, DLR, FU Berlin, Lockheed Martin, C. Carreau, HI-SEAS, et al)


Dec 21 — ISS, LEO: Expedition 46 six-member crew working on Progress 62P arrival procedures, transferring cargo from Cygnus AO-4 and Soyuz TMA-19M including Biosignal human cell study, setting up NanoRacks gear, will participate in private and public holiday celebrations.

 Dec 21 — Hubble Space Telescope, LEO: Expected to continue operations until at least 2021, telescope is performing ‘Frontier Fields‘ study over 3 years consisting of 560 Earth orbits (630 hours) devoted to imaging 6 clusters of galaxies, all information gathered will be made public immediately.

 Dec 21 — Akatsuki (Venus Climate Orbiter), 400 x 440 km Venus Orbit: JAXA first successful planetary orbiter with an orbital period of 13 days 14 hours, to spend 3 months in check out phase and then image atmosphere, monitor weather changes at Venus for at least 2 years.

Dec 21 — RSA, Launch Soyuz / Progress 62P, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan: An RSA Soyuz rocket set to launch 62nd Progress cargo ship to ISS.

 Dec 21 — Earth2Orbit, Bengaluru, India: NewSpace company with Dr. Susmita Mohanty as CEO offering launch procurement services, remote sensing data procured from ISRO Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellite system, working with companies Taneja Aerospace, Genesys, Firefly Aerospace, Dhruva Space & Liquifer Systems Group.

Dec 21 — XCOR Aerospace, Mojave CA: Testing Lynx reusable engine with closed loop thermodynamic system, planning for first drop test flights of Lynx in 2016, constructing R&D Center in Midland TX and manufacturing site KSC FL.

Dec 21 — Generation Orbit Launch Services, Atlanta GA: Flight testing GO Flight Experiments Testbed for maturing small spacecraft & nanolauncher technologies, developing GOLauncher 1 hypersonic flight testbed and suborbital launch vehicle with first flight planned for 2017.

Dec 21-22 — University of Lisbon – Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), Lisbon, Portugal: 8th Black Holes Workshop.

DEC - FEB 2016 = All times

for terrestrial events in local time unless noted.

= All times for international terrestrial events in local time unless noted.

= All times for space events, and…

= All times for international space / astro events in Hawaii Standard Time unless noted. Add 10 hours to obtain UT (‘Universal Time;’ Greenwich, England).

Weekly Planet Watch – Evening Planets: Mercury (SW), Uranus (S), Neptune (SW); Morning Planets: Venus (SE), Mars (SE), Jupiter (SE), Saturn (S).

Indonesia Expands Space Exploration Horizons

calendar feature - Indonesia Dec 2015

The National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN) is working to develop the Roket Pengorbit Satelit (RPS) indigenous launch vehicle for projected maiden flight from near-equatorial Morotai Island by 2025. The Agency is receiving awards from President Joko Widodo for transparency and public information sharing and outreach as well as from the Ministry of Administrative Reform for outstanding performance accountability. Widodo stated that the era of information cannot be prevented or inhibited, but should be embraced, urging public bodies across the nation to implement transparency and innovate IT systems as a medium for interaction with people and communities. LAPAN recently signed a Technical Agreement for Joint Scientific Research and Operations for The Study Of Equatorial Atmosphere Dynamics with the Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere at Kyoto University of Japan. LAPAN Head Prof. Thomas Djamaluddin looks forward to the collaboration opening more opportunities in the development of technical capacities and utilization thereof, citing successful construction (2001) and operation of the Equatorial Atmosphere Radar (EAR) at Bukit Koto Tabang, West Sumatra. Data and results are also presently being compiled from the flight of LAPAN A2 / Orari, the first Indonesia-made micro-satellite (successor to LAPAN A1 / Tubsat), which was launched to space by India PSLV-C30 rocket on September 28, 2015. Ambassador of India to Indonesia and Timor Leste, Mr. Gurgit Singh, anticipates ISRO-LAPAN cooperation in the field of space will continue to advance. (Image Credit: LAPAN, NASA, Hubble/STSI)

Dec 21 — Winter Solstice: The Sun, appearing to travel along the ecliptic, reaches the point where it is farthest South of the celestial equator; 18:48.

Dec 21 — Moon: 6.2° N of Antares, 01:00.

Continued from…

Aug 28 – Aug 28, 2016 — NASA, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa, Mauna Loa HI: Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) Mission 4; at 2,440-meter altitude.

Nov 24 – Dec 22 — IEEE, edX, Online: Course: From Goddard to Apollo: The History of Rockets, Part 1; with instructor Burton Dicht.

Dec 20-21 — Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center, NASA, KSC FL: Fly with an Astronaut; tour of KSC and Apollo/Saturn V Center with Astronaut Jon McBride.


Dec 22 — Cassini, Saturn Orbit: Spacecraft conducts Orbital Trim Maneuver #434 today.

Dec 22-24 — Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center, NASA, KSC FL: Fly with an Astronaut; tour of KSC and Apollo/Saturn V Center with Astronaut Don Thomas.

Dec 22 — Moon: 8.6° S of Pleiades, 14:00.

Dec 22 — Ursid Meteor Shower Peak: Appearing to radiate from β star of Ursa Minor, Ursids are medium speed (33 km/sec), mostly faint with a few fireballs that may produce 9-10 per hour; visible in northern Hemisphere, 14:00.


Dec 23 — ISS, Progress 62P Docking, LEO: Progress craft with ~1,800 kg of cargo set to rendezvous and dock with ISS, live coverage available starting 10:00 UT.

Dec 23 — Eurockot, Launch Rockot / Sentinel 3A, Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia: Eurockot Rockot to launch Sentinel 3A Earth observation satellite for the European Space Agency and the European Commission to measure sea surface topography, sea & land surface temperature, ocean & land color.

Dec 23 — Moon: 1.2° NE of Aldebaran, 10:00.

Dec 23 — Mars: 3.5° NNE of Spica, 13:00.

Dec 23 — Aten Asteroid 2015 XN261: Near-Earth flyby (0.007 AU).

Dec 23 — Apollo Asteroid 1995 YR1: Near-Earth flyby (0.043 AU).

Dec 23 — Apollo Asteroid 2015 XZ378: Near-Earth flyby (0.047 AU).


Dec 24 — Barwell Meteorite Fall 50th Observation: Ongoing Near-Earth Asteroids research, tracking and mission planning continues; on Christmas Eve 1965 in Barwell, Leicestershire, England the Barwell “Christmas Meteorite” broke apart in Earth atmosphere, fragmented & struck a car and buildings.

Dec 24 — Moon: 5.9° S of M35, 23:00.

Dec 24 — Apollo Asteroid 2015 XX378: Near-Earth flyby (0.018 AU).

Dec 24 — Aten Asteroid 2011 YD29: Near-Earth flyby (0.025 AU).

Dec 24 — Aten Asteroid 163899 (2003 SD220): Near-Earth flyby (0.073 AU).


Dec 25 — Mars Express, Mars Orbit: ESA spacecraft begins 13th year in Mars orbit today; will continue to study Mars atmosphere, climate, planet structure, mineralogy, geology, and to search for traces of water; launched June 2, 2003.

Dec 25 — Moon: Full (Moon Before Yule / Cold Moon), 01:11.

Dec 25 — Apollo Asteroid 2003 YL118: Near-Earth flyby (0.095 AU).

Dec 25 — Aten Asteroid 2010 YO: Near-Earth flyby (0.099 AU).


Dec 26-31 — Virginia Living Museum, E&S Spitz, Newport News VA: Star of Wonder: Mystery of the Christmas Star.

Dec 26 — Moon: 14.6° S of Castor, 08:00; 11.1° S of Pollux, 13:00; 5.0° S of Beehive Cluster, 15:00.

Dec 26 — Aten Asteroid 310442 (2000 CH59): Near-Earth flyby (0.071 AU).

Dec 26 — Apollo Asteroid 2002 AC5: Near-Earth flyby (0.072 AU).

Dec 26 — Aten Asteroid 2015 XQ378: Near-Earth flyby (0.082 AU).


Dec 27 — The Space Show, Online / Tiburon CA: Host Dr. David Livingston presents “year end round up show” with callers discussing key events for 2015 and forecasts for 2016.