December 23-29, 2013 / Vol 32, No 51 / Hawai`i Island, USA

Solar System Human Missions for the 21st Century – Part 1

calendar feature - solar system human mission (a)Humanity in this century could strive to explore and develop capability throughout the Solar System. Earth-Moon Cislunar baseline infrastructure may be the foundation for explorations of Free Space, Near-Earth-Objects, Mars, main Asteroid Belt, outer Solar System, and Galaxy Stars beyond. The recent resumption of activities on the lunar surface by China’s Chang’e-3 lander and Yutu rover could mark the beginning of permanent operations on the Moon with many national and independent enterprises including Moon Express, Golden Spike, Shackleton Energy and others on the way. Human Moon missions are expected about 2020. Another key waypoint for inner Solar System exploration is being pursued by national space agencies and projects such as Mars One and Inspiration Mars. While hundreds of times farther away than the Moon and therefore more difficult, costly to travel to, the Red Planet may offer unique opportunities and somewhat more Earth-like conditions, environment and geology. The asteroid belt and dwarf planet Ceres, currently being studied by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, hold vast resource potential and are integral to our understanding and development of the inner Solar System in the next 5-50 years. Proposed missions would study and utilize NEOs and asteroids in situ or capture and tow them closer to Earth, likely parking in lunar orbit. In the next part of this special series we will chart a course for the outer Solar System. (Image Credit: NASA, JPL, GSC, NatGeo)

ISS Human Space Activity and 3 Upcoming Russia Launches

ISS Exp 38 & Russia LaunchesExpedition 38 has a busy schedule heading into the New Year. Three 6.5-hour EVAs are scheduled on December 21, 23 and 25. Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins will work to replace a pump module with a failed valve to solve the recent ISS coolant leak. On Dec 27 Commander Kotov and Sergey Ryazansky are scheduled to perform Russia EVA-37 at 13:00 UT. They will install a new experiment, foot restraint and the UrtheCast camera system on the Zvezda module. UrtheCast will be a publicly accessible video stream for ISS events and images of Earth. Progress 52P continues to have its cargo transferred and is being filled with waste. Orbital Sciences Corp. Cygnus freighter’s 1st operational mission is now scheduled to launch to ISS January 13, 2014. Russia is set to launch the Soyuz 2-1v rocket with a Volga upper stage on its maiden flight from Plesetsk Cosmodrome Dec 23 with a student-built AIST microsatellite and SKRL-756 calibration spheres. Two days later a Rockot vehicle is scheduled to launch 3 Rodnik communications satellites for the Russia military. A Proton rocket with a Breeze M upper stage will launch the Express AM5 civil communications satellite for Russian Satellite Communications Co. on Dec 26 from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. (Image Credit: NASA, RSA, A. Zak / RussianSpaceWeb)

Dec - Feb 2014 = 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: Venus (SW), Jupiter (ENE); Morning Planets: Mars (S), Saturn (SE).


Dec 23 — ISS, LEO: Expedition 38 checking gear, conducting EVAs Dec 23, 25, 27; continuing transfer of cargo from Progress 52P; ISS station keeping activities.

Dec 23 — ISS, USA EVA, LEO: Mastracchio, Hopkins to perform second 6.5-hour EVA in series of three to continue removing and replacing pump module with failed valve to solve ISS coolant leak; 12:10 UT, live coverage available.

Dec 23 — Yutu Rover, Mare Imbrium – Sea of Rains, 44.12°N 19.51°W, Moon Surface: Rover scheduled to wake from brief hibernation and begin operations again today.

Dec 23 — Kepler, Heliocentric Orbit: Over next 6 weeks science team will conduct pointing performance tests on spacecraft, prepare funding proposal for K2 repurpose mission.

Dec 23 — Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan), Mars Trajectory: Instruments being checked while spacecraft cruises toward Mars, expected to arrive Sep 24, 2014; TCMs planned for Apr, Aug, Sep.

Dec 23 — Sierra Nevada Corp., Louisville CO: NewSpace company Dream Chaser spacecraft to be studied by OHB System AG & DLR to determine uses including ISS transportation, microgravity research, satellite launch / decommissioning.

Dec 23 — Virgin Galactic, Las Cruces NM: Preparing for powered flight test of SpaceShipTwo in early Jan 2014.

Dec 23 — Planet Labs Inc., San Francisco CA: Flock-1 fleet of 28 ‘Dove’ Earth observation satellites to launch Jan 13, 2014; recently procured additional US$52M to support data processing.

Dec 23 — RSA, Launch Soyuz 2-1v / AIST & SKRL-756, Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia: Maiden flight of Soyuz 2-1v rocket with Volga upper stage to launch student-built AIST microsatellite and SKRL 756 calibration spheres.

Dec 23 — NSPIRES, NASA HQ, Online / Washington DC: Last Day to Submit Proposals: Announcement of Opportunity: Mars 2020 Investigations.

Dec 23 — Asteroid 2013 WD44: Near-Earth flyby (0.059 AU).

Continued from…

Aug 9 – Jan 7, 2014 — NASA HQ, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Online / Worcester MA: Registration Open: 2014 Sample Return Robot Challenge; industry & academic teams to demonstrate robots (Jun 2014) that can locate & retrieve geologic samples from varied terrains without human controls; US$1.5M grand prize.

Aug 16 – Mar 15, 2014 — Mars Society, Online / Lakewood CO: International Student Design Competition: Concepts for Inspiration Mars Mission; for students to design 2-person Mars flyby mission for 2018 as cheaply, safely, simply as possible; US$10K grand prize.


Dec 24 — Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Moon Orbit: Spacecraft will attempt to image Chang’e-3 Lander & Yutu Rover today.

Dec 24 — 45th Apollo 8 Observation, Worldwide: EarthRise photograph 45th Anniversary; commemorating the 1st color image of Earth taken by a person orbiting the Moon Dec 24, 1968.

Dec 24 — Southwest Minnesota State University Planetarium, Marshall MN:Star of Wonder‘ planetarium show created by Planetarium Director Ken Murphy, 16:00 CST, US$5.


Dec 25 — ISS, USA EVA, LEO: If necessary, Mastracchio, Hopkins to perform third 6.5-hour EVA to continue removing and replacing pump module with failed valve to solve ISS coolant leak; 12:10 UT, live coverage available.

Dec 25 — RSA, Launch Rockot / Rodnik, Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia: Rockot vehicle to launch 3 Rodnik communications satellites for Russia military.

Dec 25-27 — National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan: Conference: Theoretical Space Physics and Astronomy in Anticipation of the 2020s.

Dec 25 — Moon: At last quarter, 03:49; 4.4° SSW of Mars, 14:00.


Dec 26 – Comet ISON: Near-Earth flyby (0.426 AU), 22:00 UT; may not be visible by naked eye as comet did not fully survive encounter with Sun; last return to Earth was 10M years ago.

Dec 26 — RSA, Launch Proton / Express AM5, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan: Proton Rocket set to deploy civil communications satellite for Russian Satellite Communications Co.

Dec 26 — Moon: 1.3° NNW of Spica, 16:00.


Dec 27 — ISS, Russia EVA-37, LEO: Kotov, Ryazansky to perform EVA for installation of UrtheCast camera system, foot restraint, new experiment, payload boom, 13:00 UT, live coverage available.

Dec 27 — Johnson Space Center, NASA, Houston TX: Lunch with an Astronaut, David Hilmers; US$49.95 adult.

Dec 27 — Asteroid 2013 WV45: Near-Earth flyby (0.061 AU).


Dec 28 — Moon: 0.98° SSW of Saturn, 14:00.

Dec 28 — Asteroid 2011 YD29: Near-Earth flyby (0.016 AU).

Dec 28 — Asteroid 2011 YD29: Near-Earth flyby (0.032 AU).


Dec 29 — Mars Express, Mars Orbit: Phobos flyby scheduled at 50-km altitude.

Dec 29 — Cassini OTM-367, Saturn Orbit: Spacecraft conducts Orbital Trim Maneuver #367 today.

Dec 29 — Chicago Society for Space Studies, Schaumburg IL: 2013 Space Year in Review presentation by CSSS Vice President Larry Boyle; 12:15 – 14:30 CST.

Dec 29 — Moon: 7.4° N of Antares, 22:00.

Dec 29 — Asteroid 2010 XZ67: Near-Earth flyby (0.064 AU).