December 26, 2016 – January 8, 2017 / Vol 35, No 52 – Vol 36, No 1 / Hawai`i Island, USA

International Space Station Developing 21st Century Solar System Competency

ISS Expedition 50 six member crew from France, Russia and USA continue operations, exploration and life in space as the station passes 6,611 days on orbit. There are 4 spacecraft docked at the station including HTV-6, Soyuz MS-02 and MS-03 crew vehicles and the Progress 64 resupply. Commander Shane Kimbrough is preparing for 2 spacewalks: Extravehicular Activity (EVA) 38 on January 6 with crewmate Peggy Whitson and EVA 39 on Jan 13 with crewmate Thomas Pesquet, both scheduled to begin 07:05 Eastern Time and last approximately 6.5 hours. The objective is to install 6 new Japan-made Li-Ion batteries at the S4 truss replacing old units and improving power efficiency in the system that provides photovoltaic power to the habitat. This will mark the 15th European EVA with Pesquet becoming the 11th ESA astronaut to walk in space. Expedition 50 which also includes, Sergey Ryzhikovrew, Andrey Borisenko and Oleg Novitskiy continue Phase Change HX, CUBERIDER-1, Area PADLES, AquaMembrane,  Biochem Profile, Repository, Habitability, ESA-Active-Dosimeters, Fine Motor Skills, Lighting Effects, Multi-Omics, Neuromapping, Dose Tracker and Space Headaches investigations and experiments. ISS is a critical but tenuous toehold in space for humanity. To truly achieve Solar System Complete competence in the 21st Century humanity could strive to expand its permanent presence in space from ISS, to the Moon in the next 5-10 years, Mars in 10-20, Jupiter 30-40 and beyond. (Image Credit: NASA)


star-grey Dec 26 — ISS, 330-435-km LEO: Expedition 50 celebrate Holidays in Space video chatting with family & friends on Earth, working on cargo transfer from Japan HTV-6 & Russia Progress 64P, reviewing procedures for upcoming EVAs, verifying emergency equipment, small satellite deployments from NanoRacks Deployer may occur before end of year.

star-grey Dec 26 — Tiangong-2, 393-km LEO: China next-gen 8,600-kg Space lab operating nominally, Scientists at China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) say a working prototype of propellentless Electromagnetic Drive (EmDrive) propulsion is being tested onboard.

Dec 26 — Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Orbit: NASA craft in its 11th year at Mars, providing data on “spider-like” geological features found radially patterned channels found only in south polar region of Mars which could be caused by thawing-carbon-dioxide processes; mission has returned ~296 terabits of data so far.

star-grey Dec 26 — Cassini, Saturn Orbit: Flyby scheduled today of Enceladus (88,000-km altitude), Mimas (41,000-km altitude), Aegaeon (32,000-km altitude); craft launched 1997, end of mission scheduled Sep 2017.

circle-full-grey Dec 26 — Women on the Moon Space Priority Initiative, USA / Global: Incoming USA 2017 Administration could support putting 1st Woman on the Moon, returning Humans to Moon to advance space / Earth technologies, pioneer New Frontier at Moon South Pole, Enhance Humanity as Multi World Species.

 Dec 26 — ispace inc., Tokyo, Japan: NewSpace company signs MOU with JAXA to develop frameworks for lunar resource mining, delivery and utilization; this year Japan adopted a 20-year space national policy to strengthen the development of the space resource industry with a focus on lunar resources.

circle-full-grey Dec 26 — Tau Zero Foundation, Multiple Locations: Non-profit group of scientists & engineers sharing research related to interstellar travel, collaborating with Ohio Aerospace Institute to expand its graduate student program, founder Marc Millis; company blog Centauri Dreams run by Paul Gilster.

dec-feb-2017 = 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), Venus (SW), Mars (SSW), Uranus (S), Neptune (S); Morning Planets: Jupiter (SE).

American Astronomical Society Keeping Up with New Universe Discoveries in the New Year

The American Astronomical Society (est. 1899) is starting off New Year 2017 with its 229th Meeting in Grapevine, Texas January 3-7. This year’s program will feature Jill Tarter of SETI speaking on “The 21st Century: The Century of Biology on Earth and Beyond”, William Bottke of SwRI on “Early Solar System Bombardment: Exploring the Echos of Planetary Migration and Lost Ice Giants” and Garth Illingworth of UC Santa Cruz on “Exploring for Galaxies in the First Billion Years with Hubble and Spitzer – Pathfinding for JWST”. Exoplanets, black holes, galaxies, intergalactic medium, molecular clouds, dark matter, AGN, blazars, supernova, planetary nebulae, stars, and methods and instruments to observe these phenomena will be discussed during 158 oral and poster sessions. There will be a 90-minute session on W. M. Keck Observatory with 6 speakers, presenting a broad array of science highlighting the scientific complementarity between NASA missions and Keck observations. NASA venerable Hubble Space Telescope continues to provide astounding high-res images, ESA Gaia is working on 3D mapping more than 1 Billions stars, ISRO Astrosat is collecting multi-wavelength data ranging from nearby solar system objects to distant stars, and the next scientific data release is expected in March  from CNSA Chang’e-3 Lander Lunar-based Ultraviolet Telescope (LUT) operating from the surface of the Moon after 3 full years. Launching Dec 2017, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite will monitor more than 200,000 stars to discover exoplanets. James Webb Space Telescope, to observe some of the most distant events and objects in the Universe, is scheduled to launch Oct 2018. (Image Credit: AAS, NASA, ISRO, ESA, JPL, Caltech, SSC, et al)

Dec 26 — CNSA, Launch Long March 2D / SuperView 1 & 2, Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, China: Long March 2D rocket to launch SuperView 1 and 2 (GaoJing) Earth observation satellites for Beijing Space View Technology Co.

Dec 26 — Moon: 9.6° N of Antares, 14:00.

Continued from…

Oct 15 – Sep 4, 2017 — Peabody Essex Museum, Salem MA: Lunar Attraction Exhibit; featuring 60 Apollo memorabilia, paintings, sculptures, photographs, books, movies, jewelry that illustrate our profound connection to the Moon.


Dec 27 — Virginia Living Museum, Newport News VA: Planetarium Show: Star of Wonder – Mystery of the Christmas Star; a modern scientific exploration of the cosmic sky 2000 years ago, 12:30-16:30.

Dec 27 — Moon: 3.6° N of Saturn, 11:00.

Dec 27 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 YR: Near-Earth Flyby (0.018 AU).


Dec 28 — International Launch Services, Launch Proton / EchoStar 21, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan: Proton rocket with a Breeze M upper stage to launch EchoStar 21 communications satellite, formerly known as TerreStar 2.

Dec 28 — Moon: 1.8° N of Mercury, 19:00; New Moon, 20:53.

Dec 28 — Mercury: At inferior conjunction with Sun, 0.675 AU from Earth and 2.44° N of Sun, 09:00.


Dec 29 — Cassini, Saturn Orbit: Start of revolution 255 around planet.

Dec 29-31 — National Center for Theoretical Sciences, Hsinchu, Taiwan: 4th International Workshop on Dark Matter, Dark Energy and Matter-Antimatter Asymmetry.

Dec 29 — Moon: 2.7° N Pluto, 15:00.


Dec 30 — The Space Show, Online / Tiburon CA: Dr. David Livingston talks with aerospace analyst Tom Olson on Space Year in Review.

Dec 30 — Comet 45P Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova: At perihelion, 0.5326 AU from Sun, 19:00.

Dec 30 — Aten Asteroid 2012 YK: Near-Earth Flyby (0.043 AU).


Dec 31 — Cassini, Saturn Orbit: Titan flyby scheduled at 682,000-km altitude.

Dec 31 — WayPaver Foundation, Online / Chattanooga TN: WayPaver Fellowship application due.

Dec 31 — XPRIZE Foundation, Santa Monica CA: Google Lunar XPRIZE Teams must submit launch contract by midnight tonight PST in order to stay in GLXP competition and attempt to win grand prize of US$20M after craft reach Moon surface, travel 500 meters and downlink HD video; SpaceIL verified with SpaceX, Moon Express with Rocket Lab, Synergy Moon with Interorbital, Team Indus with ISRO PSLV (carrying Team Hakuto), Part Time Scientists with SpaceX via Spaceflight Industries.

Dec 31 — Airbus, Boeing Co., Via Satellite, SES, Orbital ATK, Intelsat, et al, Online / Washington DC: Due: Satellite 2017 Startup Space submissions; winning participants will get chance to share business & technology ideas in front of a panel of experts during Satellite 2017 Awards Reception on March 8, 2017.

Dec 31 — Leap Second Addition, Global: At very end of this day a leap second to be added to World’s clocks – which will read 11:59:60 (23:59:60); will be 17th leap second gained since 1972.


NET 2017 — International Lunar Observatory Association, Moon Express Inc., Canadensys Aerospace Corp., Launch ILO-1, TBD: Launch of ILOA multifunctional observatory to Moon South Pole; will conduct radio astronomy, scientific & commercial communications, serve as catalyst for lunar base build-out.

NET 2017 — ISRO, Launch GSLV Mark-2 / Chandrayaan-2, Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, India: India 2nd robotic Moon Mission expected to launch orbiter, and lander / rover for polar mission; plans for Chandrayaan 3 and 4 are underway.

NET 2017 — ESA, Launch ESA CHEOPS, TBD: Launch of CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite (CHEOPS) to LEO; planned mission to last 3.5 years.

NET 2017 — ISRO, Bengaluru, India: ISRO plans for Astronaut-rated Orbital Vehicle environmental control and crew escape system to be completed by this year, first launch of humans planned for 2021 on GSLV Mk. 3.

NET 2017 — Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), Multiple Locations: Harnessing the power of 9 radio telescopes Worldwide, EHT will attempt to take picture of Sagittarius A* black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy this year.

NET Q1 2017 — Interorbital Systems Corp., Launch Neptune 5 (5 CPM) vehicle / 27-unit payload, Mojave CA: Planning to launch Neptune 5 Common Propulsion Module (CPM) to loft 27-unit Team Synergy Moon spacecraft on Ballistic Lunar Transfer to orbit the Moon.

NET Q1 — SpaceX, Launch Falcon 9 / Formosat 5 & Sherpa, Vandenberg AFS CA: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to launch Formosat 5 for Taiwan’s National Space Organization (NSPO) and Sherpa from Spaceflight Industries carrying ~90 small payloads & CubeSats.

NET Jan — ISRO, Launch GSLV Mk. 3 / GSAT 19E, Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, India: First full orbital flight of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk.3 with GSAT 19E experimental communications satellite.

NET Jan — Eurockot, Launch Rockot / Sentinel 5p, Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan: Eurockot Rockot to launch Sentinel 5 Precursor Earth observation satellite for ESA & the European Commission to measure air quality, ozone, pollution, aerosols in Earth atmosphere.

NET Jan — SpaceX, Launch Falcon 9 / Iridium Next 1-10, Vandenberg AFB CA: SpaceX return to flight with attempted launch of 10 Iridium Next satellites aboard Falcon 9 for Iridium Communications Inc.

NET Jan — SpaceX, Launch Falcon 9 / SES 10, Vandenberg AFS CA: SpaceX recycled Falcon 9 rocket to launch SES 10 communications satellite for Luxembourg-based SES; typical launch cost for Falcon US$62M, company says usability could bring price down to $43M.

NET Jan – Nov — ExoMars 2016 Orbiter, Mars Orbit: ESA Trace Gas Orbiter scheduled to enter Aerobraking phase from Jan-Nov to enter 400-km orbit; set to adjust orbit inclination to 74° on Jan 17.

NET Jan — Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS), 2,500-meter Elevation, Mauna Loa HI: HI-SEAS 5 six-member ‘Lavanaut’ crew to begin 8-month space mission simulation.

Jan 1 — Deep Space: Farthest spacecraft from Earth, Voyager 1 and 2 exploring Interstellar Space and the Heliosphere (respectively), being powered by heat generated by radioactive decay, expected to operate until at least 2020s, may have to turn off gyroscopic operations in a year or two to preserve energy.

Jan 1 — Moon: 1.9° N of Venus, 23:20.


Jan 2 — Apollo Asteroid 226514 (2003 UX34): Near-Earth Flyby (0.049 AU).

Jan 2 — Moon: 0.2° N of Mars, 20:47.


Jan 3-7 — American Astronomical Society, Grapevine TX: 229th Meeting of the AAS; at Gaylord Texan Hotel & Convention Center; NRAO Town Hall on Jan 6.

Jan 3-7 — Indian Science Congress, Bharath Innovation Labs, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, India: 104th Indian Science Congress; at Sri Venkateswara University.

Jan 3 — Quadrantids Meteor Shower Peak: Appearing to radiate from constellation Quadrans Muralis; can produce up to 40 meteors per hour; visibility limited due to waning gibbous Moon; peak 04:00.


Jan 4 — AIAA, Online / Atlanta GA: Abstracts Due: AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum and Exposition (Propulsion and Energy 2017); to be held Jul 10-12.

Jan 4-7 — U.S. National Committee of the International Union of Radio Science (URSI), IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society, Boulder CO: National Radio Science Meeting (NRSM).

Jan 4 — Earth: At perihelion (0.98331 AU), 04:17.

Jan 4 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 XK: Near-Earth Flyby (0.043 AU).


Jan 5 — W. M. Keck Observatory, Kamuela HI: Cosmic Events Lecture: Geological Activity in the Solar System: New Discoveries and Unsolved Mysteries; Katherine De Kleer talks about elusive plumes of Europa, Enceladus’ dramatic cryovolcanic geysers, extreme volcanism of Io and the wide spectrum of active geological processes in the Solar System, 19:00.

Jan 5 — Unistellar, Consumer Technology Association, Las Vegas NV: Unistellar to showcase its Enhanced Vision Telescope “with amplified vision that revolutionizes astronomy” during Jan 5-8 Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Jan 5 — Cassini, Saturn Orbit: NASA craft to enter Orbit 256 around planet today.

Jan 5 — Moon: 6.7° N of Saturn, 09:47.


Jan 6 — ISS, Expedition 50 U.S. EVA # 38, LEO: Commander Shane Kimbrough and crewmate Peggy Whitson to perform first of two scheduled Extravehicular Activities to perform battery installation (+4 Contingency EVAs), 6.5-hour spacewalk to begin 07:05 EST.

Jan 6 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 XJ2: Near-Earth Flyby (0.072 AU).


Jan 7 — Mauna Kea Astronomy Outreach Committee, Mauna Kea HI, 2,800-meter level: The Universe Tonight; presentation on current research & discoveries occurring on Mauna Kea 18:00, followed by stargazing program, at Mauna Kea Visitor Information Center.

Jan 7 — Apollo Asteroid 85990 (1999 JV6): Near-Earth Flyby (0.069 AU).


NET Jan 8 — SpaceX, Launch Falcon 9 / EchoStar 23, Cape Canaveral AFS FL: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to launch EchoStar 23 communications satellite for EchoStar Corp to provide direct-to-home television broadcast services over Brazil.

Jan 8-27 — National Autonomous University of Mexico, Puebla, Mexico: Latin American School of Astronomical Observations.

Jan 8 — Apollo Asteroid 2016 YK: Near-Earth Flyby (0.035 AU).