China to the Moon: Measured Progress, Strategic Ambitions
Chang’e-3 lunar landing and exploration mission to launch NET December 1 and, before the New Year, land on the surface of the Moon to begin first operations there in almost 40 years. The spacecraft launches on a Long March 3B rocket, currently China’s most powerful, from Xichang. The lander includes a 150-mm ultraviolet telescope and an extendable lunar regolith probe. The rover carries ground-penetrating radar that could furnish significant new data on the structure of the Moon down to 100 meters or more. Importantly, the lander itself is huge – 1,200 kg dry mass is 42% scale of Apollo equivalent – much larger than necessary to carry the 140 kg rover. It’s not one-of-a-kind either; a duplicate is being built as backup or to fly as Chang’e-4 in 2015. Up to four other lunar landers are being designed and built to carry out sample return (2017) and human missions (possibly as early as 2020). To achieve this and other future goals China is developing the Long March 9, a 48.9M-newton rocket over 30% more powerful than Apollo Saturn V. It is designed to lift payloads of 50,000 kg to Lunar Transfer Orbit. There is also a new launch site in the works at Hainan with relatively low latitude of 19°N and clear easterly flight paths. Significant progress is being made in China human spaceflight via the Tiangong Space Station program. China is likely looking further towards Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Kuiper Belt systems. (Image Credit: CNSA, Shi Yu)
India Focuses on Mars Spacecraft Trajectory Maneuver, Prepares for GSLV Launch in December
India Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) currently in LEO will perform a critical 22.51-minute engine burn on December 1 at 00:36 India time to send the spacecraft on its 300-day cruise to Mars. The 5-instrument orbiter includes a Methane Sensor for Mars, Lyman-Alpha Photometer, Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyzer, Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer and Mars Color Camera. A successful Mars mission would be a great achievement for India and help advance its interplanetary travel techniques and technological know-how. With this data and the anticipated return to flight of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), hopefully before the end of 2013, India will be back on track to develop / launch the Chandrayaan-2 Moon orbiter, lander and rover, and its human spaceflight program. The last launch of GSLV was in 2010 and only 2 of 7 have been completely successful. The planned GSLV-MK III and India Orbital Vehicle is intended to send India Astronauts (vyomanauts) to LEO, the Moon and Mars. India built the cryogenic engine indigenously, now it needs to master the technology in a step toward independence to sustain its spaceflight program and compete in the world space market. (Image Credit: ISRO, NASA)
= 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: Mercury (ESE), Mars (SE), Saturn (ESE).
Nov 25 — ISS, LEO: Expedition 38 preparing for Progress 53P resupply ship arriving Nov 29, installing low-noise fans, working with experiment to measure Earth’s albedo (Solar radiation reflected from surface).
Nov 25 — Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Moon Orbit: Data from CRaTER instrument providing 1st measurements of space radiation reflecting from Moon surface.
Nov 25 — MAVEN, Mars Trajectory: Scheduled to perform Trajectory Correction Maneuver #1 on Dec 3; will observe ISON with ultraviolet imaging spectrometer and 8 science instruments will be turned on for check out in Dec.
Nov 25 — Kepler, Heliocentric Orbit: Science team purposing to repurpose Kepler to point along ecliptic plane to observe small, cool stars that may harbor rocky planets.
Nov 25 — Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON): Space-based solar observatories (STEREO, SOHO, SDO) and ground-based solar telescopes will view comet as it reaches perihelion Nov 28, collect information on composition, how comet evolves through radiation / pressure of Sun atmosphere.
Nov 25 — Moon Express, Moffett Field CA: NewSpace company analyzing data from successful Mighty Eagle lander test using GNC software, planning for closed loop free flight test; recently received six-figure investment from Klee Irwin.
Nov 25 — Inspiration Mars, Delaware, USA: Feasibility study notes substantial government backing needed for mission: US$300M private donors, $700M government plus heavy-lift rocket development & human-rated capsule.
Nov 25 — Golden Spike Co., Boulder CO: Lunar Science Advisory Board of 7 chaired by Dr. Clive Neal will recommend Moon exploration strategies, sample collection and return requirements, surface experiment package needs.
Nov 25 — RSA, Launch Soyuz / Progress 53P, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan: An RSA Soyuz rocket set to launch 53rd Progress cargo ship to ISS.
Nov 25 — SpaceX, Launch Falcon 9 / SES 8, Cape Canaveral AFS FL: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket set to launch SES communications satellite.
Nov 25-30 — International Astronomical Union, Florianópolis, Brazil: 14th Latin American Regional International Astronomical Union Meeting (LARIM 2013); at Oceania Park Hotel and Convention Center; US$132-311 (BRL 300-700).
Nov 25 — Moon: 5.3° SSW of Regulus, 03:00; at last quarter, 09:29.
Nov 25 — Asteroid 2010 CL19: Near-Earth flyby (0.097 AU).
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.
Nov 7-27 — University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati OH: Neil Armstrong: The Life and Flight of a Reluctant Hero exhibit featuring Armstrong’s space mask, lunar log book, award plaques; in Philip M. Meyers Jr. Memorial Gallery, Steger Student Life Center.
Nov 26 — ISS, LEO: ISS Expedition 38 In-Flight Educational Event with the Charles County Public Schools in La Plata, Maryland; live coverage available, 16:05 UT.
Nov 26 — Australia Telescope National Facility, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CISRO), Sydney, Australia: Lecture: Highlights from the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) 25th Anniversary.
Nov 26 — Lunar and Planetary Institute, USRA, Online / Pasadena CA: Abstracts Due: Workshop on the Habitability of Icy Worlds; to discuss Jupiter & Saturn satellites, icy worlds of Uranus & Neptune, Kuiper Belt & beyond.
Nov 26 — Asteroid 2013 NJ: Near-Earth flyby (0.006 AU).
Nov 26 — Asteroid 2007 VW83: Near-Earth flyby (0.066 AU).
Nov 27 — Cassini OTM-364, Saturn Orbit: Spacecraft conducts Orbital Trim Maneuver #364 today.
Nov 27 — Australia Telescope National Facility, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CISRO), Sydney, Australia: Colloquium: Gamma Ray Bursts as Multi-wavelength Messengers.
Nov 27 — NASA HQ, Online / Washington DC: NASA Astronaut Tom Marshburn and Food Scientist Vickie Kloeris Discuss Thanksgiving in Space; live coverage available, 07:00 – 08:30 EST.
Nov 27 — Moon: 5.4° SSW of Mars, 03:00.
Nov 27 — Asteroid 2009 LD: Near-Earth flyby (0.082 AU).
Nov 28 – Dec 9 — European Commission, Lisbon, Portugal: European Space Tech Expo; to show how space and its applications provide benefits to Europe’s citizens; at Cathedral Square.
Nov 28 – Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON): At perihelion (0.0127 AU), 18:24 UT; if comet survives close encounter with Sun, it could outshine Moon when passing by Earth; closest Earth flyby estimated at 0.43 AU on Dec 26; may have long tail due to heat vaporizing ice; last Earth flyby was 10M years ago.
Nov 29 — ISS, Docking of Progress 53P, LEO: The 53rd Progress cargo ship to dock with ISS Zvezda module at 22:28 UT; live coverage available.
Nov 29 — The Space Show, Online / Tiburon CA: Host Dr. David Livingston talks with Dr. Roger Launius about his book Space Shuttle Legacy.
Nov 29 — Johnson Space Center, NASA, Houston TX: Lunch with an Astronaut, Brian Duffy; US$49.95 adult.
Nov 29 — Moon: 1.3° ENE of Spica, 09:00.
Nov 29 — Asteroid 2000 KA: Near-Earth flyby (0.060 AU).
Nov 29 — Asteroid 2013 VP12: Near-Earth flyby (0.070 AU).
Nov 30 — Mars Society Inc., Online / Lakewood CO: Application due for one year Mars mission simulation at the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station.
Nov 30 — Space Generation Advisory Council, NEO Project group, Minor Planet Centre, Online / Vienna, Austria: Submissions Due: Name an Asteroid 2013.
Nov 30 — Moon: 1.5° SW of Saturn, 22:00.
NET Dec — CNSA, Launch Long March 3B / Chang’e-3, Xichang Satellite Launch Center, China: China mission will be 1st soft landing / operations on Moon since 1976 if successful; China 3rd robotic lunar mission with 1st rover; anticipating at least 1 year of operations; sample return planned for 2017.
NET Dec – Space Florida, NanoRacks LLC, Cape Canaveral AFS FL: Eight International Space Station Research Competition winners’ projects will launch to ISS aboard SpaceX Falcon 9.
NET Dec – Boeing Company, Chicago IL: Developing CST-100 7-person spacecraft for NASA CCiCap, Avionics Software Integration Lab Multi-String Demonstration Test to occur this month.
NET Dec – SpaceX, Cape Canaveral AFS FL: Upgrading Dragon spacecraft to carry humans to space for NASA CCiCap, first tests of new systems and Launch Abort Test to occur this month.
Dec 1 — Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan), LEO / Mars Trajectory: Spacecraft to perform Earth Departure Maneuver today at 00:42 India time to escape highly elliptical Earth orbit and begin journey to Mars, expected to enter orbit Sep 24, 2014.
Dec 1 — Cassini, Saturn Orbit: Titan flyby scheduled at 1,400-km altitude.
Dec 1 — Deep Space, Ceres Trajectory / Main Asteroid Belt: Dawn spacecraft thrusting with ion propulsion system to reach Ceres Feb 1, 2015; rotates toward Earth once every 4 weeks to establish contact with NASA Deep Space Network.
Dec 1 — Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA, Greenbelt MD: Model Rocket Launches; up to 609-meter altitude; 13:00 – 14:00 EDT.
Dec 1 — Moon: 0.53° NE of Mercury, 13:00.
Dec 1 — Asteroid 2009 HD82: Near-Earth flyby (0.085 AU).