Scientists want NASA and ESA to work together on a Europa lander mission.
At a conference in Vienna Monday, scientists proposed the Joint Europa Mission, including a lander and orbiter to study the moon of Jupiter thought to have a subsurface ocean of liquid water.
It’s unclear how this proposal would work with existing NASA studies of a Europa lander mission that could launch as soon as 2025. [New Scientist]
Israeli satellite operator Spacecom is looking for a new suitor after a Chinese company backed out of a deal to buy it. Spacecom announced last August that Beijing Xinwei Technology Group would buy the company for $285 million, a deal contingent on the successful launch of Spacecom’s Amos-6 satellite. However, Amos-6 was destroyed in a Falcon 9 pad explosion days after the deal was announced, putting the sale in jeopardy. Efforts to renegotiate the sale have failed, and Spacecom’s owner, Eurocom Group, is looking for other potential buyers. Spacecom, meanwhile, is planning to build a replacement for Amos-6, with a goal of launching it by 2020. [SpaceNews]
President Trump suggested he’d like to accelerate plans to send humans to Mars. In a conversation with astronauts on the ISS, he asked about NASA’s schedule for human missions to Mars. Told that such missions are currently planned for the 2030s, he responded, “Well, we want to try and do it during my first term or, at worst, during my second term.” While some interpreted that comment as a joke, he later said of sending astronauts to Mars, “I think we’ll do it a lot sooner than we’re even thinking.” Trump didn’t comment on near-term NASA issues, like selecting a new administrator or reestablishing the National Space Council, during the 20-minute conversation. [SpaceNews]
Trump’s Mars comments overshadowed the reason for the call, to celebrate a new NASA record. Astronaut Peggy Whitson set a new U.S. record Monday for cumulative days in space at 534, breaking the mark set last year by Jeff Williams. With a recent extension of her current mission on the ISS, she will spend more than 660 days in space before returning to Earth in September. A banner on the ISS, visible in the call with the president, celebrated her as the “New U.S. High-Time Space Ninja.” [collectSPACE]
A latch that didn’t close properly was the cause of the vibration test anomaly experienced by the James Webb Space Telescope last December. The program manager for JWST said at a committee meeting Monday that teeth on each side of the latch didn’t seat together properly when closed, causing anomalous readings during a Dec. 3 vibration test. That incident did not damage the telescope, which has since successfully completed vibration and acoustic testing at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Despite the delays caused by the testing anomaly, NASA says JWST remains on schedule for an October 2018 launch. [SpaceNews]
Roscosmos has dismissed three veteran cosmonauts. The state space corporation said Monday that Sergei Volkov, Alexander Samokutyayev and Sergei Revin has been dismissed from the cosmonaut corps. Sources said that Volkov, who has spent 547 days in space on three missions, resigned. Samokutyayev, who spent 331 days in space, and Revin, who spent 125 days in space, were reportedly removed for medical reasons. [TASS]
The Canadian Space Agency announced a final list of potential new astronauts. The 17 men and women are finalists from an initial pool of 3,772 applicants last year. The agency plans to select two this summer to begin training at NASA in August. [CTV]
Apple has hired a NASA expert in virtual reality to help that company’s development of related technology. Jeff Norris had led the Mission Operations Innovation Office at JPL, working on technologies such as headsets used by scientists to plan rover movements on the Martian surface. Norris is expected to work on projects at Apple related to augmented reality, a technology of particular interest to company CEO Tim Cook. [Bloomberg]
A startup company plans to launch a virtual reality cubesat later this year. SpaceVR expects to launch its Overview-1 satellite from the ISS after it’s delivered to the station on a SpaceX Dragon cargo mission scheduled for September. The spacecraft is equipped with eight cameras that will provide video of the Earth and space intended for use in VR headsets. [Florida Today]