Today’s Tidbits: August 16, 2018:

Today’s Tidbits: August 16, 2018:

Here are’s tidbits for August 16, 2018:  VP Pence to visit JSC next week; two polls show lack of public support for Space Force; China’s Chang’e-4 far side lunar lander/rover to launch in December; still no word from Oppy.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

VP Pence to Visit JSC Next Week

Vice President Mike Pence will visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center next Thursday, August 23.  He will be in the area for a fundraiser for Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) who represents part of nearby Houston.  Culberson chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA and NOAA and is in a tight reelection race.

Pence announced his visit to JSC via Twitter today.

Later, an Administration official told via email that: “Vice President Pence will visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center next Thursday, August 23. While at JSC, Vice President Pence will receive a briefing from NASA leadership and deliver remarks to NASA employees.”

Stay tuned for more details as we get them.

Polls Show Lack of Public Support For Space Force

Two polls — one by CNN and the other by YouGov — conducted since Pence made his Space Force announcement last week show an overall lack of public support for the idea.  Bearing in mind that answers to polling questions depend in large part on how the question is phrased, the CNN poll showed 37 percent in favor of  a Space Force with 55 percent against (and 8 percent not sure).  The YouGov poll found 29 percent in favor and 42 percent against (and 29 percent not sure).

CNN’s was conducted August 9 (the day of Pence’s announcement) through August 12 and released today. It has a margin of error of 3.9 percent. The complete poll is posted on CNN’s website: []

The exact question and results are in this snip:

The You Gov poll was conducted on August 13 and “[r]esults are weighted to be representative of the U.S. population.”  The full poll is available at [].  Here is the Space Force question.

As we’ve reported, it’s getting a mixed reaction on Capitol Hill as well.  The key to its fate likely will be whether the cost (in money and disruption) is worth whatever benefits its supporters perceive.  Pence said the FY2020 budget request will outline the costs and then the debate can begin in earnest.

China to Launch Chang’e-4 in December

China plans to launch its next lunar lander/rover in December.  Chang’e-4 was originally built as a backup to Chang’e-3, a stationary lander and rover (named Yutu) which landed on the Moon in December 2013.  The mission was not 100 percent successful, but close enough that China decided to go a step further with Chang’e-4 and send it to the Moon’s far side.  That will be a first. No spacecraft has soft landed on the far side before and since that side of the Moon always faces away from Earth, a communications satellite in lunar orbit is needed to relay signals from the lander/rover back to Earth.  China launched that spacecraft, Queqiao, in May.

China unveiled Chang’e-4 yesterday and announced a contest to name the rover (as they did with Yutu, which means Jade Rabbit).

China Global Television Network (CGTN) has artist renderings of what the lander and rover look like and a link for anyone who wants to enter the naming contest [].  Unfortunately it makes the all-too-common mistake of referring to the “dark side” of the Moon rather than the far side.

There is no permanent dark side of the Moon. One side of the Moon always faces Earth and it goes through phases from being fully lit (a Full Moon) to fully dark except for reflected light from Earth (a New Moon) every 28 days.  The far side goes through the same cycle.  When we see a New Moon, the far side is fully illuminated by the Sun.

No Word from Oppy

Artist’s rendering of the twin Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs) Spirit and Opportunity. Credit: NASA

Speaking of robotic probes, NASA still has not heard from its Mars rover Opportunity (“Oppy”).  The dust storm on Mars that is preventing sunlight from reaching Oppy’s solar panels to recharge them is finally subsiding, but not enough yet. NASA has not received a signal from Oppy since June 10, but remains optimistic that communications will be restored in time.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which manages the mission, issued a press release today with “Six Things About Opportunity’s Recovery Efforts.” []   First among them is waiting for the density of the dust in the atmosphere (“tau”) to drop below 2.  It was down to 2.1 but then increased to 2.5 according to a JPL website [] that is tracking the storm’s progress.

There are no guarantees that the rover will ever be able to communicate with Earth again or, even if it does, that it will be the same plucky little rover that it has been since it arrived on Mars in 2004.  Knowing how many Earthlings are fond of Oppy, JPL created a website where one can send the rover a “postcard” of support. []

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