Today’s Tidbits: June 30, 2020

Today’s Tidbits: June 30, 2020

Here are’s tidbits for June 30, 2020: Mars Perseverance launch delayed to July 30; Russia to fly woman cosmonaut and allow space tourist to make a spacewalk; and people on the move.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Mars Perseverance Launch Delayed to July 30

The launch of NASA’s next Mars rover, Perseverance, has been delayed again, this time to July 30.

Illustration of the Mars Perseverance rover. Credit: NASA

The launch originally was scheduled for July 17, but slipped to July 20 because of a problem with a United Launch Alliance (ULA) crane needed to move the Atlas V rocket to the launch pad. Then it slipped to July 22 because of a “processing delay encountered during encapsulation activities of the spacecraft. Additional time was needed to resolve a contamination concern in the ground support lines in NASA’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF).”

Today, NASA announced a delay to July 30 because of something that cropped up during the “Wet Dress Rehearsal” when the rocket is fueled (“wet”) as part of pre-launch testing.

Due to launch vehicle processing delays in preparation for spacecraft mate operations, NASA and United Launch Alliance have moved the first launch attempt of the Mars 2020 mission to no earlier than July 30. A liquid oxygen sensor line presented off-nominal data during the Wet Dress Rehearsal, and additional time is needed for the team to inspect and evaluate.

The good news is that the launch window was pretty long to begin with — through August 11 — and further analysis has extended that window to August 15.

Illustration of Ingenuity, the Mars helicopter. Credit: NASA

NASA is very anxious to launch Mars Perseverance this year.  Mars and Earth are aligned properly only every 26 months, so if it misses this window, it will have to wait until 2022.  In addition to delaying all that highly anticipated science, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine estimates it will cost $500 million for the two-year delay.

Perseverance is similar in design to the Curiosity rover that landed on Mars in 2012.  One difference is that this one is bringing along a companion — a tiny helicopter named Ingenuity.  If all goes well, it will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet.

Roscosmos to Fly Woman Cosmonaut; Space Tourist to Make an EVA

Russia’s space State Corporation Roscosmos announced plans over the past week for some of its upcoming crews.  Among them, it will launch a woman cosmonaut for the first time in many years. Anna Kikina has been assigned to a flight in 2022.

Although the Soviet Union launched the first woman into space (Valentina Tereshkova in 1963) and Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya was the first woman to make a spacewalk (1984), very few Russian women have flown in space.  Only two others have made spaceflights: Yelena Kondakova and Yelena Serova.  Savitskaya and Kondakova each made two spaceflights.  Serova was the most recent Russian woman in space, spending 167 days on the ISS in 2014.

Russia, which has cornered the market on space tourism, is upping its game.  RSC Energia has signed an agreement with Space Adventures to fly two space tourists to the ISS in 2023 and one of them will make a spacewalk. A professional cosmonaut will accompany the tourist, but no further details were provided about how much training the tourist will be expected to undergo.

Russia has sent seven space tourists to ISS so far on eight flights (one flew twice): Dennis Tito (US, 2001), Mark Shuttleworth (UK, 2002), Greg Olsen (US, 2006), Anousheh Ansari (US/Iran, 2006), Richard Garriott (US, 2008), Charles Simoni (US, 2007 & 2009) and Guy Laliberte (Canada, 2009).  Space tourists are generally defined as individuals who pay their own money to fly into space instead of on behalf of a space agency or other government sponsor.  Russia suspended its space tourist flights for a decade, selling the available seats on Soyuz spacecraft instead to NASA, which needed to purchase crew transportation services after the space shuttle program was terminated in 2011.  With the first U.S. commercial crew test flight underway and the expectation that NASA no longer needs those seats, they are once again available for other paying customers.

People on the Move

  • Joel Montalbano is the new International Space Station (ISS) Program Manager.  He succeeds Kirk Shireman, who held the position since 2015 and very recently announced his retirement.  Montalbano has been Deputy ISS Program Manager since 2012.  Before that he was director of NASA’s Human Spaceflight Program in Russia, and a NASA flight director. Before joining NASA in 1998, he worked at Rockwell.
  • Anne Kinney is the new Deputy Director of Goddard Space Flight Center.  A space scientist and astronomer, she spent a good part of her career at NASA HQ and Goddard and was an instrument scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope.  She left NASA to serve as Chief Scientist of the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, then returned to the D.C. area to be associate director of the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences.
  • Dave Radzanowski is the new Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Aerospace Corporation. He was NASA’s CFO from 2014-2017 when Charlie Bolden was Administrator and Bolden’s Chief of Staff before that. For the past three years, he has been in Australia leading the strategic business functions of Australia’s Future Submarine Program at the Equator Corporation. Before joining NASA in 2006, he spent 8 years at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) overseeing NASA and other science agencies. Prior to OMB, he was a space policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service on Capitol Hill.
  • Karen St. Germain is the new Director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate.  She was Deputy Assistant Administrator of NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Services (NESDIS), the part of NOAA that manages satellites. Prior to NOAA, she worked at the Space, Strategic and Intelligence Systems Office (SSI) in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition. Prior to that she was a researcher in earth science at the University of Massachusetts, the University of Nebraska, and the Naval Research Lab.

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