Today’s Tidbits: May 28, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: May 28, 2018

Here are’s tidbits for May 28, 2018:  astronaut and artist Alan Bean dies; FY2019 NDAA advances in House and Senate; Chinese lunar smallsat apparently fails. Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Astronaut and Artist Alan Bean Dies

Alan Bean. Credit:

Former NASA astronaut Alan Bean passed away on May 26 at the age of 86.  In a statement issued through NASA, his family said he died after “suddenly falling ill while on travel in Fort Wayne, Indiana two weeks” earlier.

A Navy test pilot who joined the astronaut corps in 1963, Bean walked on the Moon in November 1969 as the Apollo 12 lunar module pilot.  He was joined on the surface by Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad, while Command Module Pilot Richard Gordon orbited overhead.  Conrad died in 1999; Gordon in 2017.

With Bean’s death, only four of the 12 astronauts who walked on the Moon are still alive:  Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11), David Scott (Apollo 15), Charles Duke (Apollo 16), and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt (Apollo 17).

Bean flew into space again in 1973 as commander of the second crew of Skylab, the first U.S. space station.  Designated the Skylab 3 mission, he spent 59 days in space with Jack Lousma and Owen Garriott, a record at the time.  Between his two missions, he spent almost 70 days in space.

After retiring from NASA in 1981, he became a well known artist.  As the statement from his family recounted “he devoted his time to creating an artistic record of humanity’s first exploration of another world. His Apollo-themed paintings featured canvasses textured with lunar boot prints and were made using acrylics embedded with small pieces of his moon dust-stained mission patches.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, a former Navy pilot himself, issued a statement praising Bean’s three careers as test pilot, astronaut and artist: “We will remember him fondly as the great explorer who reached out to embrace the universe.”

FY2019 NDAA Advances in House and Senate

Before leaving for its Memorial Day recess, the House passed the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  No major amendments were made to the bill affecting DOD’s space activities.  Despite White House opposition, the bill still includes a provision requiring establishment of a U.S. Space Command as a sub-unit of U.S. Strategic Command.

Meanwhile, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) completed markup of its version of the bill.  The markup was closed, so little is known publicly about what transpired. The committee said over 300 amendments were considered and the bill was approved 25-2.

The committee released an 11-page summary, which does not mention a U.S. Space Command.  Last year, the Senate disagreed with a House-passed provision to create a Space Corps within the Air Force.  Instead, it wanted to create a Chief Information Warfare Officer with authority over space, cyber and information programs.  The two sides agreed to commission a study on how best to organize DOD to manage space programs.  An interim report is due in August, and the final report in December.

It appears SASC still wants to address DOD’s organization and management of space programs in a broader context.  The summary notes that the committee “has long expressed its concern with the lack of an effective strategy and policy for the information domain, including cyber, space, and electronic warfare.”  It lists 11 changes it wants to make, but none specifically mention space, so it is not clear exactly what the committee has in mind absent access to the text of the bill and accompanying report.  The summary also says the committee added $150 million for hypersonics and $110 million for “space constellation efforts,” but without further description.

SASC Chairman John McCain (R-Arizona) is said to have played a key role in writing the bill behind the scenes, but was not in Washington for the markup.  He continues his fight against brain cancer from his home in Arizona. He tweeted his thanks to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) for assuming leadership of the committee in his absence and of the committee’s approval of the bill.

The committee named the bill in his honor — the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.

Chinese Lunar Smallsat Apparently Fails

When China launched Quequio to the Moon on May 20, it was accompanied by two small satellites — Longjiang-1 and Longjiang-2.  They are not part of Quequio’s mission, which is to serve as an orbiting communications relay satellite for the upcoming Chang’e-4 lunar far-side lander, but instead are small (45 kilogram) astronomy satellites intended to be placed into lunar orbit.

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who publishes Jonathan’s Space Report, tweeted that one of the two smallsats did not successfully make the insertion burn to enter lunar orbit.

DSLWP stands for Discovering the Sky at Longest Wavelengths Pathfinder.  The two satellites were intended to work together as a space-based interferometer.  Andrew Jones at said the Longjiang-1 failure would “put an end to those plans.” [].

Quequio itself appears to be fine.  Its destination is the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrange point.  It carries its own astronomy instrument:  the Netherlands-China Low-frequency Explorer (NCLE).

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