Today’s Tidbits: May 3, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: May 3, 2018

Here are’s tidbits for May 3, 2018:  Wilbur Ross expects gas stations on the Moon — soon; more problems for JWST. Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Wilbur Ross Expects Gas Stations on the Moon — Soon

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross seems to be quite a space cadet.  He has enthusiastically embraced the expanded role the White House is assigning to his Department for regulating non-traditional space activities and reforming existing rules for commercial remote sensing satellite systems.  But his space interests don’t end there.

Ross told the Washington Post’s Heather Long on Friday that he expects “gas stations” on the Moon. And soon.  She reports: “Asked whether a gas station on the Moon would happen in the next decade, Ross replied: It’s coming ‘a lot sooner than that.'”

A “gas station” on the Moon refers to making rocket propellant from water ice that has been detected on the Moon.  Water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen, which are used as rocket fuel.   Ironically, NASA has just cancelled a robotic lunar lander, Resource Prospector, that was intended to locate specific water ice deposits suitable for mining.  The Trump Administration is hopeful — even optimistic based on Ross’s comment — that the private sector will step forward to tackle the task.

More JWST Woes

NASA’s $8 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has run into more troubles.  Jeff Foust of Space News reported from a meeting of the National Academies’ Space Studies Board today that JWST Program Director Greg Robinson revealed that some “screws and washers” came off the spacecraft during recent testing at prime contractor Northrop Grumman.

NASA announced last month that JWST will suffer another launch delay, to at least May 2020, because of integration and testing (INT) challenges at Northrop Grumman.  The delay may cause the program to breach its congressionally-imposed cost cap. An Independent Review Board chaired by Tom Young is due to report by the end of this month on whether May 2020 is achievable after which NASA will inform Congress of those results and the cost implications.

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