Today’s Tidbits: October 29, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: October 29, 2018

Here are’s tidbits for October 29, 2018:  Epps not sure why she was bumped from ISS mission; Hubble back in business; ESA ministers endorse future vision. Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Epps Not Sure Why She was Bumped From ISS Mission

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), October 29, 2018. Screengrab.

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps reiterated today that she does not know why she was removed from her mission to the International Space Station (ISS).  Epps was training in Russia for the Expedition 56/57 mission that launched in June on Soyuz MS-09 when she was informed that she would not fly after all.   She was replaced by Serena Auñón-Chancellor.

Epps would have been the first African-American on a long-duration ISS expedition mission.

Speaking at a CSIS event this evening, she said her removal was a “management decision” that she does not yet understand and “we are still working through it.”  Asked if it was racially motivated or if the Russians were involved, she emphasized that her training was going well and her work with the Russians was “very friendly and very warm. … I wouldn’t say that the Russians had anything to do with this. … In my opinion I don’t think that they did.  Whether race played an issue,  I don’t know what’s in the mind of other people, I can’t say that, oh, definitely, or anything like that.  So I’m not quite sure of the reasons myself.  I do see a lot in the media of people speculating, but it is all speculation at this point.”

She has not been assigned to another mission yet, but is hopeful that’s in her future.

Hubble Back in Business

The Hubble Space Telescope is back to work making science observations of the universe.  Engineers were able to get a balky gyro working again.

As we reported earlier, Hubble needs three gyros to be able to do its full science workload.  It has six, all of which were replaced the last time it was visited by astronauts aboard a space shuttle in 2009.  Three were an older version, and three an improved design.  All three of the older versions have failed, as expected.  When the last of those failed on October 5, operators turned on one of the improved gyros that had been dormant for 7.5 years.  It did not operate as planned.   They finally got it working by turning the telescope in opposite directions (“slewing”) to clear any blockage in the “float” (the cylinder in which the gyro’s wheel is mounted).

After several days of additional testing, Hubble was put back into science mode late on October 26 and it completed its first new set of science observations at 2:10 am ET on October 27.

ESA Ministers Endorse Future Vision

Ministers from member countries of the European Space Agency (ESA) have endorsed a proposed vision for the future of Europe in space.

An Intermediate Ministerial Meeting (IMM18) of the ministers responsible for space activities from ESA’s member states was held on October 25 in preparation for the upcoming “Space19+” Ministerial Council meeting scheduled for November 2019.

According to an ESA press release, the four “most important decisions” that will face the ministers at Space19+ are:

With respect to programmatic content:

  • to restore ESA’s science programme as the world leader in the physics of the Universe by reversing the long-standing decline in buying power of the Level of Resources;
  • to make Europe central to the new era of global space exploration – forward to the Moon and on to Mars – working with existing (e.g. US) and new partners (e.g. China);
  • to partner with industry to achieve economic growth and societal benefit in traditional applications fields as well as in the new emerging domain of space safety and security (for example, satellites in global 5G communications; managing threats from extreme space weather; enabling new opportunities and markets in space such as in-orbit servicing) through both traditional partnerships and projects as well as ones pushing for more industrial involvement and responsibility; and
  • to reinforce technical innovation spin-in and spin-off.

Decisions will also be needed with regard to ESA’s relationship with the European Union, and policy and regulatory issues.

To that end, the IMM18 endorsed ESA Director General Jan Woerner’s proposal “for the future of Europe in space” including science and exploration, applications, access to space, operations and R&D, including space safety and security.  Read more at: [].

ESA has 22 members (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom), an associate member (Slovenia), and Cooperation Agreements with Canada and seven other European countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Slovakia).  It has a long history of cooperating with the United States and is a partner in the International Space Station (ISS) program.  It also has cooperative agreements with China in science and human spaceflight and ESA astronauts have trained with their Chinese counterparts.  China is planning to build its own multi-modular space station which it hopes to have operational by 2022.

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