What’s Happening in Space Policy April 2-8, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy April 2-8, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of April 2-8, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are on spring break (except for pro forma sessions) until April 17.

During the Week

This week’s BIG EVENT is tomorrow (Monday) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. NASA and the Canadian Space Agency will introduce the three Americans and one Canadian who will become the first humans to travel around the Moon in more than 50 years when they fly on the Artemis II mission late next year.

NASA promises that the next crew to land on the Moon will include a woman, but that’s not until Artemis III, the flight after this. So it’s anybody’s guess as to what the composition of this crew will be. NASA has 41 astronauts in its corps and Canada has four.

Who’ll be the lucky four to fly this crewed test flight of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft?  Liftoff is currently targeted for November 2024, exactly two years after the successful Artemis I uncrewed test flight.

Earthrise from Orion: Earth, visible as a tiny crescent in the lower right corner, was photographed by cameras on the Orion spacecraft (foreground) as it came back into view after traveling behind the Moon (center) during the uncrewed Artemis I mission. December 5, 2022. Credit: NASA

The Artemis II crew will embark upon a roughly 10-day mission around the Moon. This is a test flight and they will not go into orbit, much less land. They’ll use a free-return trajectory that will bring them back to Earth even if something goes awry with Orion’s engines.

The last time humans journeyed beyond low Earth orbit was Apollo 17 in December 1972. Gene Cernan and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt spent 75 hours on the lunar surface while Ron Evans orbited overhead. Schmitt was the only scientist — a geologist — to walk on the Moon and today is the only survivor of that mission (Cernan died in 2017, Evans in 1990). He is still actively engaged in lunar research and is one of the speakers at this week’s Lunar Surface Science Workshop on candidate landing sites for Artemis III (Tuesday-Wednesday).

The Artemis II crew announcement tomorrow will be livestreamed on NASA TV at 11:00 am EDT.

It’ll be hard to top that, but there other interesting events this week. Sticking with the human spaceflight theme, at noon EDT on Thursday, Axiom Space will give an update on their next private astronaut flight to the International Space Station, Axiom-2. That four-person crew will be commanded by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who holds several spaceflight records. She now works for Axiom. Joining her are race car driver John Shoffner and two Saudi Arabian astronauts, Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Alqarni. Their launch is planned for early May. The press briefing includes NASA ISS program manager Joel Montalbano, Axiom President and CEO Michael Suffredini (a former NASA ISS program manager), Whitson and others from NASA, the Saudi Space Agency, and SpaceX.

Earlier on Thursday, ESA will have a pre-launch press conference at 8:00 am EDT (14:00 CEST) in advance of the launch of the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE). The press conference will be livestreamed on ESA TV (separate briefings in French, German and Italian will take place subsequently, but not livestreamed). Launch from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana on an Ariane 5 rocket is scheduled for April 13.

ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) spacecraft being mated to its payload adapter at the Guiana Space Centre, Kourou, French Guiana. March 20, 2023. Credit: ESA-CNES-Arianespace

It will take five gravity assists and eight years for JUICE to enter orbit around Jupiter. Once there it will visit three of the planet’s moons thought to have liquid water under their icy crusts: Ganymede, Europa and Callisto. Ganymede is the focus and JUICE will be the first spacecraft to go into orbit around it. NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter, made several flybys of Ganymede and discovered it has its own magnetosphere. It’s the only moon in the solar system to have one as far as we know. Scientists want to find out why. NASA, JAXA, and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) contributed instruments or hardware to the mission. We’ll have more about JUICE next week in conjunction with the launch.

On the national security space front, the Mitchell Institute will hold its 2nd Spacepower Security Forum on Tuesday at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA.  It’s got a top-notch set of speakers starting with Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, Chief of Space Operations (CSO) for the U.S. Space Force. Others include Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt, Deputy CSO for Operations, Cyber and Nuclear; Lisa Costa, Space Force’s Chief Technology and Innovation Officer; and Derek Tournear, Director of the Space Development Agency (no doubt celebrating the successful launch of SDA’s 10 Tranche 0 satellites this morning).

Many other interesting events as well, of course, including the IAA’s 8th Planetary Defense Conference Monday-Friday in Vienna, Austria, which will be webcast (times on the agenda are in CEST, subtract 6 for EDT); a NASA media telecon on Wednesday for the upcoming launch of the Tropospheric Emissions Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) instrument as a hosted payload on the commercial communications satellite Intelsat 40e; and a Mitchell Institute Aerospace Nation webinar on Thursday that includes Space Force’s Lt. Gen. Philip Garrant, Deputy CSO for Strategy, Plans, Programs, and Requirements.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning are shown below. Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar or changes to these.

Monday, April 3

Monday-Friday, April 3-7

Tuesday, April 4

Tuesday-Wednesday, April 4-5

Wednesday, April 5

Thursday, April 6

Correction: an earlier version of this article said that JUICE would take six years to reach Jupiter. That was a previous schedule when launch was planned in May 2022 and arrival in October 2029. With an April 2023 launch date, it will take eight years, arriving in July 2031.

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