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NASA setbacks for Moon and Mars missions.

NASA outlines setbacks to Artemis missions. JPL lets go of 100 contractors. Astrobotic says there’s no chance of soft landing Peregrine on the Moon. And more.




NASA is pushing back its schedule for Artemis 2 to September 2025, with the Artemis 3 mission, which will land the first humans on the moon since the 1970s, delayed to September 2026.  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory lays off 100 contractors as part of a  cost-cutting effort. Astrobotic says there’s no chance of soft landing Peregrine on the moon, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Anurita Chandola, a textile artist who has transitioned into a spacewear designer. 

You can connect with Anurita on LinkedIn and learn more about her work on her website.

Selected Reading

More delays for NASA's astronaut moonshots, with crew landing off until 2026

Questions about NASA's Mars Sample Return mission put JPL jobs in jeopardy - Los Angeles Times

News & Press | Astrobotic Technology

Voyager Space and Airbus Finalize Starlab Space LLC Joint Venture

Rocket Lab Makes its Defense Prime Debut with $0.5 Billion Contract to Design and Build Satellite Constellation for Space Development Agency- Business Wire

Army Space Vision 

Venus Aerospace Partners With Nasa's Marshall Space Flight Center On New Engine Technology

Muon Space Selected by AFWERX for SBIR Phase I Contract

ESA - Einstein Probe lifts off on a mission to monitor the X-ray sky

Arka Shines and Rudra Roars

NASA TechLeap Prize: Universal Payload Interface Challenge

Space Force taps Microsoft to build cloud-based, simulated space environment- DefenseScoop

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It’s never fun to start our show with bad news, but here we are. The first commercial lunar lander mission will fail, and now Artemis is facing further delays. For the record, our Producer Alice predicted both of these things at the end of last year- seriously she called it, go back and listen to her comments in the last show of 2023, hence my new name for her: the space oracle. In any case, you know what obligatory phrase I’ve got to say when the news isn’t so great, right? Yep, space is hard. 


Today is January 9th, 2024. I’m Maria Varmazis. And this is T-Minus.

NASA outlines setbacks to their Artemis missions. JPL lets go of 100 contractors. Astrobotic says there’s no chance of soft landing Peregrine on the moon.

But on a much brighter note, our guest today is Anurita Chandola, a textile artist who has transitioned into a spacewear designer. It’s a great chat so stick around for the second part of the show.


Humans will not be going to the moon in 2024… That’s the main headline that came out of a media briefing held by NASA today. NASA is adjusting its schedule for Artemis 2 to September 2025, that’s the crewed mission that will go around the moon. And as for the Artemis 3 mission, it is delayed to September 2026. Artemis 3 will land the first humans on the moon since the 1970s, if China doesn’t get there first. Meanwhile, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson says Artemis 4 “remains on track” for September 2028.

NASA says safety is the priority of the space agency and they say that they will launch when they are ready and not before. The space agency outlined areas that have provided sources of learning for them. First from Artemis 1, the performance of the heat shield experienced an “unexpected phenomena”. The shield performed as expected but there was some charring and debris that was not in the original models that need further examination. They want to achieve 100% understanding of the phenomena before putting humans in the capsule.

Other areas involve hardware- firstly life support valves did not pass the Artemis 3 design flow, in particular issues were found with CO2 scrubbing. NASA says they are working to resolve those issues. The other issue is in the Lockheed Martin-built Orion crew capsule's batteries. Deficiencies were shown in the performance but NASA says they do not have a path forward for resolving those issues yet. The overall message was that further delays may happen with the Artemis missions while crew safety remains their main priority.


And we have more bad news for the US space agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory laid off 100 contractors last week. NASA said it will scale back part of the first-ever effort to bring pieces of Mars to Earth, after a cost-cutting order from the agency’s administration that US lawmakers called “short-sighted and misguided.” The move is in response to budget concerns- that fiscal year budget is still under dispute at the US federal government level. The Mars sample mission budget is possibly going to be set at $300 million this fiscal year; just 36% of the previous year’s $822-million budget and less than one-third of the $949 million the Biden administration requested for the program. Last week’s layoffs of contract employees along with a hiring freeze are part of a lab-wide effort to reduce spending. In addition,  NASA has ordered JPL to cease operations at the end of this month on a key project within the mission to bring a piece of Mars back to Earth, specifically a joint project with the European Space Agency and one of the biggest and most complex missions undertaken at the lab.


An update on yesterday’s rollercoaster of news coming from the Astrobotic lunar lander launch. The company says that there is, unfortunately, no chance of a soft landing on the Moon. However, Astrobotic believes that they do still have enough propellant to continue to operate the vehicle as a spacecraft. The team has updated its estimates, and expects to run out of propellant in about 40 hours- a time provided at lunchtime ET. The team continues to work to find ways to extend Peregrine's operational life. Astrobotic says that they are in a stable operating mode and are working payload and spacecraft tests and checkouts. They added that they continue receiving valuable data and that the goal is to get Peregrine as close to lunar distance as they can before it loses the ability to maintain its sun-pointing position. Astrobotic’s Peregrine is carrying 20 payloads for government and commercial customers, five of which are for NASA under an $108 million contract. 


Voyager Space and Airbus have completed the transaction to create Starlab Space LLC, a transatlantic joint venture that will design, build, and operate the Starlab commercial space station. Alongside the joint venture execution, the Starlab team completed the station-level System Definition Review, a critical milestone assessing the technical and programmatic accountability of the program. The space station is set to launch as early as 2028.


Last week we announced that Rocket Lab had secured a half a billion dollar contract with an unnamed US government agency and now we have learned that it is with the Space Development Agency. Rocket Lab will be the prime contractor for a $515 million dollar contract to  design and build 18 Tranche 2 Transport Layer-Beta Data Transport Satellites. The satellites are scheduled for launch in 2027.


The US Army has released a new vision document that stresses the importance of the land service’s space operations and citing an urgent need for more funding for both new capabilities and trained personnel. The document states that the Army’s next fight will occur across multiple domains and that successful operations in and through the space domain will be critical to success. It also goes on to say that commanders must understand that space capabilities start and end on the ground and be fully aware of their importance in planning and operations. You can read the full vision by following the link in our show notes.


Hypersonics company Venus Aerospace has partnered with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center to achieve one of the longest sustained tests of a rotating detonation rocket engine. The aim of the partnership is to test Rotating Detonation Rocket Engines in a flight-like manner. Venus designs and manufactures hypersonic engines and aircraft for research, defense, and commercial missions.  This partnership with NASA will accelerate Venus's research and development, thus allowing for proven scalability of its technology and advancing the team's mission to unlock the hypersonic economy. NASA and Venus both work independently, collaborating on special projects to strengthen their respective research and development.


Muon space has been selected by the AFWERX for a Small Business Innovation Research or SBIR Phase I contract focused on weather intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and operational mission planning. AFWERX is a United States Air Force program with the goal of fostering a culture of innovation within the service. Muon Space will perform a feasibility study to determine the benefit of modifying its multispectral Electro-Optical/Infrared instrument to support the Department of Defense’s cloud characterization observation capability. The US Air Force and Space Force rely on timely, accurate cloud characterization and weather information for global defense and National Security missions. The contract value was not included in the press release.


The Einstein Probe, a collaboration between the European Space Agency and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, launched from China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Centre earlier today. The Einstein Probe is aiming to survey the sky and hunt for bursts of X-ray light from mysterious objects such as neutron stars and black holes. The X-ray space telescope was launched on board a Chinese Long March 2C rocket and was placed into low earth orbit at an altitude of around 600 km. In the next six months, the operation team will be engaged in testing and calibrating the instruments. After this preparation phase, Einstein Probe will spend at least three years attentively watching the entire X-ray sky.


India’s Bellatrix Aerospace has achieved a significant milestone with the successful launch of its Rudra and Arka propulsion systems onboard ISRO’s PSLV C-58 launch vehicle on January 1st. Back in 2021, the company had tested India's first privately developed Hall Effect Thruster, known as Arka, and subsequently unveiled the nation's first High Performance Green Propulsion system called Rudra in 2022. Rohan M Ganapathy, CEO & CTO of Bellatrix Aerospace said in the company’s press release that he was “elated to report that both Rudra and Arka are operating in space as per design specifications.”

<Selected reading articles only>

That concludes our briefing for today. We give you the top lines- you can learn more about the stories by following the links in our selected reading section of our show notes. We’ve included a piece on the NASA TechLeap Prize. You’ll also find all those links on our website- space.n2k.com and click on this episode title. 

<Tuesday Programming Note> Hey T-Minus Crew, if you’re just joining us, be sure to follow T-Minus Space Daily in your favorite podcast app. And also do us a favor, share the intel with your friends and coworkers! Here’s a little challenge for you: by Friday, please show three friends or coworkers this podcast. A growing audience is the most important thing for us and we’d love your help as part of the T-Minus crew. If you find T-Minus useful, please share so other professionals like you can find the show. Thanks! It means a lot to me.

<Guest intro and segment>

Our guest today is Anurita Chandola, a textile artist who has transitioned into a spacewear designer. Anurita starts by telling us a little more about her area of interest and expertise.

ANURITA:  I'm currently based in reading  uk. And, uh, my current work focuses on creating textiles and clothing for this future space travelers, um, especially Mars. And, uh, there's a lot to do in this. Um. In this, um, area and there's not a lot of research and that's what I'm trying to focus on to create sustainable clothing wardrobe for the future space travelers. 


MARIA: That's so fascinating. Can we start with, uh, how you got involved in fashion design and how you got interested in that and maybe how that eventually led you to space? But my understanding is it wasn't where you started. I


ANURITA: yeah, you're absolutely correct. So I didn't, um, I've only, um, started working and researching on space where, uh, since a few years and, uh. Before that, I've worked in the fashion industry for a long, long time. Uh, I've worked in great brands internationally and, uh, I've worked in different countries before moving to the United Kingdom and, uh, and then a few years ago when I Realized how much harm just one industry alone could cost to the environment.


I decided I could no longer be a part of it. Um, and then I realized that fashion was the only thing I knew. So, uh, I wanted to continue being in fashion and use my expertise and skills and. Space has always been my passion, but then I had to choose one of the fields, um, that I liked. So I chose fashion, obviously, but then this was the time for me to actually combine both my fashions.


Uh, I'm a very curious person and I was just crossing the street one day and there was this lovely breeze and I was wearing a very nice skirt and, uh, It just danced with the breeze and, and that's when I thought, how would my skirt react in microgravity?


And, uh, that's,  uh, yeah, that was just one, one question how, how this all started. And then that one question, one curiosity just became an absolute passion. And I've been, um, creating lots and lots of things for, um, the future space travelers. 


love the creative process because you can't predict something like that is going to happen or spark an idea, but what an amazing thing to happen. So that one experience led you on this incredible path where you are doing all sorts of fantastic designs. Tell me a little bit about them actually, because I don't know if all of our listeners are familiar.


MARIA: I'd love to hear more about what you've worked on.


ANURITA: Um, yeah, so I actually went back to, um, education and, uh, Got the opportunity to study at the Royal College of Art and, uh, that's actually where I started my research, um, and, uh, my idea was to create sustainable multifunctional clothing for the future space travelers and, uh, sustainability. Why? Because.


I'd been in fashion and, uh, I'd done a lot of harm to the environment, so I just wanted to create sustainable, um, start with the idea of sustainability, didn't know how I would do it, didn't know how I would create clothes that would actually be suitable for Mars, uh, but then. At the RCA, uh, Royal College of Art, I started creating a collection of clothing for Mars, and then once I graduated from there, I got the opportunity to work on Britain's first Martian habitat, uh, which was based in Bristol.


Um, and I was based in Bristol at that time. So I think it was just destiny that brought me to the city from India a long time ago. And, uh, this project was actually happening there. And, uh,  so I just reached out to them and I had my lovely collection of multifunctional  shape changing garments for space.


And then, uh, we got into touch. We started talking. This Martian habitat was built by. Two artists called Ella Good and Nikki Kent and, uh, this was a project that was a collaboration between artists, designers, architects, rocket scientists, and we all came together and I was leading the textiles and clothing for this project.


And so I created multifunctional flight suits for. The residents of the Martian house. I created sustainable textiles because when people would move to Mars, you would have your sofas, you would have your beds, you would have your curtains. How you, how would you have them? What kind of dyes would go on them?


What kind of, um, there's, there's actually a couple of key problems. That you need to solve even before starting to think about designing clothes for space. Uh, 1 of them is sustainability. Of course. And then the other 1 is that. When people would be moving to Mars, they would have very limited space to be.


Able to pack everything that they own and, um. So, they won't be able to carry lots of lovely outfits that we have here. They won't be able to carry fancy or, um, dresses probably for special occasions. So, I use technology and sustainable practices that have been followed for generations. And I created this shape changing garment that The mass inhabitants would be wearing for one occasion and, uh, you would change its shape with the help of technology and it becomes a new garment for the next occasion.


So this actually solves the problem of.  Having to carry multiple outfits to space and it's not just an outfit for special occasions. I also create flight suits that can be converted into sleeping bags or clothes to be worn in the interiors of the space vessel and all of these involve zero waste cutting method, which is.


A method where you cut the fabric, which is the first stage of creating a garment in a way that there's no waste. Basically, the idea of having something that can transform into something else that can, because we won't have Amazon on March that would deliver us clothing for the


MARIA: yet. As far as we know.


ANURITA: night.  yet. So I'm.


And it might be a long time before we can actually have our 1st made on Mars garment. So, um, imagine if we just carried a couple of comments that constantly kept changing into something else. Would just solve the problem of carrying multiple outfits to space. And then the other really key important aspect to keep in mind is sustainability, but, um, I, I, I just don't say organic cotton is the solution, but even.


The fiber or the dye that would go into creating this comment would be very important. Um, I'll give you an example. It's a very short story. You might already know about it. Uh,


MARIA: No, I'd love to hear it. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.


ANURITA: okay. Okay. So, um, NASA did an experiment a few years ago where. They were simulating an environment that you would have on Mars and a crew of 6 astronauts were living in the habitat.


Uh, they were experimenting every day and successfully growing plants and, uh, the aim was to identify the minimum amount of resources. You wouldn't. To survive in an off planet colony and, uh, the crew was living in the habitat for 80 days and they broke all the records and, um, and to celebrate this, um, event, NASA printed some iron on t shirts, just the regular t shirts that we have here, and sent them into an enclosure via an airlock, um, exactly how you would have things on Mars. 


I don't know what they said, but probably, yay, congratulations. I'm not sure what they said, but, uh, I'm guessing this is what they said. And what happened next was very surprising. Uh, within 24 hours, all the plants that they were successfully growing inside the habitat suddenly died.  And, uh, it took them a while to realize that the iron on t shirts that they had worn had released tiny amounts of formaldehyde that was just enough to knock the balance of the biosphere.


MARIA: I have never heard this story. My goodness.  Fragile ecosystem, but Mike, talk about bringing something in that you could not have,  I'm, I'm, I'm a bit stunned. That's incredible. Um, but wow. Unintended consequences for sure. whEn you've talked about, um, The sustainability in the, in the different fibers. So this is where I'm going to be, I'm very out of my lane, but I, I do home sew. 


ANURITA: Oh, good. Okay.


MARIA: yeah, so I know, I know a tiny, tiny bit, very, very tiny, but I'm thinking about the, the type of fibers that would be used.


I mean, would we just assume that everything's going to be? polyester based or, you know, plastic based, or are there natural fibers that make more sense? I'm really curious about this because I'm wearing cotton at the moment, admittedly, and I often wear wool. I live where it's cold, so wool is a big thing for me. 


But so often when I think of the very functional, practical outfits that, you know, we've seen astronauts wearing, it's usually just, you know, a plastic y flight suit. Is that destiny or are there other options? 


ANURITA: I think there are other options. And I also think that polyester is just not suitable for this world. It just wouldn't biodegrade. And we've caused, just because I've worked in fashion, I know how much harm it's causing to the environment. And I also know that The dyes, we all are wearing those t shirts here on Earth.


Earth's atmosphere is much bigger compared to that what we have, would be having on Mars or in that Martian habitat. But it doesn't change the fact that it is slowly absorbing these chemicals. So, I think, to be able to make polyester on Mars, you would need lots of natural oils or, which, which might not be possible there.


Um, so I think. Um, and this is what my research is focused on to use very sustainable, natural fibers that would last you for, for a long, long, long time. And then once they get really old, convert them into something else. And then once that has happened and it's come to end of its life, just feed them to your plants or they would biodegrade.


Um,  we've caused enough harm on this planet.  We shouldn't even think about causing harm to another planet and also reconsider the way we live on earth. And I think my research has unraveled so many things about my practice that I had in fashion that I just took for granted.


I, uh, I've always been into sustainable fashion, but. Now, if I'm thinking back or going back into that time, I would do so many things differently.  

MARIA: We’ll be right back

Welcome back

<Kicker, Fun Fact or B-Roll>

How does one prepare for space? There’s parabolic flights for astronaut training, analog missions to simulate environments, but what about virtual reality? The US Space Force has just renewed a contract with Microsoft for just that. Under the $19.8 million contract, Microsoft will continue work on a simulated environment where guardians can train, test new capabilities and interact with digital copies of objects in orbit.

The training tool is a successor to the service’s Immersive Digital Facility  prototype developed last year. The new product is called the Integrated, Immersive, Intelligent Environment or I3E and is an augmented reality space simulation powered by the company’s HoloLens headsets. The tool hosts four missions  that cover physics-based space environment and satellite simulation; space intelligence collection and scheduling; strategic orbital wargaming; and augmented reality space simulation. Given that guardians aren’t likely to physically train within the space domain anytime soon, simulations currently offer the next best thing. It’s almost enough to get us lining up to become Guardians ourselves!

<Credits (T/R)>That's it for T-Minus for January 9th, 2024. For additional resources from today’s report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. 

We’re privileged that N2K and podcasts like T-Minus are part of the daily routine of many of the most influential leaders and operators in the public and private sector, from the Fortune 500 to many of the world's preeminent intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

This episode was produced by Alice Carruth. Mixing by Elliott Peltzman and Tré Hester, with original music and sound design by Elliott Peltzman. Our Executive Producer is Jen Eiben. Our VP is Brandon Karpf.  And I’m Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listening.

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