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Soft power and China’s lunar diplomacy.

Russia extends ISS cooperation until 2028. China’s lunar diplomacy. Raytheon refocuses. APEX has a strong start with Astra Space. And more.





The ISS receives support from Russia, extending its mission until 2028, while the US, Japan, Canada, and participating ESA countries confirm their support through 2030. China announces the formation of the International Lunar Research Station Cooperation Organization. Satlantis acquires majority shares in SuperSharp, Raytheon shifts its contracting approach, Voyager benefits from some engineering magic, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our featured interview today is with friend-of-the-show Christina Korp, the Astronaut Wrangler, on her organization SPACE for a better world and her efforts to inspire and educate people from all ages and walks of life about the ways that space technology can help save our planet.

You can follow Christina on LinkedIn, Twitter, and her Website.

Selected Reading

Partners Extend International Space Station for Benefit of Humanity | NASA

China to establish organization to coordinate international moon base | SpaceNews 

Spain’s Satlantis expands into thermal imagery with UK investment | SpaceNews 

Southern Launch signs MOU with pioneering UK firm | Space Connect

Raytheon rethinks strategy to compete in military satellite market | SpaceNews

ICEYE Announces the Beta Release of Wildfire Insights | SpaceWatch.Global

NASA Hack Extends 46-Year Voyager 2 Mission Until 2026 | PCMag

Space Force Woos New Launch Bidders—But Startups Aren’t Quite Ready | DefenseOne 

SSPI’s Better Satellite World Video emphasizes trusting networks to connect the world | SatNews 

How Chang Zheng 9 arrived at the "Starship-like" design | NASASpaceFlight

How the European Union and the African Union are stepping up cooperation in space | SpaceWatch.Global

New image reveals violent events near a supermassive black hole | Reuters

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>> Maria Varmazis: Some nice news for a Friday, with a great headline from NASA: "Partners extend International Space Station for benefit of humanity." Yep, after more than 22 years on low Earth orbit, the ISS mission extension has even more of the supported needs. Russia has now confirmed that they'll continue supporting the ISS through 2028. And the US, Japan, Canada, and participating ESA countries have all already affirmed their support as well through 2030. Today is April 28, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus. Russia extends ISS cooperation until 2028, China to create its version of the Artemis Accords, JPL engineers extend the life of Voyager 2 yet again, and more. Our featured interview today is with friend of the show, Christina Korp, the astronaut wrangler, on her organization, Space for a Better World, and her efforts to inspire and educate people from all ages and walks of life about the ways that space technology can help seed our planet. You really don't want to miss it, so definitely stick around. And here is your briefing for today. As you heard at the top of the show, the International Space Station just got firm support from Russia after weeks of concern that Roscosmos might be leaving sooner rather than later. NASA had already said in the past that the US would extend the ISS mission to 2030, with plans to deorbit the station in 2031. That hasn't changed. It's Russia's formal statement of support through 2028 that's the news here. And it's what everyone's sort of been holding their breath about, especially when, previously, Yury Borisov, director general of Roscosmos, had indicated that Russia might be leaving by 2024. So this news means that the ISS will stay quite busy through 2028. And even after Roscosmos departs, the US, Japan, Canada, and various ESA countries will maintain their support through 2030. Roscosmos's Yury Borisov sent a letter to fellow ISS partners to let them know the good news, and here's a rough translation: "I hereby inform you that the government of the Russian Federation has approved the extension of Russia's participation in the International Space Station program until 2028. The ISS program is the largest and most successful international space project, and I am glad that such a unique laboratory will continue its work and contribute to the realization of the most daring ideas of mankind in space exploration." The ISS has been the place for microgravity science experiments, over 3,300 of them so far by NASA's count. All those experiments have been for all manner of scientific disciplines since the ISS launched in 1998. So this mission extension to 2028 and 2030, no question, it's great news for science. And speaking of international collaboration, the China National Space Administration has announced it's forming a group to coordinate work on the International Lunar Research Station that it is spearheading. That group is the International Lunar Research Station Cooperation Organization (or ILRSCO), perhaps ILRSCO. It's expected that existing signatories of the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (or APSCO) will be a part of this. So that would include China, Bangladesh, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru, and Thailand. And a number of other countries have also indicated interest in some capacity, including Russia, Argentina, Venezuela, the United Arab Emirates, and Brazil. As more countries sign onto the Artemis Accords, it'll be interesting to see who also formally signs onto the ILRSCO and if there'll be any overlap. And we'll know soon enough, as China is expecting initial signatories by or before June. And they want to be clear, "the ILRSCO is open to everybody," Wu Weiren, director general of Deep Space Exploration Lab (or DSEL). Says Wu, "We welcome the participation of developed countries such as the United States and European countries. We also hope that BRICS countries and some underdeveloped African countries will join us." Spanish satellite firm SATLANTIS has purchased majority shares in a University of Cambridge commercial offshoot called SuperSharp. SATLANTIS provides Earth observation satellites and SuperSharp's foldable thermal infrared telescope for Earth imaging as an opportunity to expand the company into the thermal imaging market. SuperSharp will remain independent as part of the deal. UK startup Space Forge has signed a memorandum of understanding with Australia's Southern Launch, which could see the space manufacturing company launch and return spacecraft from Koonibba Test Range. Southern Launch says the location of the test range provides Space Forge an ideal target as a reentry point for its ForgeStar satellite. Spacecraft manufacturing company Apex has announced a contract with Astra Space to supply their vehicles with engines. Apex recently came out of stealth mode, and the company's CTO, Max Benassi, was previously the director of engineering at Astra. Astra's engines will support Apex's electric propulsion package for the Aries vehicle. SpaceNews is reporting that Raytheon's space sector president, David Broadbent, is looking to change the company's approach to the military satellite market. Last month, Raytheon was awarded $250 million to build seven missile detection satellites for the US Space Development Agency. But Broadbent says being in a mission-prime position hasn't yielded the results that Raytheon was looking for, and they will now focus on emergent strategy. Finnish microsatellite manufacturer ICEYE unveiled a beta version of their Wildfire Insights platform. The system aims to improve disaster response in wildfire affected areas. Leveraging the company's Synthetic-Aperture Radar constellation, ICEYE claims the system can provide building level impact data in near real time, with imagery through clouds, smoke, and at night. As the frequency and severity of wildfires around the world continues to increase, technologies like this could play a crucial role in the space economy, disaster management, and the insurance and real estate industries. ICEYE aims for a general availability release later this year. NASA administrator Bill Nelson told the House Science Space and Technology Committee that he's confident in the Artemis 3 mission despite the recent SpaceX Starship launch failure. NASA awarded SpaceX's Starship the contract for the human landing system that takes NASA astronauts from lunar orbit down to and back from the surface. Nelson said the failure was "not a big downer in terms of how SpaceX does things." Staying with NASA for a moment, engineers from their Jet Propulsion Lab have worked some magic yet again to extend the life of the Voyager 2 mission. Now, Voyager 2, as you might know, was launched in 1977, and is currently over 120 billion miles from the Earth, studying interstellar space. The JPL team managed to switch the power of Voyager 2 to a small reservoir of backup power that had been set aside as part of an onboard safety mechanism. The spacecraft was due to shut down this year, but it is now hoped that the mission will extend to 2026. Maybe this is how we get V'Ger to happen in real life. But in any case, may you live long and prosper, Voyager 2. And that's it for our briefing today. Make sure you check out our website, space.n2K.com, for all our show notes and the links in our selected reading section. We like to include a few extra stories that we were unable to cover in our Daily Briefing for your reading pleasure. Today's gems include SSPI's "Better Satellite World" video, which is all about connecting the most remote parts of the world to the Internet. And hey, T-Minus crew, make sure you tune in tomorrow for T-Minus Deep Space. It's our show for extended interviews, special editions, and deep dives with some of the most influential professionals in the space industry. And tomorrow is our deep space interview with Christina Korp, the astronaut wrangler on Space for a Better World. Today's the short version, tomorrow's the extended version. So make sure you check it out while you're mowing the lawn or grocery shopping, folding laundry, driving your kids to the game. You get the picture. You don't want to miss it. Those of us who really grok space could probably stand to do a better job of explaining to the broader public not just what's happening in space but also why it's happening and why it means great things for all of us on Earth. One of the people working to do just that is Christina Korp, the founder of Space for a Better World -- a foundation formed to educate and inspire people all over the world about why space matters for everybody. And because she has, honestly, an incredible life story and the best job title I have ever heard, I'm going to let her introduce herself.

>> Christina Korp: Sure. My name is Christina Korp. I am known as the "astronaut wrangler." Which actually, by the way, I just gave that title to myself, but it's because I used to work for Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and now I work with many, many astronauts who used to work at NASA or have already been space.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, I mean, that is the coolest title in existence, for the record. When I saw that on your email signature, I said, how does one get that amazing title? And what is that like to be an astronaut wrangler?

>> Christina Korp: Well, I do explain why it's an astronaut wrangler is because during all the years I worked for Buzz, people would call me up and say, since you're the astronaut whisperer, and I'm like, whispering is not the word. And there have been some people too, by the way, who are like, that's so disrespectful to astronauts to say you have to wrangle them. And the astronauts are like, it's accurate, it's totally accurate.

>> Maria Varmazis: I would say, I imagine they're very busy people, and as are you. So I would think wrangling makes a lot of sense in that case.

>> Christina Korp: Well, and they're very, you know, there are many different kinds of personalities. You know, just like anybody, astronauts come in many, many different molds. And look, they're all accomplished people and they're all very confident people. So, you know, they're often experts in their own world, their own field or whatever. But I know what I'm doing when it comes to what I'm trying to help them with. And so, you know, sometimes there's a little bit of wrangling. But, for the most part, I try really hard to work with the astronauts that I think are really good people, who have a shared purpose with what I try to do through my foundation. For people who don't know me, it's helpful to know that I came from the music world. And I just kind of had this crazy rockstar lifestyle of singing in front of 200,000 people in live concerts, and also recording. And that was my life. And then, I wanted a quiet boring life for a little while. Yes, I had this total rockstar lifestyle, and I went to work for Buzz Aldrin. I answered an ad in the Hollywood Reporter, and it was one of these things where I had no idea what was going on in space, I just was looking for a job that I thought was going to be a good, more quiet, simple job compared to what I had been doing. And I had no idea what I was getting myself into. And it opened me up into this whole world of space and hanging out with Apollo astronauts. So it's not a conventional like avenue to space, as the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 came up -- because I started with them in January of 2008. And 2009 was the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. And things really started ramping up to celebrate that anniversary. And that's when I started thinking, well, maybe I have an opportunity here to bring my entertainment skills to try to amplify his vision but in a way that people like me could understand it. And so that's kind of what has led me down this path now in my own, you know, new mission, so to speak, of how I married the entertainment side of me along with the space world now.

>> Maria Varmazis: That is a fascinating story. And I think it's so important that people understand that every path into a career does not have to be this linear thing; that no experience is ever wasted; and we can bring our full selves to the table. And I love that, that you've got Space for a Better World, your foundation, where you're doing that: you're bringing all these facets of your experience together. Can you talk a little bit about what your foundation is, what it does?

>> Christina Korp: Yeah. So I came up with the tagline of "connecting the space curious to the space serious." Because I came from the world of the space curious, but then I entered this world of the deep space serious of dealing with, you know, guys who walked on the moon, but also space agencies and heads of aerospace companies and just really major decision-makers in space. And then aside from that, always hearing moon landing memories being with guys who walked on the moon, I became the keeper of the moon landing memories. I just -- thousands of them, you know? And realizing, wow, I have a responsibility here. You know, I'm in a unique position of hearing these stories that, for the guys, was just their reality. But then I realized, wow, this is people pouring out their hearts and souls about what the first moon landing especially meant to them and how it kind lit the spark within them of believing they could do something that they didn't think was possible for themselves before. So that's really what kind of has led me to Space for a Better World. So it's a combination of doing outreach to inspire young people and people from a lot of different backgrounds to believe that there is a place for them in space. And I'm living proof of that, you know, having come from where I came from. But then also realizing I have maybe an opportunity to educate even people who are big decision-makers for companies or even in countries, you know. That's something that I realized when I went to the World Economic Forum in 2019 and again in 2020 just before the pandemic, is how little a lot of those decision-makers who say they want to save our planet know is at their disposal through space; like that there are tools here that are really valuable to help some of the world's biggest problems. And I really feel that space is the place for those solutions. So that's what I'm trying to do is help educate people and create content and do outreach and speak about it whenever I have a chance.

>> Maria Varmazis: I feel like historically we've done -- those of us who are enthusiasts or work in the industry in any capacity, we haven't done a great job at sort of selling, for lack of a better term, why going to space matters. Why have we not done as good a job as maybe we should be doing?

>> Christina Korp: You know, what's interesting is -- I just was talking earlier with Nicole Stott, the NASA astronaut who I work closely with and is a major partner in purpose with me on Space for a Better World. You know, the interesting thing about the Apollo era is they did a fantastic job of marketing going to the moon. Like they really got not just America but the whole world on board with the idea of this exciting endeavor of going to the moon. And so it's just since then, I think, you know, there hasn't been the greatest marketing and messaging in a way that people understand the value of what they've gotten from that. I mean, the return on investment is so beyond measure that hardly anybody's -- I don't even know if anybody's ever truly done it. And we're talking thousands and thousands upon times of what we put into it has been given back to the world. And so, you know, what I'm trying to do through Space for a Better World is kind of show people that. So, for instance, you know, everyone takes for granted that they have a little computer in their hand that lets them talk to anyone in the world with no delay.

>> Maria Varmazis: It's so ordinary now, right, yeah.

>> Christina Korp: Yeah. People don't even understand that's what it is. I mean, that's the interesting part about it is, everyone is using space technology and they just don't know that's what it is. So trying to bridge that gap, that's what I really feel like, okay, maybe me and the astronauts can help bridge that gap. :

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah. And I know that that is definitely an avenue to reach some folks who are maybe on the cusp of being like pro-space, for lack of a better term. Like I'm wondering, how do you reach people who are really cynical about it?

>> Christina Korp: Well, I think what it comes down to is, you know, everybody cares about something, right? So you have to figure out where you can meet them at the point that something matters to them. And so often, the people who are saying, oh, why are we spending money on space, will say, oh, I'm an environmentalist, or I'm worried about climate, I'm worried about these things, you know, with climate change. And the ironic thing is, you know, they'll say, I just I can't worry about space, I've got to worry about that. And I'm like, well, first of all, we live on a planet in space. And it's not this far away place that has nothing to do with us. Space is all around us, first of all. Second of all, it's actually NASA and the European Space Agency and all the different agencies that are giving you the climate data. That's where it's coming from. It's not just some nebulous thing, you know, out in the universe, we're just learning this. It's the space people who are providing that data and are working in cooperation with NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), and it's not a separate thing. So that's what I think it has to come down to is, you find something that people care about. You know, I met some people back in London last year who care about animals. And so then I said, well, so did you know that they're using AI with satellites in orbit that are able to track say like the guerrillas or endangered elephants easier from space than on the ground? Because it's easier to police the poaching efforts or keep track of the animals using AI in orbit than it is with just people driving around on the ground. So that's where I think if you can meet them at the place about the thing that they care about and show them how space can help that particular thing, I mean, that's where I feel like I'm starting to get more people to understand the value or at least not be opposed to it.

>> Maria Varmazis: And this was just about half of my conversation with Christina. You can hear the whole thing tomorrow on our special edition called "Deep Space." And trust me, you want to hear the whole thing. And we'll be right back. And welcome back for our Friday story. We're talking black holes, everybody. Now, if you've ever had to present to students about space, then you know that they are all obsessed with black holes. And who wouldn't be, right? They're really cool, especially since NASA released the first image of one in 2019. Now a new image of a supermassive black hole has been obtained using 16 telescopes at various locations on Earth. A black hole, as you might know, is a region of space time where gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light or other electromagnetic waves, have enough energy to escape its event horizon. So it comes as no surprise that this new image shows violent activity going on in the region. The black hole picture resides at the center of a relatively nearby galaxy, called Messier 87. It's a mere 54 million lightyears from Earth. Go and check out the image in the link under our selected reading. It is super cool. Now that's it for T-Minus for April 28, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2K.com. And, you know, we'd love to know what you think of our podcast. You can always email us at space@n2K.com, or submit the survey in our show notes. You know, your feedback ensures that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry. And 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. N2K's strategic workforce intelligence optimizes the value of your biggest investment: your people. We make you smarter about your team while making your team smarter. Learn more at N2K.com. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth. Mixing by Elliott Peltzman and Tre Hester. With original music and sound design by Elliott Peltzman. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf. And I'm Maria Varmazis. See you on Monday.

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