China launches a civilian to space. Software to blame for ispace failure. The UAE plans a mission to the asteroid belt. Spain signs Artemis Accords,...
JUICE jiggle frees the RIME.
The JUICE is loose and freed the Rime! Lights out for Lunar Flashlight. TBIRD space lasers breaking records. SDA seeks 100 new satellites. And more.
ESA’s JUICE ice-penetrating Radar for Icy Moons Exploration (RIME) antenna has finally escaped its mounting bracket. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Lunar Flashlight mission can't orbit the moon as planned due to a propulsion system issue. USSPACECOM welcomes the National CyberSecurity Center to their Academic Engagement Enterprise, and more.
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Our guest for today’s episode is Michelle Hanlon, Co-founder of For All Moonkind and Co-Director at the University of Mississippi School of Law. Michelle discusses her nonprofit “For All Moonkind” and Ethics of Space Exploration.
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>> Maria Varmazis: A stuck pin on ESA's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (or Juice) was the cause of much consternation for the ESA mission control center for the last week. The 16-meter-long boom arm for the RIME antenna wasn't able to deploy after Juice's successful launch last month. But thanks to some creative thinking, ESA shared the happy news that they got that stuck pin loose, and mission #freetherime was a success.
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Today is May 15, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus. The Juice is loose and freed the RIME. Lights out for Lunar Flashlight. Space lasers breaking records. SDA seeks 100 new satellites. And my conversation with Michelle Hanlon, co-founder of For All Moonkind and co-director of the University of Mississippi School of Law, about preserving space history and the ethics of space exploration. It's a fascinating conversation you don't want to miss. Now, let's take a look at our intel briefing for today. Juice was on the receiving end of some gentle percussive maintenance. A stuck pin was keeping the radar for Icy Moons Exploration (or RIME), its 16-meter-long antenna boom arm, from deploying. Flight control at ESA tried turning Juice towards the sun to warm up the stuck pin, shaking Juice using the thrusters, and then they saw some promising wiggles from RIME, but no full deployment yet. But May 12th was the magic day. Flight control fired a nonexplosive actuator that was in the jammed bracket, budging that pin just enough -- and we're talking millimeters here -- that RIME's antenna could finally deploy the boom arm. But even then, RIME's antenna wasn't still fully unfurled. That called for yet another actuator to be fired by the flight control team, and that's what got RIME to completely successfully stretch all the way out. A big congratulations to the ESA flight control team. RIME's antenna did jiggle, jiggle, and then unfold. RIME is one of 10 instruments aboard Juice, and honestly, it would have been quite a bummer indeed had it not deployed. But, thankfully, it did. So once Juice enters Jupiter's orbit in 2031, we can look forward to RIME giving us a look at the surface and subsurface of Jovian moons like Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. And speaking of bummer, I hate to be the bearer of unhappy news, but, unfortunately, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced that its Lunar Flashlight mission can't orbit the Moon as planned due to a propulsion system issue. And that, as a result, just five months after the launch, this mission is over. The plan was for Lunar Flashlight -- a briefcase size small sat -- to look for surface ice in permanently shadowed regions near the Moon's South Pole, using near-infrared lasers and an onboard spectrometer. Unfortunately, not long after the mission launched in December 2022, it appeared that the craft couldn't generate enough thrust to get into the required lunar orbit. NASA operations were troubleshooting this one for months. But despite best efforts, they couldn't get this cube set where it needed to go. Still, JPL says there are some silver linings here even for the propulsion system. Lunar Flashlight was the first demonstration of NASA's new monopropellant outside of Earth's orbit. Quick definition here. A monopropellant is a propellant that doesn't need an oxidizer to burn. This monopropellant is called Advanced Spacecraft Energetic Non-toxic (or ASENT). And the hope is one day the less toxic ASENT will replace the very toxic monopropellant hydrazine. NASA's calling ASENT a green fuel, and said that the thrust issues on Lunar Flashlight were likely from debris buildup in the thruster fuel lines and nothing to do with the newer propulsion system components themselves. The system components, NASA is saying, exceeded performance expectations. Also aboard Lunar Flashlight was the new Sphinx flight computer and Iris radio, both of which worked well, and NASA says will also be useful for future small spacecraft missions. So while Lunar Flashlight didn't get to the Moon, it had some valuable tech demonstration, so there is that, at least. And it sounds like a match made in military and cyber heaven, the National Cybersecurity Center and USSPACECOM are officially partners. USSPACECOM welcomed the NCC to their Academic Engagement Enterprise. According to the NCC's CEO Harry Raduege, the partnership aims to combine the organization's efforts in shaping the future workforce, supporting professional military education, increasing applied research and innovation in the space domain, and creating strategic cyber-for-space dialogue about supporting national security and defense. We here at N2K know a few things about the crossover of cybersecurity and space, and we wish them all the best. On to the T-Minus Monday tutorial. Yes, we did just make that up. And we have another great space acronym to add to our ever-expanding glossary, and we are working on that for you, by the way, the NASA TBIRD -- which stands for terabyte infrared delivery. That one's not too bad. The TBIRD has broken its own record for optical communications in space, demonstrating 200 gigabits per second throughput on a space-to-ground optical link between a satellite in orbit and Earth. The space agency says it is the highest data rate ever achieved by optical communications technology. And as if this program couldn't get any cooler than the name already implies, the TBIRD uses our fond favorite, space lasers, instead of using radio waves like most space communication systems do. The TBIRD mission manager says, "laser communications is the missing link that will enable the science discoveries of the future." And we couldn't agree more. Things are getting busy in LEO and they are about to get even busier. And that's not only thanks to the additional 56 satellites that SpaceX launched early on Mother's Day. The Space Development Agency has released a new draft solicitation to procure 100 new satellites. The solicitation is for the alpha variant of the proliferated war fighter space architecture's Tranche 2 Transport Layer. The agency is looking for mass producible space vehicles similar to those currently under development for the Tranche 1 Transport Layer, with targeted technology enhancements, mission-focused payload configurations, increased integration, and greater production efficiencies. The SDA has already requested bids for 72 beta satellites, which are included in the Transport Layer Tranche 2. The procurement of 100 alpha satellites is expected to be split between two vendors. Planet Labs and AXA Climate have expanded their partnership to provide data for a drought insurance program. It's hoped that the data from Planet Labs satellites will help AXA Climate drought insurance services that estimate crop yield and losses and automatically provide payouts. AXA Climate already uses Planet's Planetary Variables Soil Water Content data feed to measure water and soil in order to determine drought risks. The service currently exists in southern and central Brazil, and plans to expand globally with this extended partnership. CNBC is reporting that SpaceX has hired former NASA human spaceflight lead Kathy Lueders. Lueders retired from NASA's human spaceflight program as the associate administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate in April. She was the first woman to head human spaceflight for NASA, and was previously the program manager for NASA's Commercial Crew program. Lueders will reportedly be working out of SpaceX's Starbase facility in Texas. And over to the West Coast now, and Stratolaunch successfully completed a separation release test of the Talon-A vehicle, known as TA-0, this weekend. The flight at Vandenberg Space Force Base lasted a total of four hours and eight minutes, and it demonstrated the Talon-A launch system safely separating vehicles from the company's Roc center-wing pylon. Stratolaunch says they plan to hold the first hypersonic flight of the TA-1 expendable testbed in late summer of this year. And in international news now, US President Joe Biden met with Spanish President Pedro Sanchez last week and announced further cooperation in space. According to the White House, the leaders pledged to deepen cooperation in science and technology, including through the Artemis Accords, on responsible use of outer space and a new partnership between NASA and the Spanish space agency. And, by the way, do you want to learn about how the use of artificial intelligence can help us explore Mars? You can read about that and so much more in the Selected Reading section on our website at space.n2k.com. And that about wraps it up for our intel briefing for today. Stay with us for our chat with Michelle Hanlon, co-founder of For All Moonkind and co-director of the University of Mississippi School of Law. And hey, T-Minus crew, every Monday, we produce a written intelligence roundup, it's called "Signals and Space." And if you happen to miss any T-Minus episodes, this strategic intelligence product will get you up to speed in the fastest way possible. It's all signal and no noise. You can sign up for Signals and Space in our show notes or at space.n2k.com. Now, here's a supposition for you. You could start by saying, "that's one small step" to a group of people, and I'd wager that most adults could finish your sentence. Neil Armstrong's first words when stepping onto the Moon are part of the cultural milieu, one could argue, globally. So when humanity goes back to the Moon, beyond the famous first words, what else will become part of humanity's shared commemoration of the lunar firsts? The first footprints? And if so, how do we preserve our physical space history on the Moon as we return to explore and expand humanity's presence there? And how do we go back to the Moon ethically? These are some very tricky questions, but someone's got to think about these things. And thankfully, my guest today is on it.
>> Michelle Hanlon: When you think about the Moon and you think about our human interaction with the Moon, other than the fact that it has been our neighbor for all of the existence of our species, we've visited the Moon. We've sent 12 humans to the Moon in an incredible technological achievement. And so you would think that the sites on the Moon, that our first blueprints, the first materials that we sent to the Moon, would be protected the way we protect heritage and artifacts here on Earth, like the Great Wall of China or the Pyramids of Egypt or Stonehenge, but they're not. Those sites on the Moon aren't protected by anything. No sites in outer space that show, that demonstrate the incredible ingenuity of the human species are protected. A lot of people think, oh, who cares? We're not going back. Who's going back to the Moon to mess those up? Well, we are going back, and it's really, really exciting. I'm so thrilled that Artemis, the Artemis program, the United States sending people. China is planning a Moon settlement, a Moon base as well. And we have tons of commercial entities thinking about getting back to the Moon. We are going back to the Moon in droves. And now is the time to show that humans have learned from our history, we've learned from our mistakes, and we can be responsible as we explore. And that responsibility starts with protecting our history. Because only if we protect our history will we protect our own sustainability and success for the future.
>> Maria Varmazis: That's fascinating. So what should we be doing to do that? I mean, especially given, you know, there is still not a set of rules, a set of norms that every single country in the world has signed on to. Like what can we do to protect those sites that maybe are really important to us in the US but maybe China doesn't care as much? Like what what can we do?
>> Michelle Hanlon: Well, so first, Maria, I think everybody cares about those first blueprints. I have been going to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space meetings and meeting people from all over the world. And I have not met one person -- and I'm talking about China, Russia, Iran, you know, people who generally don't like the United States -- everybody, everybody agrees that that boot print, Neil Armstrong's first step on the Moon, humanity's first off-world boot print, is something that everybody on Earth shares and celebrates. Because we don't get to the Moon without our entire evolution of human history. You know, the Americans, certainly we paid for it. It was our taxpayer dollars. But we don't get to the Moon without Copernicus staring at the Moon and figuring out math. We don't get to the Moon without somebody in Laetoli, Tanzania, 3 million years ago, deciding to stand up on two feet, you know. So when we think about those accomplishments in space, they're not American or Russian or Chinese, they are human. And that's what we're celebrating. And so when we think about how to protect, you know, everyone thinks, oh my goodness, this is going to cost so much money. Well, yes, ultimately it will. You know, I would like to see a museum or some sort of something put over the blueprints to protect them from meteorites and so forth. But right now, it only takes a vote, no money whatsoever. All we need is the United Nations to vote to create a resolution that says, these are something special, that we need to think about and protect. And, of course, everyone asks me also, well, how are you going to enforce it? No, we can't enforce it. I mean, look, we can't enforce international law here on Earth. But it creates something to think about. It adds another burden of responsibility and obligation. And it's something we can celebrate as humans and not fight over.
>> Maria Varmazis: So what has your organization done along these lines to sort of help move that forward?
>> Michelle Hanlon: So, Maria, it's funny because I was 25 years a business corporate lawyer, and my job was to get deals done. And so when I first sort of thought about realizing the fact that these sites weren't protected, I thought, I can do this in a year. And we were going to -- we were hoping to have an entire new treaty by 2019 -- the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. So we went to the United Nations. We became a permanent observer to the committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. And, yes, we have a committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space that is phenomenal. And we started advocating for preservation, for protection, for just recognition of these sites. Well, now here we are in 2023, obviously there is no treaty, but we have made incredible inroads. In the United States, we've drafted and got passed the One Small Step Act, which recognized -- the first national legislation in the world to recognize that we have heritage beyond Earth in outer space. We also were able to help convince the negotiators of the Artemis Accords to include Section 9, which also recognizes that there is heritage, human heritage, human history, in space. And we continue to make inroads at the United Nations. More and more, we're seeing delegates talk about human heritage and the need to think about it.
>> Maria Varmazis: That's wonderful. Any thoughts on maybe next steps or what you would like to see next in general on this front?
>> Michelle Hanlon: We continue the United -- the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space meets three times a year, and we continue to go to advocate. What we would like to see is a resolution that just recognizes there is human heritage in outer space. We're not asking for protection or preservation or any money to be spent, just a way to unify the world and say, look, look at what humans have done. We are on this incredible threshold right now. We're about to become a truly spacefaring species. We're going to start harnessing the resources of space before you and I know it. You know, my grandchildren are going to go to the Moon on a trip just for fun. And now is the time to set the foundation, those social norms, like you said, Maria, of, look, let us do this the right way, let us do this responsibly. So we are working -- we'd like to get some more legislation through the United States process that takes the One Small Step Act one step further, if you will, and actually bring more regulations, more recognition of those not just US sites but Russian sites and Chinese sites. And we're also working with other nations. We'd like to see national legislation in countries that you wouldn't necessarily think of. For example, like Brazil. The recognition that Brazil doesn't have any hardware on the Moon, but it is part of that -- its culture was part of the process that got Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon.
>> Maria Varmazis: Oh, interesting. Okay. And when we think about humans establishing a base or several bases on the Moon, as the plans are, does your organization address maybe the ethical considerations of, hey, is mining the Moon something we should even be doing, or is this even -- do you know what I mean there? I'm not sure if this is something the organization does, so I'm happy to edit this out.
>> Michelle Hanlon: We just announced -- we launched the Institute on Space Law and Ethics when we were in Vienna, because precisely for this reason: to understand the ethics of space exploration. What are we doing? And what we don't want -- we've seen and what really troubles me is when people talk about ethics, they immediately jump to this, we shouldn't be colonizing. What are we thinking? We're doing a terrible job on Earth. Why should we go to space? And that's not the way we need to think about ethics. First of all, ethics encompasses so many things. And we know it's flexible, and we know it changes constantly. What we're not seeing yet is a lot of diverse views of ethics, right? We're seeing one -- we're hearing one voice: colonialism is bad. Well, of course, it's bad, we know that. And then we've learned that lesson. Now, how are we going to take that lesson and develop responsibly without those colonialist things? There are a lot of values we need to think about. And I believe across cultures, we can find common values. You know, Maria, I love the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. That is where space law is made, but it's a slow, slow process. And we are going to see -- we're already seeing -- Ispace is getting to the Moon, a commercial company getting to the Moon this month. And the law is not going to be able to keep up. And so what we are hoping to do at the institute is articulate the ethics. So one thing I can tell you right up front is, I believe we are morally obligated to mine the Moon, not to mine the Moon to extinction or, you know, to make it look different. But because we need to learn how to live and work in space. We need to learn how to extract resources from other celestial bodies in order to support humanity both here on Earth and in space. Now, when I said we're morally obligated to do it, we're also morally obligated to do it ethically and responsibly. And that's what we're teasing out at the institute.
>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, I'm fascinated to hear you say that. Because usually when I talk about mining the Moon with my friends who are not into space, their point of view is usually, it's unethical to do anything to the Moon at all. So I'm fascinated to hear the idea of like it's a moral obligation for us to go there and establish those sort of safe plans for operation, so to speak. Can you give us a sense of what you're thinking there for what could help guide us on the Moon responsibly?
>> Michelle Hanlon: Absolutely, Maria. One of the things that we're really trying to do is to amplify voices that don't usually talk about space. And I think when you think about a lot of people raise the fact that, to many cultures, the Moon is quite sacred. And so how do we respect that while also supporting development? And so we do have some indigenous representation at the institute, and we're working very hard in particular to hear those voices, because they do have different thoughts about conservation and preservation. And, you know, all we hear about in the media is the extreme -- well, you know, the Moon should be given personhood. Well, I believe the Moon is very special to humanity, but the Moon also will serve a purpose to get us beyond and into deep space. And so I think that is the purpose of the Moon for us now. And how do we do that while listening to the voices of the people who want to keep the Moon sacred? You know, when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon, there were first nations who protested. And we just really need to sort of make sure we're working together so everybody is involved in the process, and we are able to sort of pull and respect and do what we need to do to respect all of humanity. And I know -- I'm listening to myself thinking, oh god, you know, that sounds like so rose tinted and Pollyanna.
>> Maria Varmazis: No, no, no, it's not that. It sounds like a really challenging prospect.
>> Michelle Hanlon: Exactly. But somebody's got to do it, you know. And I don't know that we'll be successful, but I know we can amplify voices.
>> Maria Varmazis: That's amazing. Michelle, I'm really encouraged to hear what you're doing and the consideration you're giving this. So thank you for what you're doing, and please keep us updated on how this is going.
>> Michelle Hanlon: Maria, thank you so much.
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>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back. And welcome back. And we don't often cover these events in T-Minus because they are all kind of routine now -- which is amazing when you think about it -- space walks, aka, an EVA (or extravehicular activity). And for a little over five hours on the 12th of May, there was an EVA conducted by cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin outside the International Space Station, in which says NASA, "They deployed a radiator on the ISS Nauka science module, connecting electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic lines, and filling a pair of cooling loops with coolant. Well, when you're working with lines and coolant, whether it's in a car or on a space station, yeah, things can get a bit messy. And even in space sometimes, you just need to wipe your hands on a rag. And this might've gone unnoticed by most. But Jonathan McDowell, who's an astronomer at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, was watching this EVA and live tweeted the events that unfolded. And here is what he noted, and I'm going to quote his tweets now. "The spacewalking astronauts are preparing to jettison towels used to clean fuel contamination off the spacesuits before returning to the airlock. When jettisoned, these fabric towels do not show up well on radar and are usually not catalogued by Space Force prior to re-entry. Therefore, contrary to a primary rule of galactic travel, the astronauts will not know where their towels are." And if you don't get it, ask your nerd friends. They can give you 42 reasons why these tweets are funny. Now, don't panic, those towels were successfully jettisoned at 20:37 UTC. That [inaudible] prefect was not available for comment. And that's it for T-Minus for May 15, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. And we'd always love to know what you think of our podcast. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit the survey in the show notes. Your feedback ensures that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry. 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. Our chief intelligence officer is Eric Tillman, and I'm Maria Varmazis. See you tomorrow.
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