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Good morning. Let’s kick off your Monday with a space throwback. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made history two years ago this week when they completed the first all-female spacewalk.

After leaving the International Space Station, the two spent just over seven hours replacing a controller that regulates batteries storing the ISS’s solar power. That’s right…even space stations have battery issues.

In today’s newsletter:
🛰️ Lucy launch
🎥 Challenge crew returns
📅 The week ahead

I Love Lucy

A 2.5-minute exposure photo of Lucy and its Atlas V rocket. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Up and away Lucy went in the wee hours of Saturday morning, hitching a ride on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. The robotic asteroid hunter is now traveling at a brisk ~67,000 mph, per NASA.

Lucy blasted off from launch complex 41 in Cape Canaveral at 5:34 AM ET. The launch of the Lockheed-built spacecraft went off without a hitch, but NASA is investigating a solar array issue. Lucy sent its first ping to NASA’s Deep Space Network at 6:40 am ET.

We’re thrilled NASA chose the name Lucy rather than some funky acronym. Named after a Beatles song, the $981 million mission is expected to last 12 years, log nearly 4 billion miles, and probe eight of Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. On the docket: 

  • Earth gravity assist in 2022
  • 2027 arrival and four targeted flybys 
  • Return to Earth for another gravity boost in 2031 
  • 2033 encounter of a second swarm of Trojans 

“Lucy embodies NASA’s enduring quest to push out into the cosmos for the sake of exploration and science, to better understand the universe and our place within it,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. 

The bigger picture: SpaceX is taking cargo and crews to the International Space Station. Plenty of other companies are ramping up operations in low-Earth orbit. With more ISS and LEO needs being met by the private sector, NASA is shifting its focus to deep space exploration (and, of course, Artemis). 

That’s a Wrap

Soyuz MS-18 departs the ISS. Photo: NASA TV

Cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, actress Yulia Peresild, and director Klim Shipenko landed in Kazakhstan yesterday. Novitskiy was in space for 191 days; Peresild and Shipenko were there for 12. The crew’s Soyuz MS-18 undocked from the ISS at 9:14 ET on Saturday night and landed just after midnight. 

Unexpected plot twist: Due to unintentional MS-18 thruster firing, the ISS briefly lost attitude control. NASA mission control told astronauts to start emergency procedures, the NYT reported this weekend. While everything ended up okay, a similar event occurred in July due to inadvertent and unexpected thruster firing on Russia’s Nauka module. 

  • Roscomos issued a statement this weekend, saying “the station and the crew are in no danger.” 
  • A NASA spokesperson echoed the sentiment: “The crew was never in any danger.”
  • Behind the scenes, the space agencies are working to identify the root cause of the issue. 

Back on Earth…We’re waiting with bated breath for Vyzov (translation: Challenge), the space docudrama starring Peresild. She plays a doctor who must perform emergency heart surgery on a cosmonaut in microgravity. Shipenko aimed to shoot 35-40 minutes on the ISS. We’re curious to see what percentage of the final film is footage from space. 

While there are still many first to be had in space, “first feature film shot in space” is officially in the record books. Russia has earned bragging rights over Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman, who are also ISS-bound, would-be space filmmakers. No launch date for the Americans has been announced.

In Other News

  • China has tested a hypersonic glide vehicle capable of carrying nuclear payloads, the FT reports. The vehicle, which travels through space, was reportedly tested with a Long March-2C rocket in August. 
  • OneWeb update: Over half of the company’s constellation is in orbit. 358 down (or up)…290 to go. 
  • The Shenzhou 13 crew entered Tiangong’s Tianhe module. The three astronauts have kicked off a six-month stay at the station, which will be Tiangong’s longest-ever crewed mission. 
  • Boeing’s next Starliner test will likely slip to mid-2022, per SpaceNews. 
  • NASA delayed the CAPSTONE mission to March 2022. The mission will launch on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from the company’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand.

The Week Ahead

Today: Today and tomorrow, Blue Origin is holding an open house in LA. 

Tuesday: ExPace is set to launch an Earth Observation satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, a Chinese spaceport in the Gobi desert. 

Wednesday: The House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics is holding a hearing on deep space travel and nuclear propulsion. 

Thursday: South Korea is set to launch its newfangled Nuri rocket. It will be the maiden flight for Nuri, also known as Korea Space Launch Vehicle-II, a domestically designed rocket. 

And…at 10 AM EST, the Senate Commerce Space and Science Subcommittee is holding a hearing: “International Collaboration and Competition in Space: Oversight of NASA’s Role and Programs.” The witnesses: former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; Mary Lynne Dittmar, Axiom EVP for Government Affairs; Mike Gold, Redwire Space EVP for Civil Space and External Affairs; and Patricia Sanders, chair of the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel.

Friday: Arianespace is set to launch two comms satellites into geostationary orbit. 

The View from Space

Photo: NASA/M.McArthur

Astronaut Megan McArthur captured this shot of an airplane in flight above Alberta, Canada. In her words…“Where ya headed, friends?”

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