This joint statement reflects the common vision for human exploration that NASA and Roscosmos share. Both agencies, as well as other International Space Station partners, see the gateway as a strategic component of human space exploration architecture that warrants additional study. NASA has already engaged industry partners in gateway concept studies. Roscosmos and other space station partner agencies are preparing to do the same.
"While the deep space gateway is still in concept formulation, NASA is pleased to see growing international interest in moving into cislunar (between the earth and moon) space as the next step for advancing human space exploration," said Robert Lightfoot, NASA's acting administrator at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Statements such as this one signed with Roscosmos show the gateway concept as an enabler to the kind of exploration architecture that is affordable and sustainable."
NASA plans to expand human presence into the solar system starting in the vicinity of the Moon using its new deep space exploration transportation systems, the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. This plan challenges our current capabilities in human spaceflight and will benefit from engagement by multiple countries and U.S. industry.
Studies of the gateway concept will provide technical information to inform future decisions about potential collaborations. These domestic and international studies are being used to shape the capabilities and partnering options for implementing the deep space gateway.
The space station partners are working to identify common exploration objectives and possible missions for the 2020s, including the gateway concept. A key element of their study is to ensure that future deep space exploration missions take full advantage of technology development and demonstration enabled by the International Space Station, as well as lessons learned from its assembly and operations.
During the same time period and in parallel, NASA has been engaging U.S. industry to evaluate habitation concepts for the gateway and for the deep space transport that would be needed for Mars exploration. NASA has competitively awarded a series of study and risk reduction contracts under the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) Broad Agency Announcement to advance habitation concepts, technologies, and prototypes of the required capabilities needed for deep space missions. The most recent awards included six U.S. companies; Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and Nanoracks. Five of the six firms were selected to develop full-sized ground-based engineering prototypes of habitation systems, expected to be complete in 2018. NASA has also solicited industry proposals for studies on concept development of a power and propulsion element, which would be the first piece of a gateway architecture.
NASA. (2017). NASA, Roscosmos Sign Joint Statement on Researching, Exploring Space. [online] Available at: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-roscosmos-sign-joint-statement-on-researching-exploring-deep-space [Accessed 28 Sep. 2017].
The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 12:06 p.m. EDT on Sept. 10, 2017. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which observes the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.
This flare is classified as an X8.2-class flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.
This flare is the capstone on a series of flares from Active Region 2673, which was identified on Aug. 29 and is currently rotating off the front of the sun as part of our star’s normal rotation.
Of the two solar flares, the second was the strongest observed since 2008. Global communications and some GPS systems were temporarily affected on the sunny side of the Earth at the time. The first flare, which peaked at approximately 5:10am EDT, was classified as an X2.2.
The radio “blackout period” caused by the storm has already passed, affecting some high frequency radio and GPS communications for approximately one hour on the sunlit side of the Earth at the time of the event.
X-class solar flares are the largest explosions that take place within our solar system, shooting out jets of plasma that can reach up to 10 times the size of the Earth in length.
For reference, the most powerful solar flare ever recorded took place in 2003 and was measured as an X28, the New Scientist reports.
To see how this event may affect Earth, please visit NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center at http://spaceweather.gov, the U.S. government's official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings.
NASA. (2017). Sun Erupts With Significant Flare. [online] Available at: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2017/active-region-on-sun-continues-to-emit-solar-flares [Accessed 13 Sep. 2017].
RT International. (2017). Monster belches: Sun produces most powerful solar flare in over decade (PHOTOS). [online] Available at: https://www.rt.com/news/402247-powerful-solar-flares-nasa/ [Accessed 13 Sep. 2017].
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