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Space

Deep Space Network of NASA introduces the family to a New Dish

A superior antenna has joined Navigation’s Deep Space Network (DSN) and NASA Space Communications. The new dish helps NASA to link to the space robots, allowing solar system exploration. The antenna is called DSS-56 or Deep Space Station. It is now in operation, ready to convey information with various missions, such as Perseverance rover of NASA as soon as it reaches down on Red Planet next month.

The new antenna is 112-foot-wide, and its construction started in 2017 at Madrid Deep Space Communication Complex in Spain. The current dishes have minimal frequency bands, which they can send and receive. This limits them to communicate with only particular spacecraft. The DSS-56 is the first antenna to utilize the entire range of Deep Space Network’s communication frequencies immediately after moving online. This indicates that the DSS-56 is an all-around dish capable of communicating with all missions supported by the DSN. It can also be used as reinforcement for all Madrid complex’s other dishes.

Badri Younes, who works at the Space Communications and Navigation of NASA as a deputy associate administrator as well as program manager, said that the new dish provides the Deep Space Network with extra real-time dependability and flexibility. He added that the DSS-56 would offer all necessary support for over 30 deep space missions that depend on their successful services. This means that the DSS-56, together with the 34-meter dishes, will play a vital role in providing navigation and communication support for future Mars and Moon missions and also to the crewed Artemis missions.

Thomas Zurbuchen, Science Mission Directorate’s associate administrator at NASA’s centre in Washington, said that the Deep Space Network is essential in what they do in the solar system and connects the Earth with distant robotic explorers. He added that they are trying to improve the network to help expand their capabilities for future human missions to the Moon and Mars. Thomas said that the DSS-56 was developed through international partnership; hence it is expected to benefit all humanity worldwide in exploring deep space.

The DSS-56 was launched on Friday, January 22, in a virtual ribbon-cutting event attended by all international partners who took part in its construction. The event was delayed because of the historic snowfall experienced in Spain. Bradford Arnold, who works at Jet Propulsion Laboratory situated in Southern California as a DSN project manager said that after a long commissioning process, the DSN’s 34-meter antenna is now communicating with their spacecraft. He added that Madrid’s team persisted despite the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions coupled with Spain’s harsh weather conditions. Arnold proudly welcomed the DSS-56 to the global DSN family.

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News Space

Five things predicted by Elon Musk we can expect to see in this year (2021)

Elon Musk has proven to the world multiple times that he is more than ready to actualize his dreams into realities. He is the man that gave us SpaceX, an aerospace company, and Tesla, the leading electric car company in the world. He frequently fascinates the public through his outspoken predictions, which attract different opinions from supporters and critics. From building self-driving cars to treating diseases using a microchip embedded in the brain, Musk is convinced that he will accomplish these goals. His predictions have not always been accurate. Some have backfired, but this does not deter the tech billionaire from making new and more ambitious goals. Here are 5 of the most awaited projects by Musk we can all look forward to in 2021:

  1. Self-driving electric cars

Elon Musk’s Tesla has launched a string of electric car models latest being the Model Y compact, an all-electric compact SUV. Tesla’s electric cars have autopilot features but still require a driver’s input. According to Musk, the company is very close to making a car that requires no driver’s input.

“I remain confident that we will have the basic functionality for level five autonomy complete this year,” he said. Despite the challenges that came with the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, this ambition could be brought to life before 2021 ends.

  1. Universal Satellite Internet

In 2015, SpaceX unveiled an internet plan meant to launch thousands of small satellites into the low earth orbit. The project is known as Starlink. The Starlink constellation is made up of big solar panels that power the small satellites which connect to receivers on the ground to offer internet services. By 2020, Starlink had launched over 1000 satellites into the Low Earth Orbit.

Going by Musk’s predictions, we will soon have reliable satellite internet accessed from anywhere in the world.

  1. Brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) to cure neurological conditions

Musk founded a neurotechnology company in 2016 to develop a BMI that could be implanted on a patient’s brain to cure neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and spinal cord injuries.

Despite loads of criticism from neuroscientists, Musk is determined to actualize this technology, with tests already carried out on pig’s brains.

The first human trial will be conducted in 2021.

  1. Lunar missions-landing men on the moon’s surface and testing cars on the moon’s surface

Musk’s predictions have sparked a lot of controversies. This has not discouraged him from stating his lunar plans before 2025. He plans to conduct a car rally on the moon’s surface before 2025.in October 2021, a SpaceX rocket will transport vehicles to the moon. The company will then carry out a car rally, controlled from the earth.

Additionally, Musk revealed in 2019 that they were working on a Lunar return mission in 2022. “Certainly, with an unscrewed vehicle, I believe we could land on the moon in two years. So then maybe within a year or two of that, we could be sending a crew. I would say four years at the outside,” said Musk.

  1. Lowest cost of solar panels

Musk is passionate about renewable energy. In 2016, Tesla acquired SolarCity, a solar panel manufacturer, and seller. Currently, SolarCity sells the cheapest solar panels and solar roof tiles in the US. It is also developing a storage battery, the Powerwall. Powerwall will allow consumers to store solar energy for future use when there are no sun rays, for example, at night. Powerball technology will be made available to the public in 2021.

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Space

Astronomers outline the tricks to minimize the obstruction caused by the satellite constellations

The American Astronomical Society and the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab expressed their concern that satellites’ mega-constellations within the low-Earth orbit will obstruct the visibility of the cosmos system. The two came up with a research report articulating how to minimize the interference from these satellites. One of the plausible strategies is minimizing the number of satellites going into the LEO, which completely clears the problem but is an impossibility for the satellite operators.  

The recommendations came up in the workshop that brought together astronomers, scientists, and satellite operators. The senior executive of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Phil Puxley, explained that the satellite effect of reflecting sunlight on Earth impedes the astronomical discoveries’ visibility and can be easily confused with shining stars.

Since SpaceX’s deployment of its bright 60 satellites, the issue of satellite reflection became more visible. The satellite operator’s intention to deploy over 20000 satellites for its Starlink constellation envisioned an upcoming challenge for the astronomical view causing an uproar from this sector.

Some of the challenges that the astronomers have identified to be lethal for their astronomical observations include the light trail left by the constellation of satellites, which could confuse them as being transient events from the solar system in space.

The workshop discussed at large the possible impacts of the satellites as impediments to the astronomical studies that will be conducted at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, which is under development. The senior scientist in this observatory, Tony Tyson, stated that this machine is too good to encounter such problems when it should be making critical additions to science.

The other recommendation that the workshop outlined to resolve this satellite problem is to allow the constellation operators to launch their satellites below 600 kilometers from Earth to minimize their visibility as stars in space. This move will make the satellites appear as shadows, especially at night. The challenge now is that some satellite operators intended to deploy their constellations above this altitude like OneWeb’s constellation.

Another strategy that can salvage astronomy’s satellite problem is darkening the satellites that make them invisible to the naked eyes. This strategy can work well when the satellite is tilted to avoid the sun’s rays and a subsequent reflection of this light. SpaceX has tried to test its darkening mechanism by launching a satellite covered with visors and minimize the reflection effect.

Although these mechanisms may work effectively, some light trails may be left behind by the satellites and hence the need to cover them up with software or remove them from astronomical images. Finally, the workshop concluded that the system must integrate into simulations to determine how to resolve other issues that arise in the astronomical observations. Astronomers also expect the constellation operators to account for their satellites’ position to avoid confusing them with the solar system objects.

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Space

Sources reveal that China deployed a reusable spacecraft in secret

After conducting numerous undisclosed tests of the craft at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China deployed its first reusable spacecraft. Details from a Chinese source reveal that the L9ng March 2F space vehicle deployed this spacecraft into space at an unidentified time. 

The Chinese media only announced that this mission was a success immediately on receiving details of the spacecraft reaching its orbit. As we speak, the spacecraft is in its orbit conducting the research it had intended to carry out. The spacecraft will conduct various tests before returning to the outlined landing facility in China. Xinhua media of China says that this reusable spacecraft’s performance will inform the future adjustment and modification on the Chinese spacecraft before a declaration that it can conduct more missions. 

The Chinese government was watchful to ensure that this mission remains as secretive as possible by availing the security detail to scare away any paparazzi that might take photos and videos of this launch mission. However, Airspace gave out statements announcing the details of a country that has launched a spacecraft into space. China explained three years ago that it would launch a reusable spacecraft into space in 2020 to test its reuse capability in subsequent missions. 

The possibility that China might have launched a spacecraft is high given that the country was adjusting the details of the Long March 2F space vehicle in the past few months. This operation triggered the rumor that China might be conducting launch preparations for its spacecraft since this space vehicle is large enough to host a spacecraft. 

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) explained in 2017 that it was organizing space navigation exploit to inform the development of a spaceplane. This strategy also composed spacecraft reusability for a nuclear-powered launch mission for the country’s shuttle in 2045. The tests for the spacecraft’s reusability have started with this launch, making sure of this idea. 

Chen Hongbo of CASC admitted that the reusable spacecraft could host both the payloads and crew. He added that the remodeling of the space vehicle would enable it to host a spacecraft. The CASC has lived up to its name with several flights taking place this year and the subsequent reuse of the spacecraft whose purpose is to minimize space navigation costs. 

Elsewhere, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) is developing the Tengyun spaceplane capable of deploying a spacecraft to its orbital path in space by taking off like an aeroplane. This technology will inform an evaluation of the space industry missions and create cheap avenues for smallsat startups to enjoy rideshare services. 

Finally, this mission becomes the 15th for the Long March 2F rocket, having deployed both crewed and uncrewed spacecraft to their orbits. The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center is specially located for the return docking missions making the missions a success. 

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Space

A Blue Origin subgroup hands over the lunar lander model to NASA

NASA’s Artemis program hand-picked three groups to work on the program’s Moon lander concepts. Blue Origin leads one of the teams that handed over a full-sized model of the lander to NASA for examination by the agency’s engineers and astronauts. During Blue Origin’s statement on August 20, the team confirmed installing an engineering structure of the lander at the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at Johnson Space Center. The low-precision full-sized model is approximately 12 meters in height and integrates both the components built by Blue Origin and that developed by Lockheed Martin. 

The corporations built the model to enable NASA’s astronauts and engineers to review the vehicle’s design, particularly the locations of different components, and acquire feedback during the early phase of development of the lunar lander. During an interview, Brent Sherwood gave details of the assessment aspects, first being the cabin design, which involves the controls and displays within the spacecraft. Secondly, the angles of the view-point outside the cabin. The assessment will include taking cosmonauts into and out of the lander as well as its access apparatus. The test-runs will provide early feedback regarding the design, thus allowing for easy implementation of changes. 

Even with technological advancements such as virtual reality, the organizations insist on using a pilot model to test the lander’s design. Kirk Shireman, the previous director of NASA’s International Space Station program, pointed out the inadequacy of virtual reality to give a clear picture hence the need for a physical vehicle. The new modifications include fixing windows and other compartments that influence the lander’s general structure. The tests seek to point out details left out by the designers. 

Among the Blue Origin subgroup teams are two corporations Northrop Grumman and Draper, whose purpose is to oversee the operations facilitating this mission’s achievement. For example, Northrop Grumman will build the transfer element used in gliding the lander in the Moon orbit. Meanwhile, Draper will be outlining the navigation and orbital path. Sherwood’s revealed Blue Origin’s plans to conduct operations tests on its BE-7 engine which is a thruster for this moon lander, at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Further improvements are to be made on the propulsion and storage technologies for the engine. 

NASA deployed the Human Landing System (HLS) contracts to three firms four months ago. The Blue Origin team received a $579 million contract for this project. On the other hand, the Dynetics group procured the second HLS contract whose tune runs to $253 million, with the last team from SpaceX acquiring a similar agreement valued at $135 million. The team from Blue Origin anticipates being sanctioned to initiate operations in the upcoming weeks.

NASA intends to reschedule the call for submissions for the next stage of the project before September. The development of the model is a massive stride towards the success of the program. In conclusion, there is an anticipation of significant progress after the lead firm receiving the results and feedback from the evaluation of the full-sized moon lander module.

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Space

Morpheus Space receives a financial boost after attracting stable capital financiers

Morpheus Space has come into contact with a high-quality team of financiers in its first capital collection. The German company is getting financial backup from In-Q-Tel, Airbus Ventures, Vsquared Ventures, Techstars Ventures, Pallas Ventures, and Lavrock Ventures of MacLean.

Morpheus Space is adamant about divulging the amount of capital it receives and choosing instead to list the companies backing it financially. The chief executive and co-founder of the Morpheus Space, Daniel Bock, emailed his enthusiasm after receiving enough starting capital to run through these trying times. He added that this move by the high-profile financiers to support them is one of the space industry’s propellers to achieve expansion.

Morpheus revealed on August 26 that Richard Spencer, currently the Pallas Ventures managing director, is entering the firm to be part of the managerial team. Spencer articulated that Morpheus has an incredible capacity to meet both the private and public industry customers’ needs.

Morpheus Space develops crucial spacecraft devices that enable it to run at a supersonic speed. One of the devices includes Nano Field-Effect Electric Propulsion rocket engines. These engines are known for thrusting a German CubeSat, Experimental-4, to the low-Earth orbit in the past two months. Daniel Bock is among the developers who ensured that the technology leading to these devices’ development is secured by federal means.

The Rocket Lab space system director Richard French stated that the space exploration while remaining in orbit suits the small spacecraft. He adds that these systems require hypersonic and efficient thrusters to ensure the spacecraft remains in orbit. Morpheus’s devices are an exciting part of the supply chain for space systems, even as the space industry prepares to venture deep space with these spacecrafts.

Morpheus competed with other firms in the technological display held by Techstars Starburst Space Accelerator last year. Matt Kozlov, the lead director of Techstars Starburst Space Accelerator, stated that Morpheus is one of the efficient performers in the industry after they financed their projects.

The Vsquared Ventures co-founder Herbert Mangesius stated that Morpheus’s thrusters are a technological development that will propel the space industry to greater achievements. He added that these technical aspects of technology would facilitate deep space exploration by the small spacecraft.

Elsewhere, Lavrock Ventures’ major partner Steve Smoot stated that Morpheus Space is a reliable firm for engine designing. He added that they support Morpheus Space because it can counteract various space problems like deorbiting and satellite constellation aggressiveness.

To sum up, Airbus Ventures chief finance officer Claas Carsten Kohl explained the firm’s excitement to support Morpheus Space in developing space propulsion technology to enhance the space exploration by small satellites. He articulated that this firm will help startups rise and venture space and other planets with their sophisticated technology.

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Space

MarCO motivates cubesat developers to think of deep space exploration

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA has been able to launch cubesats for the Mars mission. Despite the risk of distance twin Mars Cube One spacecraft took off for Mars and recovered vital data on the planet via Insight lander. 

During the mission, one of the MarCO cubesats experienced a fuel leakage before malfunctioning on hitting Mars’ glow. The cubesat trackers derailed making the craft to lose angular momentum. JPL’s chief engineer for MarCO cubesats, Andrew Klesh, explained to SpaceNews that the cubesat experienced its mission challenges. 

JPL successfully maneuvered the MarCO cubesat through its mission, maintaining a communication connection back to Earth. The success of the mission has shown that cubesats are vital in science explorations globally. Klesh explained that the leaky satellite utilized direction details from solar panels and antenna to meander through Mars successfully. The cubesats that went to Mars were able to image the planet and obtain essential data for future space exploits and deep space missions. 

Klesh articulates that MarCO has become an inspiration for many exploits globally. MarCO spacecraft has been collaborating with NASA on this mission, but the surveillance campaign came back negative. As a result, NASA opted to terminate the mission early. Currently, JPL is dealing with other partners and the lessons from MarCO cubesat to develop advanced systems for deep space exploration. 

Cubesats are affordable to develop compared to large spacecraft. However, the cubesats specially made for deep space exploration are advanced in terms of component materials than their low-Earth orbit counterparts. 

Some of the notable changes required for the full operationalization of MarCO for new missions include radio transmitter, reflector array, and other essential cubesat elements. These changes include creating a massive propulsion tank, a GPS control system, and a flight computer that can function efficiently in deep space. 

The ESA’s cubesat technology manager, Roger Walker, states that they are implementing the technical modifications that they learned from the MarCO cubesat mission. He reiterates that they have learned new cubesat recommendations that they will be used to adjust and develop appropriate cubesats. 

Currently, ESA is manufacturing five deep space cubesats. The firm is working on minimizing costs for spacecraft operations. This move will facilitate the launch of its cubesats like M-ARGO for space exploits. 

Lowering costs will also enhance the growth of the innovation department of the company. 

Research is keen to observe that their cubesat mission goes further than Mars to make a permanent contribution to cubesat exploits. Another vital mission is the MARIO cubesats mission, which will be researching the Martian atmosphere’s thermal activity. This project is part of the studies at the Polytechnic University of Milan. 

In conclusion, the partially successful MarCO cubesat mission motivates other satellite operators to observe its challenges and prepare for new exploits. The mission has sparked the development of new cubesats with better components. 

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Space

Russia conducts an anti-satellite weapon test according to the U.S. Space Command

On July 23, the U.S. Space released a statement about having proof that Russia had undertaken a test of the Anti-satellite arm on the orbit. That occurred on July 15, but it was non-destructive. The supposed object came from a satellite not new to space enthusiasts, Cosmos-2543. Not long ago, around the beginning of this year, the U.S. Space Command reported that the same satellite has manoeuvred near a satellite belonging to the U.S. government.

In February, Gen. John Jay Raymond who serves as the chief of the space operations of U.S. Space Force, as well as commander of the U.S. Space Command, went on to accuse Russia of spying. According to him, Russia had deployed a spy. It was ejected to the Cosmos-2543 sub-satellite, and they called it the Cosmos-2542 satellite. The former satellite was always going after the USA 245 owned by National Reconnaissance Office. This is a classified imaging satellite hence the need for an alarm.

The tag of war reemerged in April with concerns of a test of an anti-satellite missile carried out by Russia. According to Raymond, it has the ability to affect American satellites located in the low Earth orbit.

Therefore, the July 15 test was yet another threat to the space assets by Russia. They also said that the satellites resemble a space-based weapon. Laura Seward Forczyk, who is a space policy expert as well as a consultant can already smell the rat. She warns that there could erupt escalation regarding space.

As far as the U.S. assistant secretary of State Christopher Ford who is also the acting undersecretary for arms control and international security, Russia is hypocritical. On one hand, it is advocating for arms control in the outer space. On the other hand, it is testing space-based weapons in that same territory. That is not fair to the United States because it chose to stop the same and if those things continue the U.S. will perceive the move by Russia to advocate for outer space arms control as a restriction to the capabilities of United States.

One would wonder why it is a big deal, yet even the tests are not destructive. However, this is the issue. According to Laura, if Russia continues to do the tests, other states, including the United States, may also want to test their ASAT systems. With no one in control of what goes up there, a problem or destruction may occur. Eventually, what will come out of the push and pull will be unpleasant. She shared her thoughts via Twitter when she tweeted about the same issue on July 23. Her exact words are that it is a dangerous feedback cycle.

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Space

SES purchases four additional satellites of the O3b type from Boeing

Boeing plans to design more O3b mPower hypersonic communications satellite for the satellite operator SES after the August 7 order of raising the constellation to 11 satellites. 

Operations are underway to ensure that Boeing develops the first set of seven O3b mPower satellites as per the 2017 agreement. Initially, the plan was for all seven would launch at the terminal of 2021 via SpaceX’s Falcon rockets. Currently, it is plausible that the first three satellites to launch in 2021 with the next set of six in 2022 and the last pair in the next four years.

The 11 satellites will be operating from the medium Earth orbit to avail communication services for both the government and the commercial sector. Boeing is utilizing its advanced technology in the satellite framework to develop the O3b mPower spacecraft. Each of the consequent satellites will transpose 50 megabits to multiple gigabits for the customers.

The SES chief executive, Steve Collar, announced that they had established a network range covering a variant orbit, variant frequency, hypersonic, and reliable engineering design that is valuable for the government agencies. He adds that that is in a frenzy mood as they work towards the inauguration of the O3b mPower to extend collaboration with Boeing.

SES approximates to use $566 million in the development of the four satellites. This sum details the manufacturing, insurance, operating, and launch costs.

These four new satellites will be highly technical compared to the earlier seven. Collar reveals that this move will stimulate the working of the by 90 percent. Boeing and SES are partnering to integrate the O3b satellite operation in the medium-Earth orbit for US-based military communication systems.

Collar explained that they are working on their R&D department to meet the demands of their governmental partners since they form 34% of their revenue stream. This statement is valid since the military will be utilizing a more significant portion of the O3b satellites because of their extended lifespan of 12 years. Collar reiterates that they will continue working on the advancement of their payloads for the medium-Earth orbit spectrum if their customer base widens.

Collar retorts that SES is happy with the ongoing satellite production via its partners. Key manufacturers include Thales Alenia Space 98, which is developing 20 O3b satellites with the other operators working on 50 geostationary satellites. The chief executive of SES Networks, John-Paul Hemingway, expounded that the difference between the previous satellites and the current is the capacity to transpose the beam of megabits to a high value.

Finally, Hemingway states that they hope that the new satellites will end the shift of beam capacity from one place to another in a move to attain the desirable bit speed. 

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Space

Jettisons Apollo moon of NASA alighting stats to get 300thAmerican spacewalk

To be ready for two spacemen marking a recent breakthrough in space, NASA has decided to re-amend the records regarding multiple of its historical operations, including the first moon stopover.

As history states, Apollo 11 team members Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong did their foremost-ever moonwalk on 20th July 1969. The spacemen’s two and a half hours visit to study lunar surface was documented by news magazines, historians, writers as well as NASA. As the operation’s solely extravehicular action or EVA. The practical term for spacewalking.

Conversely, with the latest media release, NASA efficiently was able to add another EVA (extravehicular activity) to the foremost moonwalkers’ credit, and it did not halt there. It has currently swapped its logbooks to supplement another EVA to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th as well as 5th moon alighting and raised the count for the 6th and final Apollo lunate alighting by two.

This was not an error, a NASA representative cited. The extravehicular checked numerous times their stats. The modification was done deliberately even though the motive for doing so was not clarified.

An official of JSC (Johnson Space Center) revealed to collectSPACE that the meaning of an extravehicular activity alongside team members uncovered to vacuum changed over the years, and the meaning evolved to some degree touching on the semantics of what founded an extravehicular for history.

The 13th July mass release that veiled at this latest tactic to extravehicular was not in regards to the Apollo operation, but rather a forthcoming spacewalk far from the ISS. Itinerated for 21st July, Chris Cassidy and his counterpart Bob Behnken shall leave the orbiting lab to take out ground-handling fittings from a constellation of stellar collections and commence readying for the setup of the business airlock.

NASA remarked that when Bob and Chris went out, they would have been on the 300th spacewalk implicating American spacemen since Ed White came out of his Gemini 4 capsule on 3rd Jun 1965. 

300 American spacewalks in 55 years certainly does deserve some recognition. There was one difficulty, though. Per multiple self-reliantly maintained outlines of spacewalks, the Tuesday extravehicular activity (EVA) would be 293.

NASA did not reveal its outline; instead, it gave out a summary by space shuttle and kind of airlock. The response, it seemed, was in a note comprised of spacemen in the moon.

Putting aside that, the stand-up extravehicular activity (EVA), as well as trash jettisons, were handled as dissimilar actions in the past, the annotation recognized the source of the inconsistency; a couple of times that Apollo spacemen depressurized their lunar units to throw out utilized gear before lasting off from the moon and heading back to the Earth.