Science & Astronomy
13. December 2015

There was such a lot going on this week that it was actually hard to choose from all the news. The big ones were the arrival of the first US cargo spacecraft to the ISS since the failed launches from OrbitalATK and SpaceX and the Soyuz departure, but the bright spots on Ceres, Pluto in colour, Curiosity reaching the sand dunes on Mars, an almost lost Japanese space probe finally reaching Venus  and Germany’s first fusion reactor were equally exciting. This time, I’ve included both stories that were posted in the WSH Crew Community and my G+ Space & Astronomy Collection and I think I will continue this arrangement from now on to get a bit more diversity. If I go on with those posts, I might as well do it right – and there will be even more going on next week! But now on to the news…

» Capture Complete: OA-4 Cygnus arrives at the Space Station (NASA Spaceflight / Chris Gebhardt) – OrbitalATK’s S.S. Deke Slayton II has made it to the ISS – this article has a detailed description of the rendezvous maneuver, while AmericaSpace has another one with more about the cargo.

» US Air Force’s X37-B Space Plane Wings Past 200 Days in Orbit ( David) – Nobody knows much about what the X37-B is doing up there, but it’s probably just spying on everyone.

» Those mysterious bright spots on Ceres? Probably salty ice, scientists say (Geekwire/Alan Boyle) – We knew it had to be something else than aliens and a salty frozen lake sounds just about right.

» Soyuz with Expedition 45 Trio Lands after 141 Days in Space (NASA) – Kjell Lindgren, Oleg Kononenko and Kimiya Yui are safely back on earth! The weather was so terrible at the landing site that at first it didn’t look like there would be a video broadcast, but there was actually some video footage of the usual landing brouhaha including the customary flag flying… but it looked terrible windy and cold there!

» NASA Mars Curiosity Rover reaches Sand Dunes (NASA/JPL) – The rover has now reached the dunes as planned and will start investigating how they are formed. That’s right, driving around with a mobile laboratory truck on Mars looking at sand dunes!

» Germany just switched on a revolutionary Nuclear Fusion Machine (ScienceAlert/Fiona McDonald) – It’s a big step in the right direction and the name Wendlestein 7-X is almost lyrical. Plasma has already been achieved, if only briefly. We should stay tuned for more!

» Saving STEREO-B: The 189-Million-Mile Road to Recovery (NASA) – The STEREO-B sun observing spacecraft hasn’t been heard from for over a year, but now there may be a small chance to regain contact.

» Pluto’s Close-Up, now in Colour (NASA/JHUAPL) – The New Horizons imaging team has now processed fantastic colour closeups from the July 14 flyby.

» Gen. Hyten & Sen. McCain Pummel ULA & Raytheon for ‘Poor Judgement & Incompetence’ (AmericaSpace/Greg Covault) – What I do not get is why McCain is attacking ULA for not competing with a RUSSIAN engine and the contract going to a completely AMERICAN-built rocket from SpaceX. (That was a rhetorical statement, actually I do get it – it’s about ULA complaining to Congress about the import restrictions of Russian engines and McCain seems to want to punish them for this.)

» Akatsuki’s new orbit, first images, and science plans (Planetary Society/Emily Lakdawalla) – The Japanese space agency JAXA has successfully brought the Akatsuki space probe into orbit around Venus after a first orbital insertion maneuver five years ago failed. This article has all the details about the current status of the spacecraft, which is in surprisingly good shape considering the circumstances!

» A Rosetta OSIRIS picture of comet 67P that’s only hours old (Planetary Society/Emily Lakdawalla) – It’s again Emily who points out that OSIRIS high-resolution images of Comet 67/p are being released regularly now on the Osiris Image of the Day website. Those are fresh images just barely a couple of days old!

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