Science & Astronomy
29. February 2016

This week’s round of space and science news is again a collection of articles I posted in my Space & Astronomy Collection on Google+ and in the WSH Crew Community. Edition #8 comes one day late because I wanted to wait for the SpaceX SES-9 launch… which was scrubbed yet again yesterday evening after the third attempt was first thwarted by a boat in the safety range and then by an engine shutdown miliseconds before launch. I also wanted to find out if The Martian had won any Oscars, but it didn’t even get one out of several nominations! But there were still a lot of other of very interesting news, so here is last week’s collection only slightly dominated by rocket launches and award disappointments.

» NASA researchers are working on a laser propulsion system that could get to Mars in 3 days (ScienceAlert) – Laser-based propulsion is still far away, but one day it might be the ticket to other planets.

» Should Alpha Centauri be the first target for interstellar probes? (SpaceflightInsider) – An interesting opinion article on whether New Horizons or another uncrewed probe should be steered towards Alpha Centauri… to arrive in a couple of ten thousands of years.

» U.S. resupply ship headed for space station to launch March 22 (Spaceflight Now) – It’s not the SpaceX Dragon yet, but the next Cygnus transporter on top of an Atlas 5 – the next one after that will use OrbitalATK’s own new Antares rocket with a new motor again.

» ExoMars 2016 Orbiter and Lander Mated for March Launch (Universe Today) – ExoMars is going to launch in only two weeks from now on March 14.

» NASA Is Growing Potatoes In Peru To Simulate Martian Conditions (PopularScience) – One day humans will take up farming on Mars, so it’s important to try out on Earth what grows best in an extreme environment.

» Scott Kelly Returns, but Science for NASA’s Journey to Mars Continues (NASA) – It’s not the first study on the effects of long-duration spaceflight, but one of the most ambitious ones. 

» Large-ish Meteor Hits Earth… But No One Notices (Discovery News) – Meteors over uninhabited parts of the earth probably come down far more often than we think.

» Your Favorite Planet May Soon Turn Up In The Mail (Universe Today) – New planet stamps from the US postoffice – Pluto excluded, but both Pluto and New Horizons already got their own stamp set last year. I wish the German postoffice would do something like this!

» SES eager to fly satellite aboard used Falcon 9 rocket (SpaceFlightNow) – The Luxembourg satellite giant is very interested in flying a recycled Falcon 9 sometime.

» Ape in space! Watch Scott Kelly’s space station prank (GeekWire) – The blink-and-you-miss-it video was first posted on Scott Kelly’s brother Mark’s Twitter account and some people got all worked up about a probably misuse of government funds – which is complete nonsense, since the suit was brought up as Scott Kelly’s own luggage.

» Search Narrows For Planet Nine (Universe Today) – we may now have a better idea where to search for the still theoretical ninth planet.

» SpaceX wins 5 new space station cargo missions in NASA contract estimated at $700 million ( – The cargo contract has been expanded – as was actually expected.

» Fast radio bursts finally identified as being very far away (BadAstronomy) – The mystery about the FRB’s is slowly being unraveled. This was actually one of the bigger news items this week.

» Former NASA chief on US space policy: “No vision, no plan, no budget” (ArsTechnica) – Mike Griffin may have a point, but his time as NASA administrator did not exactly create a much better situation.

» Dream Chaser: Sierra Nevada’s Design for Spaceflight ( – An interesting article about the origins and future of Sierra Nevada’s spaceplane.

» SpaceX or Blue Origin? Who’s Winning Space Race 2.0? (Futurism) – Is it a space race at all? This article nicely demystifies the supposed rivalry between the two spaceflight companies.

» Spotlight On Pluto’s Frozen Polar Canyons (Universe Today) – Pluto does not only have interesting regions around its ‘heart’, but the poles are equally fascinating and interesting.

» Mars Rover Opportunity Climbs Red Planet Ridge ( – The venerable Oppy drives up a 30% incline and still does pretty well, especially for its age.

» Falcon 9 grounded again after last-second abort (SpaceflightNow) – SpaceX later confirmedd that the engine shutdown happened because of rising liquid oxygen temperatures due to the delay caused by a boat in the safety range. A new launch attempt will not happen before Tuesday.

» ‘The Martian’ Lands No Oscars at Academy Awards ( – I would at least have expected the movie to get some awards in the technical categories, but absolutely none? Looks like feel-good science-fiction/fact isn’t allowed anymore nowadays.

» Video of the Week: The Gorilla on the ISS, of course!

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