Science & Astronomy
13. March 2016

This week’s round of space and science news is again a collection of articles posted in my Space & Astronomy Collection on Google+ and in the WSH Crew Community – plus a a couple of stories that I hadn’t actually gotten around to share because there was so much going on. Last week I was thinking of giving up this weekly posting, but the feedback was so positive again that I decided to keep it going – at least as long as I have the time to put it together. And there were a lot of interesting things happening this week, although there wasn’t one story particularly standing out – that will probably come tomorrow when ExoMars has launched, but I wanted to post this on Sunday to get back into the regular rhythm. So here are a lot of good news for space and science with only a little bit of politics mixed in!

» Jeff Bezos opens up Blue Origin rocket factory (GeekWire) – The press got a factory tour of the notoriously secretive rocket company.

» New Study Suggests Mars’ Ancient Surface Shifted and Tilted Due to True Polar Wander (AmericaSpace) – More revelations about Mars’ past come to light in comparison with Earth’s own geological history.

» Red Planet Triumphs and Defeats: A History of Mars Missions ( – With ExoMars launching on Monday, this article reminds about the many failed Mars missions. Let’s hope the Mars curse doesn’t strike for the joint ESA/Roscosmos mission.

» It’s Going To Be A Blast! First RS-25 Flight Engine Test Set For March (Universe Today) – The engine test was successful and NASA has already posted an impressive video of it.

» When Astronomers Chased a Total Eclipse in a Concorde (Motherboard/Vice) – In 1973, a prototype of the supersonic airplane got a very special use: it chased a solar eclipse across the sky to make it ten times as long as seen from the ground.

» DSCOVR Captures EPIC Views of the March 2016 Eclipse (Universe Today) – Solar eclipses are amazing when viewed from the Earth, but they can also be stunning from space as this photo of the eclipse from this week only visible in Southeast Asia shows.

» NASA OKs plan to fix faulty InSight Mars lander (GeekWire) – The InSight Mars lander, which was supposed to launch around this time and was grounded after a problem with a seismometer, has now been given the green light to launch in 2018 with a redesign of the faulty instrument.

» MRO: Ten Years Of Breathtaking Work Above Mars (Universe Today) – The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been at work for a decade and is still producing brilliant images and amazing science.

» Europe’s ExoMars Mission – Opportunity’s Ringside Seat? ( – The Mars rover may get a glimpse of ExoMars’ Schiaparelli lander when it touches down on the planet.

» Astronomers say they’ve found the biggest structure in the universe and they named it the BOSS (Washington Post) – A gigantic cluster of galaxies one billion light years across has been discovered and an appropriate name has been chosen – it’s actually the BOSS Great Wall with BOSS being the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey, so the article headline gets this a bit wrong.

» Russia Thinks It Can Use Nukes to Fly to Mars in 45 Days (Wired) – The rocket science is there, the money is not. This could work if only there was enough budget for it – and if it could be made really safe.

» What’s Eating at Pluto? (NASA) – Analysis of the New Horizons imagery has shown an area that looks like someone bit a chunk out of it, but it was probably “just” sublimating ice (which isn’t any less fascinating).

» Cassini Watches Starlight through Enceladus’ Plume (JPL) – Amazing views from Cassini – the uncalibrated raw images of this encounter are already available on the site.

» NASA examines options and flight paths for SLS EM-2 mission (NASASpaceflight) – I guess you could say that the long-term SLS mission planning is in a bit of disarray…

» US to Buy Eight Russian RD-181 Rocket Engines (SpaceDaily) – This is actually completely separate from the controversy about ULA using Russian engines – this time, OrbitalATK is purchasing engines for their new Antares rocket

» Senators criticize funding “gimmicks” in NASA’s $19 billion budget request (SpaceNews) – The hearings turned out to be not as heated as before, but there has been some criticism of NASA’s way of redistributing their sparse budget.

» ExoMars: Prepare for launch! (Planetary Society) – Emily Lakdawalla’s Primer for the ExoMars launch on Monday morning is very much reconmmended for an overview.

» China Is Planning A Space Telescope That Will Outperform Hubble (Futurism) – The concept is great, but if this is just China showing off or the real thing remains to be seen. But then the Chinese space agency is building space stations right now and has the only human launch capability besides Russia right now.

» All we are is dust in the interstellar wind ( – Interstellar dust can be a problem for astronomical observations, but it’s also possible to learn a lot about the structure of the universe from it.

» NASA Selects Scientists for Mars Rover Research Projects (NASA/JPL) – A big group of new scientists has been selected for Curiosity’s extended mission.

» Kuiper Belt Objects Point The Way To Planet 9 (Universe Today) – It’s all about orbits and the more those of the Kuiper belt objects are analyzed, the closer the search for Planet 9 gets.

» Scott Kelly, NASA’s One-Year Astronaut, Will Retire Next Month ( – Kelly’s retirement didn’t come completely unexpected, but it doesn’t mean he will be never heard of again – like other retired astronauts, he will continue to do outreach work for space exploration.

» First flight of SpaceX Falcon Heavy moves to NET November 2016 (SpaceflightInsider) – This is probably making some launch customers edgy, but SpaceX has never been rushing things and this is just another example of it.

» Soyuz launch halted just before engine start (SpaceflightNow) – A rare launch abort of a Soyuz rocket with a communications satellite on board – but the launch was successful on Sunday about 24 hours later.

» Scientists Debate Signatures of Alien Life (QuantaMagazine) – A great article about the problems of detecting alien life – the main indicator doesn’t necessarily have to be oxygen!

» NASA Is Developing A Decelerator That Would Replace Parachutes In Space Vessels (Futurism) – Simple parachutes don’t cut it anymore for today’s space exploration, so new methods have to be invented

» Video of the Week: Meet the First Civilian to Successfully Launch a Rocket Into Space from Amy Shira Teitel’s Vintage Space!


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