Science & Astronomy
3. April 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 couple of additional ones that caught my attention. This week, we had no Weekly Space Hangout, but there was still a lot going on – not all of it good, but most of it interesting. There was a fair share of broken things, most notably the still unknown status of JAXA’s Hitomo satellite and ULA’s sudden problems with the normally very dependable Atlas V workhorse, but on the other side a Progress  freighter made a perfect flight to the ISS and Blue Origin launched and landed its New Shepard for the third time. Plus lots of space exploration and science!

» Space Detectives Are Figuring Out What Borked Japan’s Hitomi Satellite (Wired) – The fate of JAXA’s x-ray observatory is still not known and only intermittend contact has been made to the spacecraft, which could be heavily damaged by an on-board explosion.

» Flyby Comet Was WAY Bigger Than Thought ( – One of the two comets that recently buzzed Earth at a record-breaking close distance was much, much, larger than anticipated (but it was still not dangerous).

» ULA delays next launch to investigate Atlas 5 anomaly (SpaceNews) – It appears that the performance anomaly during the Cygnus launch was more serious than initially thought. The first stage fuel system seemed to be at fault.

» Soyuz aces test campaign at new Vostochny Cosmodrome (SpaceflightNow) – Things are beginning to happen at Roscosmos’ new spaceport in Eastern Russia.

» Audit finds cost and schedule problems with SLS/Orion ground software (SpaceNews) – A closer look reveals multiple issues with the software running the ground systems of SLS and Orion.

» DMSP-19 Weather Satellite Dead After Air Force Ends Recovery Effort ( – The relatively new military weather satellite has been unresponsive for a couple of weeks and all recovery efforts have now been stopped.

» The Rich and Flavorful History of Chocolate in Space (Smithsonian) – A look at which tasty treats have been consumed in space – I haven’t seen a proper chocolate bar being mentioned, maybe they’re too crumbly?

» Has Tiangong 1 gone rogue? (SpaceDaily) – The Chinese space agency seems to have lost contact to its currently uninhabited space station, which was originally planned to be de-orbited sometime in the future – which may now be impossible and nobody knows when it might come down on its own.

» The science of expansion: NASA highlights SpaceX CRS-8 experiments (SpaceflightInsider) – There are a lot of interesting and fascinating experiments launching on SpaceX’s CRS-8 mission on April 8 including the inflateable Bigelow module.

» New Alien Planet Boasts Rare Triple Suns ( – The Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope may not be as poweful as Kepler, but it still found an amazing alien planet with a trio of suns.

» SLS/Orion ground systems pass critical design review (SpaceNews) – The hardware at least seems to work even though the software development has come unter criticism.

» Bubbling ocean on Saturn’s moon could explain vanishing island (NewScientist) – Titan may have fizzy lakes, which could make land masses appear and disappear again.

» More evidence for Planet Nine as odd celestial alignment emerges (NewScientist) – The evidence is still less than circumstancial, but it’s getting better. And no, Planet 9 is definitively not responsible for mass extinctions on Earth except in some very dubious studies.

» Mars Colony Will Have To Wait, Says NASA Scientists (UniverseToday) – Even NASA now says that a Mars colony may be technically feasible, but not in the very near future.

» LPSC 2016: So. Much. Ceres. (Planetary Society) – Emily Lakdawalla has gathered all the news about our favourite dwarf planet from the conference.

» SpaceX hopes to sell used Falcon 9 boosters for as low as $40 million (SpaceflightNow) – This is possibly the first time SpaceX has mentioned a possible price for one of their future used first stage boosters.

» Mars rover re-routed after spinning wheels on steep hillside (SpaceflightNow) – The 30% slope was a bit too much for Opportunity, but the 12 year old rover made it safely back down and was sent off to an alternate route instead.

» SETI Institute searches for red-dwarf aliens (GeekWire) – Narrowing down the targets for a seach of alien life, planets around red dwarfs have come into focus.

» He Drew the Sun for 40 Years, But Now His Telescope Is Dying (Wired) – Steve Padilla has been drawing and catalogueing sunspots for the last forty years, but lack of funding made him only a volunteer.

» Andromeda’s First Spinning Neutron Star Found (UniverseToday) – A rotating neutron star has been discovered for the first time in the Andromeda Galaxy, with the help of ESA’s XMM Newton telescope.

» Opportunity Discovers Dust Devil, Explores Steepest Slopes on Mars (UniverseToday) – In addition to the mountaing climbing attempt, Opportunity also snapped an amazing image of a dust devil recently.

» Progress MS-2 pulls into port at the International Space Station (SpaceflightInsider) – After a flawless launch, the second next-generation Progress freighter has arrived at the ISS.

» NASA’s Spitzer Maps Climate Patterns on a Super-Earth (NASA) – The Spitzer Space Telescope has detected the extreme climates on an exoplanet by observing its phases.

» Blue Origin sees third successful rocket landing, says owner Jeff Bezos (Guardian) – Blue Origin has launched and landed the New Shepard a third time – in a rare change of publicity, it was announced before it happened and Jeff Bezos even live-tweeted it.

» Video of the Week: The Weekly Space Hangout from February 12, 2012 – I posted this archival episode in the WSH Crew Community because we had no live WSH this week. This was one of the very first times a special guest appeared on the show – it was Alan Stern, who joined again with his fellow New Horizons team members for last year’s season opener.


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