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, of course, belongs to SpaceX, who not only launched the first Dragon transporter since the failure last year safely into space, but also brought the first stage back and landed it safely on a sea barge. The spacecraft has also arrived at the ISS now, so 2016 suddenly looks very bright again in space exploration after the somewhat worrying events in the last two years. SpaceX may have stolen the show this week, but there were a whole lot of other things happening which have been somewhat overshadowed by the big news. Let’s see what was going on…
» SpaceX Launches to ISS with BEAM Habitat Prototype and Lands First Stage At Sea (Universe Today) – The big news first: SpaceX has written spaceflight history again. The first successful barge landing of a Falcon9 first stage booster was not only thrilling to watch, but also an historic achievement after the touchdown on land in December. Phil Plait has written a great article which expresses exactly how I feel about this incredible event, so I’m not even going to try to write anything more except… wow. There’s already lots and lots of video: the complete webcast is available in both hosted and raw versions and SpaceX has also posted the first stage landing in resolutions up to 4K. Additionally, NASA has the recording of their broadcast and the following press conference with a very happy Elon Musk uploaded too. The Dragon has now arrived at the ISS and more exciting stuff will happen soon, because the Bigelow BEAM module will be installed as early as next week!
» What’s up in solar system exploration: April 2016 edition (Planetary Society) – Emily Lakdawalla’s indespensable monthly overview of what is going on in uncrewed space exploration this month.
» Roscosmos gives detailed rebuttal to reports of Proton ExoMars launch anomaly (SpaceNews) – The Russian space agency has strongly denied that the Briz-M upper stage that brought ExoMars into space has malfunctioned or exploded – the debris seen on some images is supposed to be pixel errors…
» Mysterious Mars Mounds Were Liquid-Filled Craters (Space.com) – Experiments show that some of Mars’ craters may have been shaped by being filled with liquids.
» Post-Shuttle era record set to be matched with CRS-8 (SpaceflightInsider) – With the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon, six spacecraft are berthed at the ISS, the most since the Space Shuttle stopped flying five years ago. It’s also the first time two commercial spacecraft have been at the station togethet.
» All about BEAM, the space station’s new inflatable module launching Friday (Planetary Society) – Everything about the new inflatable BEAM module that will be installed on the ISS next week.
» John Grunsfeld Announces Retirement from NASA (NASA) – The former astronaut and science director of NASA has announced that he will retire at the end of the month after a spectacular career that saw him from working on the Hubble Telescope to leading the most important space exploration missions of this decade.
» At Venus, a Japanese Spacecraft is Almost Ready for Big Science (Space.com) – After a long odyssey, Akatsuki has finally arrived at Venus and is starting its full science operations soon.
» Chinese research craft launched on two-week mission (SpaceflightNow) – The Shijian 10 launched on Tuesday with ninteen experiments on board, one of them in a partnetship with ESA.
» Mysterious Pull On Cassini Probe May Help Find Planet Nine (Universe Today) – This turned out to be somewhat erroneous, because NASA has confirmed that Cassini is definitively not affected by a hypothetical Planet 9.
» Ariane 6 designers say they’ll beat SpaceX prices on per-kilogram basis (SpaceNews) – Surprisingly big talk from the ArianeSpace backers, but the Ariane 6 is only planned to launch in 2020 and by then SpaceX will probably be regularly using recycled boosters.
» New Horizons Did Amazing Work Before Even Arriving At Pluto (Universe Today) – A reminder that the New Horizons spacecraft already had a long and fascinating scientific career before it flew by Pluto.
» Astronaut Scott Kelly admits to Stress in Space (GeekWire) – Kelly has always been frank with his experiences during his one-year ISS mission, but this is an unprecedented admission. The real reason for this article is something more positive: the now retired Astronaut is going to write a book about his mission!
» India to launch its reusable spaceplane in May (SpaceFlightInsider) – The era of the spaceplane seems to be returning, first with Sierra Nevada back in the game and now ISRO’s approach.
» Nearby Supernovas Showered Earth With Iron (Universe Today) – Supernovas may have affected Earth in the ancient past more than previously thought.
» A Star With A Disk Of Water Ice? Meet HD 100546 (Universe Today) – Observations have shown that the star may have a proto-planetary disc of frozen water around it – something that is not thought to be entirely uncommon.
» Dawn mission expected to go into overtime at Ceres (Spaceflight Now) – If the spacecraft is able to, Dawn’s mission will be extended beyond this Summer to do more science at the dwarf planet.
» SpaceX adds abort function for Dragon cargo flights (Spaceflight Now) – It fortunately wasn’t needed on Friday’s launch, but
» No, Planet Nine Won’t Kill Us All (Space.com) – This Planet 9 busines is getting ridiculous – several tabloid news outlets have posted articles recently that the still completely theoretical planet may swing by as early as next week! Meanwhile Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin, who proposed the existence of the ninth planet, are having none of those shenanigans.
» ‘You Don’t Go Fly When You Got Debts’: 35 Years Since STS-1 Inaugurated the Space Shuttle Program (AmericaSpace) – it has been 35 years since the first Space Shuttle flight this month and this article has a great recollection of the events. Part 2 is here.
» Kepler Spacecraft in Emergency Mode (NASA) – A bit of sad news: the venerable Kepler space telescope, down to its last two gyros, is in emergency mode – not much more has been made public right now, but it may bring the successful search for exoplanets to an end.