Science & Astronomy
17. 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 was the 55th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight, the first time humanty had left the Earth – on this occasion, there were two amazing announcements: Bigelow Aerospace and ULA joining forces to bring inflatable habitats into space and Stephen Hawking’s and Yuri Milner’s Project Starshot – the latter one is much more conceptual than the first at the moment, but this could be a turning point in space exploration. Together with the successful sea recovery of SpaceX’s Falcon 9, we surely live in interesting times regarding space and science. Otherwise, it’s been almost all good news across the board this week including the recovery of Kepler – here are the headlines that grabbed my attention.

» Planet-hunting Kepler exits emergency mode (SpaceNews) – Picking up where we left last week with some very good news: the Kepler space telescope has recovered from emergency mode and although it’s not clear yet what caused the error, the spacecraft seems to be under control again and ready to resume its mission.

» Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance Join Forces (ULA) – ULA and Bigelow have formed a partnership to bring the B330, a new inflateable habitat, into space and maybe even to the ISS.

» Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner launch $100m star voyage (The Guardian) – The idea of project Starshot is to launch a nano-spaceprobe with a big solar sail into space and then propell it with the help of a giant laser array to 20% of light speed – to reach Alpha Centauri in twenty years. At the moment it’s only a concept, but it could actually work. Paul Gilster from Centauri Dreams has some interesting observations about this endeavour.

» SpaceX Falcon 9 Recovered 1st Stage Arrives Back in Port After Historic Upright Landing at Sea (Universe Today) – The first stage which landed safely on the drone ship after delivering the Dragon transporter safely into space has now arrived back at Port Canaveral

» The Laws Of Cosmology May Need A Re-Write (Universe Today) – A new paper is suggesting that the standard model of cosmology may need some work – it’s complicated, but it either involves dark matter or dark energy.

» China’s Tiangong-2 space lab to launch in September, dock with Shenzhou-11 in October (GBTimes) – The new Chinese space station will launch this fall and the first occupants will arrive in October.

» Aerojet Rocketdyne pitches AR1 as the only direct replacement for RD-180 (SpaceNews) – The rocket engine manufacturer is convinced that their motor is the only way to replace the Russian RD-180 on the Atlas and Vulcan rockets, but ULA says that they’re not ruling out Blue Origin’s BE-4 will also be used.

» Make Mars great again: Can the 2016 election save NASA’s Journey to Mars? (Ars Technica) – This article makes some interesting points about the influence of the US election cycle on space exploration. Casey Dreier from the Planetary Society goes a bit more into detail in his blog post.

» Astronomers Found Evidence for Exoplanets 100 Years Ago and Didn’t Know It (Gizmodo) – A photographic place with a spectrum of a star from 1917 shows evidence of an exoplanet, but astronomers were only able to recognize it as one since recent times.

» Jeff Bezos describes what it’ll be like to go into space (GeekWire) – Alan Boyle has had the chance to interview Jeff Bezos and got some interesting answers from the owner of Amazon and Blue Origin.

» Rescued Japanese spacecraft delivers first results from Venus (Nature) – JAXA’s Akatsuki is now in orbit around Venus and has sent back the first scientific results, including some fascinating images.

» NASA Discovers 72 New Asteroids Near Earth (Universe Today) – NeoWISE has delivered again and now we know of a lot more space rocks in our vicinity – but most of them probably will never be a problem for Earth.

» First light for ExoMars (ESA) – ExoMars has powered up, checked out its system and shot the first test image!

» Stephen Hawking: We Probably Won’t Find Aliens Anytime Soon ( – If even Hawking is skeptical about finding alien civilizations, it may probably never happen.

» Alien ‘Wow!’ signal could be explained after almost 40 years (Guardian) – The famous one-time signal could have been the result of two comets in the vicinity at the time it was received.

» Russia to make launches under lunar program from Vostochny spaceport in Far East (TASS) – Roscosmos says the new Vostochny spaceport will be primarily used for the future lunar program.

» Curiosity update, sols 1250-1310: Across the Naukluft Plateau (Planetary Society) – Emily Lakdawalla’s big Mars rover update shows that Curiosity has been incredibly busy recently.

» NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has captured interstellar dust from beyond the Solar System (ScienceAlert) – It’s not the first time dust from beyond the solar system has been detected, but Cassini was able to make a detailed analysis.

» BEAM installed on ISS following CRS-8 Dragon handover (NASASpaceflight) – The new Bigelow module has now been installed on the ISS, but was not inflated yet – that will happen at the end of May.

» 4 Reasons Rocket Launch Giant ULA Is Having A Bad Month (Popular Science) – I’m always watching the business side of space exploration closely and while this article glosses over some points, it’s basically correct – ULA is under a lot of pressure lately, mostly because they’re not the only launch providers anymore.

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