Science & Astronomy
1. May 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, SpaceX again takes the top spot with the surprisde announcement of an uncrewed Mars mission in just two years! Having shaken up the rocket launch business with their successful landing of the Falcon 9 booster wasn’t enough – now Elon Musk has chosen Mars as a new target, which is, of course, not really a big surprise given his occasional previous remarks about the red planet. Also in the news were the first launch from Russia’s new Vostochny spaceport, lots of politics mainly about the RD-180 rocket engine, a new moon for a dwarf planet and much more. As usual, this is just a highly subjective selection of the space news of this week, but I’ve tried to include everything noteworthy.

» SpaceX Announces Plan to Launch Private Dragon Mission to Mars in 2018 (Universe Today) – Space X makes the big promise to send a Dragon capsule to Mars – and knowing them, they’ll probably accomplish it in two years time!

» SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9: What are the real cost savings for customers? (SpaceNews) – Ever since the first sea drone ship landing of the Falcon 9 booster, other companies have been scrambling like crazy. This article has a reasonable discussion about the business side.

» Quick Curiosity update, sol 1320: “Lubango,” the 10th drill site on Mars (Planetary Society) – This is just a reminder that Curiosity is still very busy on Mars and has drilled a hole into the planet for the 10th time.

» Draft House bill would scramble Air Force’s rocket engine plan (SpaceNews) – The controversy of the RD-180 replacement reaches new heights with a dispute about the type of engine to be used.

» House panel wants more details on new space battle management system (SpaceNews) – This feels a lot like the emergence of another SDI.

» Planetary Society solar sails paved way for Alpha Centauri starshot (Planetary Society) – A bit self-congratulary, but not without reason: the Planetar Society’s LightSail has proven that solar sails are feasible.

» Beagle 2: most detailed images yet of lost Mars lander revealed (The Guardian) – A new imaging technique has produced clearer images of the Beagle 2 landing site, showing that the lander was indeed partially deployed and has not crashed as first thought.

» Will NASA’s next X-planes get off the ground? (GeekWire) – It’s still unclear if NASA will really go back to airplane research to build supersonic planes, but the first steps in this direction have been taken.

» Dark Moon Discovered Orbiting Dwarf Planet Makemake (Universe Today) – The drawf planet’s moon has not really been hiding, but its dark material has made it very hard to spot.

» SpaceX wins $82 million contract for 2018 Falcon 9 launch of GPS 3 satellite (SpaceNews) – It’s the first time SpaceX will launch a GPS satellite for the Airforce and it probably won’t be the last.

» China to Launch Mars Rover in 2020 ( – China has ambitious space exploration plans – following their Moon rover, they will send one to Mars and also expand their space station starting at the end of this year.

» Vostochny Cosmodrome debuts with the successful launch of a Soyuz-2.1a rocket (Spaceflight Insider) – The first rocket has finally launched from Vostochny, opening up a new space port on Russian soil.

» James Webb Space Telescope Takes The Gloves Off (Universe Today) – The covers from JWST’s mirrors have been taken off in the clean room for the first time.

» HASC doubles Air Force allotment of RD-180 engines, focuses funding on building its replacement (SpaceNews) –

» Fermi Links Neutrino Blast To Known Extragalactic Blazar (Universe Today) – An unlikely collaboration of science instruments both on Earth and in space have revealed the source of an especially powerful neutrino blast detected in 2012.

» OA-6: Atlas V booster shortcomings due to MRCV anomaly (NASASpaceflight) – ULA has found the cause of the premature booster shutdown on the Cygnus flight and as expected it was an engine problem, probably heating up the discussion about the reliability of the RD-180 even more. But flights are going to resume soon.

» All Good Things: Countdown Begins Towards Cassini’s ‘Grand Finale’ Around Saturn (AmericaSpace) – Cassini’s days are numbered, but it will do a lot of science until its planned demise next year.

» Physicists think they’ve finally figured out how to locate Planet Nine (ScienceAlert) – Theprerequisites to find Planet 9 are being more and more refined all the time and if Planet 9 is really out there somewhere it won’t be able to hide forever.

» Future High-Resolution Imaging of Mars: Super-Res to the Rescue? (Planetary Society) – More about the imaging technology that was used to produce the Beagle 2 images – it’s not easy to do and not always feasible.

» Russia delays space crew’s return to Earth (SpaceDaily) – Tim Kopra, Tim Peake and Yury Malenchenko are coming home on June 18 instead of June 5 – this is especially great news for Tim Peake, who gets a bit of an extension of his first mission!

» Here’s How Spacecraft Dashboards Evolved, and Where They’re Headed (Gizmodo) – A great comparison of spacecraft dashboards through the ages.

» 2006: A Space Oddity – The Great Pluto Debate (The Guardian) – It’s been ten years since Pluto was demoted from planethood – this Guardian article tells the story how it happened.

» Proposal for extended New Horizons mission submitted to NASA (SpaceflightInsider) – New Horizons is now long past Pluto and its extended mission has now been submitted to NASA – there’s no way the space agency can say no to that!

» Orion pressure vessel moved to test stand at KSC (SpaceflightInsider) – The new spaceship is coming along fine for an uncrewed 2018 launch and the service module developed by ESA is also nearing completion.

» Recovery Attempts End for Hitomi X-ray Satellite (Sky and Telescope) – JAXA has given up on Hitomi since the x-ray observatory seems to have torn itself apart after a cascade of malfunctions which originated in a software fault.

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