There were so many things going on in space this week I almost forgot about Earth! There were three rocket launches (two crewed), a mission to Mars, and all sorts of space science results announced at the Division of Planetary Sciences and the European Planetary Science Congress that took place this past week in Pasadena, CA.
Let’s begin with things that started on Earth and went to space. The only uncrewed launch of the week was Orbital ATK’s long awaited launch of their Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus resupply module to the International Space Station. Orbital ATK (along with Space X) are the two major resuppliers of the space station since the retirement of the Space Shuttle. This launch was the highly anticipated return for Antares after the rocket exploded on the launch pad just under two years ago. Luckily this time, everything went smoothly and Orbital ATK demonstrated they had gotten the Antares back on track.
The two crewed launches were both to space stations in orbit around our planet, one by the Chinese and one by the Russians. Last Sunday, China launched two astronauts aboard Shenzhou-11 which then rendezvoused with their space station, Tiangong-2, where they will stay for the next month. The second crewed launch took place in Kazakhstan where three astronauts, two Russians and one American, headed to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz rocket, joining another three astronauts who have been aboard the station since July. In less than a week, the latter three will return to Earth also aboard a Soyuz.
Moving farther afield, the European Space Agency put a spacecraft in orbit around Mars and attempted to land one as well as part of its ExoMars program. Sadly, the landing didn’t go so well, but the orbiter was the primary mission so all is still well.
If you’re not spaced out yet, here are some fun results from that planetary science meeting:
- Astronomers have found water on the surface of a metallic asteroid.
- There are seasons on Saturn’s moon, Titan.
- NASA’s Cassini Mission to go out in a blaze of glory.
- There might be clouds on Pluto!
- If there is indeed a massive planet hiding in the farthest reaches of the Solar System, it could explain our tilt.
Here’s some more geek from the week:
- New fossil evidence suggest Titanosaurs may have walked from South America to Australia via Antarctica.
- Why don’t seabirds break their neck when they dive into water at over 50 mph? Because their necks are *ridiculously* strong. [VIDEO]
- I just learned there is a Comedy Wildlife Photography context and its as amazing as you’d expect.
- In other photography news, the winners of the Nikon Small World Photography have been announced and they are stunning. More on the first prize winner here.
- A small town in Florida will get to vote on the use of genetically modified mosquitoes to fight Zika in the Keys.
- A new study suggests that facial expressions might not be as universal as we once thought.
- This video shows how various over-the-counter pills look dissolving in slow motion. [VIDEO]
- Great infographic comparing the approachs various space missions have taken to try and land on Mars.
- Uranus might have two moons hiding in its rings.
- If you thought a photo of an Earthrise was amazing, check out this Jupiterrise photo from NASA’s Juno spacecraft.
Keep on geeking!
@Summer_Ash, In-house Astrophysicist