A composite image of three launches: Antares (Oct. 17, 2016), Shenzhou 11 (Oct. 17, 2016), Soyuz (Oct. 19, 2016)
Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls, XINHUA via AP Photo, NASA/Joel Kowsky

Week in Geek: All space, all the time edition

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.

Artist's impression visualising the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), with its thrusters firing, beginning its entry into Mars orbit on 19 October 2016.
Artist’s impression visualising the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), with its thrusters firing, beginning its entry into Mars orbit on 19 October 2016.
ESA/ATG medialab
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:

Here’s some more geek from the week:

Keep on geeking!

@Summer_Ash, In-house Astrophysicist

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Week in Geek: All space, all the time edition