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First Cygnus Cargo Ship from Virginia in Two Years Docks at Space Station

Installation complete! Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft was attached to the International Space_Station at 10:53 a.m. EDT on 23 Oct. 2016 after launching atop Antares rocket on 17 Oct. 2016 from NASA Wallops in Virginia. Credit: NASA After a two year gap, the first Cygnus cargo freight train from Virginia bound for the International Space Station (ISS) arrived earlier this morning – restoring this critical supply route to full operation today, Sunday, Oct. 23. The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo spacecraft packed with over 2.5 tons of supplies was berthed to…

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Is This Schiaparelli’s Crash Site on Mars?

A pair of high-resolution images taken from high above Mars appears to show the impact site of ESA’s Schiaparelli lander. Schiaparelli, a demonstration module intended to test technologies for landing on Mars, was supposed to thump onto the Red Planet two days ago, then relay images and weather data back to Earth. But engineers at the European Space Agency’s mission control center in Darmstadt, Germany, feared the worst when none of those data came through. Now they’re closer to having answers thanks to a pair of images taken October 19th…

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Big Kuiper Object 2007 OR10 Has a Moon

Hubble images reveal a satellite orbiting one of the Kuiper Belt’s biggest objects. An interesting trend has emerged concerning the largest objects in the distant Kuiper Belt: they have moons. Most notable is Pluto, with five. Haumea has two. Eris, Orcus, Quaoar, and Makemake each have one. In fact, of the eight largest known trans-Neptunian objects, only Sedna and yet-to-be-named 2007 OR10 were considered moonless — and now it’s just Sedna. Little is known about the moon of Kuiper Belt object 2007 OR10, seen here in a Hubble Space Telescope…

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ESA’s Schiaparelli Lander: Missing in Action

Here’s what we know so far about the fate European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli mission. Update (October 20th): Well, ESA held the morning briefing as expected at 10:00 a.m. CEST, and the prognosis isn’t good for the Schiaparelli lander. ESA spacecraft operations manager Andrea Accomazzo emphasized that this was an entry and descent test, and that the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter “is working perfectly.” ESA scientists also stressed that data analysis from the descent is still under scrutiny. Initial results suggest that the heat shield and parachute worked properly. Then, Accomazzo said,…

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ExoMars Orbiter Reaches Red Planet

After a 7-month journey from Earth and a 139-minute rocket burn, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has settled in around its new home. An artist’s concept of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter firing its braking rocket.ESA / ATG medialab It was tense day at the European Space Agency’s main control center in Darmstadt, Germany. Some 87 million km away, two spacecraft dispatched from Earth together last March atop a Russian-built Proton rocket were attempting to get to their respective destinations. The main ExoMars craft, called the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO),…

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Dark Streaks on Mars Revisited

New research on seasonal streaks in Martian canyons provides evidence against underground pools of water. The white arrows point out the seasonal dark streaks, called recurring slope lineae (RSL), on the surface of Mars. The Valles Marineris region has the densest population of streaks on the Red Planet. NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona Since 2011, astronomers have seen dark streaks appear and fade on the surface of Mars. These dark streaks, called recurring slope lineae (RSL), show up on the planet’s steep slopes during the warmer months and fade…

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Flawless Shakedown Mission from Modified Soyuz Delivers Multinational Crew to Space Station

A flawless shakedown mission from Russia’s newly modified Soyuz capsule successfully delivered a new multinational crew to the Space Station early Saturday, July 9 after a two day orbital chase. The upgraded Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft launching on its maiden flight successfully docked to the International Space Station at 12:06 a.m. EDT Saturday, July 9, while soaring 254 statute miles over the South Pacific. “Docking confirmed,” said a commentator from Russian mission control at Korolev outside Moscow. “Contact and capture complete.” The Soyuz was…

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NASA’s Juno Probe Reaches Jupiter

After a 5-year-long journey, NASA’s Juno probe, an emissary to the largest planet in the solar system, has arrived at its destination and slipped into orbit around Jupiter. An artist’s conception of Juno performing a 35-minute-long engine firing to enter orbit around Jupiter.NASA / JPL “Joy” at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s mission control center today is spelled JOI — for Jupiter Orbital Insertion. July 4th fireworks erupted in the outer solar system overnight, as the Juno probe fired its main engine and entered a polar orbit around Jupiter at 11:53…

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A New Minimoon for Earth

A recently discovered minimoon, the asteroid known as 2016 HO3, follows Earth in its orbit around the Sun. The strange orbit of Apollo asteroid 2016 HO3. (Click to see bigger image.) NASA / JPL-Caltech Our fair planet has a tiny companion, a minimoon that shares our annual journey around the Sun in a complex dance. Astronomers recently announced the discovery of 2016 HO3, an asteroid between 40 and 100 meters in size that behaves as Earth’s quasi-satellite. Discovered on April 27, 2016, by the Pan-STARRS 1 survey based on Haleakala,…

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Seeing Sunspots as the Ancients Did

Astronomers have reconstructed 18-century telescopes to observe sunspots and better understand solar cycles. Galileo Galilei recorded this drawing of sunspots on June 23, 1613. Galileo was one of the first to observe and document sunspots. The Galileo Project / M. Kornmesser Astronomers have been counting sunspots — the most accessible tool they’ve had to measure solar activity — for the past 400 years. In more recent times, technology has advanced, making it easier to pick out smaller sunspots or even measure the magnetic field directly. But some astronomers are now turning back…

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