People around the world waited for a rocket stage to fall back to Earth, a mini-submarine may pave the way for future missions to the oceans of solar system moons and a spacecraft begins a journey of more than a billion miles back to Earth. These are some of the top stories this week from Space.com.
Chinese booster (finally) falls back to Earth.
Last week, people across the world watched for updates of China’s Long March 5B rocket to determine where on Earth’s surface it would crash land. The 23-ton core stage of the rocket’s booster finally landed on Saturday (May 8), when video footage from the Arabian Peninsula showed it zooming overhead. Some analysts think it landed in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives. The incident has raised the conversation about space junk and the dangers of orbital debris. No injuries were reported.
China attempts its first rover landing.
China’s first landing mission to Mars has been orbiting the Red Planet since Feb. 10, but it hasn’t touched down until now. Ye Peijian, chief adviser of Interplanetary Exploration for the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) announced on Thursday (May 13) that Tianwen-1’s window for landing began on Friday (May 14). In a separate statement, China’s space agency said this window runs until May 19. Tianwen-1 and its Zhurong rover launched from Earth in July 2020.
Mini-submarine Orpheus will boost solar system moon exploration.
A new underwater vehicle called Orpheus will use NASA navigation software to perform a two-week ship expedition demonstration. The mini-submarine’s work has implications for future spacecraft studying watery worlds in our solar system. The deepest region in Earth’s oceans, called the hadal zone, presents similar challenges to those that probes may experience on the moons of Jupiter or Saturn.
Asteroid-sampling mission begins its long journey back to Earth.
On Monday (May 10), NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft departed the near-Earth asteroid it had been studying, Bennu. OSIRIS-REx is now at the beginning of its 1.4-billion-mile (2.3 billion kilometers) journey back to Earth, bringing along a sample capsule filled with bits and pieces from Bennu’s surface. OSIRIS-REx is expected to deposit the capsule in the Utah desert in September 2023.
You must be more than a high bidder to get a New Shepard seat.
Last week (May 5), Blue Origin CEO Jeff Bezos announced that the company will auction off one of its six commercial spaceflight seats on the first flight of its New Shepard rocket. In addition to being the highest bidder, the auction winner must meet certain height and weight requirements and be in a certain physical shape.
Scientists find recent volcanic evidence on Mars.
Scientists found the most recent evidence of a volcanic eruption on Mars. The new finding, which shows signs of an eruption within just the past 50,000 years, is a stark contrast to estimates that date most Martian volcanism back to 3 billion and 4 billion years ago. It’s possible that Mars is actually still volcanically active, researchers said.
Perseverance’s microphone captures Ingenuity’s flight whirls.
NASA officials announced late last week (May 7) that its Perseverance rover caught the sounds of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter in flight. The whirring sounds from NASA’s newly released recording were captured by the microphone on Perseverance’s SuperCam instrument. This flight was the fourth one performed by the tiny chopper, on April 30, 2021.
Fireball seen over Minnesota.
A fireball shot across the skies above the Minneapolis-St. Paul area last weekend (May 9). Observers in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin sent in reports of the fireball to the American Meteor Society website. Much of the video footage that caught the bright object came from home surveillance cameras; the early-morning fireball lit up the skies at about 3 a.m. local time.
Bottle of wine that spent more than a year in space to be auctioned.
A bottle of wine that traveled around the Earth several times aboard the International Space Station is back on solid ground and up for sale at the famed auction house Christie’s. The bottle, which was one of 12 Pétrus 2000 merlot bottles that spent 438 days aboard the orbiting laboratory, is expected to be sold for about $1 million, according to BBC news.
SpaceX announces Dogecoin-funded moon mission.
On Sunday (May 9) SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted about a deal for a moon mission funded entirely by the cryptocurrency Dogecoin. The mission aims to send an 88-pound (40-kilogram) CubeSat named Doge-1 in orbit around the moon, a decision that references the popular “to the moon” memes touted by virtual investor communities who are pushing for a dramatic increase in the value of stocks like Dogecoin.