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Thursday, 11 April 2019

SpaceIL lands on the Moon... really, really hard.... ... but well done to them anyway!

My sympathies and congratulations to the SpaceIL team on the VERY hard landing of their Beresheet spacecraft on the Moon: The main engine cut out towards the end of the landing attempt - the engineers actually got it back online, but Beresheet had lost to much height and gained too much speed. The last recorded signal, as the engine came back, was still 100 meters up... but doing 150 meters a second. Just not enough distance to pull out of the dive. Even so, well done to them! To get so close is an astounding achievement, they still made their country the 4th nation to reach the lunar surface (although it was a private mission), and they really did fight it right to the finish - that was one of the most nailbiting 30 minutes of tweets I've ever read! 
Roll on Beresheet 2? 
Well... there's a good write up of the attempt here and it mentions the possibility. The ship took images (not great quality) before and during the attempt to land, which I've added below: 

On an even more successful note, SpaceX has launched it's super sized Falcon Heavy rocket for the second time, putting satellite cargo into orbit. What makes this a bigger achievement than a usual rocket launch is that the rocket, or at least the lower three quarters of it, has been landed afterwards for re-use! There're lots of cool pictures here, I've included a photo montage of the boosters landing seperately below, and I'll get a video up as soon as I can locate one that shows the whole launch end-to-end.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Juno snaps a storm on Jupiter, Israeli Moon missions nears landing, India's space weapon and more...

A cyclonic storm churns through Jupiter's northern hemisphere in this new view from NASA's Juno spacecraft. The swirling cloud formation looks a lot like a hurricane on Earth, with fluffy clouds popping up from the storm's spiral arms. Juno captured this view with its JunoCam imager on Feb. 12, when it was about 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) above Jupiter's cloud tops. — Hanneke Weitering

Friday, 22 March 2019

Fuel mining on the Moon could be worth billions, gigantic solar storms, and ancient people wiped out...

Lunar fuel mining?
This report (lunar propellant study) has found that there may be real fiscal legs on the idea of mining fuel for Earth orbiting satellites on the Moon.

New space station to open up the Moon?
NASA's increasingly realistic looking new space station, partway between the Earth and the Moon, gets a review here: Lunar gateway space station

What killed the Clovis people?
For a long time it's been suggested that the Clovis people of North America, who were wiped out along with much of the continent's mega fauna 13,000 years ago, were whacked by an asteroid strike - but the evidence has been lacking. New finds bolster the idea, here: Were the Clovis people wiped out by an object from space after all?

How bad tempered can our Sun be?
Our Sun has been know to spit out storms of radiation and magnetic fields that damage or disable satellites and even ground based communications, and the biggest on record have damaged power grids here on Earth. But they pale, so it seems, before some of the storms our local star has spat out in ancient times: Massive solar storm hit Earth in 660 BC

Lost Soviet space mission can be seen.
A failed cold war mission to Venus can be spotted in the night sky: Spot a failed Russian mission to Venus.

Strange structures seen at the heart of the Milky Way: 
It seems that our galaxy has structures in the magnetic fields and radiation at it's heart that channel high energy radiation away and into intergalactic space: The Milky Way has 'chimneys' for high energy radiation:

Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 2019:
More news, from around the solar system, than you can shake a stick at! LPSC abstracts.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Links and videos: Private spaceflight milestones - to the International Space Station and onwards to the Moon.. ....

The International Space Station and the Moon caught in the same shot.

SpaceX has launched it's first crew-rated spacecraft, the Dragon 2, which has docked with the  international space station while carrying a sensor laden test dummy (news articles here and here). A video of the of the dummy's greeting at the ISS is below.

The first private Moon landing, SpaceIL's Beresheet lander, has suffered a navigational glitch but recovered, and is on its way to the Moon. There's a good article on it here, and you can download an interview with its Senior Engineer here.

The Beresheet probe under construction. Courtesy of SpaceIL

And, on a Lunar theme, here are some stunning computer reconstructions of the view while orbiting the Moon, based on data collected by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft:

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Linkstorm: A goodbye to Opportunity Mars rover, private spaceflight makes giant leaps, and more

A little while ago the long serving Opportunity Mars rover was declared lost, after being blitzed by one of the planets lethal dust storms. The Planetary Society have an respectful and comprehensive farewell and review the robot explorer and it's mission here.

Opportunity's tracks in the Martian desert.

Virgin Galactic's suborbital spaceplane the VSS 'Unity' has reached it's highest altitude yet, 90km - just shy of the official edge of the space at 100km, but it's fair to say that the difference between 90km and 110km is so negligible in every measurable way that to deny it the description 'spacecraft' would be sheer pedantry. All the crew were awarded astronaut wings at the end of the flight, and it marked the first time someone has floated about inside the passenger cabin of a commercial spaceship during flight. 

The Israeli company SpaceIL has launched the first ever private lunar mission. It's Moon lander Beresheet (literally 'Genesis') launched late on Thursday the 22nd of February, as a secondary payload on a Falcon 9 rocket, the first stage of which subsequently landed perfectly for re-use. You can get a detailed breakdown on the lander, mission, and launch here.

Moving deeper into space again, the Japanese space agency JAXA has  landed it's Hayabusa-2 space craft on the asteroid Bennu. The craft fired a series of projectiles into the surface, and collected samples of the asteroid material blasted off, which it will return to Earth for study. The mission has also deployed very small landers on the asteroid's surface - you can read more about the mission here.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

A quick link storm: News, pictures, and videos from around the solar system...

NASA's InSight mission to study Martian geology puts the protective cap over it's seismometer, protecting from wind and other vibrations. The mission is now ready to start probing the deep underground of Mars:

The Chinese Chang'e-4 lander, and it's Yutu-2, rover are seen from lunar orbit by NASA's Lunar Reconaissience Orbiter mission. The Chinese mission already made headlines when it became the first mission to grow plants on the Moon's surface, in Lunar gravity and radiation environment:

Follow the links for a zoomable version... although, yes, they're still pretty teeny zoomed in.
In other Lunar news the Israeli company SpaceIL are set to try for the first ever private lunar landing later this month, using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket:

And, speaking of SpaceX, here's a video of their gigantic new raptor engine being tested:

Thanks for reading, and have a great week everyone!