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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!