SpaceX has safely delivered two astronauts back to Earth for NASA, following an historic two-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS). With the help of four white and orange parachutes, test pilots Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico at 18:48 GMT on Sunday. As soon as the capsule hit the water, the recovery crews went to work on retrieving the parachutes and saving the capsule.
The Perseverance rover is finally ready to launch on its journey to Mars. So far, reports from the US Air Force 45th Weather Squadron predict an 80% chance of favorable conditions for the Thursday morning launch. The biggest concern is thick clouds. After traveling through space for about seven months, Perseverance is scheduled to land at Jezero Crater on Mars on February 18, 2021.
History was set to be made today as NASA and SpaceX geared up to launch Americans into space from American soil and on American equipment for the first time in nearly a decade. The launch has been called off for the day, less than 20 minutes before scheduled liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, due to inclement weather. It has been rescheduled for Saturday, May 30.
Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit rocket has failed to launch a test satellite into space on its maiden voyage. The first test launch of the new rocket appeared to be going well until moments after it was dropped from beneath the left wing of the jumbo jet, Cosmic Girl. Virgin Orbit tweeted: “Cosmic Girl and our flight crew are safe and returning to base.”
The head of Nasa’s human spaceflight program has stepped down just days before a “historic” launch. Doug Loverro resigned on Monday, Nasa announced, less than a year after his appointment. No official reason for Mr Loverro’s departure has been announced, but a leaked copy of an email sent to Nasa employees mentioned a risk taken earlier in the year “because I judged it necessary to fulfill our mission”.
The closest black hole to Earth has been discovered about 1,000 light-years away, scientists have said. It is so near that two companion stars swirling around the invisible object can be seen with the naked eye by people in the southern hemisphere on a dark, clear night. The previous nearest black hole – A0620-00 – is probably about three times further, around 3,200 light-years.
Nasa has selected three private space companies to lead the development of lunar landers for its forthcoming moon landings. The three companies are Blue Origin, owned by Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos; Elon Musk’s SpaceX; and Dynetics, based in Huntsville, Alabama, Nasa announced on Thursday. Blue Origin’s contract is worth $579m, SpaceX’s $135m and Dynetics will receive $253m.
The Pentagon on Monday released three declassified videos that show US Navy pilots encountering what appear to be unidentified flying objects. The videos had been “circulating in the public domain after unauthorized releases in 2007 and 2017”, the statement said, adding that “the aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as ‘unidentified’”. The three videos show what the pilots saw during training flights in 2004 and 2015.
A bacterium that feeds on toxic plastic has been discovered by scientists. The bug not only breaks the plastic down but uses it as food to power the process. The bacterium, which was found at a waste site where plastic had been dumped, is the first that is known to attack polyurethane. More than 8bn tonnes of plastic has been produced since the 1950s and most has ended up polluting the world’s land and oceans.
Experts have discovered a fossil of the world’s oldest known modern bird – a diminutive creature about half the size of a mallard duck. Dubbed the Wonderchicken, the remains were found in rocks dating to about 66.8m to 66.7m years ago, revealing that the bird was active shortly before the asteroid strike that wiped out the dinosaurs 66m years ago.