After more than 12 years studying Saturn, its rings and moons, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has entered the final year of its epic voyage. The conclusion of the historic scientific odyssey is planned for September 2017.
Now, the Cassini spacecraft revealed dramatic seasonal changes in the atmospheric temperature and composition of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. The images show a vortex in the upper atmosphere over the south pole. Cassini also discovered gasses in this vortex that are otherwise quite rare in Titan's atmosphere.
Athena Coustenis, a member of Cassini's Composite Infrared Spectrometer team at the Observatoire de Paris, explained the importance of this discovery.
Cassini's long mission and frequent visits to Titan have allowed us to observe the pattern of seasonal changes on Titan, in exquisite detail, for the first time. We've had the chance to witness the onset of winter from the beginning and are approaching the peak time for these gas production processes in the southern hemisphere. We are now looking for new molecules in the atmosphere above Titan's south polar region that have been predicted by our computer models. Making these detections will help us understand the photochemistry going on.
The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), which is in Mars' orbit, received the data sent from Schiaparelli lander, the ESA confirmed on Wednesday. However, the fate of the Schiaparelli lander, named after the Italian astronomer from the 19th century, is currently still unknown.
Early indications from both the radio signals captured by the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), an experimental telescope array located near Pune, India, and from orbit by ESA's Mars Express, suggested the module had successfully completed most steps of its 6-minute descent through the Martian atmosphere. But the signals stopped shortly before the module was expected to touch down on the surface. It is still unclear if the Schiaparelli lander survived the landing or crashed.
"Following yesterday's events we have an impressive orbiter around Mars ready for science and relay support for the ExoMars rover mission in 2020," said Jan Wörner, ESA's Director General.
The Schiaparelli lander is 577 kg heavy and designed for Mars' rough surface, but it is possible that the module ditched the parachute too early and crashed onto the surface.
The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) of ESA's ExoMars 2016 has successfully performed the long 139-minute burn required to be captured by Mars and entered an elliptical orbit around the Red Planet.
The TGO is now on its planned orbit around Mars, accompanied by the 13-year old Mars Express orbiter.
However, contact has not yet been confirmed with the mission's test lander from the surface. The Schiaparelli lander was programmed to autonomously perform an automated landing sequence, but the signal stopped shortly before landing.
Paolo Ferri, ESA's head of operations said it is too soon to jump to conclusions but "it's clear that these are not good signs."
Two Chinese astronauts arrived at the space lab Tiangong-2 and began the longest Chinese mission in space. Astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong will spend 30 days in space, conducting many experiments.
The spacecraft Shenzou-11 has successfully docked with the uncrewed Tiangong-2 space lab on Tuesday at 3:24 p.m. EDT, at an altitude of 393 kilometers (244 miles), after Monday's launch from the Jiuquan space center managed by the Chinese army on the border with the Gobi desert.
The Chinese state television broadcast a three-hour live video showing the landing and astronauts floating trough a meter long and 80 centimeters wide passenger passage which they had to go trough in order to get to the space lab. Haipeng and Dong will spend the next 30 days doing experiments, and their return to Earth is scheduled for November 14th.
This is the third space mission for Commander Jing Haipeng, who will celebrate his 50th birthday aboard the station on October 24th.
The Soyuz MS-02 successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 4:05 AM EDT Wednesday, October 19. NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos are now safely in orbit.
Over the next two days, they will orbit the Earth 34 times before docking to the Space Station's module on Friday, October 21. The two cosmonauts and an astronaut are a part of ISS Expedition 49, and upon their arrival at the Station, they will be welcomed by the rest of the members - Anatoli Ivanishin, Kathleen Rubins and Takuya Onishi, who arrived at the Station in July.
Kimbrough, Ryzhikov and Borisenko will spend a little more than four months aboard the Space Station, and their return to Earth is scheduled for late February.
Orbital ATK successfully launched their Antares rocket carrying cargo to the International Space Station on Monday evening. The initial launch was set for October 16th, but it was postponed due to a ground support equipment (GSE) cable that did not perform as expected during the pre-launch checkout.
This is the first flight on the upgraded Antares 230 launch vehicle, and the first launch from Wallops since an Antares rocket and its Cygnus spacecraft were lost in October 2014, when the rocket failed, and the vehicle and payload were destroyed causing $15 million in damage.
"It's great to see launches to the International Space Station happening again from the Virginia coast - and it shows what can be accomplished with a close partnership of federal and state agencies, along with the U.S. industry, all working together," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
Astronaut Reid Wiseman spent 165 days in space, on the International Space Station. Wiseman took part in his first spaceflight as part of the crew of Expedition 40/41, which launched to the International Space Station on May 28, 2014, and returned on November 10, 2014.
In the latest video, published by NASA, Wiseman responded to numerous questions about his experience in space. The video lasts only one minute, but in it Wiseman answers some very interesting questions about life 400 kilometers above Earth.
Weisman discovered where astronauts go to the toilet, how much they exercise, wash their laundry and what was his favorite food. Check the full video below.
Yesterday's launch of the Antares rocket was supposed to be Orbital ATK's first launch in two years but it was postponed due to a ground support equipment (GSE) cable that did not perform as expected during the pre-launch checkout. The launch is now set for 7:40 PM ET on Monday.
Under the Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA, Orbital ATK will deliver approximately 28,700 kilograms of cargo to the Space Station. The private company is under a lot of pressure since this is their first launch in two years after their rocket failed catastrophically, and the vehicle and payload were destroyed causing $15 million in damage.
However, in those two years a lot of things have changed. The company, which was then called Orbital Sciences, merged with Alliant Techsystems to create a new company called Orbital ATK. Their spacecraft Cygnus got bigger and able to carry more payload.
The Hubble Space Telescope is being credited for yet another major discovery. Using the data from NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have performed to this day the most accurate census of the number of galaxies in the universe. And they came to a remarkable conclusion.
According to the new information, there are at least ten times as many galaxies in the observable universe as previously thought.
The observable universe consists of the galaxies and other matter that can, in principle, be observed from Earth at the present time. The first real insight in the number of galaxies in the observable universe came in the 1990s when it has been estimated that there are 100 to 200 billion galaxies. New data shows the number is at least ten times higher.
A base on the Moon is many scientists' dream because it would set a new milestone in space exploration, but according to new observations from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft that might be much more difficult than previously thought.
According to new data, the Moon experiences a heavier bombardment by small meteoroids than models had previously predicted. By examining the surface of the Moon, scientists have identified about 30 percent more new craters than anticipated by previous cratering models. In addition to discovering new impact craters, the team observed over 47,000 small surface changes, which they call splotches.
They also concluded that 99 percent of the Moon's surface would be overturned by splotch formation after about 81,000 years, which is 100 times faster than previous models that considered overturn from micrometeorite impacts alone, and ignored the effects of secondary impacts.