Best Space Stories of the Week – April 12, 2015

Skywatcher Joe Wiggins snapped this photo of the April 4 total lunar eclipse from his front yard on a cold, cloudless morning in Centennial, Colorado.
The shortest lunar eclipse of the century created a "blood moon" over parts of the United States and the Pacific Ocean on April 4. (Image credit: Joe Wiggins)

Ultra-short lunar eclipse wows skywatchers

Viewers in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Asia were treated to a total lunar eclipse on Saturday (April 4). The moon remained fully submerged in Earth's shadow for less than 10 minutes, making it the shortest total lunar eclipse of the century. [Full Story: Shortest 'Blood Moon' Lunar Eclipse of the Century Thrills Skywatchers[

Spiderlike robots could build structures in space

A company called Tethers Unlimited is developing an in-space construction system that would use robots resembling arachnids to build structures that are too large or fragile to be sent up whole. The company says this system would require sending raw materials like carbon fiber into orbit. The company has received two rounds of funding from NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC). [Full Story: Incredible Technology: Spiderlike Robots Could Build Giant Space Structures]

SpaceX will attempt to land rocket booster

On Monday afternoon (April 13), the private spaceflight company SpaceX will launch a Dragon 9 rocket and attempt (for a second time this year) to recover the first-stage booster. A previous attempt to land the booster failed, with it crashing into the landing pad. Recovering the booster is part of he company's effortto make its rockets fully reusable. [Full Story: SpaceX to Try Daring Rocket Landing Again Monday]

New player in suborbital spaceflight

The private (and highly secretive) spaceflight company Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has announced it will begin suborbital flight tests of its New Shepard spacecraft this year. The company CEO would not release the specific flight date. [Full Story: Blue Origin to Launch Private Spaceship Test Flights This Year]

Origins of a Russian fireball discovered

A blazingly bright meteor that flashed through the sky near the Finnish-Russian border in April 2014 apparently had a very similar path to an asteroid that will make a close pass of the moon in 2017. [Full Story: Explosive Culprit? Russian Fireball's Origins Found]

Asteroid-spotting system moves forward

The NASA-funded Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, or ATLAS, would give humans early warning if a large asteroid were headed toward Earth. The camera and telescope for ATLAS were tested last month, and scientists with the project say they've achieved "First Light." [Full Story: Asteroid Early-Warning System for Potential Impacts Makes Progress]

Ice drill passes glacial test

It's a win for the exploration of icy locations beyond Earth: The German Aerospace Center's (DLR) Enceladus Explorer (EnEx) project successfully drilled through the crust of a glacier and extracted an uncontaminated water sample that had been trapped beneath the ice for millions of years. The project has its eyes on the exploration of Saturn's moon Enceladus, which hides an entire ocean underneath about 24 miles (39 kilometers) of ice. [Full Story: IceMole Drill Built to Explore Saturn's Icy Moon Enceladus Passes Glacier Test]

Test time for orbiting 3D printer

The first 3D printer in space, currently aboard the International Space Station, is about to be put to the test. The first 21 items created by the printer in microgravity are back on Earth and are undergoing tests to determine whether or not they hold up as well as parts printed on the ground. [Full Story: 1st Parts from 3D Printer in Space About to Get a Close-Up (Video)]

Comet 'weather' confuses spacecraft

The European Rosetta spacecraft is getting a little confused by the changing weather around Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. As the comet gets closer and closer to the sun, Rosetta detects an increase in gas and dust coming off the comet, which has caused some problems for the spacecraft's navigation system. [Full Story: Rosetta Spacecraft Gets Confused by Rough Comet 'Weather']

Will humans find signs of alien life in the 2020s?

High-ranking NASA scientists say humans have the tools and knowledge to find "strong indications" of the existence of life beyond Earth by 2025, and definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years. [Full Story: Signs of Alien Life Will Be Found by 2025, NASA's Chief Scientist Predicts]

New theory on the moon's birth story

A collision between the Earth and a rock the size of Mars may have created the debris that eventually formed the moon, two new studies suggest. This "Giant Impact Hypothesis," first proposed in the 1970s, is riddled with unanswered questions, some of which the new studies may resolve. [Full Story: How the Moon Formed: Violent Cosmic Crash Theory Gets Double Boost

Pluto-bound probe donning bulletproof vest

NASA's New Horizon's mission is rocketing toward Pluto at more than 30,000 miles per hour, which means a collision with even a small piece of debris could be devastating for the mission. So scientists outfitted the probe with a layer of Kevlar, and have a series of back-up plans if a crash looks imminent. [Full Story: Bulletproof Vest Shields NASA's Pluto-Bound Spacecraft (Exclusive Video)]

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Calla Cofield
Senior Writer

Calla Cofield joined's crew in October 2014. She enjoys writing about black holes, exploding stars, ripples in space-time, science in comic books, and all the mysteries of the cosmos. Prior to joining Calla worked as a freelance writer, with her work appearing in APS News, Symmetry magazine, Scientific American, Nature News, Physics World, and others. From 2010 to 2014 she was a producer for The Physics Central Podcast. Previously, Calla worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (hands down the best office building ever) and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. Calla studied physics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is originally from Sandy, Utah. In 2018, Calla left to join NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory media team where she oversees astronomy, physics, exoplanets and the Cold Atom Lab mission. She has been underground at three of the largest particle accelerators in the world and would really like to know what the heck dark matter is. Contact Calla via: E-Mail – Twitter