Best Space Stories of the Week – May 3, 2015

Progress 59 Cargo Spaceship Launches, April 28, 2015
Russia's robotic Progress 59 cargo spacecraft launches toward the International Space Station atop a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 28, 2015. (Image credit: Roscosmos (Russian Federal Space Agency))

A Russian cargo vessel suffered a serious malfunction on its way to the space station, NASA's MESSENGER probe slammed into Mercury and the New Horizons spacecraft snapped the best-ever photos of Pluto. Here's a look at's top stories of the week.

Russian cargo mission to space station fails

Russia's unmanned Progress 59 cargo spacecraft is falling from space and will soon meet a fiery demise in Earth's atmosphere after suffering a serious malfunction shortly after its launch on Tuesday (April 28). [Full Story: Doomed Russian Space Station Cargo Ship Will Fall Back to Earth Soon]

NASA probe crashes into Mercury

NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft slammed into the surface of Mercury on Thursday (April 30), bringing a groundbreaking mission to a dramatic end. MESSENGER was the first probe ever to orbit Mercury, and had been studying the solar system's innermost planet from orbit since 2011. [Full Story: Farewell, MESSENGER! NASA Probe Crashes Into Mercury]

New Horizons returns best-ever photos of Pluto

NASA's Pluto-bound New Horizons probe has captured the best-ever images of the dwarf planet, revealing surface features that include a possible polar ice cap. [Full Story: NASA's Best Photos of Pluto Yet Show Possible Ice Cap (Video)]

Blue Origin launches test flight of New Shepard spaceship

The secretive private spaceflight company Blue Origin launched a surprise test flight of its suborbital New Shepard spaceship on Wednesday (April 29), a mission that successfully demonstrated the space capsule but failed to recover its reusable rocket booster. [Full Story: Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin Launches Private Spaceship Test Flight (Photos, Video)]

Dawn probe enters first science orbit at Ceres

NASA's Dawn probe has reached its first science orbit at Ceres, marking the start of the spacecraft's serious scrutiny of the mysterious dwarf planet. [Full Story: Dawn Spacecraft Enters Science Orbit Around Dwarf Planet Ceres]

Upcoming X-37B mission will test new thruster technology

The U.S. Air Force will test an innovative spacecraft thruster this month when it launches the latest mystery mission of its robotic X-37B space plane. [Full Story: US Air Force's Next X-37B Space Plane Mystery Mission to Test Thruster]

Moon base wanted by Europe's next space chief

The incoming leader of the European Space Agency is keen on establishing an international base on the moon as a next-step outpost beyond the International Space Station. [Full Story: Europe's Next Space Chief Wants a Moon Colony on the Lunar Far Side]

Two nearby 'super Earth' exoplanets found

Astronomers have discovered two new alien worlds a bit larger than Earth circling a star just 54 light-years from the sun. The newfound exoplanets, known as HD 7924c and HD 7924d, are "super Earths" with masses about 7.9 and 6.4 times greater, respectively, than that of our home planet. [Full Story: New 'Super Earth' Exoplanets Spotted Around Nearby Star]

Amateur astronomers find five new supernovas

More than 40,000 citizen stargazers have helped to classify over 2 million celestial objects and identify five never-before-seen supernovas, in a massive example of citizen science at work. [Full Story: Citizen Scientists Discover Five New Supernovas]

Stunning new 3D view of famous 'Pillars of Creation' produced

New images provide the first complete 3D view of the Pillars of Creation — some of the most iconic cosmic structures ever studied — and suggest that the glorious protrusions may be around for only another 3 million years. [Full Story: Amazing 3D View of Iconic 'Pillars of Creation' Predicts Cosmic Demise (Video)]

SpaceX launches Turkmenistan's first satellite

The private spaceflight company SpaceX launched the first-ever satellite for Turkmenistan into orbit Monday evening (April 27), marking the second space mission in less than two weeks for the firm's Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX did not attempt to land the rocket's first stage on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean this time. [Full Story: SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Launches Turkmenistan's First-Ever Satellite]

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.