This Week's Top Space Stories!

Goodbye, Oppy

(Image: © NASA/JPL)

NASA declared its golf-cart-size Opportunity rover dead this week. The Feb. 13 announcement came over a half a year after the solar-powered robot went silent due to a dust storm. Among the important findings the rover made during its almost decade-and-a-half long mission was evidence that large-scale bodies of water once covered Mars. [Full Story: Mars Rover Opportunity Is Dead After Record-Breaking 15 Years on Red Planet]

See Also: How NASA's Opportunity Mars Rover Lived So Long

Plus: Opportunity Rover Looks Back in Newly Released NASA Photo

Returning to (and refueling on) the moon

(Image: © NASA)

On Feb. 7, NASA announced it's soliciting ideas from private companies to develop and produce future lunar technology that would bring humans back to the moon's surface by 2028. The proposals are due by March 25. One of NASA's objectives for a crewed lunar return is to find a way to convert ice and moondust into fuel. [NASA Wants Help from Private Companies to Land Astronauts on the Moon by 2028]

Near-surface water on Ceres

(Image: © NASA/JP:-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

In a new study published last December, researchers found that near-surface water may have existed in pockets across parts of the dwarf planet Ceres. The team analyzed data taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, the first probe to circle two celestial bodies beyond the Earth-moon system; before studying Ceres, Dawn also peered at the protoplanet Vesta. [Full Story: Dwarf Planet Ceres Hosted Near-Surface Water for Millions of Years]

Mark Kelly runs for Senate

(Image: © Joe Raedle/Getty)

Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly announced his latest endeavor on Feb. 12: running for a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona. Kelly has flown on four space shuttle missions and was a participant in the space agency's yearlong twin study alongside his identical brother, Scott Kelly. 

[Full Story: Former Astronaut Mark Kelly Announces Campaign for US Senate]

Feel space with 'Vibrating Universe'

(Image: © NASA/STScI)

A scientific team has paired slides with an American Sign Language presentation in an effort to make astronomy more accessible for deaf students. The goal of the project is to convert scientific phenomena, like the oscillations on the sun's surface or the boom of rocket launches, into vibrations that students can feel. [Full Story: 'Vibrating Universe' Shares Astronomy with Deaf Students]

Mars One goes bankrupt

(Image: © Mars One video via YouTube)

Mars One Ventures AG, the company which held the exclusive rights to monetize the one-way Martian human settlement project of the non-profit Mars One Foundation, has gone bankrupt. The company was liquidated in a Jan. 15 Swiss civil court case. [Full Story: Mars One Company Goes Bankrupt]

Mars InSight lander deploys final instrument

(Image: © NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A heat probe with the alias "mole" has emerged onto the Martian surface. NASA's InSight Mars lander recently deployed this instrument, which will begin to drill itself to what scientists hope will be a depth of 16 feet (5 m) underground. The probe will study rocks that are only influenced by Mars' internal activity. [Full Story: There's a 'Mole' on Mars Now, Thanks to NASA's InSight Lander]

"Demo-1" is a few weeks away

(Image: © SpaceX)

The first demonstration mission of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule — a flight dubbed "Demo-1" — will take place on March 2. The multibillion-dollar capsule will liftoff with an ultimate goal of successfully returning orbital human spaceflight back to the United States; right now, American astronauts rely on Russian Soyuz rockets to travel to and from the space station. [Full Story: SpaceX Dragon Crew Demo-1 Flight to Space Station: What to Expect]

Ultima Thule is flatter than we thought

(Image: © NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/National Optical Astronomy Observatory)

Never judge a book by its cover, or a space object by its first photos. 2014 MU69, also known as Ultima Thule, looked like a bowling pin in initial imagery released by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft as it approached the object on Jan. 1. But on Feb. 8, the mission team announced that the two lobes of the object are flatter, and less spherical, than first thought. [Full Story: Ultima Thule Beyond Pluto Is Flat Like a Pancake (and Not a Space Snowman After All)]

Gaia narrows down timing of galactic collision

(Image: © ESA/Gaia (star motions); NASA/Galex (background image); R. van der Marel, M. Fardal, J. Sahlmann (STScI))

The Gaia spacecraft launched a little over five years ago to create the most robust 3D map of the Milky Way ever. Researchers used Gaia data to find that the massive crash between our galaxy and the neighboring Andromeda galaxy won't occur for another 4.5 billion years, according to a new study. [Full Story: We Finally Know When Our Milky Way Will Crash Into the Andromeda Galaxy]

See Also: NASA Will Launch a New Space Telescope in 2023 to Investigate the Universe

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