A NASA robot equipped with 16 "fingers" scaled a steep cliff in Death Valley, a planetary embryo likely struck a young Jupiter over 4 billion years ago and researchers found interstellar dust in Antarctica. These are just some of the Top Stories this week from Space.com.
ExoMars has parachute problems
The ExoMars team continues to troubleshoot the parachute design of a pending Red Planet mission, which may delay the 2020 launch by a few years. The life-hunting European and Russian mission suffered failures during two recent parachute tests of its descent system, which is supposed to create a safe landing for the spacecraft when it approaches the Martian surface.
Antarctic snow reveals pristine interstellar dust
For the first time, researchers have come across freshly-fallen interstellar dust. This powder is created by supernovas, crashing asteroids and passing comets. Researchers collected about 1,100 lbs. (500 kilograms) of Antarctic snow less than 20 years old to find these recent and pristine samples.
Planetary embryo struck young Jupiter
Jupiter's core shows signs that it was struck by a baby planet 10 times more massive than Earth about 4.5 billion years ago. Before NASA's Juno mission launched and began studying the massive planet, astronomers thought its core was dense and compact. But a recent look at data from the mission, which continues to observe Jupiter to this day, shows that Jupiter has a dilute core which did not form naturally.
Dream Chaser has a ride booked
On Wednesday (Aug. 14), Sierra Nevada announced it plans to start launching its small, space shuttle-like private vessel called Dream Chaser for deliveries to the International Space Station. Dream Chaser can ascend with as much as 12,000 lbs. (5,400 kg) of cargo and would hitch a ride into space aboard the United Launch Alliance's new Vulcan Centaur rocket, which is scheduled to take its first test flight in 2021.
Virgin Galactic opens its space terminal
On Thursday (Aug. 15), Virgin Galactic unveiled the interior of its "Gateway to Space" building at Spaceport America in New Mexico. The facility will host space tourists gearing up before their weightless flights high above the Earth. Virgin Galactic's spaceflight system consists of a six-passenger SpaceShipTwo space plane and a carrier aircraft called WhiteKnightTwo.
'Interplanetary shock' seen for first time
In a paper published on June 18, scientists detailed how four NASA spacecraft finally detected an interplanetary shock. This phenomenon occurred in January 2018 and is produced when two different patches of solar wind (the stream of charged particles emanating from the sun) interact with each other. These four satellites belong to the space agency project called Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, or MMS, which launched in 2015.
Black hole at the center of our galaxy may be acting up
At the center of the Milky Way galaxy lies a black hole that became more active recently, according to new research. Although black holes don't emit light, because of their tremendous gravity, the cloud of material around their edges can grow brighter when there's greater friction, around the black hole. The recent flare was the brightest observation researchers have seen from the black hole thus far, and its peak probably happened before the team began observing the black hole on May 13.
Solar system giants drifted away from the sun earlier than once thought
In a new study published Monday (Aug. 12), a geologist led a research team on a study of the solar system's history. They found evidence that the largest planets in the solar system — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — drifted away from the sun earlier than previously thought. The team made their conclusions by studying meteorites and using computer modeling.
SpaceX announces second fairing-catching boat
SpaceX retrieves the cone-shaped structures that encapsulate the payloads onboard their rockets in hopes of reusing them to reduce the cost of launch. The spaceflight company has used a net-equipped boat called GO Ms. Tree, but is adding a second boat. The company's CEO, Elon Musk, said in an Aug. 9 tweet that the new boat will be called GO Ms. Chief.
New NASA interplanetary tech tested out in Death Valley
A NASA robot used its 16 "fingers" to scale a cliff in Death Valley, California. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory originally created the Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot (LEMUR) to do repair work on the International Space Station, but this concept may help push the envelope of what's possible for robots on Mars or on distant moons around other solar system planets.