Top Space Stories of the Week!

NASA's climbing robot LEMUR (Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot) scales a cliff in Death Valley, California during field trials in 2019. The robot uses special gripping technology to climb steep terrain.
(Image: © NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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

(Image credit: ESA)

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.

Full Story: Europe and Russia Have ExoMars Parachute Problems. It Could Threaten the 2020 Mars Launch

Antarctic snow reveals pristine interstellar dust

(Image credit: Joe MacGregor/NASA)

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.

Full Story: Fresh Interstellar Dust Discovered in the Snows of Antarctica

Planetary embryo struck young Jupiter

(Image credit: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center) and M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley))

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.

Full Story: Jupiter's Strange Core May Have Been Forged by a Colossal Head-On Crash

Dream Chaser has a ride booked

(Image credit: Sierra Nevada Corp.)

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. 

Full Story: Private Dream Chaser Space Plane Will Ride New Vulcan Rocket for NASA Cargo Launches

See Also: LinkSpace Reusable Rocket Prototype Makes Its Highest Flight Yet (And Lands, Too!)

Virgin Galactic opens its space terminal

(Image credit: Virgin Galactic)

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. 

Full Story: Virgin Galactic Opens 'Gateway to Space' for Tourist Launches at Spaceport America

 'Interplanetary shock' seen for first time

(Image credit: Ian Cohen/NASA)

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.

Full Story: First View of 'Interplanetary Shock' Spotted by NASA Spacecraft

Black hole at the center of our galaxy may be acting up

(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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.

Full Story: Something Weird Is Happening to the Black Hole at the Center of the Milky Way

See Also: Cloaked Black Hole Found Hidden Behind Gas Cloud in Early Universe

Solar system giants drifted away from the sun earlier than once thought

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

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. 

Full Story: New Timeline for 'Giant Planet Migration' May Rewrite History of Our Solar System

SpaceX announces second fairing-catching boat

(Image credit: Elon Musk/SpaceX via Twitter)

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.

Full Story: SpaceX Now Has a 2nd Boat to Catch Rocket Payload Fairings Falling from Space

See Also: SpaceX's Elon Musk Endorses Democratic Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang

New NASA interplanetary tech tested out in Death Valley

(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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. 

Full Story: Watch NASA's 'Lemur' Robot Climb a Cliff in Death Valley as Practice for Mars

Have a news tip, correction or comment? Let us know at community@space.com.