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The top space stories of the week!

NASA makes its first attempt to sample an asteroid, some countries are reluctant to sign the Artemis Accords and cosmonauts work to patch an air leak on the International Space Station. These are some of the top stories this week from Space.com. 

Cosmonauts try patching up the space-station air leak.

The International Space Station, as seen from the space shuttle Atlantis in July 2011, on the final flight of the shuttle program. (Image credit: NASA)

Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station reported on Oct. 15 that they tracked down the small air leak on the station. The leak was first detected in September 2019, and at no point has the leak threatened the crew living aboard the orbiting laboratory, according to statements from NASA and Roscosmos. The cosmonauts attempted to patch the leak but the work might not hold, according to a report from Russia's government-owned news service, Tass. 

Full story: Cosmonauts patch small air leak on International Space Station: reports

NASA makes first-ever attempt at asteroid sampling. 

A series of 16 images show the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft's view of its sampling maneuver on asteroid Bennu on Oct. 20, 2020. (Image credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft briefly touched down on the surface of asteroid Bennu this week (Oct. 21). This is the first time that NASA has attempted to collect samples from an asteroid. The mission touched down on a rocky region called Nightingale for about six seconds and then fired a puff of gas to blow tiny pieces of the asteroid into its collection device. 

Full story: NASA's first attempt to sample an asteroid in space made a mess. It's the best mess ever, scientists say.

See also: NASA spacecraft makes historic attempt to snag samples of asteroid Bennu

See also: See how NASA's OSIRIS-REx will sample asteroid Bennu in this 360-degree video

NASA will announce a lunar scientific discovery next week.

An image of SOFIA preparing for takeoff.

An image of SOFIA preparing for takeoff. (Image credit: NASA)

NASA announced this week that it will reveal a mysterious lunar finding this Monday (Oct. 26). The science finding comes from a German-American partnership called SOFIA, or Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. The discovery is new but the observations behind the announcement will probably be old, because SOFIA was grounded in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Full story: NASA to announce 'exciting new discovery' about the moon on Monday

Intuitive Machines picked by NASA to launch a moon-ice mission. 

NASA has picked Intuitive Machines to deliver the PRIME-1 ice-mining experiment to the moon's south pole in December 2022 on the company's private Nova-C lander.

NASA has picked Intuitive Machines to deliver the PRIME-1 ice-mining experiment to the moon's south pole in December 2022 on the company's private Nova-C lander. (Image credit: Intuitive Machines)

In a new deal, NASA will pay the Houston-based company Intuitive Machines to deliver the space agency's Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment (PRIME-1) to the lunar south pole in December 2022. Intuitive Machines is one of several companies that NASA has selected under its Commercial Lunar Payload Services program to fly robotic missions to the moon. These science payloads are designed to help NASA's Artemis program glean more information about how to successfully return humans to the moon this decade. 

Full story: NASA picks Intuitive Machines to land an ice-mining drill on the moon

Trio from the space station land back on Earth.

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy gives a salute after returning to Earth on a Russian Soyuz MS-16 space capsule, landing in the remote steppes of Kazakhstan, on Oct. 21, 2020.  (Image credit: NASA TV)

Three International Space Station crew members safely returned to Earth on Wednesday (Oct. 21, when a Russian Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft touched down in Kazakhstan. The trio, which included NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, landed 10 days before the 20th anniversary of the launch that brought a crew to live on the ISS for the first time. 

Full story: Soyuz crew lands from space station ahead of ISS 20-year milestone

Dragonfly 44 is not 98% dark matter, new study suggests. 

The Dragonfly 44 galaxy looks like a smear across space.

The Dragonfly 44 galaxy looks like a smear across space. (Image credit: Teymoor Saifollahi and NASA/HST (HST Proposal 14643, PI: van Dokkum))

A new paper published on Oct. 8 suggests that an earlier study, which found a galaxy made almost completely of dark matter and almost no stars, got it wrong. The new study suggested that the galaxy Dragonfly 44, which was the focus of the earlier work, is a low-mass dwarf galaxy spread across space with normal percentages of dark matter. 

Full story: Astronomers claimed galaxy was 98% dark matter. They were wrong.

Some countries have not signed NASA's Artemis Accords. 

Illustration of a future Moon base by the European Space Agency, which hasn’t signed the Artemis Accords.

Illustration of a future Moon base by the European Space Agency, which hasn’t signed the Artemis Accords. (Image credit: ESA; RegoLight, visualisation: Liquifer Systems Group, 2018, CC BY-SA)

Eight countries have signed the Artemis Accords, which are a set of guidelines developed by NASA for crewed exploration of the moon. But some countries have their concerns. There are concerns, for example, that no African or South American countries are amongst the founding partner states, or that the US is promoting the accords outside normal channels of international space law. Some member states of the European Space Agency (ESA) have signed the accords, but others have not. 

Full story: Artemis Accords: why many countries are refusing to sign moon exploration agreement

The astronauts on the first all-women spacewalk celebrate its anniversary. 

Jessica Meir (at left) and Christina Koch conducted the first all-female EVA on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.

Jessica Meir (at left) and Christina Koch conducted the first all-female EVA on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.  (Image credit: NASA)

A year ago, NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir took part in the first-ever spacewalk conducted entirely by women. On Oct. 19, the Guinness Book of World Records officially recognized Koch and Meir for their historic spacewalk. The all-women spacewalk was not orchestrated by NASA; it was a chance pairing, but nevertheless, the spacewalk inspired women the world over. 

Full story: NASA astronaut Christina Koch reflects on 1-year anniversary of first all-woman spacewalk

Astronaut requirements are changing. 

NASA's 2017 Class of Astronauts participate in graduation ceremonies at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, on Jan. 10, 2020. From left are, NASA astronaut Jonny Kim, Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Joshua Kutryk, NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins, CSA astronaut Jennifer Sidey-Gibbon, NASA astronauts Frank Rubio, Kayla Barron, Jasmin Moghbeli, Loral O'Hara, Zena Cardman, Raja Chari, Matthew Dominick, Bob Hines and Warren Hoburg. This is the first class to graduate under the Artemis program, and the 13 astronauts are now eligible for assignments to the International Space Station, Artemis missions to the Moon, and ultimately, missions to Mars.

Blue Origin's New Shepard vehicle made its 13th flight on Oct. 13, 2020. (Image credit: NASA)

The demands of astronauts are quickly changing as science progresses, according to NASA astronaut Cady Coleman. Coleman spoke on a panel of spaceflyers during the virtual International Astronautical Congress on Wednesday (Oct. 14). Being an astronaut in the 2020s will therefore be very different from how it has been. Some factors contributing to the changes include plans to commercialize space and NASA's push to return humans to the moon by 2024. 

Full story: Astronaut requirements changing rapidly with private spaceflyers, long-duration missions

China is preparing for more lunar missions.

The Chang'e 4 lander, as seen by the Yutu 2 rover.

The Chang'e 4 lander, as seen by the Yutu 2 rover. (Image credit: CNSA)

China is preparing for more lunar missions. The China National Space Administration's (CNSA) Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center opened a competitive call last month for institutions to develop payloads for the five different spacecraft that are part of the nation's upcoming Chang'e 7 mission. Chang'e 7 is scheduled to launch in 2024 and is being designed to land on the lunar south pole and to study the region from orbit. 

Full story: China unveils ambitious moon mission plans for 2024 and beyond

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