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SpaceX launches the last flight of its original Dragon cargo capsule – The Verge

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Late last night, SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket on the company’s 20th cargo mission to the International Space Station, sending more than 4,500 pounds of supplies and science experiments to the three crew members living in orbit. Following takeoff, SpaceX then landed its Falcon 9 on a drone ship in the Atlantic — the 50th overall rocket landing for the company.

While it was a fairly routine launch for the company, it was also a significant one: the final resupply mission for NASA under SpaceX’s original contract with the space agency. That doesn’t mean SpaceX will be done launching supplies to the ISS, though. In 2016, NASA awarded SpaceX a second contract to continuing launching cargo missions to the station through 2024. And once this new round of launches begins, SpaceX’s hardware will get an upgrade too. The company has long used its Dragon 1 cargo capsule to carry all the supplies to the ISS, but now, SpaceX will begin using its new Dragon 2 capsule.

This new Dragon capsule is very similar to the one that SpaceX will use to send people to the space station later this year. It’s slightly bigger than its predecessor, able to carry about 20 percent more volume than before, and it can be re-used up to five times in space. Each Dragon 1 spacecraft could only be used up to three times. Plus it sports quite a few upgrades, including an entirely new parachute system. “We learned a lot on the Dragon 1 spacecraft,” Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX, said during a press conference ahead of the launch. “We put all the lessons learned basically in Dragon 2 as much as we could.”

[embedded content]

Perhaps the biggest new feature of Dragon 2 is that it will be able to dock all on its own with the International Space Station. All of the previous Dragon cargo capsules had to have some help to get to the ISS. Each vehicle approached the station and an astronaut on board had to capture the capsule with a robotic arm. The arm would then bring the Dragon closer to the ISS and attach it onto a docking port. But from now on, both crew and cargo versions of Dragon will be able to approach the station and dock by themselves, freeing up time for the astronauts on board the ISS.

SpaceX is expected to fly this new cargo Dragon capsule sometime in the fall. In the meantime, the final Dragon 1 launched last night is orbiting Earth and will meet up with the International Space Station early Monday morning. When it is attached to the ISS, it’ll bring various supplies and experiments, including a system to study organs on microchips. Dragon is also bringing a new European platform that will be attached on the outside of the ISS, allowing research institutions and companies to attach their own payloads on the exterior of the station.

This Dragon will stay attached to the ISS for about a month, before returning to Earth. When it leaves, it’ll be loaded up with 4,000 pounds of cargo to be returned to the ground. After the vehicle splashes down in the ocean, the era of Dragon 1 will be over. “Dragon 1 had a great career and we’re really proud at how it contributed to the important science aboard the ISS,” Koenigsmann said. In fact, SpaceX’s Dragon made history in 2012, by becoming the first private vehicle to attach the ISS ever.

“We’re grateful for NASA for the ongoing support, and we’re looking forward to the continued success of Dragon,” said Koenigsmann.

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Dusty demise for NASA Mars lander in July; power dwindling – CGTN

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A NASA spacecraft on Mars is headed for a dusty demise. 

The InSight lander is losing power because of all the dust on its solar panels. NASA said Tuesday it will keep using the spacecraft’s seismometer to register marsquakes until the power peters out, likely in July. Then flight controllers will monitor InSight until the end of this year, before calling everything off. 

“There really hasn’t been too much doom and gloom on the team. We’re really still focused on operating the spacecraft,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Bruce Banerdt, the principal scientist. 

Since landing on Mars in 2018, InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes; the biggest one, a magnitude 5, occurred two weeks ago. 

It will be NASA’s second Mars lander lost to dust: A global dust storm took out Opportunity in 2018. In InSight’s case, it’s been a gradual gathering of dust, especially over the past year.

NASA’s two other functioning spacecraft on the Martian surface – rovers Curiosity and Perseverance – are still going strong thanks to nuclear power. The space agency may rethink solar power in the future for Mars, said planetary science director Lori Glaze, or at least experiment with new panel-clearing tech or aim for the less-stormy seasons.

InSight currently is generating one-tenth of the power from the sun that it did upon arrival. Deputy project manager Kathya Zamora Garcia said the lander initially had enough power to run an electric oven for one hour and 40 minutes; now it’s down to 10 minutes max. 

The InSight team had anticipated this much dust buildup, but hoped a gust of wind or dust devil might clean off the solar panels. That has yet to happen, despite several thousand whirlwinds coming close. 

“None of them have quite hit us dead-on yet enough to blow the dust off the panels,” Banerdt told reporters. 

Another science instrument, dubbed the mole, was supposed to burrow 16 feet (5 meters) underground to measure the internal temperature of Mars. But the German digger never got deeper than a couple of feet (a half-meter) because of the unexpected composition of the red dirt, and it finally was declared dead at the beginning of last year.

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Blood moon, big city: Skywatcher captures total lunar eclipse over New York (photos) – Space.com

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The eclipsed moon burns red high above the bright lights of New York City in gorgeous photos captured by amateur astronomer Alexander Krivenyshev.

Krivenyshev, the president of WorldTimeZone.com, snapped images of the total lunar eclipse on Sunday night (May 15) from Guttenberg, New Jersey, which is across the Hudson River from the Big Apple. 

He persevered through cloudy conditions, Krivenyshev told Space.com via email, to get shots of the blood-red moon shining like a beacon in a light-polluted sky.

Related: Amazing photos of the Super Flower Blood Moon of 2022

A closeup of the eclipsed moon on May 15, 2022, as photographed by Alexander Krivenyshev. (Image credit: Alexander Krivenyshev, WorldTimeZone.com)

The eclipse began at 9:32 p.m EDT on Sunday (0132 GMT on May 16) when the moon nosed into the light part of Earth’s shadow, known as the penumbra, and ended five hours later. The total eclipse phase, in which the moon was completely darkened by Earth’s heavier umbral shadow, lasted 85 minutes, the longest of any lunar eclipse in 33 years.

Earth’s nearest neighbor temporarily turns a coppery red during total lunar eclipses. This “blood moon” effect is caused by Earth’s atmosphere, which bends some red light onto the lunar surface while scattering away shorter-wavelength light. (No sunlight is hitting the moon directly at this point, of course; Earth is blocking the sun from the moon’s perspective.)

Another series of shots of the total lunar eclipse over New York City, photographed by Alexander Krivenyshev on May 15, 2022.  (Image credit: Alexander Krivenyshev, WorldTimeZone.com)

Related stories:

Last weekend’s sky show was best observed from the Americas and parts of Western Europe and West Africa. It was the first total lunar eclipse of the year, but it won’t be the last; another one will occur on Nov. 8. The Nov. 8 lunar eclipse will be best observed from Australia, eastern Asia and the western United States. 

If you’re hoping to photograph the moon, or want to prepare for the next total lunar eclipse, check out our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography. Our guides on how to photograph a lunar eclipse, and how to photograph the moon with a camera, also have some helpful tips to plan out your lunar photo session.

Editor’s Note: If you snap an amazing lunar eclipse photo (or your own eclipse webcast) and would like to share it with Space.com’s readers, send your photo(s), comments, and your name and location to spacephotos@space.com.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.  

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NASA's Mars InSight mission coming to an end as dust covers solar panels – CBC News

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A NASA spacecraft on Mars is headed for a dusty demise.

The Insight lander is losing power because of all the dust on its solar panels. NASA said Tuesday it will keep using the spacecraft’s seismometer to register marsquakes until the power peters out, likely in July. Then flight controllers will monitor InSight until the end of this year, before calling everything off.

“There really hasn’t been too much doom and gloom on the team. We’re really still focused on operating the spacecraft,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Bruce Banerdt, the principal scientist.

Since landing on Mars in 2018, InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes; the biggest one, a magnitude 5, occurred two weeks ago.

It will be NASA’s second Mars lander lost to dust: A global dust storm took out Opportunity in 2018. In InSight’s case, it’s been a gradual gathering of dust, especially over the past year.

WATCH | NASA scientists discuss InSight’s goals on Mars: [embedded content]

Rethinking solar power

NASA’s two other functioning spacecraft on the Martian surface — rovers Curiosity and Perseverance — are still going strong thanks to nuclear power.

The space agency may rethink solar power in the future for Mars, said planetary science director Lori Glaze, or at least experiment with new panel-clearing tech or aim for the less-stormy seasons.

InSight currently is generating one-tenth of the power from the sun that it did upon arrival.

Deputy project manager Kathya Zamora Garcia said the lander initially had enough power to run an electric oven for one hour and 40 minutes; now it’s down to 10 minutes max.

The InSight team anticipated this much dust buildup, but hoped a gust of wind or a dust devil might clean off the solar panels. That has yet to happen, despite several thousand whirlwinds coming close.

“None of them have quite hit us dead-on yet enough to blow the dust off the panels,” Banerdt told reporters.

Another science instrument, dubbed the mole, was supposed to burrow five metres underground to measure the internal temperature of Mars. But the German digger never got deeper than a half-metre because of the unexpected composition of the red dirt, and it finally was declared dead at the beginning of last year.

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