The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, a Russian-launched, European-built spacecraft that arrived at Mars in October, is starting to dip into the upper reaches of the red planet’s atmosphere in a year-long “aerobraking” campaign place the observatory in the right position to hunt for methane, an indicator of potential biological activity.
SpaceX’s Dragon cargo craft ended a four-week mission Sunday with a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, returning from the International Space Station with more than 3,600 pounds of cargo, blood and urine samples, and specimens from a rodent research experiment aimed at helping patients with catastrophic bone injuries and osteoporosis.
After 24 days at the International Space Station, SpaceX’s Dragon supply ship came back to Earth on Sunday with more than 5,400 pounds of cargo, human and animal research specimens, and other gear tagged for the trip home. Release from the station’s robotic arm occurred at 5:11 a.m. EDT (0911 GMT), and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean was a few minutes before 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT).
The U.S. Air Force this week awarded SpaceX a contract to launch a Global Positioning System satellite in early 2019, concluding the second of as many as 15 competitions the military plans to run over the next year to pit SpaceX against United Launch Alliance for rights to lift defense and intelligence-gathering payloads into orbit.