NASA unveiled an ambitious program Friday to commercialize low-Earth orbit, making way for product development and even advertising aboard the International Space Station, month-long visits by company astronauts starting as early as next year and use of a station docking port for privately financed research-and-development modules.
Approaching the one-year anniversary since its arrival at asteroid Ryugu, Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft has deployed a target marker near an artificial crater created by an explosive charge in April, a guide post that could help the probe steer toward another pinpoint touchdown to collect a second batch of samples for return to Earth.
Later this month, ground teams will send commands for the InSight lander on Mars to use its robotic arm in a series of carefully-choreographed movements to help inspect, and potentially assist, one of the mission’s main geologic instruments that stalled as it hammered into the Red Planet’s crust earlier this year.
A commercial Dragon cargo capsule wrapped up a four-week stay at the International Space Station on Monday with a departure from the complex at 12:01 p.m. EDT (1601 GMT). The spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 5:48 p.m. EDT (2148 GMT) with several tons of research specimens and equipment.