Two crewmen returned to Earth from the International Space Station on Friday, riding a Russian Soyuz spaceship to a parachute-assisted, rocket-cushioned landing in Kazakhstan to close out more than 196 days in orbit. Oleg Novitskiy and Thomas Pesquet undocked from the station at 1047 GMT (6:47 a.m. EDT) and landed in Kazakhstan at 1410 GMT (10:10 a.m. EDT).
Investigators who studied the crash of the European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli lander on Mars last year have recommended more stringent testing and computer modeling before the launch of a joint European-Russian landing craft in 2020 to avoid a repeat of the mistakes that doomed the probe’s descent through the Martian atmosphere.
In the final months of Europe’s LISA Pathfinder mission, scientists have found an unexpected use for the trailblazing testbed for a future gravitational wave observatory by tracking the tiny dings made by microscopic particles that strike the spacecraft in deep space, exploiting the impacts to learn about the population of dust grains cast off by comets and asteroids across the solar system.
The future participation of major segments of Britain’s space industry in Europe’s Galileo navigation system and Copernicus environmental network, two multibillion-dollar flagship programs with dozens of satellites, is sure to be a significant part of negotiations as the UK withdraws from the European Union, according to a member of the European Commission.
The Italian government has decided to launch two next-generation radar reconnaissance satellites on Soyuz and Vega rockets from French Guiana, and a European Space Agency telescope to study the structures of planets around other stars will likely ride to orbit as a co-passenger on one of the missions.
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.