A SpaceX-owned commercial cargo craft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California late Sunday, closing out a 39-day mission that delivered 2.8 tons of supplies, experiments and holiday treats to the International Space Station, and returned home with research specimens and no-longer-needed hardware.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk said this weekend that the company is about one month away from launching the first Crew Dragon spacecraft on an unpiloted test flight to the International Space Station, a precursor to a demonstration launch with astronauts later this year. He also warned that early test flights of the commercial crew capsule, built under contract to NASA, will be “especially dangerous.”
Russian commander Sergey Prokopyev, German flight engineer Alexander Gerst, and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor closed out a nearly 197-day space mission with a landing in Kazakhstan aboard their Soyuz MS-09 crew carry ship at 0502 GMT (12:02 a.m. EST) Thursday. The Soyuz crew undocked from the International Space Station at 0140 GMT (8:40 p.m. EST Wednesday) to begin their return to Earth.
Armed with a knife, scissors and other cutting tools, cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev went outside the International Space Station on Dec. 11 to slice into the thermal insulation of a Soyuz spaceship and inspect the site of a repaired air leak that briefly caused a minor drop in air pressure in the research outpost earlier this year.
Eight days after a dramatic spacewalk to inspect the site of a leak in the hull of his Soyuz ferry ship, Russian commander Sergey Prokopyev, German flight engineer Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor geared up to depart the International Space Station Wednesday for a fiery plunge back to Earth.
With two veteran test pilots at the controls, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane climbed to the edge of space for the first time Thursday in a major achievement for Richard Branson’s long-sought ambition to begin regular commercial hops with space tourists, and the first piloted flight by a U.S. vehicle above an altitude of 50 miles since the last space shuttle mission in 2011.