NASA has narrowed the target for its most advanced Mars rover, Curiosity, which will land on the Red Planet in August. The car-sized rover will arrive closer to its ultimate destination for science operations, but also closer to the foot of a mountain slope that poses a landing hazard. It was possible to adjust landing plans because of increased confidence in precision landing technology aboard the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, which is carrying the Curiosity rover.
According to state media reports and the country’s human spaceflight agency China will launch its manned mission to an orbiting space laboratory in mid-June. A Long March 2F rocket will launch three astronauts aboard a Shenzhou 9 capsule for China’s first manned space docking at the mini-space station Tiangong-1. The space lab module has been circling Earth unmanned since its launch last year. China’s Shenzhou 9 mission will mark the fourth human spaceflight for the country, which has been making steady advances since the launch of Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei in 2003 on Shenzhou 5, the country’s first human spaceflight.
The American SpaceX company’s Dragon cargo capsule is heading back to Earth having spent a week attached to the International Space Station (ISS). Built by commercial company Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), the Dragon capsule was detached from the space station by astronauts using the outpost’s robotic arm, which officially released the spacecraft at 5:49 a.m. EDT (0949 GMT). Dragon is the first private spacecraft ever to visit the $100 billion space station.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket roars into space and delivered a Dragon cargo capsule into orbit on May 22, 2012. The launch began an ambitious mission to show that the company is ready to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. As said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden the significance of this day cannot be overstated. While there is a lot of work ahead to successfully complete this mission, the start is good.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its closest approach to Saturn’s tiny moon Methone as part of a trajectory that will take it on a close flyby of another of Saturn’s moons, Titan. The Titan flyby will put the spacecraft in an orbit around Saturn that is inclined, or tilted, relative to the plane of the planet’s equator. The flyby of Methone took place on May 20 at a distance of about 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers).
An American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station early on May 17, kicking off a four-month stay aboard the orbiting laboratory. A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin docked with the space station at 12:36 a.m. EDT (0436 GMT) Thursday as the two spacecraft soared 249 miles above the border between Mongolia and Kazakhstan.
NASA shut down space shuttle Endeavour for the final time on May 11, 2012. Space shuttle technicians working inside Orbiter Processing Facility-2 (OPF-2) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida powered down Endeavour, the youngest of the retired fleet’s orbiters, at 9:58 a.m. EDT (1358 GMT) as they moved forward with preparations for the winged spacecraft’s museum display. This September, NASA will mount Endeavour on top of a modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft and ferry it to Los Angeles for its exhibit at the California Science Center.
According to NASA scientists huge sunspot that dwarfs the Earth is unleashing a series of powerful solar flares as it moves across the surface of the sun. The sunspot AR 1476 was detected by space telescopes on May 5. The huge sunspot is 60,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) across, so large that when it was first seen in views from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft, mission scientists dubbed it a “monster sunspot.”
New observations from a NASA Dawn spacecraft show that the huge asteroid Vesta is a battered protoplanet left over from the solar system’s early days, with a unique mix of characteristics unknown from any other space rock. Scientists had thought that Vesta, the second-largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, probably started down a planet-forming path shortly after the solar system’s birth. Many other Vesta-like objects were incorporated into rocky worlds such as Earth, but Vesta’s development along this path was halted.