Today, NASA’s New Horizons space probe will carry out the much anticipated Pluto flyby. When at NASA’s mission control center it’s early morning, it will pass at a distance that will reach a minimum of 12,500 kilometers (about 7,800 miles) from the dwarf planet. All New Horizons’ instruments will be used to analyze Pluto as ever before but some time will be devoted also to its moons, particularly Charon.
A flittle while ago the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft blasted off on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in its CRS-7 (Cargo Resupply Service 7) mission, also referred to as SPX-7. It was supposed to be the seventh mission that sent the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station with various a cargo. Unfortunately a couple of minutes after launch something went wrong, causing the destruction of the rocket and the Dragon.
A little while ago, NASA astronaut Terry Virts, Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, returned to Earth on the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft, landed without problems in Kazakhstan. The three of them spent nearly six and a half months on the International Space Station, where they arrived on November 24, 2014. They were initially part of the Expedition 42, in the second half of their stay they were part of Expedition 43 with Terry Virts as Station commander.
Yesterday NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) system, which will be used to land vehicles that can be very big on Mars, completed its second test over the Pacific Ocean. The result was only partially positive because the huge parachute that is part of this system deployed but didn’t inflate properly.
An article just published in the journal “Nature” describes a research on Pluto and its moons showing how two of them, Nix and Hydra, spin in an uncontrolled and unpredictable way. This study is based on an analysis of the observations made using the Hubble Space Telescope but because of the considerable distance they’re far from complete. For this reason, it’s possible that the two other small moons of Pluto, Styx and Kerberos, are in the same situation.