All Space stories

May 8, 2021 - World

Debris from Chinese rocket likely to fall to Earth this weekend

A Long March 5B rocket, carrying China's Tianhe space station core module, on April 29. Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images

A massive booster rocket from a Chinese Long March 5B launch vehicle is expected to fall back to Earth in an "uncontrolled reentry" this weekend, though experts don't really know where debris from the rocket will land.

The state of play: China's space agency has said it expects most of the rocket to burn up in Earth's atmosphere. The chance of debris from the rocket actually landing in a populated area is low — but there is still a chance.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
May 6, 2021 - Science

The suborbital space race heats up

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are pushing to launch their first paying customers to the edge of space.

Why it matters: If the two companies succeed, it will open up a new market in the space industry, one focused on consumer-driven demand for expensive trips to suborbital space.

May 6, 2021 - World

Pentagon tracking path of falling Chinese rocket

A Long March 5B rocket, carrying China's Tianhe space station core module, lifts off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China's Hainan province last Thursday. Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images

The Pentagon said Wednesday it's tracking the uncontrolled descent of the Long March-5B Y2 rocket that carried a Chinese Space Station module to orbit last week.

Details: Defense Department spokesperson John Kirby told reporters the rocket's debris was expected to return to Earth "somewhere around" May 8 and that the U.S. Space Command has said "almost the entire body of the rocket" remains intact. "It's too soon to know exactly where it's going to come down," he added.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
May 5, 2021 - Science

SpaceX launches and lands a starship prototype

Starship SN15 after landing. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX launched its fifth test of a Starship prototype on Wednesday and managed to stick the landing.

Why it matters: SpaceX hopes that Starship will eventually be used to deliver payloads and people to deep space destinations like the Moon and Mars.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
May 5, 2021 - Science

Blue Origin is auctioning off a seat to the edge of space

Blue Origin's Mannequin Skywalker test dummy inside of the New Shepard during flight. Photo: Blue Origin Media

Jeff Bezos' space company Blue Origin is planning to launch people to the edge of space for the first time in July, and one seat will go to the highest bidder.

Why it matters: The flight would mark the start of Blue Origin making good on its promise to send paying customers to suborbital space, opening a new market for space tourism.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
May 4, 2021 - Science

Ingenuity's future on Mars

Ingenuity flies across the Martian surface. Gif: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

NASA's little helicopter on Mars passed its first tests with flying colors, and now it's about to embark on the next phase of its mission on the Red Planet.

Why it matters: The 4-pound helicopter named Ingenuity has quickly become a fan-favorite robot on Mars. NASA is using it to prove out technology that could one day help the agency further explore the Red Planet and other objects.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
May 4, 2021 - Science

Hubble watches a planet grow

PDS 70b (the bright spot to the middle left) forming around its star. Photo: NASA/ESA/University of Texas/STScI

The Hubble Space Telescope has caught sight of a huge planet forming around a star 370 light-years from Earth.

Why it matters: Named PDS 70b, the planet is the youngest ever directly imaged by the powerful telescope and could help scientists learn more about how worlds grow up around their stars.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
May 4, 2021 - Science

Government cash is king for private spaceflight

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The public fights between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk over their space companies point to a broader truth in the space industry: There isn't enough money to go around.

Why it matters: The promise of commercial human spaceflight still hinges on billions of dollars of investment from the U.S. government.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
May 2, 2021 - Science

Four astronauts delivered back to Earth by SpaceX

Photo: NASA

An international crew of four astronauts is back on Earth after a long-duration stay on the International Space Station.

The big picture: Sunday's splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico marks the end of SpaceX's first fully operational crewed mission to the space station.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
May 1, 2021 - Science

Vice President Harris will chair the National Space Council

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks with NASA astronaut Victor Glover. Photo: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

The Biden administration will keep the National Space Council — reestablished initially by the Trump administration — and Vice President Kamala Harris plans to chair it.

Why it matters: Many see the National Space Council as integral to policy development and inter-agency collaboration as the nation increasingly relies on space for national security and other uses.