A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images from space-related science news items:

** Update on China’s Chang’e-4 lunar rover:

From the Planetary Society article:

The first science results from the unprecedented Chang’e-4 lunar far side mission are in. The mission’s Yutu-2 rover, deployed from the lander shortly after the Chang’e-4 landing on 3 January, has, with the help of the Queqiao relay satellite, returned data which suggests it has discovered material derived from the Moon’s mantle, according to research published today in Nature. The possibility of accessing mantle rocks exposed within an enormous impact basin was a major reason for attempting the challenging farside landing.

The Visible and Near Infrared Spectrometer (VNIS) aboard Yutu-2 made the first in situ observations—detecting scattered or reflected light from surface materials—on the lunar far side. These spectra have been interpreted by the paper’s authors to represent the presence of olivine and low-calcium pyroxene, materials that may originate from the Moon’s mantle.

Yutu-2 VNIS exploration area

VNIS payload and observation footprint – Yutu-2’s Visible and Yutu-2 rover’s Near Infrared Spectrometer (VNIS) measures an area a few centimeters across. Credits: Chunlai Li et al via Planetary Society

** SpaceIL‘s Beresheet lunar vehicle makes a mark on the Moon:

Lunar surface before/after Beresheet impact

Lunar surface before/after Beresheet impact. Planetary Society: “Left: Beresheet impact site as seen by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter on 22 April 2019. Right: An image processed to highlight changes near the landing site among photos taken before and after the landing, revealing a white impact halo. Other craters are visible in the right image because there is a slight change in lighting conditions among the before and after images. Scale bar is 100 meters. North is up. Both panels are 490 meters wide.”

** Greek high school student team flies experiment on the Blue Origin New Shepard: ACS Athens STEAM Experiment Blasts off into Space with Blue Origin Rocket – The National Herald

How will Greek honey and olive oil behave under microgravity conditions? What about ouzo and grape juice molasses? Will bubbles grow bigger and last longer? ACS Athens students sealed their experiment within the capsule carried by the groundbreaking Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable rocket where it will tested at an altitude of 100 km.

ACS Athens High School students are conducting one complex STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics) experiment, investigating how honey behaves at an altitude of 100 km. ACS Athens is one of the three non-US-based K-12 schools to have ever sent an experiment with Blue Origin

More about the team’s experiments: ACS Athens | Modeling education for the 21st Century

  • spACS 1 scientific goal is to investigate the viscosity of honey under microgravity conditions, a Physics-based experiment on fluidity. 
  • spACS 2, which won the first place in the Hellenic Physical Society’s 1st aerospace contest (November 2018), combines Physics, Chemistry, and Biology to investigate the behavior of foams and emulsions under microgravity conditions focusing on Greek traditional products (olive oil, ouzo, petimezi). 

** Update on OSIRIS-REx at the Bennu asteroid: Here’s a Roundup of Recent OSIRIS-REx Postcards from Bennu | The Planetary Society

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is continuing to chug along at asteroid Bennu. It’s currently sweeping arcs between the asteroid’s north and south poles, gathering scientific data that will also be used to select 12 possible sites for sample collection. The OSIRIS-REx team has also been releasing stunning new images from the mission’s prior phase.

More about the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and mission:

** Examining the rough plains of the Marineris Valles: The floor of Marineris Valles | Behind The Black

The photograph, uncaptioned, is titled “Terminus of Pitted Materials Emanating from Oudemans Crater.” Oudemans Crater is about 55 miles across and is located near the head of Marineris Valles to the east of the giant volcanic region dubbed the Tharsis Bulge. The meteorite that caused this crater is estimated to have been a little less than 3 miles in diameter. It is believed by some scientists that the impact heated up subsurface carbon dioxide permafrost which then explosively flooded down the Valles Marineris into the Northern Plains of Mars, pushing a lot of pulverized debris in front of it.

A section of the floor of Marineris Valles.

A section of the floor of Marineris Valles. Credits: MRO/HiRISE via Bob Zimmerman

** NASA’s Curiosity Finds Climate Clues on a Martian Mountain – A brief update on Curiosity’s travels:

After spending the better part of a year exploring Mars’ Vera Rubin Ridge, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has moved to a new part of Mount Sharp. Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada gives a tour of the rover’s new home in the “clay unit,” as well as other areas scientists are excited to visit. Find out what they could tell us about watery ancient Mars versus the dry Red Planet we see today.

** Charon, Pluto’s Companion: What We Learned from New Horizons – Dr. Ross Beyer (SETI Institute) gave this recent public lecture in the Silicon Valley Astronomy Series:

Pluto’s large moon Charon turned out to be far more interesting than astronomers expected. Pluto was the star of the New Horizons show, but the features on Charon’s surface tell a fascinating tale of how icy worlds could form far from the gravitational influences of the giant planets. There is evidence of a world-wide sub-surface ocean early on, and of global expansion as that ocean froze solid. Dr. Beyer is your expert (and humorous) guide through this story of formation and change in the frozen reaches of the outer Solar System.

** Dr. Linda Spilker spoke about the latest findings from the Cassini Mission data, “new information on Saturn’s ring system, Titan, Enceladus, liquid methane oceans, life, NASA missions and more” – The Space Show – Friday, 05/17/2019


Chasing New Horizons:
Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto