The top space stories of the week!

A car-sized asteroid made the closest-ever approach to Earth that didn’t end up in an impact, Death Valley set a record high temperature and scientists detect the fastest-known star. These are just some of the top stories this week from 

NASA investigating space station air leak

On Thursday (Aug. 20), NASA released an update regarding the air leak onboard the International Space Station that was first detected in September 2019. The space agency is investigating the air leak. Fortunately, this situation does not interfere with normal operations and the rate of air loss is not high enough to cause harm, according to NASA officials. 

Full story: NASA investigating small air leak on International Space Station

Car-sized asteroid sets an Earth-flyby record 

The closest-known, non-impacting asteroid flew past Earth last week (Aug. 16) at a distance of just 1,830 miles (2,950 kilometers) away. According to the Minor Planet Center of International Astronomical Union, this asteroid flew over the Pacific Ocean during its close approach. 

Full story: A car-sized asteroid made the closest Earth flyby a space rock has ever survived

See also: Asteroid flyby: How Earth’s gravity changed record-breaking space rock’s path forever

UAE’s Hope Mars orbiter aces 1st big maneuver 

On Monday (Aug. 17), the United Arab Emirates’ Hope mission to Mars completed its first post-launch course correction maneuver. Hope is the Middle Eastern country’s first-ever interplanetary spacecraft, and it is set to complete another half dozen trajectory corrections up until its scheduled arrival to Mars in February 2021. If Hope successfully reaches Mars, it will study the Martian atmosphere and climate for about two Earth years (on Mars year). 

Full story: UAE’s Hope Mars orbiter nails first big maneuver in deep space

See also: Mars rover Perseverance refines course toward Red Planet

Death Valley sets a scorching Earth heat record

On Aug. 16, California’s Death Valley National Park may have experienced its highest-ever temperature. If the National Weather Service’s measurement is accurate, the 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4 degrees Celsius) temperature reading is the hottest temperature recording in Death Valley in at least a century. This is one of the latest examples showing how global climate conditions are rapidly deteriorating. 

Full story: Death Valley tops 130 F, setting possible global heat record

Japan’s last ‘White Stork’ space cargo ship burns up

On Tuesday (Aug. 18), the last of Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicles departed the International Space Station to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. These first-generation space cargo ships brought up supplies to the orbiting laboratory. These cargo ships were also known by the nickname Kounotori, which is Japanese for “white stork.”

Full story: Japanese HTV cargo ship, the last ‘White Stork’ in space, burns up in Earth’s atmosphere

Hayabusa2 clear to land asteroid Ryugu samples in Australia 

Japan’s Hayabusa2 asteroid-sample retrieval mission is headed back to Earth. The Hayabusa2 spacecraft recently got the green light to return to Earth (with its rocky cargo) via a landing in an Australian desert in December, according to statements from the governments of both countries. 

Full story: Japan’s Hayabusa2 asteroid sample-return capsule cleared for landing in Australia

See also: NASA creates Mars sample-return independent review board

Fastest-known star detected near Milky Way’s center

The fastest star ever detected moves at more than 8% the speed of light, and its recent discovery by scientists could help build a better understanding of a theorized type of star known as a ”squeezar.” These objects orbit so close to a black hole that they are ”squeezed” by the black hole’s incredibly-powerful tidal forces. The newly-spotted speedy star, known as S4714, orbits the supermassive black hole thought to be at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. 

Full story: The fastest star ever seen is moving at 8% the speed of light

FCC approves Amazo’s Kuiper satellite megaconstellation 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved Amazon’s request to deploy a new broadband satellite constellation. This development means there will be increased competition in the broadband multi-satellite market. SpaceX has already deployed hundreds of Starlink broadband constellation satellites, and other competitors include companies like Boeing and Telesat Canada.

Full story: The FCC has approved Amazon’s plan for its Kuiper satellite constellation. Here’s what that means.

AGU publishes plan to combat systemic racism

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) has developed a strategic plan to combat systemic racism within its ranks, according to their statement released last week (Aug. 13). According to the plan itself, their strategy “sets the direction for AGU and will frame the work of the board, council, staff and members in the coming years.”

Full story: Leading group of Earth and space scientists commits to fighting systemic racism

On Tuesday (Aug. 18), SpaceX launched its second Starlink internet-satellite mission of the month. This week’s mission also marked the 40th reflight of a Falcon 9, SpaceX’s reusable booster model. This week’s Falcon 9 flight brought 58 SpaceX Starlink satellites and three small satellites for the imaging company Planet into space before performing a successful rocket landing at sea. 

Full story: SpaceX launches 58 Starlink satellites and 3 SkySats, sticks rocket landing

See also: Watch SpaceX boat catch falling payload fairing in giant net (video)


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