Virgin Galactic’s manned spaceplane has hit another milestone, breaking Mach 2 as it roared into the mesosphere. With test pilots Dave Mackay and Mike “Sooch” Masucci at the controls, VSS Unity was released from the mothership VMS Eve at an altitude of 46,500 ft (14,200 m) before firing its hybrid rocket engine for 42 seconds to power it to 170,800 ft (32.3 mi, 52 km) and a speed of Mach 2.47 (1,832 mph, 2,948 km/h).
Pioneering theoretical physicist and science popularizer Stephen Hawking has passed away at the age of 76. Details have not been released yet, but the BBC reports that his children Lucy, Robert and Tim have released a statement saying, “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.”
The US Navy has completed the latest in a series of sea trials to work out the bugs of recovering NASA’s Orion space capsule after its end-of-mission splashdown. The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23) completed Underway Recovery Test-6 (URT-6) on January 23, which involved the launch and recovery by special boat teams and Navy divers of a floating mock-up of the spacecraft under a variety of sea conditions, at night as well as daytime.
Gee – I wonder where they got this idea. If you’ve seen the movie, The Martian, you obviously know!
With dangerous amounts of radiation, a thin atmosphere and frigid temperatures, the first people to land on Mars will have a fight on their hands to survive. And if we do figure out how to endure these harsh conditions, what will we do when dinner time rolls around? To explore ways these pioneers might be able to live off the land, scientists have been trying to grow potatoes on Earth in Mars-like conditions. The early results are now in and are described as positive.
ARCA Space Corporation has announced its linear aerospike engine is ready to start ground tests as the company moves towards installing the engine in its Demonstrator 3 rocket. Designed to power the world’s first operational Single-Stage-To-Orbit (SSTO) satellite launcher, the engine took only 60 days to complete from when fabrication began.
In 1996, scientists discovered what may be the strangest stone ever found, in an equally strange section of the Sahara desert that’s littered with unique yellow glass. Nicknamed the Hypatia stone, the relic was later found to be extraterrestrial in origin, but was unlike any known kind of meteorite or comet. A new study has deepened the mystery even further, finding that Hypatia could predate the formation of the Solar System, or have interstellar origins.