Weekly recap of science news: Chinese rocket debris, ISS robots, and more.


China successfully launched the Wentian module from its Tiangong space station last week. But this week, the country is keeping a close eye on the uncontrolled reentry of debris from the most powerful rocket it has ever built. Here’s our recap of the biggest space news from the past week.

Buzz Aldrin’s Apollo 11 flight jacket sold at auction

Buzz Aldrin’s flight jacket, which he wore on the historic Apollo 11 mission, sold for around $2.8 million at an action in New York. The front of the jacket proudly displays the NASA logo and the Apollo 11 mission emblem, which is located below Aldrin’s name tag.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first humans to walk on the Moon. At the age of 92, Aldrin is the only surviving member of the mission. After the jacket, the second highest-grossing item from the same auction was the Apollo 11 Mission Summary Flight Plan. The plan sold for $819,000, beating estimates of $100,000 to $150,000.

A view of a detail of Buzz Aldrin’s flight suit jacket, worn by him during his mission to the Moon and back during Apollo 11, which sold for 772,500 at Sotheby’s, New York, in the United States on July 21, 2022, in this screen capture from a video. (Image credit: Reuters TV via Reuters)

First Arab astronaut on a long-duration space mission

Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi will make history as the first Arab astronaut to be part of a long-term mission to the International Space Station (ISS) after his selection to embark on the Crew-6 mission scheduled for early 2023 This makes the United Arab Emirates the 11th country in the world to take part in a long-duration space mission, according to the Emirates News Agency.

Al Neyadi will travel to the space station as part of an exchange agreement between NASA and Axiom Space, a private space company based in Texas. SpaceX’s Crew=6 will be the sixth crew rotation flight to the International Space Station made by the Elon Musk-led company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. The mission is scheduled to launch in 2023 on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyyadi Sultan Al Neyyadi will be the second Emirati astronaut to visit the International Space Station after Hazza Al Mansoori, who lived on the space station for eight days in 2019. (Image credit: Mohammed bin Rashed Space Center)

International Space Station astronauts joined by Astrobee robots

Two ‘Astrobee’ robots have started working independently on the International Space Station, side-by-side with humans, for the first time. Until now, Astrobee robots have operated on the International Space Station one by one or with the support of human operators. The video shared by NASA shows a new milestone for the robotic system designed to operate autonomously.

Astrobee robots are cube-shaped and about 32 centimeters wide. The three Astrobee robots, named Queen, Bumble and Honey, propel themselves through the International Space Station’s microgravity environment using electric fans. Once discharged, they are designed to automatically return to their docking station so they can be recharged.

Not only will Astrobee robots make space missions safer and more profitable, but Astrobees could handle routine tasks that would free up human operators for more complex jobs. But they might have an even greater duty in the future. Astrobee robots could be instrumental in future spacecraft that won’t be manned year-round like the Gateway space station slated to orbit the Moon. Such spacecraft will need autonomous robots to keep things running while humans are away.

A Long March-5B Y3 rocket, carrying the Wentian laboratory module for China’s space station under construction, lifts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft launch site in Hainan province, China July 24, 2022. China Daily via REUTERS

Chinese rocket debris

Debris from a recently launched Chinese rocket is expected to re-enter the atmosphere this week. The Long March 5B rocket was launched on Sunday to deliver a laboratory module to China’s under-construction space station in orbit, marking the third flight of the most powerful rocket built by the country.

As happened on the two previous flights, the rocket’s main stage, 30 meters long and weighing 22 tons, has already reached low orbit and is expected to return to Earth due to atmospheric friction from our planet, according to experts who spoke to PA. It is currently impossible to determine in advance, but experts will be able to narrow down the area of ​​potential impact as we get closer to impact.


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