Starship collapses, an interstellar comet breaks apart, and more than 12,000 aspiring astronauts apply for the latest NASA call. All this, and more top stories this week from Space.com.
Starship prototype collapses
SpaceX’s newest Starship prototype appeared to collapse during a pressure tank test, according to video footage from Texas on April 2. CEO Elon Musk pledged to do a data review of the incident in the morning to find out more, but said the test configuration may be to blame. Starship is the spacecraft SpaceX plans to eventually use for Mars missions and other deep-space flights.
- With coronavirus spreading, NASA may tweak astronaut prelaunch quarantine plans
- Coronavirus outbreak prompts ESA to impose travel restrictions
- How would NASA handle an astronaut disease outbreak?
Interstellar Comet Borisov snaps off a piece
New images of Comet Borisov suggest that a piece of the interstellar object broke off the nucleus in March, according to data from the Hubble Space Telescope. This likely isn’t a large piece, as the data suggests only about 0.1% to 1% of the comet broke off the main body – the equivalent of a car losing a side mirror. Follow-up observations with Hubble will make astronomers more confident in understanding what is happening with Borisov.
BepiColombo makes one last flyby of Earth
The Mercury-bound BepiColombo mission will swing by Earth on April 10 to pick up speed for its eventual planetary destination. The joint European-Japanese mission is expected to arrive in 2025 after multiple planetary flybys — this opportunity will be the last to see it from Earth. Space.com has a guide for skywatchers to prepare for the cosmic opportunity.
Thirty-Meter Telescope protest changes over coronavirus concerns
The Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu community in Hawaii has asked elders and “those with a higher risk of respiratory illness” to stay away from protests on the dormant Maunakea volcano. The community has been taking part in protests there over construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, but is concerned with the spread of coronavirus in Hawaii – including from visiting tourists. That said, there is still a presence of the community’s kia’i, or guardians, on the mountain.
NASA asks employees for ideas on fighting coronavirus
NASA asked its workforce for ways to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic, saying it wants employers and contractors to contribute expertise on an internal crowdsourcing platform called NASA @ WORK. The agency, which is coordinating with other areas of U.S. government, said it plans to focus on personal protective equipment, ventilators and figuring out how fast coronavirus could spread. Much of NASA’s workforce is logging in from home already, because the agency is trying to limit the impact of coronavirus at individual centers across the country.
12,000 Astronaut Hopefuls Apply for NASA Hiring Opportunity
New recruits for Artemis missions to the moon filled NASA inboxes, as more than 12,000 aspiring astronauts applied to the agency’s latest call for spaceflyers. This number of people makes the Artemis call the second-highest application group ever for NASA, which is all the more incredible since the application period was shortened to one month instead of the typical two. NASA will carefully consider applications before making final selections in mid-2021.