It's some days before Christmas, and the end of the year is coming to a close. It has been a strange year for most of us, but still, a lot of things have happened.
Like every month, we'd like to recapitulate some of the events from now and back then, and we'd also like to take the occasion to wish all of you a very good Holiday season, and hope that you will start the New Year in health and prosperity.
Having begun at the end of November, the Chinese Chang'e-5 mission was successfully completed, after the spacecraft had fulfilled its mission to pick up the first lunar samples since the 1970s and bring them to Earth for analysis. One big challenge in this project was an in-orbit meeting with the lander vehicle, which remained in lunar orbit to wait for the spacecraft's return.
(Photo credit: CNSA
Another mission has been completed: Hayabusa returned with samples of asteroid Itokawa dust particles after 17 years of space travel. In the beginning, it looked as if this mission was going to fail, when Hayabusa lost parts and control systems, but now, all has ended well.
(Photo credit: JAXA)
It's the end of a legend: the famous Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, one of the largest single-dish telescopes of 305 m, has finally collapsed, after a breakdown of the instrument platform that hung above. It's a tragedy for the scientific community, as this telescope has been one of the key sites for astronomic discoveries. The site will be maintained with the help of other dishes, but whether this particular telescope will be rebuilt is yet unclear.
(Photo credit: AFP/Getty)
UNIVERSEH – The European Space University for Earth and Humanity”, an alliance of five higher education institutions, was officially launched in a virtual inauguration ceremony on 14 December. UNIVERSEH was established in November 2020 to develop new ways of collaboration in the field of space, within the “European Universities” initiative by the European Commission. The alliance unites the universities of Toulouse (France), Luxembourg, Düsseldorf (Germany), Luleå (Sweden), and Krakov (Poland).
30 years back, in 1990, Ariane Flight 36 failed, due to the most impossible reason: a handkerchief had been forgotten in one of the engine booster tubes. A mechanic had left it there after polishing part of a tube, to remind him to look after proper fitting of that said piece after the weekend. When he fell ill during the next days, his colleague never noticed the little piece of tissue. Mysteriously, the handkerchief made it through all subsequent controls as well, despite rigid verification. In the end, the launch failed, but the handkerchief even survived the blow-up of the vehicle...
(Photo credit: ESA)
Remember the man who gave us Space Oddity? The song was launched just a few days before the start of the Apollo 11 launch in 1969. The British Royal Mint has launched a memorial coin with a David Bowie design, the motif being laced with stardust. How appropriate for the starman! The coin was sent into orbit with a balloon, to a height of 35 km, before descending and is now offered as a competition prize for Bowie fans on the Royal Mint Facebook site. So go for it!
(Photo credit: Royal Mint)