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Five of the 25 Back to Space student Amabassadors (left to right): Katie Mulry, Lance Gorton, Julianna Lenington, Anna MacLennan and Courtney Kang
Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Fifty years ago this July, Neil Armstrong's words from the moon echoed across our globe: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

The Back to Space initiative in Dallas was recently launched to rekindle popular interest in space, especially among kids — the kind the 1969 moonshot inspired. 

The space travel company Blue Origin – owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos – launched its New Shepard rocket for the second time this year at its West Texas facility Thursday morning.

The future of space exploration could be determined in San Antonio. NASA announced Monday it was creating two university-based institutes to delve into the technologies critical to keeping habitats alive and maintained in deep space travel, largely unmanned.

Left to right: NASA astronauts Buzz Aldrin, R. Walter Cunningham and Al Worden stand in front of Maciej Maga's painting of 10 Apollo astronauts just after it was unveiled at Old Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Arts and space exploration took center stage when a life-sized painting of 10 Apollo astronauts was revealed Wednesday night in Dallas.

Three of the astronauts attended the unveiling — Buzz Aldrin, R. Walter Cunningham and Al Worden — and stood next to the likenesses of themselves.

Updated at 12:30 p.m. ET

That is not one small step for women.

History was supposed to be made Friday when, for the first time, two female astronauts were scheduled to do a spacewalk together outside the International Space Station. However, one of the astronauts was switched out this week because of a lack of "spacesuit availability."

Updated at 10 a.m. ET

The SpaceX Crew Dragon hit its splashdown time of 8:45 a.m. ET right on target Friday, landing in the Atlantic Ocean after undocking from the International Space Station and re-entering Earth's atmosphere.

The successful test and splashdown is "an amazing achievement in American history," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who called the SpaceX flight the "dawning of a new era in American human space flight."

Humans have entered SpaceX's Crew Dragon while in orbit for the first time, just hours after the commercial spacecraft docked at the International Space Station on Sunday morning.

Updated at 6:19 a.m. ET Sunday

"We can confirm hard capture is complete."

Those words at 6:02 a.m. ET Sunday confirmed that SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule had successfully attached itself to the International Space Station, about 27 hours after lifting off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Plans call for it to remain docked with the station for five days. On March 8, it will undock and re-enter the Earth's atmosphere, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean around 8:45 a.m. ET.

Updated at 5 p.m. ET

On a launch pad in Florida, SpaceX is getting ready for the first flight test of its new space capsule designed to carry astronauts.

Even though the Crew Dragon capsule won't have any people on board when SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket blasts off Saturday morning, assuming the schedule doesn't slip, it's still a huge deal for U.S. spaceflight.

In 2007, China fired a rocket and blew up an aging weather satellite, the Fengyun-1C—just to show it could. The explosion caused 2 million pieces of debris, and about 4,000 fragments were big enough to track.

From Texas Standard:

Humans create a lot of trash. It's everywhere, from the oceans to the sides of Texas highways to our own backyards. But planet Earth isn't the only place that we've deposited our junk. There's also lots of junk in space, including decommissioned satellites and pieces of rockets. And it's all stuck orbiting around the Earth without much rhyme or reason. That means space junk can collide with and damage working satellites. A UT engineer wants to do something about it.

Updated at 5:32 p.m. ET

President Trump pushed forward Tuesday with his plan to launch a space force as a new branch of the military. But it would at first be under the umbrella of the Air Force, and it requires approval of Congress — which is far from certain.

This represents at least a temporary shift. Trump had stated that he wanted a space force that is "separate but equal" from the Air Force.

Opportunity lost.

NASA has officially declared an end to the mission of the six-wheeled rover on Mars. Opportunity lost power in a dust storm last June, and all efforts to make contact have failed.

"Our beloved Opportunity remained silent," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said Wednesday at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "With a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude," he added, "I declare the Opportunity mission as complete."

From Texas Standard:

Between SpaceX moving its rocket manufacturing to Texas from California, and the so-called super blood wolf moon, you may have missed this bit of space news: Texas-based astronomer Robert Kennicutt will be leading the Astro2020 Decadal Survey. Every decade, the study mandated by Congress helps set set priorities for what scientists will study in the coming years in the realm of astronomy and astrophysics.

Saturn is famous for its lovely rings, but a new study suggests the planet has spent most of its 4.5 billion years without them.

That's because the rings are likely only 10 million to 100 million years old, according to a newly published report in the journal Science that's based on findings from NASA's Cassini probe.

Ultima Thule, the nickname of the Kuiper belt object and farthest object ever explored, is actually two different objects.

About a billion miles beyond Pluto, a spacecraft is closing in on an icy minor planet — a mysterious little place that's only about 20 miles across.

If all goes well, NASA will start the new year with the most far-off exploration of a world ever, flying past it about 2,200 miles from the surface while taking images with an onboard telescope and camera. The closest approach will be at 12:33 a.m. ET on Jan 1.

NASA tried a communications experiment with its latest mission to Mars, and it turned out spectacularly well.

On Nov. 26, as the probe known as InSight plummeted through the Martian atmosphere on its way to the planet's surface, two miniature spacecraft — known collectively as MarCO — relayed telemetry from InSight to Earth, assuring all those watching that the landing of the probe was proceeding successfully and was soft.

Vice President Pence described the White House's plans for a Space Force, a sixth branch of the U.S. military that would be responsible for operations in outer space, in a speech on Thursday.

The White House says that the Space Force will be created by 2020. The change, which would require approval from Congress, would be a dramatic change in the organization of the Defense Department.

"We must have American dominance in space, and so we will," Pence said in his speech at the Pentagon.

Let's get the bad news out of the way first: You won't be able to see this Friday's epic lunar eclipse in person if you live in North America (aside from a very small portion of eastern Canada and parts of the eastern Caribbean).

But here's the good news: if you are almost anywhere else, you'll probably be able to see at least a portion of the event.

Prime viewing is in eastern and southern Africa, the Middle East, eastern Europe and south Asia, based on a NASA map.

A rocket more powerful than any other flying today is scheduled to blast off Tuesday for the first time, if all goes well.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched a top secret U.S. government payload into orbit, while returning its first-stage booster to the ground for reuse.

The Falcon lifted off at 8 p.m. ET Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As the first-stage of the Falcon returned to Earth for an upright landing, the upper stage lofted the mysterious Zuma, presumed to be a spy satellite or military communications satellite, into an undisclosed orbit.

An iridescent streak lit up the sky over Southern California on Friday night, stopping traffic and leading some residents to marvel and others to worry about a UFO or even a nuclear bomb attack. In reality, it was a SpaceX rocket lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, north of Santa Barbara, Calif., carrying 10 satellites for the Iridium constellation. They will be used in mobile voice and data communications.

Creative Commons

Researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington are learning to predict the weather in space and measure its impact on Earth. But it's a tricky science because space weather activity is tied to the chaotic behavior of the sun. 

After scientists discovered the nine planets in our solar system, and then re categorized Pluto as a dwarf planet… they moved on to finding planets in other parts of the galaxy. So far, they’ve discovered around 2,000 so-called exoplanets. Their luck hasn’t been as good with exomoons. But there’s a new research technique scientists at UT Arlington hope can help locate moons many light years away.

Adelina Sun / KERA News

The private space business is booming, and Texas is a primary launch pad. For this week’s Friday Conversation, KERA’s vice president of news, Rick Holter, sits down with Ed Lu – a longtime astronaut who now has his own space company.

intelfreepress / Flickr

Two summers ago, the Mars Curiosity rover made its landing on the red planet. Approximately thirty-five million miles from Earth, the $2.5 billion robot has had faced its ups and downs. At noon, Marc Kaufman, author of Mars Up Close: Inside the Curiosity Mission, talks with Krys Boyd on Think about the rover’s journey so far.

Kim Shiflett / NASA

Five stories that have North Texas talking: Celebrate your pet by launching its remains into space; poverty in the suburbs has doubled over the past decade; George W. Bush and his wife to be featured at a White House event; and more.

Helga Esteb
Shutterstock

In 2013, a meteor exploded over the Ural Mountains in Russia (you might remember the dashcam footage and the seemingly non-plussed Russians who captured it).

Which begs the question: What else flying around in the cosmos might come into contact with Earth? And who better to deliver the answer than Neil deGrasse Tyson?