Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, dies at 82
Cernan joined the NASA astronaut corps in 1963 and flew on Gemini 9 in 1966, becoming the second American to make a spacewalk.
He was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 10 in 1969, the “dress rehearsal” mission for the Apollo 11 landing, and commanded the last Apollo mission to the moon, Apollo 17, in 1972.
The cause of Cernan’s death was not announced, but he had been in poor health in recent months. [collectSPACE]
Russia is swapping the Soyuz spacecraft planned for the next crewed mission to the International Space Station. Roscosmos said Monday that the spacecraft that will be used for the Soyuz MS-04 mission to the ISS, scheduled for launch March 27, will be replaced with an identical version. Roscosmos said the swap was due to the “execution of contracts” involving ISS crew transportation and not a technical issue, but did not elaborate. [TASS]
A Eutelsat communications satellite has entered service, seven months after its launch. The Eutelsat 117 West B spacecraft launched in June on a SpaceX Falcon 9, and gradually spiraled out to geostationary orbit using its electric propulsion system. The satellite, the second of two all-electric satellites acquired by Eutelsat when it purchased Mexican operator Satmex, will provide Ku-band coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean and also includes a Wide Area Augmentation System hosted payload for the FAA. [SpaceNews]
Global Eagle is buying an SES satellite in orbit to provide additional capacity for its in-flight connectivity business. Global Eagle said earlier this month it was acquiring all the capacity on a satellite in an inclined geosynchronous orbit, but did not identify the satellite. Both companies since announced that the satellite in question is AMC-3, launched in 1997 with a payload of 24 Ku-band transponders. SES will continue to operate the satellite, now named Eagle-1, for Global Eagle. [SpaceNews]
United Launch Alliance is postponing a launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base scheduled for next week because of a vehicle problem. ULA said Mondaythe launch of the NROL-79 mission on an Atlas 5, previously scheduled for Jan. 26, will be delayed because of an issue with the rocket’s second stage uncovered in recent testing. A new launch date for the classified mission has not yet been announced. The delay does not affect Thursday’s scheduled launch of another Atlas 5, carrying the SBIRS GEO-3 missile warning satellite, from Cape Canaveral. [Noozhawk]
The company that operates the spaceport on Alaska’s Kodiak Island is criticizing its inclusion in a report on wasteful spending. The office of Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) issued last week its annual “Wastebook” of spending the senator deems wasteful last week, which included an $80 million Missile Defense Agency contract with the Alaska Aerospace Corporation for use of the Kodiak launch site. Spaceport officials note that the contract is an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity award, of which only a few task orders have been exercised. The spaceport, which suffered damage from a failed 2014 missile test, is working to build up commercial launch business in addition to its MDA missile testing work. [SpaceNews]
NOAA has identified an acting administrator who will lead the agency starting Friday. Benjamin Friedman, the current NOAA deputy under secretary for operations, will serve as acting administrator when the current administrator, Kathy Sullivan, departs at the end of the Obama administration. Steven Volz, the NOAA assistant administrator for satellites, will also take on the position of acting assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observations and predictions on Friday after the departure of Manson Brown. [SpacePolicyOnline.com]
A wave seen in the atmosphere of Venus may be the biggest of its kind in the solar system. The Japanese spacecraft Akatsuki observed the gravity wave, extending for 10,000 kilometers across the planet, for several days in 2015. The wave is linked to a mountainous area on the surface, and was likely caused as the lower atmosphere flowed over those mountains, creating a disturbance that propagated into the upper atmosphere. [BBC]
PBS is planning a documentary about NASA’s Voyager missions. The network said it’s working on a two-hour feature tentatively called The Farthest about the two Voyager spacecraft and their journeys through the outer solar system. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Voyager missions. [Deadline.com]
Hidden Figures remained on top of the box office this weekend. The historical drama about African American women working for NASA at the beginning of the Space Age took in $26 million over the holiday weekend, when a number of new releases did poorly. The movie has earned $60.4 million to date and is gaining attention as a Best Picture contender when Academy Award nominations are announced next week. [Variety]