At first glance the images are unremarkable. They're grainy, ill-defined, seemingly more akin to television static or an 8-bit video game than they are to the high-resolution masterworks sent back by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Research teams spent a decade trying to reach the moon and win the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize. But organizers are declaring an end to this leg of the space race, saying none of the teams are able to launch a lunar rover project by the March 31, 2018, deadline.
"This literal 'moonshot' is hard," X Prize's Peter Diamandis and Marcus Shingles said in a statement about the contest that began in 2007. They said that while they had expected a winner by now, the grand prize "will go unclaimed."
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.
John Young, who was one of NASA's most experienced astronauts and the first to fly in space six times, including a moon landing, died on Friday after complications from pneumonia. He was 87.
In NASA's history, few astronauts were more accomplished than John Young. His career was filled with firsts: he was the first to fly in space six times. He was on the first Gemini mission and he commanded the first shuttle flight. (He was also one of 12 people to walk on the moon.)
To close the door on 2017, the strangest year I can remember, there's nothing more appropriate than the revelation in December from the U.S. government that it, indeed, had an office dedicated to the investigation of UFO-related phenomena.
It's enough to make X-Files and conspiracy-theory fans rejoice.