space

Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft is scheduled to blast off Wednesday morning with its three-member crew to begin what is billed as Expeditions 56-57 at the International Space Station.

But new NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, this week is talking openly about a very different future the International Space Station and space travel in general. The big idea is less government and more private investment.

Updated at 8:40 p.m. ET

SpaceX has launched NASA's planet-hunting satellite TESS into outer space Wednesday evening from Cape Canaveral.

Tess — short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite — will spend two years searching for planets near bright, nearby stars. The satellite was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The launch window was narrow — just 30 seconds — and TESS was to be deployed into orbit about 48 minutes after launch.

If signs of life are found on a planet beyond our solar system sometime in the next decade, they'll most likely be on a planet discovered by a NASA satellite that's scheduled to launch on Monday.

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.

But take another look.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

This is Lulu's log, stardate Feb. 11, 2018, where we explore matters of space, the stars, and the universe.

(SOUNDBITE OF C418'S "MOOG CITY")

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

NASA's IMAGE spacecraft spent five years studying the Earth's magnetosphere, but when its signal blinked off in 2005, the space agency called it a mission and moved on.

Twelve years later, enter amateur astronomer Scott Tilley.

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."

A top-secret multi-billion dollar U.S. spy satellite launched from Cape Canaveral on Sunday reportedly failed to separate from the upper stage of its SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and never reached orbit.

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.

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