They say the best things come in threes, and that’s certainly the case next week, with three big events sure to whet the appetite of even the most passive space fan.
How often do you get exciting new research on a potentially habitable world, a billionaire’s plan to colonize the Solar System, and the dramatic finale of one of the 21st century’s greatest space missions all in one week?
That’s what we’ve got to look forward to, starting with NASA’s “surprising evidence” for an ocean on Europa on Monday. Then on Tuesday, Elon Musk will reveal his Interplanetary Transport System and how he plans to send humans around the Solar System. Last but not least, ESA’s Rosetta mission will end in thrilling fashion on Friday.
Here’s a bit more information about each, and how you can tune in for all the action.
The fun begins on Monday, when NASA is going to reveal new information from its Hubble Space Telescope that may hint at a subsurface ocean on Europa at 2pm EDT (7pm BST).
We already knew such an ocean probably existed, thanks to plumes seen by Hubble in 2012 that seemed to originate from it. Now, it seems NASA has found more evidence for its existence – and if we had to guess, we’d say it’s probably more plumes of water spouting from the ocean.
One thing it’s definitely not, though, is evidence for life on Europa. In fact, NASA went so far as to tweet that it was “not aliens” following the usual Internet speculation around these announcements.
There’s no video of the announcement, but you’ll be able to listen to audio here.
What do you get when you cross billions of dollars with a desire to colonize the Solar System?
Well, you probably get something like Elon Musk. Yes, on Tuesday, the CEO of SpaceX is going to reveal his bold plans to send humans to Mars, and possibly elsewhere.
Details at the moment are few and far between, but it appears that Musk has a plan for a new spacecraft that can take many people (perhaps up to 100) beyond Earth orbit.
Originally, he was calling this proposal the Mars Colonial Transport (MCT). However, in a tweet last week, he revealed his idea could go “well beyond” Mars, and instead is now calling it the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS).
On Tuesday, we’ll finally find out what he’s got up his sleeves. Musk is going to be giving a talk at the International Aeronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, at 2.30pm EDT (7.30pm BST).
If you can’t make it to Mexico, SpaceX are going to be streaming what is sure to be a fascinating talk right here. We’ve also embedded it below, because we love you.
The week ends on a bit of a somber note. Because, come Friday, we’ll be saying goodbye to one of the most amazing space missions of the century.
Yes, the Rosetta spacecraft has captured the hearts of millions. On August 6, 2014, it entered orbit around Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, beginning two years of observations after a 10-year journey from Earth.
In November 2014, it then released the Philae lander, which touched down on the surface after a bumpy landing. Together, both Rosetta and Philae have increased our understanding of comets like never before.
We’ve already said our painful goodbyes to Philae, after ESA officially confirmed the probe was dead in July (although there was a bit of good news when Rosetta discovered its final resting place earlier this month).
And now it’s time to say goodbye to Rosetta. On Friday, September 30, the spacecraft’s orbit is going to be purposefully lowered as its mission comes to an end. It will get closer and closer over the next week, until the final hurrah.
The finale is estimated to take place at 6.40am EDT (11.40am BST) on Friday, when Rosetta will impact the comet at walking speed before it turns all its systems off. Owing to its distance from Earth, though, we won’t have confirmation of the impact until 40 minutes later.
There will be a live stream on ESA's website here, although it isn't available yet, so check back nearer the time.
An alien ocean, deep space human exploration, and a spacecraft's last goodbye. Who said we didn’t spoil you?