Positions of Voyager 1 and 2 probesCredit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Positions of Voyager 1 and 2 probes

Last month in space - December

Find out what happened in the space industry in December!

1. Voyager 2 reaches interstellar space

NASA’s Voyager 2 space probe that launched in 1977 has become the second man made object to reach interstellar space. This is after Voyager 1 reached the space between the stars back in 2012. Evidence that Voyager 2 had left the region under the influence of the sun has come from the on board Plasma Science Experiment that measures solar winds. Both Voyager’s are still technically considered to be in the solar system despite being more than 11 billion miles from earth as the solar system is considered to extend to the outer edge of the Oort Cloud, a sphere of icy bodies that stretches for millions of miles. Despite the great distance flight controllers are still in contact with the Voyager 2 probe.

Find more details on the Voyager 2 mission here.

2. First Soyuz launch since failure in October

Three astronauts from Russia, the US and Canada have reached the International Space Station after a launch in October had to be aborted and an emergency landing was made minutes after take off. Investigations into the failed launch have indicated there was a faulty sensor that had been damaged during assembly. Expedition 58 that reached the ISS on December 3rd had originally been scheduled for later in the month but had been brought forward to avoid leaving the ISS unmanned.

More on expedition 58 can be found here.

3. Virgin Galactic reaches the edge of space

In the latest test flight Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo successfully reached the edge of space reaching an altitude of 82.7km. In a commercial race for space Branson founded Virgin Galactic back in 2004 with an aim to send the first fee paying passengers into space. Although the flight did not reach the 100km Karman Line which is often used as a definition of where space begins the US government has awarded astronaut wings to pilots that have reached an altitude of greater than 80km above the earth’s surface.

More on Virgin Galactic’s trip to space can be found here.

4. Concerns worms could be ‘too old’ for research

There are concerns that the microscopic worms being launched to the ISS could be ‘too old’ for research by the time they reach their destination after the SpaceX rocket launch was delayed by 24 hours when mouldy food was found in another research team’s kit. The plan was for the worms to be just turning into adults at the time of the launch meaning they will be a day older than expected and researchers may have to rely on back-up colonies. The aim of the Molecular Muscle experiment is to understand the causes of muscular decline in space and is a way to simulate human ageing with an accelerated model.

More on the Molecular Muscle Experiment can be found here.

5. Location of Australia’s new national space agency chosen

Adelaide has been chosen as the home of Australia’s new national space agency. The new agency will receive $41m in investment from the federal government which aims to boost ties with the global aerospace industry. Adelaide has been chosen due to already being the home of more than 60 organisations in the space sector. Australia already has a strong connection to the space industry with the Woomera rocket range which was established after the second world war in 1947.


Emma Collier

Emma studies Physics with Astronomy at the University of Southampton.

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