: Before the big game kicks off in Houston, Super Bowl fans are getting a chance to lift off to Mars riding Future Flight, presented by NASA, in collaboration with the Houston Host Committee and six aerospace industry partners. The VR-enhanced amusement park drop tower blasts riders to the Red Planet before dropping them onto the 50 yard line at NRG Stadium for Super Bowl LI.
: Matthias Maurer, an engineer from Germany, has started training as the latest member of the European Space Agency's (ESA) astronaut corps. Maurer was selected Thursday (Feb. 2) to be the seventh member of ESA's 2009 astronaut class — eight years after he qualified as a finalist. The six Europeans who preceded him have now all flown missions to the space station.
: The Super Bowl winning team's jersey is right now on board the International Space Station, even though the Patriots and Falcons won't meet on the field until Sunday (Feb. 5). Expedition 50 crewmembers Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson have revealed how the shirt came to be on orbit — not just before the game, but prior to the playoffs, too. The astronauts will watch the Super Bowl in space, as streamed by Mission Control in Houston.
: A soccer ball that was flown aboard the ill-fated launch of the space shuttle Challenger has made it into space 30 years later. Shane Kimbrough photographed the ball on the International Space Station as a tribute to the late Ellison Onizuka, who had taken the ball on the STS-51L mission for his daughter. After its recovery in 1986, the ball was given to a Houston high school where both Onizuka's and Kimbrough's children attended.
: NASA's first space shuttle external tank to reach the launch pad four decades ago was destroyed on Tuesday (Feb. 7) by a tornado that impacted the New Orleans facility where it was built and stored. The tornado, which caused only a few minor injuries but left several buildings and hundreds of cars damaged, flattened the ground vibration test article (ET-GVTA) that NASA used in early tests with the prototype orbiter Enterprise, including the first rollout of a space shuttle to the launch pad.
: NASA's historic launch pad 39A roared back to life on Sunday (Feb. 12) as SpaceX conducted a test with its first Falcon 9 rocket to use the pad. The practice countdown, which culminated in a brief static fire, checked that the rocket and SpaceX's modifications to the pad were ready to support a launch. The test marked a return to use for the Kennedy Space Center pad, the site of the first crewed launches to the moon, since the final space shuttle mission lifted off from 39A in July 2011.
: Two record-setting astronauts who launched together on a 1993 space shuttle mission will be honored as the 2017 inductees in the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Ellen Ochoa and Michael Foale, who were crewmates aboard space shuttle Discovery's STS-56 mission, were announced on Tuesday (Feb. 14) as the Hall of Fame's 94th and 95th enshrinees. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida will hold a May 20 public ceremony to welcome Ochoa and Foale into the Hall.
NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket may lift off on its maiden mission with astronauts on board, NASA's acting administrator Robert Lightfoot said on Wednesday (Feb. 15). In an email to the agency's employees, Lightfoot wrote that he has asked for a study to be initiated to "assess the feasibility of adding a crew to Exploration Mission-1," which had been slated for launch in late 2018. Lightfoot acknowledged the challenges of flying astronauts "would require a different launch date."
: The NASA rocket that could bring the next U.S. astronauts to the moon may be named for the last man to walk there. A new resolution introduced by Congressmen John Culberson (R-TX-7) and Robert Aderholt (R-AL-4) in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday (Feb. 15) calls for NASA to christen its first Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket the "Cernan 1" in memory of Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan, who died in January.
: A Dragon cargo capsule is now on its way to the International Space Station, having lifted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The lift off of the SpaceX rocket marked the first flight from the Apollo-era launch pad since the retirement of the space shuttle six years ago. SpaceX upgraded the pad, replacing its ground systems and adding an new transporter erector launcher.
: The Apollo 11 command module Columbia, the spacecraft that carried the first humans to walk on the moon in July 1969, will depart the Smithsonian for the first time in 46 years for a national tour coinciding with the mission's 50th anniversary. The traveling exhibition "Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission" will display the capsule in Houston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Seattle.
: A new film about the team behind the moon landings is set for a theatrical release in April. "Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo," from director David Fairhead and Haviland Digital, reveals the NASA flight controllers who guided the early astronauts on their historic space journeys. The documentary features archival footage and interviews with the likes of Chris Kraft and Gene Kranz, among other legends of Mission Control.
: Following a court order issued on Friday (Feb 24), NASA will hand over an Apollo 11 lunar sample bag to an Illinois woman who won it for $995 at a U.S. Marshals Service auction. A judge ruled the space agency was to return the "outer decontamination bag" used to store the first moon rocks that Neil Armstrong collected at Tranquility Base to Nancy Lee Carlson, despite the artifact having been mistakenly sold in February 2015.
: Two tags that journeyed to the moon inside and outside of the Apollo 11 command module, Columbia are featured on Antiques Roadshow, airing Monday (Feb. 27) on PBS. The artifacts belong to a retired engineer who was the last to sign off on Columbia prior to it shipping to the Cape for launch in 1969. The appraisal also includes a vintage model signed by 15 Apollo astronauts.
: Two privately-funded passengers will launch on a "long loop around the moon," flying into deep space on a Dragon spacecraft, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced on Monday (Feb. 27). Slated to launch in late 2018, the circumlunar journey could take place on or about the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8, the NASA mission that flew the first astronauts into lunar orbit.
: LEGO on Tuesday (Feb. 28) announced it will make a "Women of NASA" minifigure toy set as its next LEGO Ideas product. The set, designed by science editor and writer Maia Weinstock, includes figures of astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison; astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, mathematician Katherine Johnson; and computer scientist Margaret Hamilton.