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December 2, 2015

/ 4:00 p.m. CT (2200 GMT)

Story Time From Space


Among the almost four tons of supplies and experiments bound for the International Space Station on Orbital ATK's OA-4 Cygnus spacecraft is a library of children's books in support of the Story Time From Space project. Of note, three of the seven titles lifting off are books written by astronauts, and two may be read in space by the twin brother of the "Mousetronaut" author.

December 6, 2015

/ 4:06 p.m. CT (2206 GMT)

Return to flight


A year after a rocket failure claimed its last space station-bound resupply ship, Orbital ATK's Cygnus freighter returned to flight on Sunday (Dec. 6), launching atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The cargo freighter, named the S.S. Deke Slayton II after the Mercury astronaut, is delivering 7,700 pounds of science equipment and crew supplies, the Cygnus' largest payload to date.

December 7, 2015

/ 3:45 a.m. CT (0945 GMT)

Second chance at Venus


Japan's Akatsuki spacecraft fired its four small attitude control thrusters on Sunday (Dec 6) to begin orbiting Venus, five years (to the day) after its first try to circle the planet failed. Mission managers need to confirm its new highly-elliptical orbit, but Akatsuki is expected to accomplish most of its original planned science including studying Venus' climate, clouds and atmosphere.

December 9, 2015

/ 4:45 p.m. CT (2245 GMT)

Where we'll next leave Earth


Launch pads used to send men to the moon and rovers to Mars are now being transformed in Florida to launch astronauts on board commercial crew capsules. Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Complex 41 will be used by SpaceX and United Launch Alliance, respectively, to launch astronauts to the International Space Station.

December 11, 2015

/ 7:25 a.m. CT (1325 GMT)

TMA-17M touches down


One hundred and forty one (141) days after their launch to the International Space Station, the Soyuz TMA-17M crew of Oleg Kononenko, Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui returned to Earth Friday (Dec 11). Lowered under a parachute to a rare night landing, the Expedition 44/45 crewmates touched down safely on board the Soyuz capsule on the steppe of Kazakhstan.

December 11, 2015

/ 12:55 p.m. CT (1855 GMT)

China's space currency


China's first lunar orbiter and moon rover, first satellite and first crewed spacecraft to dock to a space lab are featured on newly-issued currency. The coin and banknote set commemorates more than 45 years of Chinese spaceflight achievements. The money is legal tender (yuan) but is not intended as a collectible.

December 14, 2015

/ 12:00 a.m. CT (0600 GMT)

'Last Man' launch date


Gene Cernan, who 43 years ago Monday (Dec. 14) took the last step off the moon, will launch into theaters in February 2016. "The Last Man on the Moon" presents Cernan's story in his own words, in a feature-length documentary that includes new interviews with his fellow Apollo astronauts and the leaders of Mission Control. The film, from Mark Stewart Productions, will open in theaters on the same day it debuts on digital platforms.

December 15, 2015

/ 5:15 a.m. CT (1115 GMT)

TMA-19M launches to station


Britain's first "official" astronaut, along with a Russian and an American, lifted off to International Space Station on Tuesday (Dec. 15) for a six-month expedition. Tim Peake, the European Space Agency's first British crew member, Yuri Malenchenko with Roscosmos and NASA's Tim Kopra will join the Expedition 46 crew upon their arrival aboard the orbiting laboratory.

December 15, 2015

/ 11:40 a.m. CT (1740 GMT)

First rendezvous revisited


Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the first rendezvous in space, Russia's Soyuz TMA-19M reached the space station on Tuesday (Dec. 15), just six hours and four orbits after its launch. The arrival repeated history made in 1965, when Gemini 6 and Gemini 7 came within one foot of each other, in a feat that enabled astronauts to land on the moon and, later, for the International Space Station to be built and operated.

December 16, 2015

/ 2:45 p.m. CT (2045 GMT)

From the moon to Switzerland


An Omega Speedmaster watch that flew on Apollo 17 to the moon and returned to the Earth 43 years ago this week sold for $245,000 on Tuesday (Dec. 15) to the watchmaker's own museum. The chronograph, which was used as part of an experiment in lunar orbit before it became command module pilot Ron Evans' souvenir of the mission, was auctioned by Christie's and will soon be displayed by Omega in Switzerland.

December 17, 2015

/ 2:30 p.m. CT (2030 GMT)

'The Force Awakens' in space


"The Force Awakens," the new episode in the Star Wars film franchise, is not just opening in theaters on Earth, but in space, too. The crew aboard the International Space Station will watch the movie soon, continuing the cross over between the fictional Star Wars universe and real spaceflight. From Darth Vader waking up astronauts to a lightsaber lifting off into orbit, the pull of "The Force" has overcome the force of gravity.

December 19, 2015

/ 2:20 p.m. CT (2020 GMT)

Orion artifacts land on display


A full-scale engineering mockup and other artifacts from the development of NASA's Orion spacecraft are now on display at Space Center Houston as a preview of a new "portal" to be devoted to NASA's Journey to Mars. NASA and Lockheed Martin on Wednesday (Dec. 16) presented the center with a U.S. flag flown on Orion Exploration Flight-1 to add to the display.

December 21, 2015

/ 8:00 p.m. CT (0200 GMT Dec 22)

Falcon 9 returns to flight, and launch site


SpaceX on Monday night (Dec. 21) launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 11 communication satellites for Orbcomm. The successful flight was the first for the company since its launch failure last June and introduced use of an upgraded Falcon 9 rocket. In addition to safely reaching space, the flight also made history by returning the rocket's first stage to Landing Zone 1 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

December 22, 2015

/ 10:30 a.m. CT (1630 GMT)

You've got space mail


The space research funding company Uwingu has sought names for exoplanets and sent texts to Mars. Now it is e-mailing space to inboxes every day. The company's new Daily Space Explorer service offers a different space or astronomy image for each day of the year. Half of the proceeds from subscriptions go toward The Uwingu Fund, underwriting space research projects.

December 22, 2015

/ 6:20 p.m. CT (0020 GMT Dec 23)

InSight grounded


NASA on Tuesday (Dec. 22) suspended the March 2016 launch of the InSight (or Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport) spacecraft to study the deep interior of Mars. The decision follows unsuccessful attempts to repair a leak in the mission's French-built vacuum-sealed seismometers. Due to how the planets align, the next opportunity to launch the InSight mission is not until the May 2018 timeframe.

December 26, 2015

/ 8:15 p.m. CT (0215 GMT Dec 27)

Rocket Center fire


A fire on Saturday (Dec. 26) broke out inside the converted Saturn V interstages comprising a former attraction at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Alabama. The "Mission to Mars" building had not been used in a decade and was set to undergo restoration for its future use. No one was injured and the damage was limited to the retired ride equipment and the facility's vinyl roof.

December 28, 2015

/ 12:00 a.m. CT (0600 GMT)

Where to land a landed Falcon 9?

SpaceX delivered its landed Falcon 9 first stage from the pad where it touched down to its hangar at Complex 39A on Thursday (Dec. 24) to be prepared for a static fire on the NASA-leased launch facility. After the test the recovered stage will be put "somewhere," to quote SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. But where is somewhere? Without any official word yet, here is a look at five sites where the new artifact could land on display.

December 29, 2015

/ 11:35 a.m. CT (1735 GMT)

First doll in space


Stargazer Lottie by Irish toymaker Arklu has claimed the title of "First Doll in Space" after flying to the International Space Station. Clad in a blue bomber jacket and equipped with a telescope, the doll was inspired by a real 6-year-old girl's interest in astronomy and developed in partnership with the European Space Agency. The 7-inch Stargazer Lottie arrived at the station along with the supplies delivered by Orbital ATK's Cygnus spacecraft.

December 30, 2015

/ 11:35 a.m. CT (1735 GMT)

Moon, planets and Pluto on 2016 stamps


The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will release three new stamp sets in 2016 celebrating the Earth's only natural satellite, the eight worlds in our solar system and the dwarf planet that was the focus of a historic NASA spacecraft flyby in 2015. "The Moon," "Views of Our Planets" and "Pluto—Explored!" will be issued in the coming year, the latter commemorating (and correcting for) the New Horizons mission to Pluto.

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