The inter-agency commission of the Cosmonauts' Training Center on Friday approved the primary crew lineup for the Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft.

The crew consists of Roscosmos (Russia's Federal Space Agency) cosmonauts Aleksandr Samokutyayev and Yelena Serova, as well as NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore. The backup crew comprises Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Korniyevko, as well as American astronaut Scott Kelly.

Artistic rendering of Philae on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA/ATG, CC BY

By Ian Wright, The Open University

Let’s say it straight. Mars is, without any doubt our next step in space exploration, sparking our imagination for many years in spaceflight history. After sending tons of scientific rovers, it’s about time to send human pioneers to start colonizing the Red Planet.

Tropical Storm Karina was weakening on August 20 when NASA's Terra satellite passed overhead. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS instrument aboard Terra snapped a visible image of Tropical Storm Karina on August 20 at 19:40 UTC (3:40 p.m. EDT). The MODIS image showed that a thick band of strong thunderstorms spiraled into Karina's center from the southeast. The band of thunderstorms wrapped around Karina's eastern and northern quadrants, spiraling into the center from the west, making the tropical cyclone look like the number nine.

Soil moisture plays a major role in the environment/climate system because the transport of water within the land and at the land-atmosphere interface is strongly dependent on the state of soil water in a region.

Despite its importance, lack of soil moisture measurements at various spatial scales has limited our understanding of how individual physical factors control soil moisture dynamics.

AMUSED (A MUlti-scale Soil moisture-Evapotranspiration Dynamics study) is a project that will monitor soil moisture using cosmic-rays sensors in combination with land surface modeling, satellite remote sensing, model diagnostics and data assimilation methods.

The Venus Express spacecraft just spent a month of aerobraking that saw it surf in and out of the atmosphere of Venus at altitudes typically between 131 km and 135 km for a couple of minutes on each of its closest approaches to the planet. Why? Because after 8 years its propellant is getting low so it was time to do something new while it was still possible.

Before, normal operations involved an elliptical orbit every 24 hours that took Venus Express from 66,000 km over the south pole down to around 250 km at the north pole, just above the top of the atmosphere. The recent aerobraking campaign took the craft progressively lower into the atmosphere on its closest approaches and  directly explored previously uncharted regions of the atmosphere.

Where does the solar system end and interstellar space begin? There are no 'Now Leaving...' signs so it's somewhat subjective. If you think the argument over Pluto was confusing, you'll be intrigued that the argument over the solar system takes that to a whole new level.

Two years ago, it was announced that wherever the boundary of the solar system was, Voyager 1 had passed it, traveling further from Earth than any other manmade object. But some scientists insist it is still within the heliosphere – the region of space dominated by the Sun and its wind of energetic particles – and has not yet reached the 'space between the stars'. 

The Magnetometer instrument that will fly on NOAA's GOES-R satellite when it is launched in early 2016 has completed the development and testing phase and is ready to be integrated with the spacecraft. 
The GOES-R series will be more advanced than the current GOES fleet. The satellites are expected to more than double the clarity of today's GOES imagery and provide more atmospheric observations than current capabilities with more frequent images.

ESA’s spaceplane is getting ready to showcase reentry technologies. Instead of heading north into a polar orbit, as on previous flights, Vega will head eastwards to release the spaceplane into a suborbital path reaching all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Final tests are being done on ESA’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, IXV, launched in early November, to make sure that it can withstand the demanding conditions from liftoff to separation from Vega. IXV will flight test the technologies and critical systems for Europe’s future automated reentry vehicles returning from low orbit.

IXV tests. Credit: ESA

A new type of telescope made by stitching together telephoto lenses recently discovered seven celestial surprises while probing a nearby spiral galaxy - previously undetected dwarf galaxies.
Pieter van Dokkum, chair of Yale's astronomy department, designed the robotic telescope with University of Toronto astronomer Roberto Abraham. Their Dragonfly Telephoto Array uses eight telephoto lenses with special coatings that suppress internally scattered light. This makes the telescope uniquely adept at detecting the very diffuse, low surface brightness of the newly discovered galaxies.