Cassini just entered the second-to-last phase of its mission, where it will perform so-called ring-grazing orbits (shown in yellow). The blue loops represent orbits that it made previously in its nearly 20-year mission. Next year, it will enter the grand finale phase, which will end with Cassini's destruction.
"To travel in space is to be awestruck, over and over and over."--Don Pettit, Spaceborne. Don Pettit and his crewmates flew into space three times, capturing about 600,000 photos from their shuttle missions and long-term stays on the International Space Station. In his new book, Spaceborne, the astronaut/photographer highlights some of the best of the collection, leading to page after page of mind-blowingly beautiful space imagery. This is a good one for the coffee table. Popular Science's photo director, Thom Payne, chose 10 of his favorite Spaceborne images. Here are his picks, with captions excerpted from the book.
It is harder to learn to fly a second time. Virgin Galactic, the private spaceflight firm headed by billionaire Richard Branson, lost its first SpaceShipTwo in a pilot-caused crashed in 2014, setting back dreams of passenger spaceflight. The new SpaceShipTwo, named VSS Unity (and not SpaceShipThree), was unveiled in February. Today, slung beneath the wing of its WhiteKnightTwo mothership Eve, Unity took to the sky for its second-ever flight.