This week in space: July 11, 2019

Welcome to Give Me Space, a weekly round-up of the most interesting things happening in space news.

The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa-2 made history last night when it touched down for the second time on the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. At Space.com, Meghan Bartels discusses the mission and shows off some of the incredible pictures.

Alex Witze wrote an excellent profile of five scientists who are going to advance moon research over the next 50 years over at Nature. I especially love that this article features international scientists.

A question we’re going to have to contend with as we return to the moon is how to preserve our existing lunar history in human exploration. Nadia Drake takes a closer look at whether we should save, for example, Neil Armstrong’s bootprints in the lunar surface for The New York Times.

In a little bit of space community insider news, Bill Gerstenmaier, who has overseen NASA’s human spaceflight program for the last 15 years, has effectively been demoted from his post. No one saw this coming, and it’s not a good sign for what’s going on behind the scenes with the new moon program, Artemis. Marcia Smith has some speculation on all of this at Space Policy Online.

Over at NASASpaceflight.com, Jamie Groh wrote about two new solar missions NASA announced in the context of the Parker Solar Probe, which launched last year.

Last night (a busy evening in the space community), Arianespace’s Vega rocket suffered its first failure and the payload, a UAE communications satellite, was lost. Elizabeth Howell discusses the incident at Space.com.

This week, Virgin Orbit had a successful drop test (it’s unique among launch vehicles, in that a 747 named Cosmic Girl climbs to 35,000 feet and then releases a rocket which proceeds to space) of a rocket, which is great news for the space company. That means it’s one step closer to its test flight. Loren Grush has more context for you at The Verge.