Mars ‘terror,’ future Moon missions and an epic journey to the Sun: 2018’s year in space

2018 has been a busy year for space exploration. Here are some of the highlights: MARS LANDER’S ‘SEVEN MINUTES OF TERROR’ NASA’s Mars InSight Lander reached the Red Planet on Nov. 26 after an epic journey of more than 300-million miles that lasted six months. The final stage of its descent, however, was fraught with … Continue reading “Mars ‘terror,’ future Moon missions and an epic journey to the Sun: 2018’s year in space”

2018 has been a busy year for space exploration. Here are some of the highlights:

MARS LANDER’S ‘SEVEN MINUTES OF TERROR’

NASA’s Mars InSight Lander reached the Red Planet on Nov. 26 after an epic journey of more than 300-million miles that lasted six months. The final stage of its descent, however, was fraught with difficulty – NASA engineers characterize landing on Mars as “seven minutes of terror.”

Safely settled on the surface of the planet, sensors on the Lander recently captured the first-ever “sounds” of Martian wind. The probe also used a camera on its robotic arm, to take its first Mars selfie.

NASA’S INSIGHT MARS LANDER ARRIVES ON THE RED PLANET, ENDS SUCCESSFUL JOURNEY

The InSight mission, which is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will provide scientists with a wealth of data. By studying Mars’ deep interior, the mission is expected to provide valuable information on the formation of rocky worlds, including Earth.

Mars looms ever larger in America’s space future.

In November, NASA announced that it has selected the location where its Mars 2020 Rover will land on the Red Planet. The rover is expected to reach the Martian surface on Feb. 18, 2021.

NASA’s long-term goal is to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s. However, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin thinks that a slightly later target date of 2040 is more realistic. In an interview in 2016, the Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 astronaut told Fox News that by 2040, astronauts could have visited Mars’ moon Phobos, which could serve as a sort of stepping stone to the Red Planet.

MASSIVE MARS DISCOVERY

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover found organic molecules on Mars, the space agency revealed in a major announcement in June.

The molecules, which were found in rocks from an ancient lake bed, provide fresh insight into the Red Planet, according to scientists. The rocks are billions of years old, NASA said.

While NASA went to great lengths to explain that it has not discovered life on Mars, the organic molecules could provide vital clues.

MASSIVE MARS DISCOVERY: ORGANIC MOLECULES 'FUNDAMENTAL TO OUR SEARCH FOR LIFE' FOUND BY NASA ROVER

“Organic compounds are fundamental to our search for life,” said Paul Mahaffy, director of the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Goddard, Md.

Described as the most technologically advanced rover ever built, Curiosity launched on Nov. 26, 2011. The rover landed on Mars' Gale Crater on Aug. 6, 2012, with the goal of determining whether Mars was ever able to support microbial life.

RENDEZVOUS WITH ASTEROID BENNU

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, reached its orbit at asteroid Bennu on Dec. 3 after traveling more than 1 billion miles through space. The spacecraft launched in September 2016 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The asteroid may provide answers to the origin of our solar system, according to NASA.

OSIRIS-REx will spend almost a year surveying the space rock from orbit. The probe is scheduled to briefly touch the asteroid with a robotic arm in July 2020 and retrieve a sample that will be returned to Earth in September 2023.

NASA'S OSIRIS-REX SPACECRAFT REACHES ASTEROID BENNU AFTER EPIC JOURNEY

Scientists recently made a fascinating discovery on the asteroid. They analyzed data from the probe and identified water locked inside the asteroid’s clay, the space agency announced. The spacecraft’s two spectrometers revealed the presence of “hydroxyls,” which are molecules containing oxygen and hydrogen atoms bonded together.

Other countries are also ramping up their efforts to study asteroids. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) Hayabusa 2 spacecraft recently lowered two small rovers onto a distant asteroid. Hayabusa 2 arrived at Ryugu on June 27, 2018, when the asteroid was almost 170 million miles from Earth. The spacecraft, which traveled almost 2 billion miles to reach the space rock, is expected to leave Ryugu at the end of 2019 and return to Earth around the end of 2020.

DRAMATIC LAUNCH ESCAPE

On Oct. 11, NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin made a dramatic escape after their Soyuz booster rocket failed just two minutes after launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The spacecraft was about 30 miles above Earth’s surface when the crew was forced to make a dangerous “ballistic re-entry” into Earth’s atmosphere. After the successful deployment of its parachute, the rescue capsule landed safely in the steppes of Kazakhstan about 30 minutes after the rocket failure.

A Russian investigation attributed the failure to a sensor that was damaged during the rocket's final assembly.

US, RUSSIAN ASTRONAUTS MAKE DANGEROUS BALLISTIC RE-ENTRY INTO EARTH’S ATMOSPHERE AFTER ROCKET FAILS

Less than two months later, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying three astronauts, including one American, successfully docked with the International Space Station. The launch from Kazakhstan was the first successful manned mission to the space lab since the aborted Soyuz launch.

The Soyuz spacecraft is currently the only vehicle that can ferry crews to the space station, but Russia stands to lose that monopoly in the coming years with the arrival of SpaceX's Dragon and Boeing's Starliner crew capsules.

MYSTERIOUS SPACE STATION LEAK

The leak was spotted on Aug. 30 in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the orbiting space lab. The crew quickly located and sealed the tiny hole that created a slight loss of pressure, and space officials said the station has remained safe to operate.

The capsule leak caused a flap between the U.S. and Russian space agencies. Russian space chief Dmitry Rogozin observed that the hole could have been drilled during manufacturing — or in orbit. The space station's commander at the time flatly denied any wrongdoing by himself or his crew.

SPACE STATION CREW TO INSPECT MYSTERIOUS HOLE ON SPACEWALK

The Russian space chief has since backpedaled on his statement, saying that he never pointed the finger at U.S. astronauts and blaming the media for twisting his statement.

Rogozin said recently that the Russian official probe is ongoing. During a grueling spacewalk in December, Russian cosmonauts took samples of the black epoxy sealant protruding from the hole and put insulation over the area. Roscosmos will discuss the probe findings with NASA and other space station partners, according to Rogozin.

NASA ANNOUNCES MOON, MARS MISSION PARTNERS

In November, NASA announced that Lockheed Martin and eight other companies will compete for $2.6 billion worth of contracts to help take American astronauts back to the Moon and Mars.

In addition to Lockheed, which built the Mars InSight lander, NASA's commercial partners include Astrobotic Technology, Deep Space System, Draper, Firefly, Intuitive Machines, Masten Space Systems, Moon Express and Orbit Beyond.

The contracts could be worth as much as $2.6 billion over a span of 10 years and flights could start as soon as next year, officials said. The original list included more than 30 companies vying for the bids, including Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin.

NASA SAYS LOCKHEED MARTIN, 8 OTHER COMPANIES WILL HELP BRING ASTRONAUTS BACK TO THE MOON AND MARS

President Donald Trump wants U.S. astronauts to return to the Moon as a foundation for future Mars missions.

The last time a human set foot on the Moon was during the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972. Only 12 men, all Americans, have set foot on the Moon.

NASA’s goal is also to send to manned missions into space from U.S. soil during the coming years. Since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, the U.S. has been relying on Russian Soyuz rockets, launched from Kazakhstan, to get astronauts to the ISS.

In August, NASA also named nine “American hero” astronauts that will crew the test flights and first space station resupply missions on SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft.

PARKER SOLAR PROBE’S EPIC JOURNEY TO ‘TOUCH THE SUN’

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe blasted off on its odyssey from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket in the early hours of Aug. 12, 2018.

The $1.5 billion mission will take humanity closer to the Sun than ever before. Parker is the first spacecraft to fly through the Sun’s corona, the outermost part of the star’s atmosphere

To withstand the heat of nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, the probe is protected by a special 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield.

NASA'S PARKER SOLAR PROBE BLASTS OFF ON EPIC JOURNEY TO 'TOUCH THE SUN'

Parker will face “brutal” heat and radiation during the epic journey that will take it to within 3.83 million miles of the Sun’s surface, according to the space agency. This is seven times closer than the previous closest spacecraft, Helios 2, which came within 27 million miles of the Sun in 1976.

Harnessing Venus’ gravity, Parker will complete seven flybys over seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer and closer to the Sun. On its closest approach in 2024, the probe will be traveling at approximately 430,000 mph, setting a new speed record for a manmade object.

The Sun’s corona, which can be seen during a total solar eclipse, is usually hidden by the bright light of the star’s surface. The probe, named after pioneering solar physicist Dr. Eugene Parker, will provide a wealth of invaluable scientific data.

Scientists expect to shed new light on the Sun’s potential to disrupt satellites and spacecraft, as well as electronics and communications on Earth.

In November, the probe snapped a stunning picture of the Sun’s atmosphere.

‘SUPER-EARTH’ DISCOVERY

In March, scientists announced the discovery of 15 new planets, including a “super-Earth” that may have liquid water on its surface.

The planets are orbiting small, cool stars near our solar system, known as “Red Dwarfs.”

One of the brightest Red Dwarfs, K2-155, has three “super-Earths,” one of which, K2-155d, could be within the star’s habitable zone. K2-155d, which has a radius 1.6 times that of Earth, may harbor liquid water, according to three-dimensional global climate simulations.

K2-155 is about 200 light-years from Earth. A light-year, which measures distance in space, equals 6 trillion miles.

PLANETS IN GALAXIES BEYOND MILKY WAY SPOTTED FOR FIRST TIME

In February, revealed the discovery, for the first time, of planets in galaxies beyond the Milky Way.

Using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, a team of astrophysicists from the University of Oklahoma identified the extragalactic planets about 3.8 billion light-years away. The space observatory helped scientists find about 2,000 objects with comparable mass to the Moon and Jupiter.

The Oklahoma University team used a technique called microlensing, which identifies the gravitational signature of planets orbiting extremely distant stars.

MYSTERIOUS INTERSTELLAR OBJECT

Oumuamua, the first interstellar object ever spotted in our solar system, also garnered plenty of attention in 2018. NASA said that Oumuamua is a "metallic or rocky object," while a study from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics speculated that it could be a “lightsail” sent from an ancient civilization.

Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia, Jennifer Earl, Amy Lieu and the Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

‘Creatures’ in Jupiter’s clouds? NASA’s Juno spacecraft captures images that stun the internet

Images revealed during NASA's Juno mission have captivated the internet. Space enthusiasts are quick to examine the colorful clouds of Jupiter — hoping to catch a hint of a familiar shape among the mesmerizing swirls.

A "dragon's eye," "squid," and "dolphins" are among the "creatures" social media users have apparently spotted within Jupiter's vicinity. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory frequently releases batches of new images as the spacecraft circles the gas giant.

On Dec. 21, Juno will mark its "halfway point" during its years-long mission.

"Juno is in a highly-elliptical 53-day orbit around Jupiter," NASA explained in a Dec. 12 news release. "Each orbit includes a close passage over the planet's cloud deck, where it flies a ground track that extends from Jupiter's north pole to its south pole."

IMAGES OF JUPITER BY NASA'S JUNO SPACECRAFT

NASA's Juno spacecraft was launched on Aug. 5, 2011, and arrived at Jupiter five years later — in July 2016. Juno's mission is slated to come to a close in July 2021 after the spacecraft slowly orbits Jupiter, collecting important data along the way.

"Juno's principal goal is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Underneath its dense cloud cover, Jupiter safeguards secrets to the fundamental processes and conditions that governed our solar system during its formation. As our primary example of a giant planet, Jupiter can also provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars," NASA describes on its website.

As the spacecraft explores the fifth planet from the Sun, it continues to snap astonishing pictures. Here's a look at some of the images — and comparisons — that have gone viral in recent months.

“Dolphins”

In December, NASA pointed out something fishy in an image taken of Jupiter's sky.

A series of images taken in Jupiter's hemisphere on Oct. 29, 2018, appear to reveal a pod of dolphins "swimming" across the clouds. The pictures, which were taken about 11,400 to 32,000 miles from the top of the planet's clouds, were enhanced by scientists Brian Swift and Seán Doran.

"So long and thanks for all the fish! A cloud in the shape of a dolphin appears to be swimming through #Jupiter’s cloud bands in this series of color-enhanced images," NASA pointed out in a late November tweet, sharing a GIF of the images snapped by Juno.

"The 'dolphin' feature is roughly 4,660 miles (7,500 kilometers) length," NASA later added.

The images inspired a variety of hilarious responses.

"Now that's one big flipper. Thanks guys/gals," one Twitter user replied.

"So that's where the dolphins went! How are the fish on Jupiter? … asking for a friend," another chimed in.

"Hey! What about the Sea Turtles above the Dolphin traveling the other way?" a man observed.

“Dragon’s Eye”

"A Dragon’s Eye? What do you see within the swirling clouds of Jupiter?" the NASA lab asked fans on Nov. 9.

The question prompted a flurry of responses — with many allowing their imaginations to wander.

"I see a Squid," one Twitter user replied.

NASA'S INSIGHT MARS LANDER REVEALS STUNNING CLEAR PICTURES OF THE RED PLANET

"Quetzalcoatl!" another guessed, referring to an ancient term that translates to "feathered serpent" or "flying reptile."

"Dragon!!!" one man declared, outlining the picture with colors to form the face of the legendary creature.

The photo was snapped around 5 p.m. ET on Oct. 29 as the spacecraft made its 16th close flyby around Jupiter. It was enhanced by scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran.

"A multitude of magnificent, swirling clouds in Jupiter's dynamic North North Temperate Belt is captured in this image from NASA's Juno spacecraft. Appearing in the scene are several bright-white “pop-up” clouds as well as an anticyclonic storm, known as a white oval," NASA explained in an online statement.

Aliens?

When NASA posted a photo of clouds in the Jovian jet stream, social media users had some fun poking fun at the "alien-like" face hidden in the swirls.

"It looks a little bit like something out of an Alien movie. The kind of egg you definitely don't want for breakfast," one Twitter user wrote.

Another user shared artwork that he or she interpreted to represent that shape hidden inside the clouds.

"Absolutely beautiful. Looks like a sea of blue marble. Very serene," another wrote.

The image was taken on Sept. 6, 2018, during Juno's 15th close flyby of Jupiter, according to a news release. The image was enhanced by Brian Swift and Seán Doran.

" A brown oval known as a 'brown barge' can be seen in the North North Temperate Belt region in the top-left portion of the image," NASA explains in a blog post.

“The Starry Night”

The astonishing images come courtesy of the Juno spacecraft, which recently had its 13th close flyby of the planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt /Seán Doran)

Another photo of Jupiter's northern hemisphere has been compared to Vincent van Gogh's iconic painting, "The Starry Night."

"The region seen here is somewhat chaotic and turbulent, given the various swirling cloud formations," NASA said in a June 25 blog post. "In general, the darker cloud material is deeper in Jupiter’s atmosphere, while bright cloud material is high. The bright clouds are most likely ammonia or ammonia and water, mixed with a sprinkling of unknown chemical ingredients."

The image shown above was taken on 1:23 a.m. EDT on May 24, as Juno was approximately 9,600 miles above Jupiter's clouds, above a northern latitude of 56 degrees. Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran created the image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager.

Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia contributed to this report.

Jennifer Earl is an SEO editor for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @jenearlyspeakin.

Elf on the shelf is living on the International Space Station

If you're a parent with young kids, you've probably struggled where to put The Elf on a Shelf and may eventually run out of places.

Here's an idea – how about putting it in space?

The popular children's book/toy is living on the International Space Station, according to a tweet from NASA astronaut Anne McClain.

NASA ASTRONAUT DESCRIBES 'PROFOUND POTENTIAL' OF BREAKTHROUGH SPACE EXPERIMENTS

"Well, look who showed up on @Space_Station!" McClain tweeted on Tuesday. "I guess we all have to be good now! I hope with his mischievous ways, he doesn’t get into anything TOO important! We will have to wait and see…."

McClain followed that up with another tweet on Wednesday, saying that "Elves must think everything needs ribbon and a bow!"

The ISS just received a delivery from a SpaceX Dragon capsule, which included Christmas dinner and other assorted goodies, according to The Sun. So it's possible the Elf hopped on board and is now one of the most prominent dolls in space.

McClain joined the ISS earlier this month, leaving from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket, along with David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Oleg Kononenko of Russian space agency Roscosmos. Her stint on the space lab is will end June 2019.

Fox News' James Rogers contributed to this report. Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

Virgin Galactic set to send its SpaceShipTwo tourism rocket to the edge of space

Virgin Galactic is set to send its tourism rocket to the edge of space during a major test flight on Thursday.

“Our SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, is entering the next stage of testing,” explains Virgin Galactic, on its website. “During this phase of the flight program, we will be expanding the envelope for altitude, air speed, loads, and thermal heating. We also plan to burn the rocket motor for durations which will see our pilots and spaceship reach space for the first time.”

If successful, the test will be a major step toward the long-delayed dream of commercial space tourism.

BRANSON SAYS VIRGIN GALACTIC WILL SEND PEOPLE TO SPACE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Two pilots will take Virgin Space Ship Unity high above California's Mojave Desert Thursday. CEO George Whitesides said Wednesday they will try to exceed an altitude of 50 miles, which Virgin Galactic considers the boundary of space. Whiteside said that's the standard used by the U.S. Air Force and other U.S. agencies.

That differs from a long-held view that places the boundary at 62 miles. But Whitesides cited new research that favors the lower altitude and said that as a U.S. company it will use the U.S. standard.

Virgin Galactic tweeted that SpaceShipTwo will be carrying NASA payloads during the test, putting the spacecraft close to an approximate commercial weight

Reaching the edge of space would represent a major milestone for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. A successful test would also demonstrate significant progress toward the start of commercial flights that were promised more than a decade ago. Virgin Galactic's development of its spaceship took far longer than expected and endured a setback when the first experimental craft broke apart during a 2014 test flight, killing the co-pilot.

EXPERTS: VIRGIN GALACTIC CRASH WILL CHANGE THE FACE OF SPACE TOURISM

"It's a day that we've been waiting for for a long time," Whitesides said.

The spaceship isn't launched from the ground but is carried beneath a special plane to an altitude of around 50,000 feet. It then detaches from the plane, ignites its rocket engine and climbs. The rocket is shut down and the craft coasts to the top of its climb — and then begins a descent slowed and stabilized by unique "feathering" technology. The twin tails temporarily rotate upward to increase drag, then return to a normal flying configuration before the craft glides to a landing on a runway.

Fox News’ Christopher Carbone and The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Steph Curry’s bizarre US moon landing comments spark flood of hilarious Twitter questions

NBA star Steph Curry has been over the moon after winning each of his three championships — and, to him, that's closer to the lunar surface than anyone else has gotten.

Curry claims he doesn't want to "start conspiracies" but his loony lunar doubts about the U.S. moon landings is one giant leap too far for many fans, who questioned if the statement was a publicity stunt and peppered the Golden State Warriors' point guard with plenty of probing questions Tuesday.

A day earlier, speaking as a guest on the "Winging It" podcast, Curry asked hosts Vince Carter, Kent Bazemore and Annie Finberg, as well as his teammate Andre Iguodala, whether they believed man ever truly made it to the moon. When the group voiced skepticism about moon missions — despite NASA's insurmountable proof — Curry agreed and jokingly added, "They're going to come get us."

On Tuesday afternoon, Curry retweeted an article about his denial of the moon landings, sharing an emoji wearing a pair of shades.

STEPH CURRY SAYS HE DOESN'T BELIEVE IN US MOON LANDINGS: REPORT

NASA even invited Curry to take a tour of one of its lunar labs, which contains hundreds of pounds of moon rocks and information about the Apollo moon missions.

"There's lots of evidence NASA landed 12 American astronauts on the moon from 1969-1972. We'd love for Mr. Curry to tour the lunar lab at our Johnson Space Center in Houston, perhaps the next time the Warriors are in town to play the Rockets," NASA spokesman Allard Beutel told Space.com.

Former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly even requested a "talk" with Curry, inviting the player to direct message him on Twitter.

Curry hasn't expounded on his initial remarks, but he did host a Twitter Q&A about his new shoes Tuesday night — and the conversation was "out of this world," with many fans flooding the star's feed with hilarious moon-related questions.

NBA'S STEPH CURRY RESPONDS TO GIRL, 9, WHO WAS 'DISAPPOINTED' BY STAR'S 'BOY'S SNEAKER'

"#AskSteph Will there be a moon pair of the Curry 6's??" one Twitter user asked.

"#AskSteph are the Curry 6 built to walk on the moon? will u be the 1st to walk on the moon with the Curry 6?" another joked.

"I heard the first human footsteps on the moon were taken in Curry 6's can you confirm #AskSteph," one Twitter user pondered.

"Will you send the 6 to the Moon #AskSteph," a man prodded.

Curry, however, seemed to sidestep all of the space-related questions. Instead, he focused on inquiries about the design of his new shoe and one of his greatest achievements on the basketball court.

It's unclear whether Curry will ever clarify his position on U.S. moon landings, but he did promise another Q&A "soon," giving fans another opportunity to get a response.

Jennifer Earl is an SEO editor for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @jenearlyspeakin.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe shares first up-close look at sun’s atmosphere

NASA's Parker Solar Probe has made the closest-ever approach to a star (the sun) and shared an image of the sun's atmosphere on Twitter on Wednesday.

NASA's image, captured Nov. 8, shows the corona, which is the sun's outer atmosphere, when the spacecraft was just 16.9 million miles from the star.

The Parker Solar Probe's WISPR instrument took the photo, in which Jupiter is seen as the bright object, according to NASA.

The spacecraft also broke records for the fastest space probe, as it sends data back from its first solar encounter, Science News reported.

Scientists gathered Wednesday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Washington, D.C., to speak about the data, the report said.

NASA'S INSIGHT MARS LANDER SNAPS ITS FIRST STUNNING SELFIE 

“What we are looking at now is completely brand new,” solar physicist Nour Raouafi said at a news conference, according to Science News.

“Nobody looked at this before,” said Raouafi, who also works at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.

The spacecraft launched Aug. 12 and will make 24 close passes by the sun over the next seven years, Science News reported.

The mission's goal is to help solve the mystery of why the corona is about 300 times as hot as the sun's surface, the report said.

NASA MAKES AMAZING DISCOVERY ON ASTEROID BENNU

The outer atmosphere could reach temperatures of millions of degrees, while the sun's surface or photosphere could be around 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, according to BBC Science, but the mechanisms that produce the super-heating are not fully understood, the report said.

"We need to go into this region to be able to sample the new plasma, the newly formed material, to be able to see what processes, what physics, is taking place in there," said Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA in Washington D.C., according to the BBC.

Raouafi also said of the Parker Space Probe that, "We are almost certain we'll make new discoveries."

Earlier this month, NASA's InSight Mars Lander snapped its first selfie from the surface of the Red Planet.

Amy Lieu is a news editor and reporter for Fox News.

NASA’s InSight Mars Lander snaps its first stunning selfie

Say "cheese!" NASA’s InSight Mars Lander has snapped its first selfie from the surface of the Red Planet.

Using a camera on its robotic arm, the probe took a selfie that is actually a “mosaic” comprised of 11 images. The selfie was taken on Dec. 6.

In a statement, NASA explained that scientists have also got their first complete look at the Lander’s “workspace” – an approximately 14-by-7-foot crescent of terrain directly in front of the spacecraft.

NASA’S INSIGHT MARS LANDER ARRIVES ON THE RED PLANET, ENDS SUCCESSFUL JOURNEY

The InSight mission, which is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will provide scientists with a wealth of data. By studying Mars’ deep interior, the mission is expected to provide valuable information on the formation of rocky worlds, including Earth.

A "mosaic" image, composed of 52 individual images from the InSight lander, shows the "workspace" where the spacecraft will set its science instruments. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

"The near-absence of rocks, hills and holes means it'll be extremely safe for our instruments," said InSight's Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in the statement. "This might seem like a pretty plain piece of ground if it weren't on Mars, but we're glad to see that."

The Mars InSight Lander reached the Red Planet on Nov. 26 after an epic journey of more than 300-million miles that lasted six months. Sensors on the Lander recently captured the first-ever “sounds” of Martian wind.

NASA RELEASES FIRST-EVER AUDIO RECORDING FROM MARS

The United States is the only country to successfully operate a spacecraft on the Martian surface. InSight represents NASA's ninth attempt to put a spacecraft on Mars; only one effort failed.

Mars looms ever larger in America’s space future.

Last month, NASA announced that it has selected the location where its Mars 2020 Rover will land on the Red Planet. The rover is expected to reach the Martian surface on Feb. 18, 2021.

NASA PICKS LANDING SPOT FOR MARS 2020 ROVER IN HUNT FOR ALIEN LIFE

NASA’s long-term goal is to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s. However, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin thinks that a slightly later target date of 2040 is more realistic. In an interview in 2016, the Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 astronaut told Fox News that by 2040, astronauts could have visited Mars’ moon Phobos, which could serve as a sort of stepping stone to the Red Planet.

Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia and The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

NASA makes amazing discovery on asteroid Bennu

Scientists have made a fascinating discovery on asteroid Bennu thanks to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.

Recently analyzed data from the probe has identified water locked inside the asteroid’s clay, the space agency has announced. The spacecraft’s two spectrometers revealed the presence of “hydroxyls,” which are molecules containing oxygen and hydrogen atoms bonded together.

NASA'S OSIRIS-REX SPACECRAFT REACHES ASTEROID BENNU AFTER EPIC JOURNEY

“While Bennu itself is too small to have ever hosted liquid water, the finding does indicate that liquid water was present at some time on Bennu’s parent body, a much larger asteroid,” said NASA in a statement.

The asteroid may provide answers to the origin of our solar system, according to the space agency.

“The presence of hydrated minerals across the asteroid confirms that Bennu, a remnant from early in the formation of the solar system, is an excellent specimen for the OSIRIS-REx mission to study the composition of primitive volatiles and organics,” said Amy Simon, OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) deputy instrument scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in the statement. “When samples of this material are returned by the mission to Earth in 2023, scientists will receive a treasure trove of new information about the history and evolution of our solar system.”

NASA RELEASES FIRST-EVER AUDIO RECORDING FROM MARS

OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, reached its orbit at asteroid Bennu last week after traveling more than 1 billion miles through space. It launched in September 2016 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The spacecraft will spend almost a year surveying the space rock from orbit. The probe is scheduled to briefly touch the asteroid with a robotic arm in July 2020 and retrieve a sample that will be returned to Earth in September 2023.

This is a busy time for NASA. The space agency’s InSight lander landed successfully on the surface of Mars last month, ending a journey that lasted six months and completed more than 300 million miles. The space agency recently released the first-ever audio recording from the surface of the Red Planet.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Space station crew to inspect mysterious hole on spacewalk

MOSCOW (AP) — Two Russian cosmonauts were preparing to venture outside the International Space Station Tuesday to inspect a section where a mysterious leak has been discovered.

The leak was spotted on Aug. 30 in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the station. The crew quickly located and sealed the tiny hole that created a slight loss of pressure, and space officials said the station has remained safe to operate.

Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Prokopyev will conduct a six-hour spacewalk to inspect the Soyuz's outer surface. They will uncover the thermal insulation covering the patched hole and take samples that will be studied by experts.

Kononenko, who arrived at the station earlier this month with NASA astronaut Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, said in a pre-flight interview that the spacewalk would be a strenuous effort.

"It's going to be challenging both physically and technically," he said.

Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said in September that the hole could have been drilled during manufacture or while in orbit. He didn't say if he suspected any of the crew, but the statement has caused some bewilderment.

Rogozin has since backpedaled on his statement, saying that he never pointed the finger at U.S. astronauts and blaming the media for twisting his statement.

He said recently that the Russian official probe is ongoing and some of the station's crew who are set to come back to Earth on Dec. 20 will take the samples that are collected during the spacewalk. Rogozin added that Roscosmos will discuss the probe findings with NASA and other space station partners.

Steph Curry says he doesn’t believe in US moon landings: report

He's been known to take long-distance shots, but this one might be the farthest out there.

NBA superstar Stephen Curry said he does not believe the U.S. landed on the moon, according to a podcast Monday.

The Golden State Warriors guard made the comments when he was a guest on the "Winging It" podcast, according to The New York Times.

Curry asked one of the hosts if he believed that the U.S. landed on the moon. When the host said no, Curry agreed, but said he didn't want to "start conspiracies."

Despite insurmountable evidence to the contrary, conspiracy theorists have claimed for years that man did not walk on the moon, that the landings were fake. Conspiracy theories have continued to pop up since man first walked on the moon on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to ever set foot on the lunar surface.

A proposed Russian mission to the moon will apparently include a task to verify that the American moon landings were actually real, a top Russian space official joked last month.

Later on in the podcast, another host said "do the research on Stanley Kubrick," referring to a story that the involved NASA hiring the famous director to stage and film the Apollo and 12 moon landings, but there is no evidence for this theory, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

NASA, upon hearing Curry's doubts, has invited the star point guard to tour their lab, the report said. NASA landed on the moon six times between 1969 to 1972, becoming the only space agency to accomplish a manned moon mission, The Times reported.

"We'd love for Mr. Curry to tour the lunar lab at our Johnson Space Center in Houston, perhaps the next time the Warriors are in town to play the Rockets," said Allard Beutel, a NASA spokesman. “We have hundreds of pounds of moon rocks stored there, and the Apollo mission control. During his visit, he can see firsthand what we did 50 years ago, as well as what we’re doing now to go back to the moon in the coming years, but this time to stay.”

Amy Lieu is a news editor and reporter for Fox News.