2016 is here, and we've got a lot to look forward to in the upcoming year! But before turning the page, here are all of the awesome space news from December. In spite of the hectic Christmas season, NASA and ESA have been hard at work finding a lost lunar crash and launching a new mission; and if that wasn't enough, I've found a list on Wikipedia of everything that happened in 2015 in terms of spaceflight.


Lost Lunar Crash

On April 19th, 1972, the Apollo 16 S-IVB (the third booster of rocket Saturn V, which was used for the Apollo program) was crashed into the Moon. While this was common practice for some Apollo missions (the S-IVB crash would be used eg. to measure seismic activity) in this particular case, the crash site was never found because of a malfunction... until today. About a month ago, it was reported that the impact site had been found by John Plescia (of Johns Hopkins university) using the LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) -- you can find more information about this here.

According to Wikipedia, the 5 S-IVB third stages are "the heaviest single pieces sent to the Lunar surface". If you're interested in a bit of trivia to impress your friends at cocktail parties, here is an extensive list of all the artificial objects currently on the Moon.

Apollo 16 Booster Impact Site. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University


LISA Pathfinder Launch

Over a century after Einstein's Theory of Relativity, LISA Pathfinder will pave the way for our understanding of events such as the creation of massive black holes; at the core of the ESA mission, which launched on December 3rd from ESA's spaceport in French Guiana, is the technology used to test the concept of gravitational wave detection in space and needed to launch a future mission -- eLisa -- in the 2030s. The LISA Pathfinder spacecraft will keep its position around the two test masses (identical gold-platinum cubes), which will be tracked in free fall with no force acting upon them other than gravity. If you're interested in following the progress of LISA Pathfinder, this section on the ESA website will be used to publish all future updates on the mission.


Charles Bolden Interview

IFL Science interviewed Charles Bolden, the NASA Administrator, at SpaceCom Expo at the end of 2015. In the interview, Bolden talks about his focus on pushing forward a mission to Mars and its importance for humanity. He also briefly mentions the actual state of commercial space travel and what his hopes are for the future of spaceflight. In the second part of the interview, Bolden answers questions from IFLScience Facebook followers, including questions about his bucket list of achievements, guidelines on encountering aliens in space, and developing a true successor to the Space Shuttle. If you have roughly 40 minutes, I would really recommend watching both parts of the interview, where Bolden comes across as an extremely interesting, open-minded and charming CEO who really knows his space stuff. If you're more of a reader, you can hop on to this IFLScience article, where the interview was summarized for the readers into a text that is almost as absorbing.


Bonus Article: The Art and Science of Space Photography

Have you ever wondered just how Hubble Telescope takes those wonderful space pictures -- and what else needs to happen before they make their way to your screen? Space photography is a complex art, and in this article on the TED blog, Hubble's photo editor Zoltan Levay explains "how he captures and enhances the colors of the cosmos."

The Pillars of Creation. Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)