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this week's top space stories

people around the world remember the life of stephen hawking, the great red spot on jupiter is shrinking and turning orange and nasa's twin study confirms some fascinating findings. these are just some of this week's top stories on space.com.

china's tiangong-1 space lab expected to fall to earth in 2 to 3 weeks

a new forecast by the european space agency’s space debris office predicts that the 8.5-ton tiangong-1 spacecraft will fall back to earth between march 30 and april 6.

stephen hawking: martin rees looks back on colleague's spectacular success against all odds

uk's astronomer royal martin rees shares his memories of the late star physicist stephen hawking.

books and black holes: stephen hawking's language helps us grasp the cosmos

those inspired by stephen hawking's classic book "a brief history of time" and by his legacy in cosmology are now picking up where hawking's genius left off.

on this day in space! march 17, 1958: u.s. launches vanguard 1, 1st solar-powered satellite

on st. patrick's day in 1958, the u.s. navy launched vanguard 1, the first solar-powered satellite and the oldest artificial satellite currently orbiting the earth. see how it happened in our on this day in space video series.

'star wars' droids point the way to nasa repair robots

r2-d2 and bb-8 are the droids that nasa is looking for — "astromechs" that can help repair spaceships on the fly, a nasa robotics engineer says.

china outlines two-phase chang'e 4 moon lander mission

later this year, the moon's far side will welcome its first robotic visitor — china's chang'e 4 lander.

astronaut scott kelly and his twin brother are still identical, nasa says

after a stream of erroneous media coverage about how spaceflight affects your genes, nasa issued a rare updated statement yesterday (march 15) about its "twins study" concerning former astronauts scott and mark kelly.

nasa's prolific planet-hunting kepler spacecraft is running out of fuel

the kepler space telescope's prolific planet-hunting days will end soon.

qapla'! speak klingon like a warrior with duolingo

for those getting ready for their next trip to kronos – the homeland of the fictional klingons in "star trek" – the popular language-learning site duolingo now has a course in klingon.

this tiny private cuberover could reach the moon by 2020

the pittsburgh-based company astrobotic, in partnership with carnegie mellon university, has won a nasa phase ii small business innovation research award to develop a "cuberover" for moon missions.

image of the day

a jovian storm looks like an impressionist painting of a rose in this image from nasa's juno spacecraft.

on this day in space! march 16, 1966: gemini 8 achieves first space docking

on march 16, 1966, the crewed gemini 8 spacecraft became the first to dock with another spacecraft in space. see how it happened in our on this day in space video series.

gemini 8: nasa's first space docking in pictures

on march 16, 1966, nasa astronauts neil armstrong and dave scott performed the first space docking on the gemini 8 mission. see photos from that historic spaceflight here.

nasa's acting chief expects few agency changes despite leadership uncertainty

despite uncertainty about who will lead the agency after the end of april, nasa's current acting administrator says he expects little change in the agency's activities in the near future.

nature's lens: how gravity can bend light like a telescope

albert einstein's vision for how gravity works was, to say the least, a radical departure from the older, newtonian perspective.

air force awards big launch contracts to spacex and ula

this is the fourth competition under the current phase 1a eelv procurement where there has been more than one competitor for national security space missions.

four cubesats snuck into orbit without regulatory approval, fcc says

concerns about space junk and satellite-launch regulations are swirling after the federal communications commission alleged that a u.s. company launched four tiny satellites without permission.

equinox: why spring weather can keep us guessing

next tuesday, at 12:15:21 p.m. edt (16:15:21 gmt), the winter season will officially come to an end in the northern hemisphere.

water on dwarf planet ceres is driving an active surface

water may continue to play a vital role on the dwarf planet ceres.