Hurtling homeward

The world's most ambitious space venture came close to disaster last month, in a terrifying incident that went virtually unreported in the mainstream media. For an hour, flight controllers in Moscow and Houston did not know if the crew of this Soyuz capsule was alive or dead, and Korea's first astronaut was not released from hospital until last Wednesday, 15 May, almost a month after the incident.

Ad Astra

Like the bow of a medieval ship, Blackrock Castle breasts the headwaters of the River Lee just five kilometres from the centre of Cork City. It was built in the 16th Century to defend the city from Barbary pirates, but the castle has found a new purpose for the 21st Century as a leading centre of astronomy and public outreach.

The Green Planet

This portrait of the planet Mars is the finest yet made of the Red Planet and will be an iconic image of human Mars exploration in these early decades of the 21st Century. It was taken at the end of February by Europe's Rosetta spacecraft as it swept towards Mars for a very close flyby before continuing on its way to rendezvous with a comet in 2014.