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Mars Exploration Rovers Update:Opportunity Climbs to Greeley Haven for Winter, and We Look Back at 2011

A.J.S. Rayl • December 31, 2011

As New Year's Eve moved from time zone to time zone across planet Earth, the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) team looked to 2012 and wrapping its eighth Earth year of exploring, while up on the Red Planet Opportunity settled into the "saddle" at Greeley Haven preparing for the onslaught of its fifth Martian winter.

What is space exploration worth?

Emily Lakdawalla • December 30, 2011 • 2

Investing in NASA makes us smarter, improves our lives, and increases our capability to overcome technological challenges. Even more important, though, are the intangible benefits of pride, respect from other nations, respect for our place in the universe, and hope for a future in which we can accomplish even greater things.

What's up in the solar system in January 2012, and the rest of the year

Emily Lakdawalla • December 29, 2011

There will be no planetary launches in 2012, but there is still plenty of deep-space activity to look forward to over the coming year.

Ringing in the New Year with two new arrivals to the Moon

Emily Lakdawalla • December 28, 2011

The twin GRAIL spacecraft are nearly at the end of their three-month cruises to the Moon. Currently being discussed is an extended mission for GRAIL that would begin after the June eclipse and last through most of December 2012.

Lovely Lovejoy pictures

Emily Lakdawalla • December 27, 2011

Just a few of the amazing photos of Comet Lovejoy that have been taken from the southern hemisphere over the last few days. Comet Lovejoy is the first Kreutz sungrazer to have been discovered from the ground in 40 years, and after its surprising survival of its passage close to the Sun, it has been putting on a spectacular show in southern skies.

A recap of Comet Lovejoy

Jason Davis • December 22, 2011 • 1

A timeline of one of the most memorable solar events in recent memory: the observations by six Sun-observing spacecraft of Comet Lovejoy making its perihelion passage.

Project for Awesome Video On Behalf of the Planetary Society

Mat Kaplan • December 22, 2011 • 1

WhirledSol posted a cool Youtube tribute to the Planetary Society a year ago, and we just now found it! It has a nice explanation of why we are so passionate about space exploration.

Pretty pictures from Cassini's recent Dione flyby

Emily Lakdawalla • December 22, 2011

Cassini flew close by Dione on December 12 and, as usual, the close pass provided opportunities for lots of dramatic photos, not just of Dione, but of other moons wandering by in the background.

More radar images of icy moons from Cassini: Iapetus, Enceladus, and Rhea

Emily Lakdawalla • December 21, 2011

When I posted about the really cool Cassini SAR images of Enceladus a few weeks ago, I initially wrote that this was the first-ever SAR image of an icy moon other than Titan. Several people (some readers and two members of the Cassini science team!) corrected that statement: Cassini has performed SAR imaging of other icy moons (including Enceladus) before.

Separating fact from speculation about Kepler-20's Earth-sized planets

Emily Lakdawalla • December 20, 2011 • 1

A large team of researchers has announced in a Nature article the discovery of not one, but two, Earth-sized planets orbiting a star named Kepler-20. This article separates the observational facts from the quite-likely-to-be-true inferences from the downstream speculations.

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