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What's up in solar system exploration: August 2015 edition

Emily Lakdawalla • August 10, 2015

I'm back from two weeks' vacation, so it's time to catch up on the status of all our intrepid planetary missions, from Akatsuki to the Voyagers and hitting the Moon, Mars, asteroids, comets, and Saturn in between.

Curiosity update, sols 978-1011: Into Marias Pass; ChemCam back in action; solar conjunction

Emily Lakdawalla • June 10, 2015

It’s been an eventful few weeks for Curiosity on Mars. From sols 981 to 986, Curiosity’s human pilots tried and failed to drive the rover southward; but, retracing their steps to Logan's Run, they quickly found a way up and into a beautiful geological amphitheater named Marias Pass, where they will stay throughout Mars solar conjunction. They also returned ChemCam to normal operations.

Real-time sunset on Mars

Emily Lakdawalla • May 24, 2015

Pause your life for six minutes and watch the Sun set....on Mars. Thank you, Glen Nagle, for this awe-inspiring simulation based on Curiosity's sol 956 sunset images.

Rover eyes on rock layers on Mars

Emily Lakdawalla • May 19, 2015

Digging in to mission image archives yields similar images of layered Martian rocks from very different places.

Curiosity update, sols 949-976: Scenic road trip and a diversion to Logan's Run

Emily Lakdawalla • May 06, 2015

Curiosity is finally on the road again! And she's never taken a more scenic route than this. Her path to Mount Sharp is taking her to the west and south, across sandy swales between rocky rises.

Sunset on Mars

Damia Bouic • May 06, 2015

Long before Curiosity's landing, the description of the color camera made ​​me dream: I imagined what wonderful pictures we could get of sunsets and sunrises on Mars. They finally came on sol 956, the 15th of April, 2015.

Artist's Drive: A Sol 950 Colorized Postcard

Damia Bouic • April 14, 2015

Amateur image processor Damia Bouic shares the process behind creating stunning panoramas with Curiosity images.

Curiosity update, sols 896-949: Telegraph Peak, Garden City, and concern about the drill

Emily Lakdawalla • April 10, 2015

Since I last wrote about Curiosity drilling at Pink Cliffs, the rover has visited and studied two major sites, drilling at one of them. It has also suffered a short in the drill percussion mechanism that presents serious enough risk to warrant a moratorium on drill use until engineers develop a plan to continue to operate it safely.

LPSC 2015: Aeolian Processes on Mars and Titan

Nathan Bridges • March 26, 2015

Planetary scientist Nathan Bridges reports on results from the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference about the action of wind on the surfaces of Mars and Titan.

A Sky Full of Stars

Bill Dunford • March 09, 2015

In pictures of the planets, the stars aren't usually visible. But when they do appear, they're spectacular.

Mini mission updates: Dawn in orbit; Curiosity short circuit; Rosetta image release; Hayabusa2 in cruise phase; and more

Emily Lakdawalla • March 06, 2015

Dawn has successfully entered orbit at Ceres, becoming the first mission to orbit a dwarf planet and the first to orbit two different bodies beyond Earth. I also have updates on Curiosity, Rosetta, Mars Express, Hayabusa2, the Chang'e program, InSIGHT, and OSIRIS-REx.

Curiosity update, sols 864-895: Drilling at Pink Cliffs

Emily Lakdawalla • February 20, 2015

Curiosity's second drilling campaign at the foot of Mount Sharp is complete. The rover spent about a month near Pink Cliffs, an area at the base of the Pahrump Hills outcrop, drilling and documenting a site named Mojave, where lighter-colored crystals were scattered through a very fine-grained rock.

FOIA Request Sheds Light on NASA Mission Extension Process

Jason Davis • February 06, 2015

A FOIA request offers insight into NASA's planetary science extended mission review process, which seems, at best, confusing, and at worst—with adjectival ratings like “Very Good/Good”—arbitrary.

Flawed Beauties

Bill Dunford • February 02, 2015

More examples of imperfect--but tantalizing--images from deep space.

Curiosity update, sols 814-863: Pahrump Hills Walkabout, part 2

Emily Lakdawalla • January 21, 2015

Curiosity has spent the last two months completing a second circuit of the Pahrump Hills field site, gathering APXS and MAHLI data. The work has been hampered by the loss of the ChemCam focusing laser, but the team is developing a workaround. Over the holidays, the rover downlinked many Gigabits of image data. The rover is now preparing for a drilling campaign.

Curiosity results from AGU: Methane is there, and it's variable

Emily Lakdawalla • December 30, 2014

At the American Geophysical Union meeting, the Curiosity mission announced that an instrument had finally definitively detected methane in Mars' atmosphere. It exists at a low background level, but there was a spike to about ten times that, which lasted for a couple of months before disappearing. What that means is unclear.

HiRISE image coverage of the Curiosity field site on Mars, Version 2.0

Emily Lakdawalla • December 30, 2014

There have been tons and tons of HiRISE images of the Curiosity landing region, and it has taken quite a lot of work for me to find, locate, and catalogue them. This post is a summary of what I've found; after four revisions and updates, it's now version 2.0 of the list.

Like A Bad Penny: Methane on Mars

Nicholas Heavens • December 16, 2014

With the announcement of Curiosity's detection of methane on Mars, Nicholas Heavens gives us a guide to the history of methane detection on Mars, a discussion of its scientific significance, and a few things to consider when hearing about and asking about the detection.

What Happens When Space Projects Go Over Budget? The Curious Case of MSL’s Overrun

Jason Callahan • December 08, 2014

Jason Callahan takes a detailed look at the effects of Curiosity's cost overruns on NASA's budget.

Join me in Washington, D.C. for a post-Thanksgiving Celebration of Planetary Exploration

Casey Dreier • November 26, 2014

See Bill Nye, Europa scientist Kevin Hand, and Mars scientist Michael Meyer speak at a special event on Capitol Hill on December 2nd.

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