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Blog Archive


Spectacular New Horizons photo of Pluto's hazes and mountains: How it was made

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/09/17 04:04 CDT | 11 comments

Today, New Horizons released a stunning new image of Pluto's backlit mountains and hazes. I explain how the image was taken with its Ralph Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera.

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Populating the OSIRIS-REx Science Deck

Posted by Dante Lauretta on 2015/09/01 02:34 CDT | 1 comments

The assembly of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft continues, with many elements integrated onto the spacecraft ahead of schedule. Last month both OTES and OVIRS were delivered to Lockheed Martin and installed on the science deck.

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The story behind Curiosity's self-portraits on Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/08/19 03:52 CDT | 2 comments

How and why does Curiosity take self-portraits? A look at some of the people and stories behind Curiosity's "selfies" on the occasion of the official release of the sol 1065 belly pan self-portrait at Buckskin, below Marias Pass, Mars.

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OSIRIS-REx – Testing In Progress

Posted by Annie Wargetz on 2015/07/17 03:12 CDT

While the OLA, OCAMS, and REXIS instruments on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft continue working towards their deliveries, other hardware onsite at Lockheed is undergoing testing prior to installation. The hardware is put through tests here on Earth prior to launching into space.

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OSIRIS-REx – Seeking Answers to the Sweet Mystery of Life

Posted by Jason Dworkin on 2015/05/07 12:21 CDT | 2 comments

The nature of the origin of life is a topic that has engaged people since ancient times. The samples to be collected by OSIRIS-REx, returned to the Earth in 2023 and archived for decades beyond that, may indeed hide the secrets to the origin of life.

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Can nuclear waste help humanity reach for the stars?

Posted by Tim Tinsley on 2015/04/23 04:07 CDT | 3 comments

With the shortage of plutonium-238 to power space missions, Europe has decided to focus on an accessible alternative material that could power future spacecraft: americium-241.

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Development of the OSIRIS-REx Sampling System: TAGSAM and the SRC

Posted by Dante Lauretta on 2015/04/21 04:55 CDT

The OSIRIS-REx team has been busy assembling and testing the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) and the Sample Return Capsule (SRC).

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

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/04/10 07:37 CDT | 1 comments

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.

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OSIRIS-REx Begins ATLO (Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations)

Posted by Dante Lauretta on 2015/04/02 12:49 CDT

The OSIRIS-REx mission passed another major milestone. We now have approval to build the spacecraft.

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How Do We Know When We Have Collected a Sample of Bennu?

Posted by Kevin Walsh on 2015/03/17 04:19 CDT | 1 comments

A huge amount of effort goes into deciding where to try to collect a sample on Bennu. There are roughly nine months to survey, map and model the asteroid to help make this decision.

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Talking to Pluto is hard! Why it takes so long to get data back from New Horizons

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/01/30 09:53 CST | 13 comments

As I write this post, New Horizons is nearing the end of a weeklong optical navigation campaign. The last optical navigation images in the weeklong series will be taken tomorrow, but it will likely take two weeks or more for all the data to get to Earth. Two weeks! Why does it take so long?

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Don't Miss This Great New Video About Europa

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2014/11/21 02:38 CST

JPL released a slick new video highlighting the significance of Europa, the moon of Jupiter with more liquid water than the Earth.

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Rosetta NAVCAM's Shades of Grey

Posted by Claudia Mignone on 2014/10/27 09:51 CDT | 1 comments

What do “light” and “dark” mean for an object like Comet 67P/C-G? Here are some details on how Rosetta's NAVCAM images are taken and displayed to make a wide range of surface features possible.

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Using Lasers to Lock Down Exoplanet Hunting

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2014/09/26 05:59 CDT

The Planetary Society is launching a new collaboration with Yale exoplanet hunter Debra Fischer and her team, the Exoplanets Laser project. We will support the purchase of an advanced, ultra stable laser to be used in a complex system they are designing to push radial velocity exoplanet hunting to a whole whole new level.

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OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Passes First Major Qualification Test

Posted by Dante Lauretta on 2014/09/12 10:18 CDT

The development of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft continues to make great progress having recently completed static load testing.

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Curiosity wheel damage: The problem and solutions

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/19 08:21 CDT | 29 comments

Now that a Tiger Team has assessed the nature and causes of damage to Curiosity's wheels, I can finally answer your frequently-asked questions about what wheel damage means for the mission, and why it wasn't anticipated.

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How CRISM picks the pixels that guide Opportunity's travels

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/06/05 03:29 CDT | 4 comments

How scientists are working with CRISM, an aging but still exceptional spectrometer on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, to find the rocks where Opportunity's work will tell the story of ancient water on Mars.

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The construction of OSIRIS-REx has begun!

Posted by Dante Lauretta on 2014/06/05 09:54 CDT

The construction of OSIRIS-REx has begun! Seeing the core structure being assembled demonstrated that OSIRIS-REx is no longer just a set of drawings and PowerPoint charts, it is starting to become a real spacecraft.

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Complete 2014 Astronomy Course Online

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2014/05/19 11:05 CDT | 6 comments

Bruce Betts has completed the lectures for his online 2014 Introduction to Planetary Science and Astronomy Course at CSUDH: all are online and you can earn a Certificate of Achievement for watching them.

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A new Earthrise over the Moon from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's pushframe camera

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/05/13 11:53 CDT

Earth's brilliant colors shine above the drab lunar horizon in this new "Earthrise" photo from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. An animation that accompanied the image release helped me to write an explainer on how pushframe cameras like Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's Wide-Angle Camera works.

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