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The state of Earth observation, January 2012

Posted by Jason Davis on 2012/01/09 05:54 CST

As of November 2011, the Earth Observing Handbook counts 109 active missions to study the Earth as a planet, with 112 more approved and planned for the future. Jason Davis provides an overview of key current and upcoming earth-observing missions.

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How did they make the nuclear power source for the Curiosity rover?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/11/28 03:07 CST

Maybe it's because I was a kid during the Cold War; I always assume that information about anything nuclear only comes out on that "need-to-know basis."

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The fish that sent us to the moon

Posted by Jason Davis on 2011/10/20 06:16 CDT

The tale of NASA's Super Guppy aircraft, which ferried parts of America's space program to their launch pads.

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A new trick for IKAROS: Spinning the other way

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/19 01:49 CDT

JAXA's solar sail demonstration craft IKAROS is still puttering along, 17 months after it launched, and its controllers back on Earth keep coming up with new things to try with it. I'm pretty amazed by the most recent trick: reversing its spin direction. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is, especially for IKAROS.

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Decoding SpaceX's re-usable spacecraft concept

Posted by Jason Davis on 2011/10/07 10:45 CDT

Breaking down the futuristic technologies for SpaceX's reusable Grasshopper spacecraft, as shown in a recent promotional video.

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Weekend watching: 3D Movie from Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/09 07:07 CDT

There's one Mars landed mission for which there is a long 3D film, and that's Viking. Grab your 3D glasses, and be prepared to be transported to Mars.

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Your guide to a shuttle landing

Posted by Jason Davis on 2011/07/19 11:58 CDT | 1 comments

The final installment of my three-part series on the basics of shuttle launches and landings. Part III: de-orbiting, re-entering and landing.

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Observing at the WIYN

Posted by Meg Schwamb on 2011/06/08 02:43 CDT

On May 5 and 6, I had a run on the WIYN (Wisconsin-Indiana-Yale-NOAO) telescope, a 3.5 m telescope, the second largest telescope on Kitt Peak in Arizona.

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Zapping Rocks for Science

Posted by Ryan Anderson on 2011/05/27 09:01 CDT

Laser beams and space exploration are perfect for each other, and not just because all self-respecting starship captains know their way around a blaster. It turns out that zapping rocks with a laser is not only fun, it also can tell you what they're made of!

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Neat video of Curiosity drive testing (plus a code-cracking challenge)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/21 01:37 CDT

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has posted a short video showing some recent testing of an engineering model of the Mars Science Laboratory in their outdoor Mars Yard; they're testing the performance of the rover's driving capability over slopes of varying steepness and covered with bedrock, compacted sand, and very loose sand.

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365 Days of Astronomy Podcast: The Flight of Hayabusa

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/09/12 10:50 CDT

Today the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast aired my contribution, The Flight of Hayabusa, a recap of that dramatic mission.

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Hayabusa's return: a review

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/06/13 04:47 CDT

Hayabusa's return: round up some of the amazing photos, movies, and artworks that were posted and shared and Tweeted and re-Tweeted over the previous dozen hours or so.

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Hayabusa's coming home

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/04/21 10:12 CDT

It really looks like Hayabusa is going to make it home. Hayabusa's sample return capsule will be returning to Earth on June 13, 2010, landing in the Woomera Prohibited Area, Australia at about 14:00 UTC.

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What about the non-imaging data from spacecraft?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/18 10:48 CST

Data from all science instruments on all of NASA's and ESA's space missions, not just cameras, is archived in the Planetary Data System and Planetary Science Archive, and almost all of that data is available online.

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No, they can't push with the arm to free Spirit

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/12/15 11:25 CST

I've gotten this question about once a week since Spirit got stuck, but yesterday, two different readers asked the same question within an hour of each other, so I figured it was time for a blog entry.

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Hayabusa's still coming home: JAXA engineers come up with yet another creative solution

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/19 11:16 CST

Trouble has come time and again to JAXA's little Hayabusa asteroid sample return mission, yet the mission's engineers always come up with new and creative ways to solve problems.

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Hayabusa stumbles on the path back to Earth

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2009/11/11 11:19 CST

JAXA issued a press release (in Japanese) on November 9 stating that one of Hayabusa's ion thrusters, thruster D, had stopped operating. Hayabusa launched with four ion thrusters, but D was one of only two that are still functioning. So the failure of thruster D is a serious problem.

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Mars Science Laboratory Instruments: MARDI

Posted by Ryan Anderson on 2009/10/06 04:35 CDT

Next up in my series of posts about the instruments on MSL is the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI).

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Mars Science Laboratory Instruments: MAHLI

Posted by Ryan Anderson on 2009/09/30 07:20 CDT

Last time, I talked about the MastCam color cameras on MSL, so it only makes sense to continue with one of the other cameras: The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI).

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Mars Science Laboratory Instruments: Mastcam

Posted by Ryan Anderson on 2009/09/17 04:35 CDT

A few weeks ago I gave a lunch talk at Cornell summarizing the MSL mission and particularly the instruments that it will carry and was shocked by the number of people who showed up!

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