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Blog Archive


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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Bye bye, Kodachrome, but "Kodak moments" will live on in space

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/12/31 08:04 CST

This week is the end for Kodachrome film. It's a casualty of the digital revolution.

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I can't wait for MAHLI to land on Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/11/16 03:39 CST

JPL has just released some test images from the camera that has just been installed on the end of the Curiosity rover's robotic arm.

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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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How radio telescopes get "images" of asteroids

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/04/29 02:04 CDT

Every time I post a radio telescope image of a near-Earth asteroid, I get at least one reader question asking me to explain how radio telescopes take photos, so I'm hereby writing a post explaining the basics of how delay-Doppler imaging works.

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APOLLO program pinpoints location of Lunokhod 1 retroreflector

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/04/26 05:37 CDT

With the recent Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter imaging of the Lunokhod 1 rover, scientists on the APOLLO project were finally able to do something that scientists have been dreaming of for more than three decades: shoot the rover with a laser.

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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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Gravity's Bow

Posted by Timothy Reed on 2009/06/15 03:56 CDT

Timothy Reed explains how optical telescopes are tested for gravity sag, and the methods used to counteract or compensate for it.

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Designing the Cassini Tour

Posted by John Smith on 2009/06/07 12:01 CDT

Each Titan flyby is not a fork in the road, but rather a Los Angeles style cloverleaf in terms of the dizzying number of possible destinations. So how did our current and future plans for the path of the Cassini spacecraft come to be? That's the question Dave Seal put to me since that's my job -- I am a tour designer.

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Canto II: Titan's Atmosphere and the Solar Cycle

Posted by David Seal on 2009/06/03 04:44 CDT

David Seal explains the complications for Cassini coming from Titan's atmosphere and Solar Cycle.

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Looking at Mars with the MRO CTX

Posted by Ken Edgett on 2009/05/29 12:21 CDT

Looking at Mars with the MRO CTX

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