Welcome to my monthly survey of the activities of robots across the solar system! Tomorrow is the equinox at Mars; both Curiosity and Opportunity will be spending the month actively analyzing Martian rocks. It'll be a less active month for Cassini, as Saturn passes through solar conjunction late next month.
I am rarely so glad to admit that I was wrong as when it's about the failure of a mission. Only last month, I speculated that IKAROS's mission was done. And now the news comes that IKAROS has been heard from -- twice! -- on September 6 and 8, 2012.
Welcome to my monthly roundup of the activities of our intrepid robotic emissaries across the solar system! Curiosity is about to land; Opportunity has rolled through sol 3000; Odyssey is back online, having switched to a spare reaction wheel; Dawn is now in High-Altitude Mapping Orbit 2; and Cassini is taking advantage of its newly inclined orbit to get spectacular series of images of Saturn's rings.
JAXA's solar sail mission IKAROS is still hibernating, and there's no way of knowing if the spacecraft will reawaken or not. They try to raise contact with the spacecraft once a month, with the last attempt being made on March 10; we can only wait to see if they'll succeed. What better time to release a theme song for the mission? IKAROS has always been even more full of personality even than other JAXA missions (which is saying a lot).
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.
Regular readers of this blog will find the content of today's 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast familiar, because it's an update on what the solar system exploration spacecraft are up to, based on my monthly "what's up" updates.
April 2011 will see MESSENGER begin the science phase of its orbital mission at Mercury, and should, I think, also see the start of Dawn's approach observations of Vesta. At Mars, Opportunity is back on the road again, rolling inexorably toward Endeavour. At Saturn, Cassini will continue its focus on Saturn and Titan science.
Upon James Aldridge's return from Japan, he posted several albums worth of amazing photos, including several of their calligraphy instructor, well-known artist Aiko Tanaka, creating a gestural brush painting to commemorate Hayabusa's return.
We've already seen IKAROS' view of its deployed sails from cameras attached to the spacecraft, but, in a brilliant idea, the Japanese built IKAROS with two deployable cameras that could view the thing from a distance.