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LPSC 2015: MESSENGER's low-altitude campaign at Mercury

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/03/25 07:55 CDT | 3 comments

At last week's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, the MESSENGER team held a press briefing to share results from the recent few months of incredibly low-altitude flight over Mercury's surface. The mission will last only about five weeks more.

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Meet NASA's Winning Asteroid Redirect Spacecraft, and the Asteroid It May Visit

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/03/25 05:52 CDT | 6 comments

NASA has decided to pluck a small boulder off a large asteroid, instead of bagging an entire asteroid outright, the agency announced Wednesday.

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One-Year ISS Mission Preview: 28 Experiments, 4 Expeditions and 2 Crew Members

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/03/25 10:13 CDT

This Friday, astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will embark for a one-year mission aboard the International Space Station.

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In Pictures: Expedition 42 Crew Returns to Earth

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/03/12 07:46 CDT

Three International Space Station crew members are back on Earth today following a morning Soyuz landing on the snowy steppes of Kazakhstan.

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What to expect when you're expecting a flyby: Planning your July around New Horizons' Pluto pictures

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/03/10 07:06 CDT | 18 comments

As New Horizons approaches Pluto, when will the images get good? In this explainer, I tell you what images will be coming down from Pluto, when. Mark your calendars!

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LightSail Arrives in Florida; More Launch Details Revealed

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/03/09 04:32 CDT | 4 comments

A cadre of CubeSats including The Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft completed a cross-country journey to Florida, where they await installation aboard an Atlas V rocket.

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

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/03/06 11:42 CST | 1 comments

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.

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Dawn Journal: Ceres Orbit Insertion!

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2015/03/06 10:32 CST | 8 comments

Dawn's Chief Engineer, Marc Rayman, gives an update on the mission's highly anticipated arrival at Ceres.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Discovers New Rock Type, Updates Flight Software
Sols 3918 - 3945

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2015/03/05 12:16 CST

From the discovery of a new rock type to a successful flight software upload that should enable the robot field geologist to regain her long-term, flash memory, Opportunity and her team delivered what turned out to be a hugely productive and memorable 133rd month on the Red Planet.

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Mars Orbiter Mission Methane Sensor for Mars is at work

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/03/04 10:50 CST | 5 comments

After several months of near-silence, ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission has released on Facebook the first data product from its Methane Sensor For Mars. Don't get too excited about methane yet: there is no positive or negative detection. The news here is that the Methane Sensor for Mars is working, systematically gathering data. They also released several new photos of Mars.

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Pluto Science, on the Surface

Posted by Alan Stern on 2015/02/27 02:39 CST | 5 comments

New Horizons' Principal Investigator Alan Stern gives an update on the mission's progress toward Pluto.

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At last, Ceres is a geological world

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/02/25 09:42 CST | 25 comments

I've been resisting all urges to speculate on what kinds of geological features are present on Ceres, until now. Finally, Dawn has gotten close enough that the pictures it has returned show geology: bright spots, flat-floored craters, and enigmatic grooves.

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Dawn Journal: Ceres' Deepening Mysteries

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2015/02/25 02:00 CST | 15 comments

Even as we discover more about Ceres, some mysteries only deepen. Mission Director Marc Rayman gives an update on Dawn as it moves ever closer to its next target.

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

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/02/20 06:59 CST

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.

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Rosetta shifts from sedate circular orbits to swooping flybys

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/02/10 12:35 CST | 9 comments

For the period of time before and after the Philae landing, Rosetta was able to orbit the comet close enough that it was in gravitationally bound orbits, circling the comet's center of gravity. As the comet's activity increases, the spacecraft has to spend most of its time farther away, performing occasional close flybys. The first of these is at 6 kilometers, on February 14.

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A new mission for Akatsuki, and status updates for Hayabusa2 and Chang'e

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/02/09 06:32 CST | 2 comments

Brief updates on four ongoing missions: JAXA's Akatsuki and Hayabusa2, and China's Chang'e 3 and Chang'e 5 test vehicle. JAXA has articulated the new science plan for Akatsuki. Hayabusa2's ion engines have checked out successfully. The Yutu rover is still alive on the Moon, and Chang'e 5 test vehicle has successfully tested crucial rendezvous operations in lunar orbit.

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Two Days, Two Launches and Three Landings

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/02/09 04:38 CST | 4 comments

Within a two-day span, two rocket launches and three ocean landings are scheduled—one of which involves an autonomous spaceport drone ship.

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New Horizons returns first images from mission's Pluto approach phase

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/02/04 03:14 CST | 10 comments

Here they are, the first images of Pluto from the approach phase of the New Horizons mission. Science has begun; we're on the home stretch!

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Completes 11th Year of Surface Operations!
Sols 3889 - 3918

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2015/02/03 05:54 CST

On January 24th, something wonderful happened on Mars. Opportunity completed her 11th year of exploring the surface of the Red Planet! The veteran rover couldn't exactly go to Disneyland to celebrate this amazing achievement, so she did what she loves to do – roved on.

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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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