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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2015/01/22 05:10 CST
Larry Crumpler gives an update on the status of Opportunity's traverse toward Marathon Valley.
Curiosity has spent the last two months completing a second circuit of the Pahrump Hills field site, gathering APXS and MAHLI data. The work has been hampered by the loss of the ChemCam focusing laser, but the team is developing a workaround. Over the holidays, the rover downlinked many Gigabits of image data. The rover is now preparing for a drilling campaign.
SpaceX’s ambitious attempt to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on an autonomous ocean platform was "close, but no cigar."
With a wonder year of discoveries, historic feats, and bummers in the rear view mirror – and plenty of mettle to continue exploring – Opportunity ended 2014 quietly working in a temporary back-up mode, as her colleagues on Earth ramped up for the mission's marathon adventure to come in 2015.
A few recent newspaper articles provide some updates on the status of Japan's Venus mission, Akatsuki, and the service module of China's Chang'e 5 test vehicle, Xiaofei. In brief: Akatsuki still plans to attempt to enter orbit in December of this year, while Chang'e 5 T1 is headed to lunar orbit. Meanwhile, the Chang'e 3 mission has released an interesting image of M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy.
SpaceX will attempt to launch a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station and land a used Falcon 9 rocket stage on an uncrewed spaceport in the Atlantic Ocean.
Looking ahead to what we can expect from Earth's exploration of the rest of the solar system in 2015, there's an obvious theme: Dwarf planets.
Opportunity is continuing its drives along the rim of Endeavour toward Marathon Valley. Larry Crumpler tells us what to expect as the rover continues its journey.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2014/12/19 05:53 CST
A new NASA video provides an astronaut's-eye video of the final ten minutes of Orion's test flight.
NASA's efforts to capture a near-Earth asteroid and tow it back to lunar orbit will have to wait a little bit longer for a final mission concept.