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Examining India's new RISAT 1 Earth observation satellite

Posted by Jason Davis on 2012/05/02 12:03 CDT | 1 comment

Last week, India launched RISAT 1, a new Earth-observing satellite. How does its synthetic aperture radar compare to that of Envisat, which has fallen silent?

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What's up in the solar system in May 2012

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/05/01 10:16 CDT

Welcome to my monthly roundup of the activities of our intrepid robotic emissaries across the solar system! I count 16 spacecraft that are actively performing 13 scientific missions at Mercury, Venus, the Moon, Mars, Vesta, Saturn, and at the edge of the heliosphere. This month's highlight: Cassini's about to fly close past Enceladus and Dione.

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Cheat sheets for Vesta's craters and Dawn's Vesta timeline

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/04/19 01:38 CDT

I made myself a cheat sheet to many of Vesta's distinctive-looking craters, and also wrote down a list of the major dates in the timeline of Dawn's exploration of Vesta.

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JUICE: Europe's next mission to Jupiter?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/04/18 12:00 CDT

The Twitterverse is buzzing this morning with news that the Science Programme Committee of the European Space Agency has recommended that the next large European mission be JUICE, a mission to explore the three icy Galilean satellites and eventually to orbit Ganymede.

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SpaceX Dragon flight to ISS draws near

Posted by Jason Davis on 2012/04/16 09:45 CDT | 1 comment

SpaceX and NASA have completed a successful flight readiness review (FRR) for the Dragon's upcoming visit to the International Space Station.

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MESSENGER Mission Update: First burn performed to lower extended mission altitude

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/04/16 07:58 CDT

The MESSENGER mission just issued a press release announcing that they have completed the first step in the two-step process of lowering the spacecraft's orbit around Mercury.

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An update on Opportunity, and a plea for some volunteer desktop publishing help

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/04/03 05:00 CDT | 2 comments

A. J. S. Rayl has just posted her monthly update on the goings-on at Meridiani planum, noting that the update recaps the 99th month of the Mars Exploration Rover mission. There's a lot of detail on how the radio-tracking campaign is going. While she's not driving, Opportunity's acting like a lander, with radio antennas on Earth performing Doppler tracking to allow very fine measurement of Mars' orbital motion.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Gets Energy Boost and Works Through Depths of Winter

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2012/03/31 05:40 CDT

March came in like a lion and went out like a lamb at Meridiani Planum, Mars: Opportunity felt the cold wind on her solar panels, then "settled" in a little more, working through the depths of its fifth Martian winter, as the team honored one of its own up there, and the Mars Exploration Rover mission logged month number 99 of exploration.

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What's up in the solar system in April 2012

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/03/30 02:27 CDT

Welcome to my monthly roundup of the activities of our intrepid robotic emissaries across the solar system! I count 16 spacecraft that are actively performing 13 scientific missions at Mercury, Venus, the Moon, Mars, Vesta, Saturn, and at the edge of the heliosphere.

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Dawn Journal: Saluting the Sun

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2012/03/29 05:19 CDT

On April 18, Dawn will attain its greatest separation yet from Earth, nearly 520 million kilometers (323 million miles) or more than 3.47 astronomical units (AU). Well beyond Mars, fewer than a dozen spacecraft have ever operated so far from Earth. At this extraordinary range, Dawn will be nearly 1,400 times farther than the average distance to the Moon (and 1,300 times farther than the greatest distance attained by Apollo astronauts 42 years ago). The deep-space ship will be well over one million times farther from Earth than the International Space Station and Tiangong-1.

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What's up in the solar system in March 2012

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/03/27 02:53 CDT

This month will see GRAIL begin its science mission measuring the Moon's gravity field. MESSENGER will complete its primary mission at Mercury, celebrating its one-Earth-year-in-orbit anniversary with a big data release, and immediately begin work on its one-year extended mission. Mars will pass its solstice, ushering in warmer days for Opportunity. Coincidentally, this month will see Jupiter's southern winter solstice, too, though there are no spacecraft there to notice it. Out at Saturn, Cassini will have two encounters with Enceladus this month, one of them distant, one of them at 74 kilometers altitude.

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Venus Express star trackers recovered

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/03/09 07:18 CST

Just a quick note because I didn't want to let the weekend go by without telling people that Venus Express' star trackers are back online.

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Good news, bad news: GRAIL science underway, Venus Express suffers storm damage

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/03/08 06:54 CST

Two brief mission updates. First, the good news: NASA announced yesterday that the twin GRAIL spacecraft have begun the science phase of the mission, transmitting precisely timed signals to each other in order to map the Moon's gravity field. The bad news: according to ESA, since the recent solar storm passed Venus, both of Venus Express' star trackers are suddenly unable to detect stars.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Turns On, Tunes In, and Drops Panoramic Postcard to Earth

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2012/02/29 10:24 CST

There's no hail or snow or sleet, though it is the depth of winter at Meridiani Planum and a cold unimaginable to us has gripped the landscape.

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Dawn Journal: Bonus time at low altitude

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2012/02/29 02:43 CST

Dawn is continuing its exploits at Vesta, performing detailed studies of the colossal asteroid from its low altitude mapping orbit (LAMO).

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BepiColombo's launch date has slipped to August 2015

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/02/29 08:55 CST

ESA announced this morning that the launch of their BepiColombo mission, a cooperative effort with JAXA, has been delayed from its originally planned July 2014 to the backup launch window in August 2015.

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Phobos-Grunt Failure Report Released

Posted by Louis D. Friedman on 2012/02/06 05:24 CST

It appears that Phobos-Grunt was doomed before it launched on November 9, 2011. Cheap parts, design shortcomings, and lack of pre-flight testing ensured that the spacecraft would never fulfill its goals.

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Yay for Juno! First major course correction complete

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/02/02 03:33 CST

JPL issued a news note today that the Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft has successfully completed the first of twelve trajectory correction maneuvers it'll perform between launch last year and Jupiter arrival in 2016. Its next maneuver will take place in August of this year. Go Juno!

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What's up in the solar system in February 2012

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/01/31 01:12 CST | 1 comment

What's up in the solar system in February 2012

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Celebrates 8, Keeps on Rockin' into Year 9

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2012/01/31 10:24 CST

As Opportunity worked away on its winter science campaign, the Mars Exploration Rover mission quietly completed its eighth Earth year of exploring the surface of the Red Planet last week, and is now roving on into Year 9 of its 90-day mission.

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