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

Emily Lakdawalla • February 09, 2015

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.

Two Days, Two Launches and Three Landings

Jason Davis • February 09, 2015

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

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

Emily Lakdawalla • February 04, 2015

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!

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Completes 11th Year of Surface Operations!

A.J.S. Rayl • February 03, 2015

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.

Talking to Pluto is hard! Why it takes so long to get data back from New Horizons

Emily Lakdawalla • January 30, 2015

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?

Dawn Journal: Closing in on Ceres

Marc Rayman • January 30, 2015

Dawn's chief engineer Marc Rayman gives an update on the mission as it gets ever closer to its next target: The dwarf planet Ceres.

Field Report from Mars: Sol 3902 - January 15, 2015

Larry Crumpler • January 22, 2015

Larry Crumpler gives an update on the status of Opportunity's traverse toward Marathon Valley.

Curiosity update, sols 814-863: Pahrump Hills Walkabout, part 2

Emily Lakdawalla • January 21, 2015

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.

Tracking a Ghost Mission 238 Million Km Away

Daniel Scuka • January 10, 2015

Daniel Scuka describes the impending demise of the Venus Express spacecraft.

Dragon Reaches Orbit, but Falcon Stage Crashes on Recovery Ship

Jason Davis • January 10, 2015

SpaceX’s ambitious attempt to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on an autonomous ocean platform was "close, but no cigar."

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Closes in on 11th Anniversary and We Look Back on 2014

A.J.S. Rayl • January 07, 2015

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.

Short updates on Akatsuki and Chang'e missions

Emily Lakdawalla • January 06, 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 Set to Retry Cargo Run, Rocket Stage Landing (Updated)

Jason Davis • January 05, 2015

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.

Planetary exploration in 2015: The Year of the Dwarf Planet

Emily Lakdawalla • December 31, 2014

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.

Field Report from Mars: Sol 3875 – December 18, 2014

Larry Crumpler • December 30, 2014

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.

Dawn Journal: History of Ceres

Marc Rayman • December 29, 2014

As Dawn looks toward the new world of Ceres, Mission Director Marc Rayman looks back on Ceres' discovery.

Video: Ride along with Orion as It Plummets Back to Earth

Jason Davis • December 19, 2014

A new NASA video provides an astronaut's-eye video of the final ten minutes of Orion's test flight.

A new Chang'e 3 and Yutu image archive

Emily Lakdawalla • December 19, 2014

A treasure trove of newly released images from the Chang'e 3 program includes a photo sequence of a waxing Earth and lots of high-resolution views of rover and lander on the Moon.

NASA Delays Asteroid Redirect Mission Concept Selection until 2015

Jason Davis • December 17, 2014

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.

SpaceX to Attempt First-Ever Ocean Barge Rocket Landing

Jason Davis • December 17, 2014

Early next year, SpaceX will attempt what no agency or company has done before: land a used rocket stage on a floating ocean platform.

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