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Mars Orbiter Mission test firing successful; all ready for orbit insertion

Srinivas Laxman • September 22, 2014

There was celebration in the Mars mission control room in Bangalore on Monday following the success of the crucial four-second test firing of the Mars Orbiter Mission’s (MOM) 440-Newton liquid apogee motor. MOM will now go ahead with the nominal plan for the Mars orbit insertion on September 24 at 07:30 IST (02:00 UT / September 23 19:00 PDT).

MAVEN orbit insertion timeline

Emily Lakdawalla • September 21, 2014

Today's the day that MAVEN enters orbit at Mars, bringing the number of Mars orbiters up to four. So far everything looks good. The orbit insertion burn should begin tonight at 18:50 PDT / 01:50 UTC. I'll be on stage with Mat Kaplan and Rich Zurek at Planetary Radio Live, keeping up to date with the latest news from the spacecraft; here is a timeline in PDT, UTC, CEST, and IST to help you follow along.

Comet Siding Spring Mars encounter: One Mars Express plan becomes two

ESA Mars Express Team • September 17, 2014

The Mars Express Flight Control Team at ESOC have been actively preparing for the flyby of comet C/2013 A1/Siding Spring on October 19. Initial estimates gave the possibility that Mars Express might be hit by 2 or 3 high-speed particles. Happily, additional observations by ground and space telescopes have shown the risk to be much lower – and perhaps even as low as zero. In today's blog post, the team explain how this (happy!) real-life, real-time development is affecting their preparations for fly-by.

Mars Orbiter Mission prepares for Mars arrival

Srinivas Laxman • September 16, 2014

The countdown for the crucial and nerve-wracking Mars orbit insertion of India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) on September 24 has kicked off. At ISRO's telemetry, tracking and command network (ISTRAC) in Bangalore, the mood among the scientists is right now a mixture of optimism, excitement, and nervous apprehension.

Mars Orbiter Mission arrival timeline

Emily Lakdawalla • September 16, 2014

Mars Orbiter Mission's fated arrival day is approaching fast! Here is the timeline of orbit insertion events, converted from India Standard Time to Universal, European, and Pacific time zones, and corrected for the 12.5 minutes it will take signals to reach Earth from Mars.

A landing site for Philae, but it's not going to be easy

Emily Lakdawalla • September 15, 2014

This morning, the European Space Agency announced the selection of a landing site for little Philae on the head of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Although a primary site has been selected, landing Philae successfully is going to be tough, and the mission is now working to manage people's expectations.

Curiosity update, sols 727-747: Beginning the "Mission to Mount Sharp"

Emily Lakdawalla • September 12, 2014

A lot has happened behind the scenes on the Curiosity mission in the last few weeks. The mission received a pretty negative review from a panel convened to assess the relative quality of seven different proposed extended planetary science missions. Then, just a week later, the mission announced big news: they have arrived at Mount Sharp.

OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Passes First Major Qualification Test

Dante Lauretta • September 12, 2014

The development of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft continues to make great progress having recently completed static load testing.

So Close and Yet So Far: Why isn't Siding Spring going to sandblast Mars?

Tony Farnham • September 09, 2014

Comet Siding Spring is going to make a very close approach to Mars in October. Any comet dust that reaches Mars has the potential to inflict significant damage on the spacecraft orbiting the planet. As it turns out, however, Mars and its orbiters are likely to see very few, if any, impacts. Why?

Mars Orbiter Mission to test-fire main engine before orbit insertion

Emily Lakdawalla • September 04, 2014

According to a report in the Times of India, ISRO is deciding today whether to test-fire Mars Orbiter Mission's main engine to make sure it will work for their all-important orbit insertion maneuver on September 24. Both ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission and NASA's MAVEN are in good health and on track for their arrivals in three weeks.

Cassini's awesomeness fully funded through mission's dramatic end in 2017

Emily Lakdawalla • September 03, 2014

Last year, rumors swirled that NASA may be so pinched for dollars that the agency might end the Cassini mission early. Today, Cassini received the welcome news that it has formally been funded through the planned end of its extended-extended mission in 2017. A huge congratulations to the Cassini mission!

LightSail Radio Update: New Answers, New Questions

Jason Davis • September 03, 2014

Two weeks after radio anomalies scrubbed LightSail's day-in-the-life test, the team continues to close in on the source of the problem.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Suffers Unwanted Computer Reboots, Hunkers Down for Reformat

A.J.S. Rayl • September 03, 2014

After setting the new off-Earth rover distance record in July, Opportunity roved on in August, driving south along the eastern edge of Endeavour Crater's western rim to Wdowiak Ridge on its journey to the next big destination, Marathon Valley.

Dawn Journal: From HAMO to LAMO and Beyond

Marc Rayman • September 02, 2014

Marc Rayman updates us on the Dawn mission, its plans from high to low altitude mapping orbits at Ceres, and what the intrepid spacecraft will pursue next.

Hayabusa2 complete, ready to begin its journey to asteroid 1999 JU3

Emily Lakdawalla • August 31, 2014

The excitement is building for Hayabusa2! The spacecraft is now complete and ready to be shipped to its launch site. JAXA unveiled its next interplanetary traveler to the media in a special event on August 31.

NASA’s Big Rocket a Step Closer to Reality

Jason Davis and Casey Dreier • August 28, 2014

NASA's Space Launch System passed a critical milestone yesterday, but buried within the announcement was news that the first launch could slip by nearly a year.

Rosetta identifies five possible landing sites for Philae

Emily Lakdawalla • August 26, 2014

The Rosetta team has announced the selection of five regions on Churyumov-Gerasimenko that they will study as possible landing sites for little Philae. Now, as Rosetta surveys the comet from its second triangular "orbit" at an average distance of 60 kilometers, the mission will target these spots for extra attention.

Radio Problems Scrub LightSail's Day-in-the-Life Test

Jason Davis • August 22, 2014

A pesky radio problem that has occasionally stymied LightSail has returned, scrubbing the mission's day-in-the-life test.

Curiosity update, sols 697-726: Mars thwarts driving and drilling

Emily Lakdawalla • August 22, 2014

The Mars gremlins really had it in for Curiosity this month. A computer glitch and slippery sand conspired to delay the rover's progress toward Mount Sharp. And shifting rocks proved unsafe for drilling. The rover will continue driving toward Mount Sharp, departing Bonanza King without drilling, skirting Hidden Valley along a plateau to its north.

Philae landing site selection process under way as Rosetta closes to within 60 kilometers of the comet

Emily Lakdawalla • August 22, 2014

Rosetta spent the week transitioning to a lower orbit from which it continues to observe the comet. This weekend, the mission will select about five landing sites for more detailed study. They have also now estimated the mass of the comet.

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