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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.

Comet Flyby Missions for Mars Rovers

Mark Lemmon • August 21, 2014

On October 19, the Mars rovers — like their orbiting cousins — will become comet flyby missions. Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will pass within 140,000 km of Mars.

Curiosity wheel damage: The problem and solutions

Emily Lakdawalla • August 19, 2014

Now that a Tiger Team has assessed the nature and causes of damage to Curiosity's wheels, I can finally answer your frequently-asked questions about what wheel damage means for the mission, and why it wasn't anticipated.

Field Report From Mars: Sol 3753 – August 15, 2014

Larry Crumpler • August 18, 2014

Opportunity just completed its first drives upslope on its long journey toward the crest of the highest rim segment of Endeavour crater, “Cape Tribulation.” Larry Crumpler gives us an update on what to expect next from the little rover that could.

The OCO-2 First Light Spectra

David Crisp • August 15, 2014

Dr. David Crisp explains how NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) works, and what its first light spectra tells his team about the spacecraft’s performance.

Data From the Rescued ISEE-3 Spacecraft Have a New Internet Home

Jason Davis • August 14, 2014

"A Spacecraft for All" is a new website by Google Creative Labs that will host citizen science data from the ISEE-3 Reboot Project.

Mars orbiters plan for their October encounter with comet Siding Spring

Emily Lakdawalla • August 13, 2014

Now that we have reasonable confidence that our Mars orbiters will be safe from the close passage of comet Siding Spring, we are free to be excited about the opportunity that the encounter represents. At a community workshop on August 11, representatives from Mars missions shared their plans for great comet science.

LightSail Prepares for Its Day-in-the-Life Test

Jason Davis • August 12, 2014

LightSail-A's radio system has been fixed, and the spacecraft is now preparing for its August 20 day-in-the-life test.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Sets Historic Distance Record and Roves On

A.J.S. Rayl • August 08, 2014

It's official: Opportunity has traveled farther and lived longer than any other vehicle on another planet, driving to a place in history with an out-of-this-world distinction no one even imagined when the robot field geologist left Earth 11 years ago.

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