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365 Days of Astronomy Podcast: What's up in the second quarter of 2011

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/07 11:16 CDT

Regular readers of this blog will find the content of today's 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast familiar, because it's an update on what the solar system exploration spacecraft are up to, based on my monthly "what's up" updates.

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Chang'E 2 update: primary mission successful

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/05 01:41 CDT

For months I've had no information about China's Chang'e 2 lunar orbiter for my monthly "What's Up" updates, and that's finally changed.

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What's up in the solar system in April 2011

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/31 03:59 CDT

April 2011 will see MESSENGER begin the science phase of its orbital mission at Mercury, and should, I think, also see the start of Dawn's approach observations of Vesta. At Mars, Opportunity is back on the road again, rolling inexorably toward Endeavour. At Saturn, Cassini will continue its focus on Saturn and Titan science.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit's Silence Haunts, Opportunity Roves on to Endeavour

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2011/03/31 12:00 CDT

The Mars Exploration Rover mission experienced a month of highs tempered by one haunting low as it neared completion of its 87th month of a three-month tour this month. While Opportunity wrapped up its work at the youngest, freshest crater the rovers have explored to date, Spirit remained silent as the point of maximum sunshine for the Martian year came and went, further dimming once high hopes that the rover would phone home and rove on as summer settled on the southern hemisphere of Mars.

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The end of Stardust

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/25 03:44 CDT

So, it's over. Stardust's last transmission to Earth was yesterday, March 24, 2011 at 23:33 UTC. Its final act was to burn up all of its last remaining fuel, a move intended to help engineers validate their guesses for how much fuel actually remained in the tanks.

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Tomorrow is Stardust's very last day

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/23 10:28 CDT

What's that in my eye? Must be a piece of stardust that's making my eyes water as I read that Stardust will be given its very last command tomorrow, a command that'll end its long life, but give its builders one more piece of valuable data in the process.

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A zoomable MastCam is not going to make it to Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/23 05:05 CDT

I hate being the bearer of bad news, but here it is. Amid all the building excitement for Curiosity -- the successes in testing, the delivery of the instruments, the fun of tuning in to Curiosity Cam to peek in on engineers doing their work in preparing the next rover for launch -- I've learned that a much-anticipated (but not required) feature is not going to make it on to the rover.

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Dawn's instruments are being roused for Vesta approach

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/21 05:00 CDT

Today the Dawn imaging team released a photo from the main camera, the Framing Camera, symbolizing that they're preparing to start Dawn approach science; the other two science instruments, a spectrometer and a neutron detector, are also being turned on and checked out.

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MESSENGER successfully entered orbit at Mercury!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/17 08:16 CDT

Just a brief post to announce that at 01:00 UTC MESSENGER completed a 15-minute burn of its main engines to enter orbit at Mercury!

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How to follow MESSENGER's orbit insertion today

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/17 02:11 CDT

The day is finally here! In only five and a half hours, at 00:45 on March 18 (according to the spacecraft's clock), MESSENGER must ignite its main engine and run though a third of its fuel in only 15 minutes in order to enter its planned orbit around Mercury.

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Stardust: Decommissioning planned for March 24

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/16 04:55 CDT

Stardust (probably) has only a week remaining in its operational lifetime, according to a status report just posted to the mission website.

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Two days from MESSENGER's Mercury arrival

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/15 03:57 CDT

Today the MESSENGER team briefed the press on the impending arrival of their spacecraft at Mercury.

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Dawn Journal: HAMO2; the destination glows bright

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2011/03/09 01:06 CST

Deep in the asteroid belt, Dawn continues thrusting with its ion propulsion system. The spacecraft is making excellent progress in reshaping its orbit around the sun to match that of its destination, the unexplored world Vesta, with arrival now less than five months away.

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Glory Lost - But Its Mission Must Go On

Posted by Charlene Anderson on 2011/03/04 01:16 CST

Another painful loss to NASA's mission to study Earth from space: Today a Taurus XL rocket failed to lift the Glory satellite into Earth orbit when its clam-shell nosecone refused to open, forcing the rocket and its payload into the southern Pacific Ocean.

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What's up in the solar system in March 2011

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/02/28 02:43 CST

I don't think there's any question what the big event of this month will be: MESSENGER is finally, finally entering orbit at Mercury on March 18 at 00:45 UTC (March 17 at 16:45 for me).

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Efforts to Recover Spirit Expand as Opportunity Wraps Up Work at Santa Maria

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2011/02/28 11:00 CST

The Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission emerged from its third solar conjunction this month and, as March roars in, is embarking on its 86th month on the Red Planet. While Opportunity roved away from a surface target it had been studying at Santa Maria Crater and on to an intriguing blue boulder, JPL engineers on Earth stepped up their efforts to recover Spirit, which has been silent, ostensibly in hibernation mode, since late March, nearly one year ago.

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Stardust update: last image taken today

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/02/24 05:50 CST

According to the Stardust website, the spacecraft has continued taking navigational camera images of Tempel 1 since last Monday's flyby. But "This will end with a Navcam calibration that will take place [today]. This will be the end of the official Tempel 1 encounter activities. Planning is under way for the decommissioning of the spacecraft."

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Rosetta Update: 98% of rendezvous burn achieved, more detail on the safing event

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/02/22 03:17 CST

ESA's Rosetta comet chaser has achieved 98% of the velocity change that it needed to accomplish in order to set itself up for the final leg of its cruise to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The original plan was to perform this velocity change in a series of five rocket burns at the end of January, but the plans were interrupted by a scary event: the spacecraft went into safe mode during the second burn, on January 18.

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All Stardust data is now on Earth

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/02/15 11:21 CST

A status update from Stardust posted this afternoon contained welcome news.

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Highlights from today's Stardust Tempel 1 press briefing

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/02/15 03:10 CST

It was a very happy science team at this afternoon's press briefing following the Stardust encounter with Tempel 1.

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