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What's up in solar system exploration: March 2016 edition

Emily Lakdawalla • February 29, 2016

Welcome to my monthly inventory of the 20-plus spacecraft actively exploring our solar system. Highlights of this month include the impending launch of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander, currently planned for March 14, and the resumption of regular VMC Mars images by Mars Express.

One-year ISS mission draws to a close

Jason Davis • February 25, 2016

Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko are set to return to Earth next week after their record-breaking, year-long mission aboard the International Space Station.

Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly alert: SpaceX doesn't expect to stick upcoming rocket landing

Jason Davis • February 23, 2016

SpaceX is launching the SES-9 communications satellite to geostationary transfer orbit. But the company says a successful first stage drone ship landing is "not expected."

Field Report From Mars: Sol 4284 - February 11, 2016

Larry Crumpler • February 11, 2016

Opportunity is continuing to explore the outcrops Marathon Valley, on the west rim of Endeavour crater.

Curiosity update, sols 1218-1249: Digging in the sand at Bagnold Dunes

Emily Lakdawalla • February 10, 2016

Curiosity has spent the last month sampling and processing dark sand scooped from the side of Namib Dune. The rover has now departed Namib and is preparing to cross the Bagnold dune field, while working to diagnose an anomaly with the CHIMRA sample handling mechanism.

SLS CubeSats to Set Sail for Deep Space

Jason Davis • February 10, 2016

When SLS launches Orion to the moon in 2018, a fleet of deep space CubeSats will come along for the ride, including a solar sailing spacecraft similar to LightSail.

HiRISE image coverage of the Curiosity field site on Mars, Version 3.0

Emily Lakdawalla • February 05, 2016

There have been tons and tons of HiRISE images of the Curiosity landing region, and it has taken quite a lot of work for me to find, locate, and catalogue them. This post is a summary of what I've found; after five revisions and updates, it's now version 3.0 of the list.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Turns 12! Embarks on Electric Slide

A.J.S. Rayl • February 04, 2016

On January 24th, the veteran Mars Exploration Rover (MER) wrapped the last day of her 12th year of surface operations on Mars, marking an extraordinary, historic achievement for the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) mission.

Dawn Journal: Measuring Light

Marc Rayman • February 01, 2016

Chief Engineer and Mission Director Marc Rayman explains some of the measurements the Dawn mission is taking at Ceres, most of which depend on sunlight.

Field Report From Mars: Sol 4270 - January 28, 2016

Larry Crumpler • January 29, 2016

On January 23rd, Opportunity celebrated its 12th anniversary of landing on Mars.

What's up in solar system exploration: February 2016 edition

Emily Lakdawalla • January 29, 2016

What's going on with our robotic planetary missions? In February I count more than 20 planetary spacecraft exploring six targets beyond Earth or cruising to new destinations.

NASA Stays on Course for Asteroid Redirect Target

Jason Davis • January 28, 2016

NASA still plans to pluck a boulder off the surface of asteroid 2008 EV5, return it to lunar orbit and send a crew of astronauts for a visit in about ten years.

China invites public on-board its robotic missions; and how to download Chang'e data

Quanzhi Ye • January 25, 2016

China plans a busy future in robotic space exploration. Besides the scientific merit, what interests me most about the upcoming Chang'e 4 mission is their intention to get the public involved.

How REXIS Made It on OSIRIS-REx

Dante Lauretta • January 23, 2016

The OSIRIS-REx instrument team has successfully installed the Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer (REXIS) on the spacecraft. However, there is more to the story of how REXIS made it onto the spacecraft.

SpaceX Successfully Launches Ocean Satellite but Breaks a Leg on Drone Ship

Jason Davis • January 17, 2016

The Jason-3 ocean monitoring satellite reached orbit today, but SpaceX's third attempt to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship came up short.

Updates on China's lunar missions

Emily Lakdawalla • January 14, 2016

It's official: China plans to send a lander mission to the lunar farside. A relay satellite will launch to the Earth-Moon L2 point in June of 2018, and a lander will follow at the end of 2018. The landing site may be within the south pole-Aitken basin.

Two Astronauts to Make Friday Trek to Edge of Space Station

Jason Davis • January 13, 2016

This Friday, astronauts Tim Kopra and Tim Peake will perform a spacewalk to replace a failed power regulator on one of the outermost sections of the International Space Station.

SpaceX Set for Sunday Sea Satellite Launch, Booster Recovery Attempt

Jason Davis • January 12, 2016

SpaceX is set to launch a sea level-monitoring satellite from the California coast this Sunday, while attempting to land the rocket's spent first stage on a floating drone ship in the Pacific Ocean.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Finishes Another Record Year, Approaches 12th Anniversary

A.J.S. Rayl • January 08, 2016

Perched on the southern wall of Marathon Valley at Endeavour Crater, Opportunity braved temperatures descending well below -100° F in December to work the winter science campaign and home in on the remnants of ancient clays.

Curiosity update, sols 1166-1217: First reconnaissance of Bagnold dunes

Emily Lakdawalla • January 07, 2016

In the six weeks since my last detailed Curiosity update, the rover has driven to, on, and around a couple of active barchan sand dunes on Mars. They are now searching for a site to scoop and sample sand on the western edge of Namib dune.

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