Continuing my writeup of notes from last week's Division for Planetary Sciences meeting: presentations on the risks of future asteroid impacts. How much risk do we face, and what are the appropriate actions to take in the face of that risk?
European astronomers have made the first planetary discovery in the closest-to-Earth Alpha Centauri star system. Here is some information about the discovery, and insights from Yale Astronomer Debra Fischer, who leads another Alpha Centauri planet search partially supported by The Planetary Society.
The Planetary Society Shoemaker NEO grants celebrate their 15th anniversary of helping to find and track near Earth asteroids. Here's a quick review of the program, and updates on our four multiple-grant winners.
May 16, 2012 is the third martian anniversary of the start of Mars Climate Sounder (MCS) observations from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. MCS started measuring the atmosphere of Mars three Mars years ago, on September 24, 2006. We can now compare the weather and behavior of the atmosphere in three different years, and find the temperature differences to be surprisingly large.
Do planets circle our closest stellar neighbors, the system loved by science fiction: Alpha Centauri? We don’t know. But, Debra Fischer, Julien Spronck, and their colleagues at Yale University, in part with Planetary Society support, are trying to find out.
With the latest piece of the puzzle just published in a scientific journal, a solar system mystery that has perplexed people for more than 20 years has been solved, truly thanks to the support of Planetary Society members.
It appears that Phobos-Grunt was doomed before it launched on November 9, 2011. Cheap parts, design shortcomings, and lack of pre-flight testing ensured that the spacecraft would never fulfill its goals.
Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency, has released its official report concerning the failure of the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, which fell back to Earth from orbit on January 15 after failing to ignite the engines that were to take it to the largest Martian moon.
Phobos-Grunt has returned to Earth, a lot sooner than it should have. Yesterday, at approximately 17:45 UT, the Russian spacecraft and its passengers, including a Chinese orbiter and the Planetary Society's LIFE experiment, descended into Earth's atmosphere.
I'm not looking forward to spending the weekend sitting deathwatch on Phobos-Grunt. It's not science, and it's a sad event, so my instincts would lead me to other subjects. But it contains the Planetary Society's Phobos LIFE experiment.
We explore space for the noblest goals of science and exploration, and we often persevere in spite of challenges. But space exploration is fraught with bad things happening, or, to use the technical term, ouchies. The Planetary Society's Phobos LIFE biomodule will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere in the next few days with the rest of the Phobos-Grunt mission.