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President Obama Highlights Planetary Science Triumphs
But 2016 budget cuts the program by nearly $80 million

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2015/10/19 07:12 CDT | 4 comments

At the White House Astronomy Night, President Obama highlighted some of the major triumphs of NASA and its planetary science program. Yet his 2016 budget calls for further cuts to the program.

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Zero Dollars for 2016: Two Stalwart Planetary Missions Face a Troubling Future

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2015/10/19 10:28 CDT | 7 comments

In its 2016 budget request, the White House inexplicably proposed to end two active, scientifically productive planetary missions: the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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Filling in the Enceladus map: Cassini's 20th flyby

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/16 06:19 CDT | 7 comments

A couple of days ago, Cassini flew past Enceladus for its 20th targeted encounter. Cassini has seen and photographed quite a lot of Enceladus before, but there's still new terrain for it to cover.

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The Success of European Rover Challenge

Posted by Łukasz Wilczyński on 2015/10/16 03:21 CDT

In September, the second edition of European Rover Challenge (ERC)—the biggest space and robotics event in Europe—took place in Poland. Who took home the top spot?

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LightSail and Prox-1 Start Testing and Integration Process

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/10/16 11:25 CDT

On opposite sides of the United States, teams are starting the testing process to prepare two spacecraft for a one-of-a-kind in-space rendezvous.

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NASA-sponsored SmallSats Get Dedicated Rides to Space

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/10/14 05:46 CDT

NASA-sponsored small satellites will soon have dedicated rides to space, thanks to a new, light-duty rocket program called Venture Class Launch Services, or VCLS.

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OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Assembly Nearly Complete

Posted by Dante Lauretta on 2015/10/14 03:45 CDT

The OSIRIS-REx mission continues to make great progress and is in the Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations (ATLO) phase of the program. There's been many great accomplishments leading up to this point.

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Favorite Astro Plots #2: Condensation of the solar system

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/14 01:34 CDT | 2 comments

Behold: the story of how our solar system began, in one chart. This is the second installment in a series of planetary scientists' favorite plots. Today's #FaveAstroPlot was suggested by spectroscopist Michael Bramble.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson to Receive Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science

Posted by Jennifer Vaughn on 2015/10/14 12:13 CDT | 1 comments

Famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson will accept The Planetary Society’s Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science in Pasadena, California on October 24, 2015.

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Charon in 3D

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/13 06:40 CDT | 3 comments

Last week, the pile of New Horizons LORRI camera raw image releases included nine frames from a high-resolution mosaic on Charon. Together with the color MVIC view, they make a 3D global photo of Pluto's moon. Other recently released goodies include a global backlit color image of Pluto and the first image that resolves the tiny moon Styx.

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Mars 2020 and the Adaptive Caching Assembly: An Intern’s Perspective

Posted by Jake Rosenthal on 2015/10/12 02:29 CDT | 10 comments

Jet Propulsion Laboratory summer intern Jake Rosenthal shares his thoughts on the Mars 2020 sample caching technology currently in development.

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NASA's Journey to Mars Report: A Plan to Form a Strategy for a Concept

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/10/12 05:04 CDT | 6 comments

NASA released a much-anticipated strategy document outlining the agency's next steps for getting humans to Mars, but the report lacks details. What should we make of it?

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Discovery Finalists

Posted by Van Kane on 2015/10/09 07:04 CDT | 6 comments

Van Kane rounds up the missions selected to move onto the next round in NASA's Discovery proposal process.

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Telerobotics: Unifying Human and Robotic Spaceflight

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/10/08 06:03 CDT | 2 comments

Telerobotics—with humans nearby—just might be the perfect unification of human and robotic spaceflight. Two groups at NASA and ESA are working to make this fledgling technology commonplace.

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How do you pronounce "Ryugu?"

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/07 02:06 CDT | 2 comments

With some help from astronomer Elizabeth Tasker and a group of astronomy graduate students from the University of Hokkaido, I learn how.

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Mars Orbiter Mission update: A year at Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/06 06:16 CDT | 2 comments

A couple of weeks ago, there was a flurry of rumor that ISRO was ready to announce some results from its Mars Orbiter Mission's methane sensor. The Indian space agency held a press event for the one-year-in-orbit anniversary of Mars Orbiter Mission and released a book containing mission photos, but did not unveil any new scientific results.

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Hayabusa2's target asteroid has a name!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/05 12:19 CDT | 2 comments

JAXA announced today the results of the naming contest for Hayabusa2. The target of the sample-return mission, formerly known as 1999 JU3 and still numbered 162173, is now named 162173 Ryugu.

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Finding new language for space missions that fly without humans
Unmanned? Robotic? Unpiloted? Uncrewed? Unoccupied? Unhumaned? Drone? Autonomous? Crewless?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/05 11:14 CDT | 88 comments

Historically, human spaceflight was described using the words "manned" and "unmanned," but NASA has shifted to using gender-neutral words to describe human space exploration, even though the Associated Press has not. A recent discussion on Twitter among science writers and scientists highlighted some alternatives.

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New Horizons releases new color pictures of Charon, high-resolution lookback photo of Pluto

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/02 06:05 CDT | 15 comments

Now that New Horizons is regularly sending back data, the mission is settling into a routine of releasing a set of captioned images on Thursdays, followed by raw LORRI images on Friday. The Thursday releases give us the opportunity to see lovely color data from the spacecraft's Ralph MVIC instrument. This week, the newly available color data set covered Charon.

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Thousands of Photos by Apollo Astronauts now on Flickr

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/10/02 10:49 CDT | 2 comments

A cache of more than 8,400 unedited, high-resolution photos taken by Apollo astronauts during trips to the moon is now available for viewing and download on Flickr.

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