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

Emily Lakdawalla • April 04, 2016

This month (actually, today), Cassini had a relatively close flyby of Titan, and New Horizons will observe a very distant Kuiper belt object named 1994 JR1. Akatsuki has just fine-tuned its orbit around Venus, and Hayabusa2 has begun an 800-hour ion engine thrusting phase to steer it toward near-Earth asteroid Ryugu.

LPSC 2016: Martian Geomorphology

Tanya Harrison • April 04, 2016

Scientists showcased a wide range of features and processes on Mars' surface at last week's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Soldiers through Martian March Madness

A.J.S. Rayl • April 04, 2016

As March Madness on Earth sent sports fans into their annual kinetic frenzy watching more than 60 American teams battle it out for college basketball’s grandest title, Opportunity was experiencing her own Martian brand of March Madness.

Dawn Journal: Sharper Views of Ceres

Marc Rayman • April 01, 2016

One year after taking up its new residence in the solar system, Dawn is continuing to witness extraordinary sights on dwarf planet Ceres. Mission Director Marc Rayman brings us his monthly update on Dawn's status.

In pictures: Russian cargo ship shuffle underway

Jason Davis • March 31, 2016

Russian ISS controllers are in the process of swapping out a trash-filled cargo ship for a new one bearing fresh supplies, following the successful launch of a Progress spacecraft from Kazakhstan today.

LPSC 2016: So. Much. Ceres.

Emily Lakdawalla • March 30, 2016

At last week's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, I enjoyed a large number of talks about Ceres. Now in its Low-Altitude Mapping Orbit, Dawn is showering scientists with high-resolution, color data.

Selfies, messages and names delivered for LightSail 2 flight

Jason Davis • March 29, 2016

A miniature DVD containing images of space fans and names of Planetary Society members and supporters is ready to fly in space.

Clouds and haze and dust, oh my!

Sarah Hörst • March 24, 2016

What types of aerosols do we find in the atmospheres around the Solar System, and why does what we call them—clouds vs. haze vs. dust—matter? Sarah Hörst explains.

Russia approves its 10-year space strategy

Anatoly Zak • March 23, 2016

After months of delays, the Russian government finally approved the nation’s 10-year space program worth 1.406 trillion rubles ($20.5 billion) last week.

In pictures: Beautiful night launch sends Cygnus on its way

Jason Davis • March 23, 2016

Here's a photo roundup from last night's Atlas V launch, which sent a Cygnus cargo craft on its way to the International Space Station.

Tonight's Cygnus launch kicks off three ISS cargo runs in three weeks

Jason Davis • March 22, 2016

Just days after receiving three new crew members, the ISS is about to become a veritable shipping hub, as three cargo ships launch to the orbital laboratory in as little as three weeks.

Challenges to Enabling a Richer Planetary Exploration Program

Van Kane • March 21, 2016

This past week brought to the fore two challenges for NASA’s managers as they try to enable the richest possible mix of coming planetary missions. At stake are whether the agency will be able to select two Discovery missions from the current competition, and whether there will be the possibility of a mission selected for Enceladus and/or Titan in the next decade.

Follow along: Expedition 47 crew launches to International Space Station

Jason Davis • March 18, 2016

Follow along with The Planetary Society as the crew of Expedition 47 launches to the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for 5:26 p.m. EDT (21:26 UTC); docking and hatch opening starts six hours later.

Expedition 47 preview: Astronaut Jeff Williams' career spans history of ISS

Jason Davis • March 17, 2016

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams embarks on his fourth trip to the ISS tomorrow. He launches aboard a Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur with cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka at 5:26 p.m. EDT (21:26 UTC).

Looking Forward to the 2016 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference

Emily Lakdawalla • March 16, 2016

If it's March, it's time for LPSC, the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. The 2016 LPSC runs from March 21 to 25; I'll be attending the first three days of it.

Dinosaurs & Space— and Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and Planets: These are a Few of Our Favorite Things

Bill Nye • March 15, 2016

One of my favorite times of the year is upon us: the national conference of the National Science Teacher Association (NSTA). For the last couple of—er… decades, I’ve given lectures at this conference to support science teachers and find out what’s on their minds this school year.

ExoMars launch successful! What to expect for the Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli missions

Emily Lakdawalla • March 14, 2016

The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander are safely on their way to Mars! The two lifted off at 9:31 UTC today, March 14, 2016. Orbiter and lander will arrive at Mars on October 19 at approximately 16:00 UTC. The lander is expected to last about 3 days. The orbiter will spend a year aerobraking before beginning its science mission.

Rulers in space! LightSail 2 equipped with boom fiducials

Jason Davis • March 14, 2016

How will we tell if LightSail 2's booms are fully deployed? With fiducials—visual reference guides that feature our signature Planetary Society logo.

Approaching Neptune

Emily Lakdawalla • March 11, 2016

Image processing enthusiast Ian Regan is working on a cool new version of the Voyager 2 Neptune approach movie.

First SLS flight engine test goes the distance in Mississippi

Jason Davis • March 10, 2016

A rocket engine that once blasted space shuttles into orbit was test-fired today in Mississippi, in preparation for its upcoming duty launching an astronaut crew to the moon.

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