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Blog Archive


Mars Orbiter Mission update: A year at Mars

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

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 | 74 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 | 14 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 | 1 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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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Rocks on Ancient Water During Walkabout

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2015/10/02 10:45 CDT | 1 comments

Opportunity continued her walkabout around Marathon Valley in September and sent home more evidence of significant water alteration and, perhaps, an ancient environment inviting enough for the emergence of life.

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Cargo Craft Completes Six-Hour Schlep to ISS

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/10/01 05:59 CDT

A Russian cargo craft laden with more than three tons of food, fuel and supplies arrived at the International Space Station today.

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Favorite Astro Plots #1: Asteroid orbital parameters

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/01 03:42 CDT | 3 comments

This is the first in a series of posts in which scientists share favorite planetary science plots. For my #FaveAstroPlot, I explain what you can see when you look at how asteroid orbit eccentricity and inclination vary with distance from the Sun.

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NASA announces five Discovery proposals selected for further study

Posted by Casey DreierEmily Lakdawalla on 2015/09/30 03:39 CDT | 20 comments

NASA announced the first-round selections for its next Discovery mission today. A total of five planetary mission concepts -- three targeted at asteroids, two at Venus -- will move to the next stage of the competition.

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The solar system at 1 kilometer per pixel: Can you identify these worlds? The answers

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/09/30 10:00 CDT | 15 comments

Last Friday I posted an image containing 18 samples of terrain, all shown at the same scale. Were you able to figure out which square was which? Here are the answers.

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Mars Week Continues: We've Released Our 'Humans Orbiting Mars' Workshop Report

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2015/09/29 04:08 CDT | 1 comments

Learn all about a sustainable, affordable path to get humans to the Red Planet—a path that goes through Mars orbit and Phobos.

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NASA's Mars Announcement: Present-day transient flows of briny water on steep slopes

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/09/28 02:26 CDT | 26 comments

NASA held a press briefing today to publicize a cool incremental result in the story of present-day liquid water on Mars. How big a deal is this story? Was all the pre-announcement hype justified? Is this just NASA discovering water on Mars for the zillionth time? What does this mean for things many space fans care about: life on Mars or future human exploration?

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Dawn Journal: 8 Years in Space

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2015/09/28 07:49 CDT | 16 comments

On the 8th anniversary of the launch of the Dawn spacecraft, Chief Engineer and Mission Director Marc Rayman gives his annual summary of Dawn’s progress on its interplanetary travels.

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The solar system at 1 kilometer per pixel: Can you identify these worlds?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/09/25 02:27 CDT | 13 comments

A look at the surfaces of 18 worlds in our solar system, all at the same scale.

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LightSail Gets Backup Burn Wire for 2016 Mission

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/09/25 04:30 CDT | 1 comments

LightSail's burn wire, the mission-critical component responsible for releasing the spacecraft's solar panels, will get a backup ahead of next year's solar sailing mission.

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Lose yourself in this high-resolution portrait of Pluto

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/09/24 04:45 CDT | 13 comments

Enlarge this image to its full 8000-pixel-square glory and lose yourself in it.

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Mega Hemorrhaging Total Lunar Eclipse Sept 27-28, 2015

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2015/09/24 08:25 CDT | 1 comments

There will be a spectacular total lunar eclipse on the night of Sept. 27-28, 2015, a newly dubbed Mega Hemorrhaging Eclipse. Here is info on what lunar eclipses are and how to observe the eclipse.

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Towards a Jupiter Weather Forecast

Posted by Leigh Fletcher on 2015/09/24 08:04 CDT

Trying to keep track of the ever-changing face of Jupiter is a pretty big challenge—its a dynamic world that can fascinate and surprise every time we turn our telescopes towards it.

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Checking in on Uranus and Neptune, September 2015 edition

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/09/22 01:28 CDT | 5 comments

There are no spacecraft at Uranus or Neptune, and there haven't been for 30 and 25 years, respectively. So we depend on Earth-based astronomers to monitor them, including Damian Peach.

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Xtronaut – A New Approach to Education and Public Outreach

Posted by Dante Lauretta on 2015/09/22 09:27 CDT

Historically, NASA missions set aside a portion of their budgets for education and public outreach, or EPO. However, the OSIRIS-REx EPO budget got deleted in 2013 as part of a broader federal policy change. Dante Lauretta decided to make a run at a private company to recover the lost OSIRIS-REx EPO program – and Xtronaut was born!

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