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How LightSail Holds Its Place in Space

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/02/20 04:00 CST | 3 comments

There are few systems aboard a spacecraft more important than attitude control. This infographic shows how LightSail holds its place in space.

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Why We Write to Congress
(P.S. It's Time to Write to Congress)

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2015/02/19 10:42 CST

It's time to write to Congress in support of planetary exploration. Why? Because it works.

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Our Global Volunteers: February 2015 Update

Posted by Kate Howells on 2015/02/19 04:45 CST

The Planetary Society has amazing volunteers doing outreach work around the globe. Check out what they've been up to recently!

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Mapping Europa

Posted by Björn Jónsson on 2015/02/18 01:38 CST | 2 comments

Several global maps have been made of Europa, but amateur image processor Björn Jónsson felt they could be improved—so he decided to make a new one.

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New Horizons spots Nix and Hydra circling Pluto and Charon

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/02/18 11:43 CST | 4 comments

A series of images just sent to Earth from New Horizons clearly shows Pluto's moons Nix and Hydra orbiting the Pluto-Charon binary.

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Planetary CubeSats Begin to Come of Age

Posted by Van Kane on 2015/02/17 05:41 CST | 3 comments

Van Kane rounds up some recent planetary mission concepts based on CubeSat technology.

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A Fresh Approach to Fundraising

Posted by Richard Chute on 2015/02/13 07:07 CST | 3 comments

We want you to know that we’ve been listening to you. Members have highlighted the number of fundraising appeals from The Society, and we agree that the number of requests should be streamlined.

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An active comet, from a distance

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/02/13 01:27 CST | 4 comments

Rosetta has closed to within 50 kilometers of Churyumov-Gerasimenko, on its way to a very close, 6-kilometer flyby of the comet tomorrow. To prepare for the flyby, Rosetta traveled much farther away, allowing it to snap these amazing photos of an increasingly active comet from a great distance.

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Cassini begins a year of icy moon encounters with a flyby of Rhea

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/02/12 07:39 CST | 5 comments

At last! Cassini is orbiting in Saturn's ring plane again. I do enjoy the dramatic photographs of Saturn's open ring system that Cassini can get from an inclined orbit, and we won't be getting those again for another year. But with an orbit close to the ring plane, Cassini can repeatedly encounter Saturn's icy moons, and icy moon flybys are my favorite thing about the Cassini mission.

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In Pictures: DSCOVR Headed for Deep Space

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/02/12 09:48 CST | 4 comments

On Wednesday evening, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocketed into orbit with DSCOVR, the Deep Space Climate Observatory. Here's a photo and video roundup.

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Europe's Experimental Spaceplane Completes Successful Test Flight

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/02/11 11:13 CST | 2 comments

The IXV spaceplane, designed to demonstrate reentry technologies, splashed down in the Pacific Ocean this morning after a successful, 100-minute test flight.

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Rosetta shifts from sedate circular orbits to swooping flybys

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/02/10 12:35 CST | 9 comments

For the period of time before and after the Philae landing, Rosetta was able to orbit the comet close enough that it was in gravitationally bound orbits, circling the comet's center of gravity. As the comet's activity increases, the spacecraft has to spend most of its time farther away, performing occasional close flybys. The first of these is at 6 kilometers, on February 14.

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A new mission for Akatsuki, and status updates for Hayabusa 2 and Chang'e

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/02/09 06:32 CST | 2 comments

Brief updates on four ongoing missions: JAXA's Akatsuki and Hayabusa 2, and China's Chang'e 3 and Chang'e 5 test vehicle. JAXA has articulated the new science plan for Akatsuki. Hayabusa 2's ion engines have checked out successfully. The Yutu rover is still alive on the Moon, and Chang'e 5 test vehicle has successfully tested crucial rendezvous operations in lunar orbit.

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Two Days, Two Launches and Three Landings

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/02/09 04:38 CST | 4 comments

Within a two-day span, two rocket launches and three ocean landings are scheduled—one of which involves an autonomous spaceport drone ship.

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Planet Formation and the Origin of Life

Posted by Dante Lauretta on 2015/02/09 10:47 CST | 4 comments

To understand the possible distribution of life in the Universe it is important to study planet formation and evolution. These processes are recorded in the chemistry and mineralogy of asteroids and comets, and in the geology of ancient planetary surfaces in our Solar System.

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Rising Stargirls: Girls of All Colors Learning, Exploring, and Discovering

Posted by Aomawa Shields on 2015/02/07 11:38 CST | 1 comments

Aomawa Shields discusses a workshop she designed for underrepresented girls in grades 6-8 that will teach key concepts in astronomy, highlighting what is beyond what we can see with our eyes, using nontraditional methods.

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Ceres coming into focus

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/02/06 06:36 CST | 8 comments

The Dawn mission released new images of Ceres yesterday, taken on February 4, when Dawn had approached to within 145,000 kilometers. More details are coming into view, and they're fascinating. For one thing, there's not just one white spot any more: there are several.

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FOIA Request Sheds Light on NASA Mission Extension Process

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/02/06 04:01 CST | 3 comments

A FOIA request offers insight into NASA's planetary science extended mission review process, which seems, at best, confusing, and at worst—with adjectival ratings like “Very Good/Good”—arbitrary.

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2016 Budget: Great Policy Document and Much Better Budget Plan

Posted by Van Kane on 2015/02/05 07:25 CST | 12 comments

Van Kane gives a summary of the 53-page proposed Fiscal Year 2016 NASA Planetary Science budget.

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New Horizons returns first images from mission's Pluto approach phase

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/02/04 03:14 CST | 10 comments

Here they are, the first images of Pluto from the approach phase of the New Horizons mission. Science has begun; we're on the home stretch!

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