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The Dawn spacecraft, modeled in an unlikely medium

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/01/17 02:04 CST | 3 comments

Last week when I joined the new weekly Space Hangout (a webcast video conference call of sorts), I realized I would need a 3D model of Dawn in order to explain what's going on with the mission right now.

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Phobos-Grunt is no more

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/01/16 02:27 CST

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.

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News brief: Phobos-Grunt has fallen to ground

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/01/15 11:21 CST

The Russian military is stating that at 17:45 UT, Phobos-Grunt fell into the Pacific Ocean.

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NASA is an Investment in the Future

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/01/13 05:59 CST

The Planetary Society continues our strong political advocacy for space science and exploration. The following is an excerpt from a letter we sent to Jacob Lew of the Office of Management and Budget and the President's Chief of Staff.

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Phobos-Grunt's upcoming demise: What we know and what we don't

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/01/13 12:25 CST

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.

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Reflections on Phobos LIFE

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2012/01/13 10:35 CST

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.

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Evaporites on Titan

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/01/12 04:33 CST

Evaporites form on planetary surfaces when dissolved chemical solids precipitate out of saturated solution as their liquid solvent evaporates and, until recently, were known to exist only on Earth and Mars. This article from the IAG Planetary Geomorphology Working Group describes the third planetary instance of evaporite, discovered on Saturn's moon Titan.

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Watch today's Google+ Space Hangout

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/01/12 03:15 CST

Fraser Cain at Universe Today has organized a weekly Space Hangout that happens at 1800 UTC on Thursdays. This week's conversation focuses on news on exoplanets and dark matter coming out of the American Astronomical Society meeting happening this week in Austin, as well as a Dawn update.

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Steno's principles and planetary geology

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/01/11 12:29 CST

The Google Doodle for January 11, 2012 celebrates Nicholas Steno, one of the founding fathers of modern geology, on the occasion of his 374th birthday. This article describes Steno's set of rules that guide geologists in reading rocks to tell the story of how a place came to be and how the rules are currently used in geology.

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Happy LPSC Deadline Day, especially to composers of abstract haiku

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/01/10 06:33 CST

January 10, 2012 was a high-stress day for many in the world of planetary geology: the deadline for submission of abstracts for the 2012 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC). One creative coping mechanism for the stress of completing the LPSC abstract submission process is the tradition of capturing the essence of one's work in the seventeen syllables of the Haiku form.

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The state of Earth observation, January 2012

Posted by Jason Davis on 2012/01/09 05:54 CST

As of November 2011, the Earth Observing Handbook counts 109 active missions to study the Earth as a planet, with 112 more approved and planned for the future. Jason Davis provides an overview of key current and upcoming earth-observing missions.

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Dawn Journal: The Om of Orbit Adjustment

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2012/01/09 03:53 CST

The Dawn mission's Project System Engineer Marc Rayman reports that Dawn concluded 2011 more than 40 thousand times nearer to Vesta than it began the year. It is now at its lowest altitude of the mission, conducting a detailed exploration of the protoplanet and continuing to make new discoveries.

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Pretty picture: Saturn, a big moon, and a teeny one

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/01/09 11:23 CST

A recent view from Cassini of Saturn with its largest moon (Titan) and one of its small ringmoons, Prometheus.

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A Tale of Two Martians

Posted by Jim Bell on 2012/01/09 11:15 CST

It's the best of times for Mars exploration because we've got three orbiters and a rover studying the Red Planet. It's also the worst of times for my Russian, European, and Chinese colleagues who were part of the Phobos-Grunt mission.

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How Spacecraft Make Color Pictures
Emily's Slides From the December 2011 Planetary Radio Live

Posted by Mat Kaplan on 2012/01/02 02:07 CST

Whether you heard the show or not, you'll be fascinated by Emily's great presentation. It also proves she is not part of the great conspiracy that is hiding evidence of alien bases on the moons of Saturn!

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