Last month I posted a preliminary version of a slide I was working on for use in my public presentations, a slide that contains everything in the solar system bigger than 400 kilometers across, and invited comment. I've listened to all of your comments and corrections and come up with a second version.
Well, that was awesome. The NPP Earth observation satellite launched successfully an hour or so ago, and I was with a chilled but thrilled crowd of a few hundred people to watch it at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
For a few weeks over November and December, a rare launch window to Mars opens, and then slams shut agin. Mars launch windows only happen once each 26 months, so if you miss the window, you have to wait more than two years for the next one.
The Mars Climate Sounder instrument provides routine nightside observations of atmospheric temperature and opacity that document the presence of rapidly evolving water ice cloud layers in the Martian tropics during the northern summer season.
I'm (hopefully) headed to the launch of a Delta II (the last currently scheduled Delta II!) at Vandenberg Air Force Base, as one of only 20 people selected to participate out of more than 600 who registered.
JAXA's solar sail demonstration craft IKAROS is still puttering along, 17 months after it launched, and its controllers back on Earth keep coming up with new things to try with it. I'm pretty amazed by the most recent trick: reversing its spin direction. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is, especially for IKAROS.
I consider October and November to be book review season. We're well out of the mental coasting of summer and have gotten into the groove of school and work in fall, and are in the relative quiet before the insanity of the season that stretches from Thanksgiving to the New Year, when much of the Western world will be scrambling to shop for presents for friends and family.
Announcing a new service! The National Science Foundation's Science360 Radio will fulfill your science needs. Science360 Radio has over 100 shows in it's lineup, including Planetary Radio, so go take a listen. Links inside.
I know I just posted about Phobos-Grunt on Friday, but there are lots of new pictures from Baikonur Cosmodrome (Russia's main launch facility in Kazakhstan) showing Phobos-Grunt being removed from its shipping crate and tipped upright in preparation for its launch in early November.
It should give you a feeling of déjà vu: a defunct satellite's orbit is decaying, and because that orbit is circular it's going to be impossible to predict where and when along its ground track it's going to happen.
The European Space Agency (ESA) seems to have gotten tired of waiting for NASA to commit to its share of the joint 2016/2018 Mars missions that were planned to lay the groundwork for an eventual delivery of samples of Mars to Earth.