Today I am delighted to welcome India into the ranks of interplanetary travelers: Mars Orbiter Mission has successfully propelled itself onto an interplanetary trajectory, departing Earth forever and setting sail for Mars. Congratulations to India, to the Indian Space Research Organisation, to the mission's scientists and engineers, and to the people of India.
Today is the day when India's Mars Orbiter Mission will fire its rocket to depart Earth and begin its 300-day journey to Mars. The rocket burn begins on December 1 at 00:49 IST (today at 19:19 UT / 11:19 PT).
In 1971 I was being trained to work with the airbrush by the map artists at the U.S. Geological Survey's Branch of Astrogeologic Studies in Flagstaff. However, the project I ended up spending about a quarter of a man-year on was a hand-painted map globe of Mars.
After impressing us yesterday, comet ISON faded dramatically overnight, and left us with a comet with no apparent nucleus in the SOHO/LASCO C2 images. As the comet plunged through the solar atmosphere, and failed to put on a show in the SDO images, we understandably concluded that ISON had succumbed to its passage and died a fiery death. Except it didn't. Well, maybe...
Yesterday the Chinese space agency held a press briefing about the Chang'e 3 lunar lander. They announced that the rover has been named Yutu (or "Jade Rabbit," a legendary companion of the goddess Chang'e). Although it will land during the LADEE mission, it will not harm LADEE's goals -- quite the opposite, in fact.
Have kids to buy gifts for? I review some space-themed toys for kids age 1 to 12 or so: the Snap Circuits Deluxe Rover; astronaut costume accessories; the latest incarnation of Astronaut Barbie; and Lift Off Rocket Play Set. I also have a few construction toys to recommend.
On sol 3485 Opportunity pulled up next to a large outcrop here on the rim of Endeavour crater. The outcrop appears to be impact breccias like those we saw a few sols ago lower down on the ridge. But the texture of the rocks is somewhat different.
Two spacecraft launched for Mars this month: Mars Orbiter Mission on November 5, and MAVEN on November 18. MAVEN is now on an interplanetary trajectory, while Mars Orbiter Mission is still in Earth orbit and will not depart for Mars until the end of the month. A lot of people are asking me: why the difference? Here's your answer, with input from Dave Doody.
There is a paper in press at Icarus by Xiaoduan Zou and five coauthors that provides the first peer-reviewed publication I've seen on the results of the imaging experiment performed during the Chang'e 2 flyby of near-Earth asteroid (4179) Toutatis.