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Mars Exploration Rovers Update:Opportunity Climbs to Greeley Haven for Winter, and We Look Back at 2011

A.J.S. Rayl • December 31, 2011

As New Year's Eve moved from time zone to time zone across planet Earth, the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) team looked to 2012 and wrapping its eighth Earth year of exploring, while up on the Red Planet Opportunity settled into the "saddle" at Greeley Haven preparing for the onslaught of its fifth Martian winter.

What is space exploration worth?

Emily Lakdawalla • December 30, 2011

Investing in NASA makes us smarter, improves our lives, and increases our capability to overcome technological challenges. Even more important, though, are the intangible benefits of pride, respect from other nations, respect for our place in the universe, and hope for a future in which we can accomplish even greater things.

What's up in the solar system in January 2012, and the rest of the year

Emily Lakdawalla • December 29, 2011

There will be no planetary launches in 2012, but there is still plenty of deep-space activity to look forward to over the coming year.

Ringing in the New Year with two new arrivals to the Moon

Emily Lakdawalla • December 28, 2011

The twin GRAIL spacecraft are nearly at the end of their three-month cruises to the Moon. Currently being discussed is an extended mission for GRAIL that would begin after the June eclipse and last through most of December 2012.

Lovely Lovejoy pictures

Emily Lakdawalla • December 27, 2011

Just a few of the amazing photos of Comet Lovejoy that have been taken from the southern hemisphere over the last few days. Comet Lovejoy is the first Kreutz sungrazer to have been discovered from the ground in 40 years, and after its surprising survival of its passage close to the Sun, it has been putting on a spectacular show in southern skies.

A recap of Comet Lovejoy

Jason Davis • December 22, 2011

A timeline of one of the most memorable solar events in recent memory: the observations by six Sun-observing spacecraft of Comet Lovejoy making its perihelion passage.

Project for Awesome Video On Behalf of the Planetary Society

Mat Kaplan • December 22, 2011

WhirledSol posted a cool Youtube tribute to the Planetary Society a year ago, and we just now found it! It has a nice explanation of why we are so passionate about space exploration.

Pretty pictures from Cassini's recent Dione flyby

Emily Lakdawalla • December 22, 2011

Cassini flew close by Dione on December 12 and, as usual, the close pass provided opportunities for lots of dramatic photos, not just of Dione, but of other moons wandering by in the background.

More radar images of icy moons from Cassini: Iapetus, Enceladus, and Rhea

Emily Lakdawalla • December 21, 2011

When I posted about the really cool Cassini SAR images of Enceladus a few weeks ago, I initially wrote that this was the first-ever SAR image of an icy moon other than Titan. Several people (some readers and two members of the Cassini science team!) corrected that statement: Cassini has performed SAR imaging of other icy moons (including Enceladus) before.

Separating fact from speculation about Kepler-20's Earth-sized planets

Emily Lakdawalla • December 20, 2011

A large team of researchers has announced in a Nature article the discovery of not one, but two, Earth-sized planets orbiting a star named Kepler-20. This article separates the observational facts from the quite-likely-to-be-true inferences from the downstream speculations.

Do you have an iPhone? Do you like the Mars rovers? Check out the awesome my3D viewer.

Emily Lakdawalla • December 19, 2011

The Hasbro my3D viewer turns your phone into an electronic View-Master, making it easy to view color images in stereo.

NASA, NOAA Spared Further Cuts for Now

Charlene Anderson • December 17, 2011

On December 16, 2011, the U.S. Senate voted down the House of Representatives bill that would have sliced an additional 1.83 percent from discretionary spending accounts, including NASA and NOAA.

NASA and NOAA Hit Again by Across-the-Board Budget Cuts

Charlene Anderson • December 16, 2011

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed appropriations bills that will provide $8.1 billion disaster aid for this year's "extreme weather events." The aid will be funded by a proposed 1.83% across-the-board cut to all FY 2012 base discretionary spending, including NASA and NOAA.

MalloMars Rover: Search for S'more Data

Emily Lakdawalla • December 16, 2011

Abigail Fraeman took third place in the Washington Post's 2011 Style Invitational edible-art contest with her entry, "MalloMars Rover: Search for S'more Data."

NASA Changes Approach to Send Astronauts Back to Orbit

Charlene Anderson • December 16, 2011

NASA had planned to release next Monday an RFP (Request for Proposals) in its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. However, due to a funding shortfall, the agency will instead continue to use Space Act Agreements to contract for the development.

Expedition 30, SpaceX and Stratolaunch

Jason Davis • December 16, 2011

An update on upcoming missions to the International Space Station (ISS).

What do we know about planetary rings? Quite a lot, actually!

Emily Lakdawalla • December 15, 2011

A summary of a new article by Matt Tiscareno about planetary ring systems that reviews the known ring systems of the four giant planets and the prospects for ring systems yet to be discovered.

Video: Comet Lovejoy entered SOHO's LASCO C3 field of view this morning!

Emily Lakdawalla • December 14, 2011

An animation of comet Lovejoy entering the field of view of one of SOHO's Sun-monitoring cameras.

Anahita's first eclipse

Emily Lakdawalla • December 13, 2011

Emily wakes up her 5-year-old daughter to experience her first lunar eclipse.

Pretty picture: Mimas scuttles behind Dione

Emily Lakdawalla • December 12, 2011

Images from the Cassini spacecraft's flyby of Dione.

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