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What's up in planetary missions in 2014

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/12/31 01:15 CST | 4 comments

With the New Year upon us, what can we look forward to in 2014? For me, the main event of 2014 is that ESA's Rosetta mission finally -- finally! -- catches up to the comet it has been chasing for a decade. We will lose LADEE, gain two Mars orbiters, and launch Hayabusa 2. The year begins with an amazing 24 spacecraft exploring or cruising toward various planetary destinations.

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2013: An OSIRIS-REx Retrospective

Posted by Dante Lauretta on 2013/12/31 12:53 CST

2013 is drawing to a close, providing a nice opportunity to reflect on the outgoing year and look back at some of the highlights that we have experienced. Here are my top-20 OSIRIS-REx moments of this past year.

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Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spies Chang'e 3 and Yutu

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/12/30 04:36 CST | 4 comments

As promised, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's sharp eyes spotted the Chang'e 3 lander and Yutu rover on the lunar surface on December 25. The hardware shows up as a few bright pixels throwing long, dark shadows, clearly visible in a before-and-after comparison.

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The Mercury Transit You Probably Missed

Posted by Karl Battams on 2013/12/30 10:29 CST | 2 comments

Planetary transits of the Sun by Mercury and Venus don't come along very often, and when they do we make a big deal of it because, well, it's really cool!

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Snow balls in space

Posted by Mike Brown on 2013/12/29 02:45 CST | 4 comments

I don’t get much snow in southern California, but I do spend a lot of my time thinking about college snowball experiences and about the snowball fights that have made the objects of the outer solar system.

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NASA’s New Planetary Mission Woes
Budget cuts slow down the rate of new missions

Posted by Van Kane on 2013/12/27 04:49 CST | 2 comments

NASA’s planetary science program depends on regular missions to solar system bodies to gather data. A combination of budget cuts and previous commitments to develop missions currently in the pipeline means that development of follow on missions may slow to a crawl. Van Kane looks at the current situation and NASA’s plans and then look at options the agency may consider if budgets remain tight into the next decade.

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Hangout on Air Friday, December 27 14:00 UT: Student Astronaut 10th Reunion

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/12/27 08:00 CST

When Spirit and Opportunity landed in 2004, I was with the science team in charge of a group of high-school students called the Red Rover Goes to Mars Student Astronauts. We're coming up on the 10th anniversary of the landings -- what have those "kids" grown up into?

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Asteroid Minerva finds its magical weapons in the sky

Posted by Franck Marchis on 2013/12/26 11:48 CST

The International Astronomical Union has chosen the names Aegis and Gorgoneion for the two moons of the asteroid (93) Minerva. We decided to crowd-source the names, catching the attention of the public. Over the following year, I received a lot of emails with suggestions

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Cosmos with Cosmos Episode 9: The Lives of the Stars
In which we are star stuff

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2013/12/24 03:11 CST | 3 comments

This episode highlights the other big idea in Cosmos: that we are profoundly connected with the universe around us. Our constituent parts are forged in the bellies of massive stars; we exist through their deaths.

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Planetary Radio: Ten Years A Roving: The Mars Exploration Rovers

Posted by Mat Kaplan on 2013/12/24 09:18 CST

This week's show looks back over ten years of exploration by Spirit and Opportunity. Writer A.J.S. Rayl recounts the challenges encountered early in the mission, and how an outstanding team triumphed.

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Chang'e 3 update with lots of pictures: Yutu begins lunar journey

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/12/23 02:54 CST | 9 comments

There was a lot of action on Chang'e 3 over the weekend! I have lots of pictures to share, including the highest-quality one I've seen of the rover on the surface, plus video of the rover making tracks on the Moon and a 3D view of the lander.

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Book reviews: On habitable environments, and the rovers that explore them

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/12/21 09:25 CST | 2 comments

I've got some books to recommend on astrobiology, planet Earth and its living creatures, impact cratering, and Mars rovers.

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Habitability, Taphonomy, and Curiosity's Hunt for Organic Carbon

Posted by John Grotzinger on 2013/12/21 08:47 CST | 4 comments

Lots of people ask questions about how the Curiosity mission, and future missions, will forge ahead to begin with looking for evidence of past life on Mars. There is nothing simple or straightforward about looking for life.

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Chang'e 3 and LADEE updates: Yutu active again, LADEE didn't detect landing

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/12/20 06:09 CST | 3 comments

Chinese state television broadcast a display of a Chang'e 3 lander image; the Yutu rover is awake; and LADEE reports a surprising non-detection of the Chang'e 3 landing.

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NASA re-creates the Apollo 8 Earthrise using Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter data

Posted by Andrew Chaikin on 2013/12/20 02:20 CST | 1 comment

If there's one thing I've learned after decades of studying the first human voyages to another world, it's that there is always more to discover about Apollo. Case in point: The Apollo 8 Earthrise photo that became one of the iconic images of the 20th century.

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Book Review: Alien Seas, and so much more

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/12/19 02:42 CST

Alien Seas is ostensibly a book about "oceans in space," but it delivers so much more. The slender volume contains essays by many active planetary scientists who also happen to be excellent writers, each one of them playing a different riff on the idea of oceans in different environments in the solar system.

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Curiosity update, sols 465-487: Wheel inspection, software upgrade, Cumberland dump

Posted by Ken Herkenhoff on 2013/12/19 01:39 CST

Curiosity activities over sols 465 to 487 included monitoring the condition of the wheels; a flight software upgrade; and dumping the Cumberland drill sample. Curiosity put approximately 200 meters on the odometer during this period.

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This Week's Planetary Radio: Reporting Big News from AGU

Posted by Mat Kaplan on 2013/12/18 11:43 CST

Major revelations about our solar system at last week's AGU conference came from near and far. Emily Lakdawalla and Casey Dreier share a few, while Bill Nye salutes China's Chang'e 3 lunar lander and rover.

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An Updated Mars Exploration Family Portrait

Posted by Jason Davis on 2013/12/18 11:16 CST | 6 comments

The Mars Exploration Family Portrait shows every dedicated spacecraft mission to Mars, and now includes India's Mars Orbiter Mission and NASA's MAVEN.

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Chang'e 3 update: 6 instruments active, new fan-produced landing video

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/12/17 10:51 CST | 28 comments

Today there was a lengthy press briefing by several members of the Chang'e 3 science team. A complete transcript was posted in Chinese. I have run it through two machine translators and found it to be quite informative, not just about the mission but also about attitudes about Chinese space exploration and foreign cooperation. I also have a cool fan-produced video to share.

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