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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Mission Declared Over, Opportunity Roves Closer to Endeavour

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2011/05/31 12:00 CDT

The Mars Exploration mission suffered the loss of Spirit and shifted to one-rover operations in May, but Opportunity carried on, blasting across the plains of Meridiani to within 2 miles (3.5 kilometers) of its next major destination and discovery.

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What's up in the solar system in June 2011

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/31 08:06 CDT

Time again for my monthly look at what's going on with the robots exploring the solar system! It'll be a busy month for Cassini, with lots of cool icy moon observations.

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Dawn Journal: Vesta to choose Dawn's arrival time

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2011/05/30 12:52 CDT

Dawn remains healthy and on course as it continues to approach Vesta. Thrusting with its ion propulsion system, as it has for most of its interplanetary journey so far, the spacecraft is gradually matching its solar orbit to that of the protoplanet just ahead.

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Zapping Rocks for Science

Posted by Ryan Anderson on 2011/05/27 09:01 CDT

Laser beams and space exploration are perfect for each other, and not just because all self-respecting starship captains know their way around a blaster. It turns out that zapping rocks with a laser is not only fun, it also can tell you what they're made of!

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: NASA Ends Spirit Mission

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2011/05/26 12:00 CDT

The intensified effort to recover Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Spirit came to an end early Wednesday morning Pacific time and NASA has now transitioned the mission to a single-rover operation focused on Spirit's still-active twin, Opportunity.

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NASA Selects Next New Frontiers Mission

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2011/05/25 05:47 CDT

NASA has selected the OSIRIS-REx mission as the next New Frontiers mission. OSIRIS-REx (Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer) will be the first U.S. asteroid sample return.

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A picture of Spirit that's too poetical for words

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/25 01:25 CDT

Yesterday, I remarked that despite the declaration of her death we'll be seeing Spirit frequently over the next few years, as long as Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is still monitoring her landing site with its HiRISE camera. I said that Spirit is a lump that's relatively easy to spot because of her dark shadow. Well, Spirit's managed to make herself even easier to spot than that.

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South of the Border

Posted by Meg Schwamb on 2011/05/25 08:30 CDT

The last decade has seen an explosion in our understanding of the solar system with the discovery of the largest Kuiper belt objects (KBOs) of comparable size to Pluto.

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Sad news for Spirit: It's All Over But the Crying

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/24 03:05 CDT

Alicia Chang reported today that, according to project manager John Callas, the last attempt to uplink a command to the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit will be made tomorrow. NASA will cease listening for signals from Spirit on Tuesday.

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Tantalizing photos of Titan, Dione, Tethys, and Saturn

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/23 02:23 CDT

It figures. I just start a three-week trip, with my only computer a diminutive Netbook, and guess what's just been radioed across the 1.3 billion kilometers separating us and Saturn? A set of photos that should become -- when properly processed -- an iconic image from Cassini's fourteen-year mission to the Saturn system.

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Searching for one planet, finding another

Posted by Konstantin Batygin on 2011/05/23 07:35 CDT

Some parallels exist between Odysseus' journey and the discoveries of exoplanets. What initially started out as a well-planned trip from Troy back to Ithaca, turned into a series of rather unfortunate events, with episodes of fighting Cyclops and having your crew turned into swine.

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Titan's lack of lightning

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/19 12:27 CDT

It's a fact of life in science that not all of your hypotheses will turn out to be correct (or even verifiable at all). But there's a bias toward the publication of positive results -- the discovery of this, or the proof of that.

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This year's Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award recipient is...me!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/19 11:56 CDT

I was driving home from the Mars Science Laboratory site selection workshop yesterday when I got a thrilling call informing me that I've been awarded the 2011 Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award.

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It's opposite day at the Curiosity landing site selection meeting

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/18 01:20 CDT

I've been attending the final Mars Science Laboratory Landing Site Community Workshop meeting this week, taking copious notes for a future article in The Planetary Report, some of which I'll post here when I get a chance. But I just had to write a brief post about the totally crazy role reversal that is going on at this meeting.

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Chang'E 2 to depart for L2 on June 16

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/18 12:58 CDT

According to a story posted on xinmin.xn and run through Google Translate, there's now been an official announcement from China about Chang'e 2's extended mission: it will depart lunar orbit in mid-June and journey to L2.

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We did it -- Shuttle LIFE launches!

Posted by Bill Nye on 2011/05/16 09:39 CDT

Today at 8:56 a.m. EDT, Space Shuttle Endeavour launched on its final mission, and we are part of this historic moment!

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Bj�rn J�nsson's Voyager 1 Jupiter animation, new and improved

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/16 11:32 CDT

Late last year I posted an amazing video of Jupiter's moving clouds, an animation made from images that Voyager 1 took as it approached. Below is a new and improved version of that animation. The first one was based on 16 Voyager color photos; this one covers a much longer period of time, and includes 58 images.

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SETI@home Following Up on Kepler Discoveries

Posted by Charlene Anderson on 2011/05/13 06:15 CDT

Remember SETI@home? The ground-breaking computing project is now taking a look at candidate Earth-like planets that have been detected by NASA's Kepler space telescope.

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Galileo's still producing discoveries: A magma ocean within Io!

Posted by Jason Perry on 2011/05/13 11:44 CDT

A fresh report was published online yesterday in Science Express on the discovery of a magma ocean beneath the surface of Io. Big news! This is a paper I've been looking forward to seeing for more than year and half.

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Citizen Science projects for Planetary Science: Get Involved! Do Science!

Posted by Mike Malaska on 2011/05/12 05:13 CDT

Citizen Science projects let volunteers easily contribute to active science programs. They're useful when there is so much data it overwhelms computing algorithms (if they exist) or the scientific research team attempting to process it.

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