What do you know! I spend my last pre-vacation post whining about the lack of image releases from Dawn as it approaches Vesta and what do I find in my Inbox on the morning of my return to work but: an image release from Dawn!
In the middle of the night on June 1, 2011, millions of passengers returned safely to Earth as part of the great conclusion to space shuttle Endeavour's last flight, STS-134. Many of those millions of passengers were part of the Planetary Society's Shuttle LIFE experiment. Five different kinds of creatures from all three domains of life are part of Shuttle LIFE.
I am going "off the grid" for a week to attend the wedding of my only sibling to a talented and gorgeous young woman who I'm looking forward to having as a sister. It'll be a fun-filled weeklong family reunion and I just don't trust myself to participate in it to the fullest unless I leave my computer at home and vow not to even read my email.
If you had asked me last year what I was most looking forward to in space in 2011, my answer would have been unhesitating: Dawn's approach to Vesta. Never in my adult life have I been able to follow a space mission as it discovered a large new world for the first time.
Last week I got very excited about a set of pictures that had appeared on Cassini's raw images website, but was sad that I couldn't make color versions myself. I was so excited that I failed to identify the little icy moon in the picture correctly.
The Planetary Society welcomes home space shuttle Endeavour and the microscopic passengers it carried in Shuttle LIFE an experiment designed to test aspects of the transpermia hypothesis -- the ability of microbial life to survive an interplanetary voyage.
This week two cool new views of the next Mars rover appeared in the Jet Propulsion Lab's image database, the Planetary Photojournal. One was real, and one simulated; I've been waiting to see both for many months.