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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Roves Back into Record Books, Spirit is Honored

A.J.S. Rayl • June 30, 2011

Opportunity 'burned up' the Meridiani Plains in June as it raced toward its much-anticipated next destination and the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission cruised into the 90th month of what was originally to have been a 90-day tour.

What's up in the solar system in July 2011

Emily Lakdawalla • June 29, 2011

Time again for my monthly look at what's going on with the robots exploring the solar system! It'll be a month full of routine activities for our intrepid explorers performing ongoing science at Mercury, Venus, the Moon, Mars, and Saturn.

Cassini animations: Rhea and Dione and Titan

Emily Lakdawalla • June 28, 2011

I've been mucking about in the Cassini data archives (as I often do when procrastinating) and unearthed a neat, if short, mutual event sequence of two crescent moons passing by each other.

Dawn Journal: Closing in on Vesta

Marc Rayman • June 27, 2011

Vesta beckons, and Dawn responds. Now more than halfway through its approach to Vesta, Dawn continues creeping up on the destination it has been pursuing since it began its interplanetary travels.

Amateur takes on the Dawn Vesta images

Emily Lakdawalla • June 24, 2011

I am pretty sure that the Dawn team put nearly every image they've taken of Vesta so far in the animation they released yesterday, which is awesome. It hasn't taken long for the amateur image processing community to pick that animation apart into its component frames and process the heck out of the individual images to produce some very fine looking images and animations.

Vesta looks pretty battered

Emily Lakdawalla • June 23, 2011

There was a press briefing on Dawn today at NASA Headquarters, and there are new pictures! Here's what Vesta looked like as of three days ago, when Dawn was only 189,000 kilometers away.

According to Nature News, Curiosity is going to Gale

Emily Lakdawalla • June 23, 2011

Nature News is reporting that the Mars Science Laboratory mission has made its recommendation for the landing site for the next great Mars rover, and it's Gale crater.

How to Wrap a Mars Rover, redux

Emily Lakdawalla • June 21, 2011

All right, I'll admit it: JPL's video is way, way cooler than mine. Four days of packing Curiosity up for shipping, condensed into under a minute.

The most exciting citizen science project ever (to me, anyway)

Emily Lakdawalla • June 21, 2011

A guest blogger here recently rounded up the large number of participatory research projects that are collectively known as citizen science. I think these are all very cool and I encourage you to check them out but none of them has yet inspired me to spend my precious time as grunt labor on a gigantic collective project. Until now.

Cassini finally catches Helene

Emily Lakdawalla • June 20, 2011

Cassini has finally achieved gorgeous global imaging of Helene with a spectacular flyby on Saturday, in which they got Helene to pose prettily for the camera from beginning to end of the encounter. And what a wacky, wacky world Cassini has revealed Helene to be!!

Update: Phobos and Jupiter and its moons!

Emily Lakdawalla • June 20, 2011

Remember that neat picture and movie of Phobos passing by Jupiter that I posted last week? Several people asked me where Jupiter's moons were, and I just assumed that they weren't visible. I was wrong; Mars Express spotted Jupiter's moons along with the planet and Mars' moon!

Vesta, now better than Hubble!

Emily Lakdawalla • June 17, 2011

Closer and closer! Vesta is still fuzzy, but as Dawn inexorably draws closer it's beginning to come into focus. The view is now better than anything Hubble has ever returned to Earth.

Watching Phobos pass by Jupiter

Emily Lakdawalla • June 17, 2011

Here is a really cool view of Phobos in the foreground with gigantic (but very distant) Jupiter sitting in the background, a fortuitous alignment that the Mars Express High-Resolution Stereo Camera team took advantage of on June 1.

How to Wrap a Mars Rover

Emily Lakdawalla • June 17, 2011

It's not easy to wrap a ginormous rover for shipping. I was glued to the feed from the Curiosity Cam all day yesterday, as they prepared Curiosity for shipping to Kennedy Space Center. Here's a low-budget time-lapse of the rover being wrapped.

Early MESSENGER science results: Mercury is its own planet, not Moon or Earth

Emily Lakdawalla • June 16, 2011

There was a press briefing today giving some early science results from MESSENGER and it was surprisingly meaty. I'm going to focus on just one set of the results that they presented.

Chang'E 2 is on its way to Sun-Earth L2

Emily Lakdawalla • June 16, 2011

According to an article published a week ago by the Xinhua news service, Chang'E 2 departed the Moon on June 9 at 09:10 UTC. It's now headed toward a Lagrangian point in space, but not the one I thought it was headed for.

In Memory of Spirit, and Why Cuteness Matters

Melissa Rice • June 15, 2011

An analysis of "cuteness," and why it matters when talking about science.

Historic Final Flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour

Ken Kremer • June 15, 2011

After a 16 day journey of more than sixteen million miles, Space Shuttle Endeavour and her six man crew glided to a safe nighttime landing at 2:35 a.m. EDT on June 1 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. I watched from close by the shuttle landing strip as the ghostly ship flew past, preceded by shocking twin sonic booms.

URGENT: Call Appropriations Committee members to support Pu-238 production

Emily Lakdawalla • June 14, 2011

I just got the following email from the American Geophysical Union (AGU), requesting anyone whose Congressperson sits on the Appropriations Committee to place a phone call to support the production of Plutonium-238, the isotope of plutonium that powers spacecraft that cannot run on solar power.

Rosetta has entered its long sleep

Emily Lakdawalla • June 14, 2011

One big space event that I missed while I was on vacation was Rosetta's entry into hibernation. Rosetta is the biggest interplanetary spacecraft that has been launched by ESA, and it has the groundbreaking goal of entering orbit around a comet and dropping a lander onto it.

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