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What's Up in the Solar System in September 2012

Emily Lakdawalla • August 31, 2012

It's an active time in interplanetary exploration! Curiosity has begun roving Mars, and Opportunity's not wasting any time either. Dawn has just departed Vesta and begun the more than two-year cruise to Ceres. Juno is in the middle of a big deep-space maneuver, setting up next year's Earth flyby.

HiRISE's best view of Curiosity yet

Emily Lakdawalla • August 31, 2012

HiRISE's best opportunity to view Curiosity so far came 12 days after landing, when the orbiter passed nearly directly overhead. The photo resolves amazing detail on the huge rover.

FAA smooths path to commercial spaceflight

Andrew Rush • August 31, 2012

The FAA will allow operators of Class III amateur rockets to apply for launch licenses, smoothing the path for commercial spaceflight providers.

Optical SETI Gets a Major Upgrade

Bruce Betts • August 30, 2012

The Planetary Society Optical SETI Telescope in Harvard, Massachusetts just got a major upgrade of its electronics.

An unheralded anniversary

Emily Lakdawalla • August 28, 2012

Yesterday, August 27th, 2012, was, in a sense, the 50th anniversary of interplanetary travel. Fifty years ago yesterday, Mariner 2 launched toward Venus, and became the first object to leave Earth and travel to another world.

A True Pioneer of the Science and Art of Flight

John M. Logsdon • August 27, 2012

Although Neil Armstrong may have passed away, his name will be part of human history forever.

NITARP seeks educators for NASA astronomy research

Luisa Rebull • August 27, 2012

NITARP seeks educators interested in teaming up with NASA astronomers to perform genuine astronomical research.

Neil Armstrong changed the world

Bill Nye • August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong changed the world. He was an excellent engineer and an outstanding pilot. He got the assignment to land a completely novel rocket machine on the Earth’s Moon, because he was the perfect man for the job: He could really fly; he had excellent judgment about the capabilities of his ship; and above all, he had a remarkable ability to keep his wits about him in extraordinarily dangerous situations.

Chang'e 2: The Full Story

Bill Gray • August 25, 2012

An update on China's second lunar orbiter, Chang'e 2, which is now heading for asteroid Toutatis.

Manned Missions to Mars Aren't Just Sci-Fi

Louis D. Friedman • August 24, 2012

Space exploration is not just valuable to scientists; it is also popular with the public who pays taxes. And why not? The exploration of Mars is not only a search for signs of alien life. It is an exploration of the human future.

Explaining the new black-and-white Mastcam and MARDI raw images

Emily Lakdawalla • August 24, 2012

If you've been obsessively checking the Curiosity raw images websites for new pictures from Mars, you might have noticed something weird: a bunch of Mastcam images and a few from MARDI that are black-and-white instead of color, and which have a peculiar checkerboard pattern.

RBSP to explore decades-old radiation belt mysteries

Jason Davis • August 24, 2012

NASA's Radiation Belt Storm Probes will shed new light on the Van Allen Radiation Belts, a dangerous region of space in our planet's backyard.

The definitive version of Curiosity's first color panorama

Emily Lakdawalla • August 23, 2012

The top of the mountain has finally been filled in, and Damien Bouic has produced what I think is the definitive version of Curiosity's first color panorama.

Lockheed Martin Launches Innovate the Future Challenge

Karl Sanchack • August 23, 2012

The aerospace giant wants your great ideas that may help create a better future. Winners will receive cash prizes totaling up to $50,000, but you must submit your concept by September 30! Here are more details from the company's Acting Director of Innovation.

Sampling Mars, Part 4: Commissioning the Rover and Sampling System

Daniel Limonadi • August 22, 2012

Completing a multi-part guest blog series by Curiosity systems engineering team lead for the Surface Sampling and Science system. Part 4 explains the lengthy process of testing and using the system for the first time.

New spots on Uranus

Emily Lakdawalla • August 22, 2012

New Hubble photos show that Uranus has both dark and bright spots!

Curiosity's landing site named for Ray Bradbury

Jim Bell • August 22, 2012

Ray Bradbury explored Mars, and the future of humanity, through words and ideas--vehicles of the imagination. He was a visionary author and, through his writings and lectures, was a direct or indirect mentor to so many of us involved with designing, building, and operating the actual space vehicles of today. I think it is so fitting, then, that the MSL team has memorialized Ray's contributions to the exploration of the planets -- and especially Mars -- by naming Curiosity's landing site in his honor.

Saturn's still there

Emily Lakdawalla • August 22, 2012

A pretty picture of Cassini's current view of Saturn.

August 22, 2012 officially proclaimed "Space Day" in California

Emily Lakdawalla • August 21, 2012

Governor Brown has declared August 22, 2012 "Space Day." I'm not sure what it means, but I love the repeated use of the word "whereas."

Sampling Mars, Part 3: Key Challenges in Drilling for Samples

Daniel Limonadi • August 21, 2012

Continuing a multi-part guest blog series by Curiosity systems engineering team lead for the Surface Sampling and Science system. Part 3 explains why drilling is hard, and what the team is doing to prevent things from going wrong.

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