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Emily Lakdawalla's blogs from 2005

5...4...3...2...1...1...Happy New Year!

Emily Lakdawalla • December 31, 2005

Read that title aloud. Yes, the last minute of 2005 is actually 61 seconds long.

A debate in Meridiani Planum

Emily Lakdawalla • December 24, 2005

There was a big news splash about two articles that appeared in Nature about Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity's landing site. The articles suggest two theories for the formation of the layered sulfur-rich deposits at Meridiani Planum that do not involve standing liquid water.

A nap for Venus Express

Emily Lakdawalla • December 22, 2005

According to the latest Venus Express Status Reporton ESA's website, the Near Earth Commissioning Phase of the mission has been completed successfully, and the spacecraft is going to be napping for a few weeks as it continues to cruise toward Venus.

(Almost) everything you ever wanted to know about New Horizons and Pluto

Emily Lakdawalla • December 20, 2005

I was browsing around the Web today looking for material to improve the information we have on our site about Pluto, and discovered that the New Horizons mission has just posted their launch press kit.

Vote for Cassini!

Emily Lakdawalla • December 16, 2005

Time Magazine is running an Image of the Year contest, and at the moment, a Cassini image is in 2nd place!

MESSENGER's first big deep space maneuver was successful

Emily Lakdawalla • December 12, 2005

The Applied Physics Laboratory announced today that MESSENGER's first "Deep Space Manuever" was successful, putting the Mercury orbiter on track for an October 24, 2006 flyby of Venus.

Pretty Cassini pictures from near the ring plane

Emily Lakdawalla • December 09, 2005

It's been a while since I posted some Cassini pictures here just because they were pretty.

Analyzing the first published Huygens results

Emily Lakdawalla • December 02, 2005

I am working my way steadily through the seven Huygens papers that were released by Nature magazine Wednesday on their "Advance online publication" website.

Cassini Photographs the Fountains of Enceladus (and gets pics of Tethys, Janus, Epimetheus, and the G ring too)

Emily Lakdawalla • November 30, 2005

Emily tackles this morning's ESA press conference about Huygens.

Thruster trouble for Hayabusa

Emily Lakdawalla • November 29, 2005

Hayabusa has been riding an incredible wave of luck lately, resulting in the dramatic success of the sample grab last week. But it looks as though Hayabusa's luck may be running out.

Big News for Hayabusa: It wasn't hovering, it landed!!

Emily Lakdawalla • November 23, 2005

Remember how Hayabusa was virtually still for 30 minutes? JAXA is now saying that Hayabusa actually touched down -- and more than that, they may even have a sample.

A fun picture for holiday travel

Emily Lakdawalla • November 22, 2005

A fun NASA explainer just crossed my email inbox and I thought I'd share it.

A gap in the Hayabusa telemetry, as the Earth rotates

Emily Lakdawalla • November 19, 2005

If I understand the various sources(and my somewhat vague memory) correctly, it now appears that Earth has rotated far enough to take the Deep Space Network station at Goldstone, through which Hayabusa has been transmitting, out of line with Hayabusa.

Closer still to Itokawa

Emily Lakdawalla • November 19, 2005

Hayabusa reached an altitude of about 560 meters above Hayabusa at 17:30 UTC. And at 18:00 UTC they are at 500 meters. This is still farther above the asteroid than the asteroid is big...there is still a long way to go before Hayabusa touches down...

Getting ready for Hayabusa's touchdown

Emily Lakdawalla • November 18, 2005

In a further update on Hayabusa's status, we have been contacted by Kazuya Yoshida of the Space Robotics Laboratory at Tohuku University. Yoshida reports that the touchdown is now planned to take place "in early morning of November 20 (Sunday) JST", which would make it late Saturday evening UTC, or Saturday midday here in California.

Another Hayabusa update: small delay

Emily Lakdawalla • November 17, 2005

There has been a delay of just about a day in JAXA's plans for landing Hayabusa on Itokawa.

A couple of Hayabusa updates

Emily Lakdawalla • November 16, 2005

Tak Iyori from The Planetary Society of Japan has sent us a couple of updates on the status of Hayabusa and the mission's plans for landing on Itokawa.

Amazing Hayabusa images

Emily Lakdawalla • November 10, 2005

These photos pretty much speak for themselves. They are amazing. Hayabusa saw its own shadow on Itokawa, and took a photo of the released target marker.

An update on the Huygens Doppler Wind Experiment

Emily Lakdawalla • November 08, 2005

While I was at the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in Cambridge in September I had a chance to chat with David Atkinson, who's a member of the Doppler Wind Experiment team on Huygens. They and the other instrument teams have been plugging away at analyzing their data.

Europe Prepares to Return to Venus

Emily Lakdawalla • November 01, 2005

After a 2-week delay in its schedule, the European Space Agency's Venus Express spacecraft is back on track for launch.

Cassini Poised to Pinpoint Huygens' Landing Site At Last

Emily Lakdawalla • October 26, 2005

I've just posted a very brief update on the upcoming Titan flyby, which will be the first to include RADAR imaging across the Huygens landing site.

An evening with Dava Sobel

Emily Lakdawalla • October 24, 2005

I've just come home from Caltech, where I saw author Dava Sobel give a presentation on her latest book, The Planets.

A way-cool Cassini picture: rings, Titan, Dione, Prometheus

Emily Lakdawalla • October 19, 2005

I just noticed this picture on the Cassini raw images website. I love these "many worlds" pictures.

NOW Mars is spectacular

Emily Lakdawalla • October 19, 2005

Back in August, there was a false alarm being circulated by email that Mars was going to be super-close to Earth on August 27.

Animation from Cassini's approach to Dione

Emily Lakdawalla • October 12, 2005

The images from Cassini's Dione encounter yesterday have started coming back, and there is a really cool set of 16 pictures of Dione and Rhea.

Dione encounter today

Emily Lakdawalla • October 11, 2005

Cassini is already on its way in to a close, 500-kilometer encounter with Dione -- it's less than four hours away now, at 17:52 UTC.

Hyperion in color

Emily Lakdawalla • October 10, 2005

Here is a gorgeous color mosaic of Hyperion assembled by amateur image processor Mattias Malmer from images from the recent flyby.

A new Cassini data release to the Planetary Data System

Emily Lakdawalla • October 06, 2005

Yesterday, this quarter's release of Cassini data showed up at the Planetary Data System (PDS). The PDS is the public repository for all of NASA's data.

A piece of a new picture from Hayabusa

Emily Lakdawalla • October 04, 2005

The Hayabusa mission has proven to be a bit of a tease -- they were releasing lots of images to the public as they approached asteroid Itokawa, but once they arrived, the image releases shut down entirely. There is finally a little postage stamp of an image captured by Hayabusa at "home position," only 7 kilometers from the asteroid, compared here to a picture taken from "gate position," 20 kilometers away.

Amazing views of Hyperion

Emily Lakdawalla • October 01, 2005

I've finally worked my way through all of the Hyperion images that were returned from the last flyby. It's a wonderful data set.

Another day, another natural disaster on Earth seen from space...

Emily Lakdawalla • September 29, 2005

...but this one is much closer to home than Katrina and Rita were.

An opportunity for Spirit to see Earth and Venus together?

Emily Lakdawalla • September 26, 2005

I received the following question by email last week: "Do you know if the Mars rovers team has any plans to photograph Venus and Earth together in the evening sky from either rover site? They will be closest together around Sept. 29th."

Modest scopes could help with the Hyperion observations

Emily Lakdawalla • September 22, 2005

I got an email last night from Anne Verbiscer, whom I had contacted about rounding up some amateur astronomers to help the Cassini mission with some photometric observations of Hyperion.

An official pronouncement may be coming about the "what is a planet?" debate

Emily Lakdawalla • September 21, 2005

Since the discovery of 2003 UB313, larger than Pluto, there's been a lively debate going on in many places about what makes a planet. There's now an article in Nature talking about a proposal that would address the controversy

A debate about time

Emily Lakdawalla • September 21, 2005

I received a press release in my inbox this morning that made me think. It came from the Royal Astronomical Society, and was titled "RAS Statement on Proposed Abolition of Leap Seconds."

DPS: Updates on 2003 EL61 and 2005 FY9

Emily Lakdawalla • September 13, 2005

At a press briefing, the co-discoverers of the so-called "10th planet" 2003 UB313 gave an update on what is known about this and the other two scattered Kuiper Belt bodies that were announced at the time: 2003 EL61 and 2005 FY9.

DPS: Central transit of Earth as seen from Saturn

Emily Lakdawalla • September 13, 2005

There were a few talks at the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting dealing with a rare and fortuitous event that happened on January 13, 2005.

Some bad news for fans of Titan RADAR

Emily Lakdawalla • September 10, 2005

According to Jason Perry, the much-anticipated Titan-7 RADAR imagery across Titan's southern hemisphere may have been lost due to an error on Cassini's solid state recorder. That will be very sad if it turns out to be true.

DPS: Back to Day 3 again: finishing up asteroids & Iapetus

Emily Lakdawalla • September 09, 2005

Today is the last day of DPS, and the first that has not had a press conference session at lunchtime, so I have a few moments here to do some catching up.

An animation of Itokawa from Hayabusa

Emily Lakdawalla • September 07, 2005

This lovely animation of Itokawa represents 20 individual images taken between 18:10 on September 5 and 00:30 on September 6, from a distance of less than 700 kilometers away.

Catching up with Hayabusa

Emily Lakdawalla • August 26, 2005

Hayabusa (formerly known as MUSES-C) is getting very, very close to its target asteroid Itokawa, and should be arriving soon!

Images from the August 2, 2005 MESSENGER Flyby of Earth

Emily Lakdawalla • August 26, 2005

On August 2, 2005, MESSENGER flew by Earth at an altitude of a mere 2,347 kilometers above Mongolia.

A lack of information for a Deep Impact update

Emily Lakdawalla • August 24, 2005

I had very much hoped to be able to post an update about the Deep Impact mission this week, but it looks like my various sources are keeping very very quiet (or maybe they are just tired of me pestering them :)

A couple of pretty Cassini photos from this week

Emily Lakdawalla • August 20, 2005

First, here's a nice shot of Epimetheus, which was taken about a month ago.

A little more Hyperion

Emily Lakdawalla • August 18, 2005

Checking the Cassini raw images website, I found quite a few more images of Hyperion this morning. It looks like Cassini had a leisurely flyby of the little moon from roughly 700,000 kilometers' distance.

A launch delay for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Emily Lakdawalla • August 09, 2005

The Space Shuttle couldn't land at Kennedy Space Center today because of concerns about weather, so I have been expecting a launch delay to be announced for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Indeed, a 24-hour delay has just been announced; the new launch date is Thursday, August 11 from 7:50 to 9:35 a.m. EDT (11:50 to 13:35 UTC).

I didn't watch the Shuttle land -- but I sure noticed when it did!

Emily Lakdawalla • August 09, 2005

I didn't watch the Shuttle land -- but I sure noticed when it did!

A photo of MESSENGER

Emily Lakdawalla • August 03, 2005

I was browsing the MESSENGER website just now, and found a neat photo. It's a picture of MESSENGER as seen from Earth when it flew by yesterday.

MESSENGER is getting close

Emily Lakdawalla • August 01, 2005

MESSENGER is now returning images as it is bearing down on Earth.

Cassini tour page revised

Emily Lakdawalla • July 30, 2005

Cassini mission planner Dave Seal just gave me the latest reference trajectory for Cassini, so I've gone through and updated the flyby altitudes on the Cassini tour page.

Enceladus is alive!

Emily Lakdawalla • July 29, 2005

It's official: Enceladus has joined the rarefied community of Solar System objects that have been caught in the act of making new geology.

Duck! MESSENGER's Earth flyby is coming up

Emily Lakdawalla • July 28, 2005

The MESSENGER Mercury orbiter, which launched a year ago next week, is on target for its Earth flyby on August 2.

A Deep Impact update

Emily Lakdawalla • July 28, 2005

We haven't forgotten about Deep Impact, but there's still no word on the crater size.

Deep Impact Sets a New Course as Tempel 1 Returns to Normal

Emily Lakdawalla • July 20, 2005

With its mission at Tempel 1 over, the Deep Impact spacecraft has altered its course in order to allow a future mission at another comet.

A couple cool raw Cassini pics -- and a break in the data

Emily Lakdawalla • July 19, 2005

I monitor the Cassini website to keep my eye out for cool pictures, and it's usually relatively easy to figure out what the spacecraft is looking at (rings, moon, Saturn, whatever). Sometimes, though, the images can be very confusing.

A change of plans for Cassini: higher altitude for the "T7" Titan flyby

Emily Lakdawalla • July 15, 2005

The June 15 Cassini Project Update includes a note about a difficult decision -- they are raising the altitude of an upcoming Titan flyby, "T7," which is scheduled for September 7.

Another gorgeous Deep Impact image

Emily Lakdawalla • July 06, 2005

The team has just released a really pretty high-resolution view of Tempel 1 just 67 seconds after the impact.

Reflecting on Deep Impact

Emily Lakdawalla • July 05, 2005

So yesterday, after covering the Deep Impact press conference at JPL and recording for Planetary Radio, my husband and I drove to his parents' house for an Independence Day barbeque. When I explained the nature of the Deep Impact mission my mother-in-law exclaimed, "What! What gives you the right to go around smashing up a comet that was minding its own business?"

Rockin' to Bill Haley and his Comets

Emily Lakdawalla • July 05, 2005

There was a stage set up on the steps of the administration building, and the quad in front of it was filled with JPLers of all ages and descriptions. Rick Grammier and Don Yeomans introduced the band -- five guys, all members of the band since 1953 or earlier, still rockin' and rollin'.

News: Deep Impact Delivers the Science; Years of Work Ahead for Science Team

Emily Lakdawalla • July 04, 2005

"Our cratering experiment went very very well," reported impact scientist Peter Schultz in what may have been the understatement of the weekend. A first look at early science results from the mission suggest that while some events unfolded according to scientists' predictions, Tempel 1 provided many enticing surprises as well.

Notes from the morning-after press conference

Emily Lakdawalla • July 04, 2005

Here in Von Karman auditorium at JPL, as they get ready for the press conference, they are playing "Rock Around the Clock," by Bill Haley and His Comets. Very appropriate! The press panel is mostly familiar: Andy Danztler, Rick Grammier, Shyam Bhaskaran, Mike A'Hearn, and Pete Schultz.

Views of Tempel 1

Emily Lakdawalla • July 04, 2005

It looks like the European Space Agency was busy overnight -- lots of great Earth- and space- based images of the impact have been appearing on various websites.

Deep Impact Comet Crash Produces Great Big Comet Flash

Emily Lakdawalla • July 04, 2005

The Deep Impact mission seems to have produced an impact crash beyond the expectations, but not the hopes, of the science team.

Deep Impact live blog

Emily Lakdawalla • July 04, 2005

Live blog from the press room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as Deep Impact's Impactor meets its fate at the comet....

A couple of notes on the Deep Impact images

Emily Lakdawalla • July 03, 2005

After the press conference I asked Mike A'Hearn a couple of questions about the raw images we're seeing online.

Quotes from Deep Impact "Pre-Impact Update" press conference at JPL

Emily Lakdawalla • July 03, 2005

The panel consists of: Andy Danztler, Solar System Division Director at NASA HQ; Rick Grammier, Deep Impact Project Manager, JPL; Jennifer Rocca, Deep Impact Systems Engineer, JPL; and Mike A'Hearn, Principal Investigator, University of Maryland.

The Deep Impactor is safely on its way!

Emily Lakdawalla • July 03, 2005

I woke this morning to find a press release in my Inbox that said: "One hundred and seventy-one days into its 172-day journey to comet Tempel 1, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft successfully released its impactor at 11:07 p.m. Saturday, Pacific Daylight Time," or 06:07 UTC.

Deep Impact On Course for Comet Crash; Mission Is Already Producing Science Returns

Emily Lakdawalla • July 01, 2005

NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft is set for its date with Comet Tempel 1. "We are going to hit a bullet with another bullet while watching from a third bullet," said Charles Elachi, the head of JPL.

Cassini-Huygens anniversary

Emily Lakdawalla • July 01, 2005

In the midst of all this hoopla about Deep Impact, I haven't been able to give the proper attention to Cassini, which began its second year of operations at Saturn today.

The Mystery of Cosmos 1

Emily Lakdawalla • July 01, 2005

I know I've probably disappointed a few people by not having had anything much to say about Cosmos 1 for a while. It's because, well, we haven't had anything much to say.

Deep Impact encounter minus 3 days

Emily Lakdawalla • July 01, 2005

OK, I'm in...I arrived at an unusually empty Jet Propulsion Laboratory this morning in advance of the first Deep Impact encounter press conference.

Changes to the Deep Impact encounter timeline

Emily Lakdawalla • June 30, 2005

A reader has pointed out that JPL has changed their online press kit for Deep Impact, which was my primary source material for the encounter timeline.

News: All of Earth's Eyes Are on Tempel 1 as Deep Impact Zeroes In on Comet...

Emily Lakdawalla • June 29, 2005

With four days remaining until Deep Impact crashes into comet Tempel 1, the comet is looming larger and larger in the public view.

"Mars Spectacular!"

Emily Lakdawalla • June 28, 2005

Apparently there is a bogus email circulating around the Web with the following text: "The Red Planet is about to be spectacular!" But Mars is not about to appear "as large as the full Moon."

News: Dark Spot Near the South Pole: A Candidate Lake on Titan?

Emily Lakdawalla • June 28, 2005

The Cassini imaging team has released an image containing a feature unlike any other that they have seen on Titan. The very dark color, curvaceous outline, and sharp edge of the feature have led them to the conclusion that it could well be the long-theorized but never-before-seen body of liquid hydrocarbons on the surface of Titan.

Heads up: the Deep Impact encounter is coming up!

Emily Lakdawalla • June 28, 2005

Less than a week remains before the Deep Impact mission is set to meet its fate at Tempel 1. A mission like this has been a dream for planetary scientists for a long time.

A couple of pics from Cassini at periapsis

Emily Lakdawalla • June 27, 2005

Cassini's been in orbit around Saturn for almost exactly a year now, and the mission seems pretty much to have dropped off of the public radar screen. But there's still three years to go on the primary mission, and lots left to do, and I for one am not at all bored.

"We have a live spacecraft..."

Emily Lakdawalla • June 21, 2005

...we think.

The buzz begins!

Emily Lakdawalla • June 15, 2005

Yesterday, we sent out an invitation to print, TV, and Web media for the launch event we'll be holding at our Pasadena headquarters on Tuesday. So today, the buzz really began about our mission, and the phones are beginning to ring off the hook.

Cosmos 1: Another rehearsal...

Emily Lakdawalla • June 15, 2005

Rehearsals don't always go so well, which is the whole point of rehearsals. That was true both for us and for the Russians today, in separate simulations of mission operations.

"Our works with the spacecraft are finished successfully."

Emily Lakdawalla • June 10, 2005

Here at Cosmos 1 Project Operations Pasadena -- or POP -- we are scrambling to get our mission operations plans and procedures ready for our launch, just 11 days from now.

MESSENGER Snaps Earth-Moon Image in Approach to First Flyby

Emily Lakdawalla • June 02, 2005

As MESSENGER began its approach for its August 2 flyby of Earth, its cameras have snapped their first images. The images clearly show a cloudy Earth—and, to scientists' surprise, the Moon as well.

New Mosaics of Huygens' Titan Images

Emily Lakdawalla • May 05, 2005

Although the two spacecraft traveled a billion kilometers together to study Titan, Cassini and Huygens are two very different types of missions.

Cassini's Radio Ear on Huygens

Emily Lakdawalla • February 14, 2005

Scientists have released a new sound from Huygens, representing the radio signal that Cassini detected from the little probe as it descended to Titan's surface.

News: Radio Astronomers Rescue Science Results for Huygens' Doppler Wind Experiment

Emily Lakdawalla • February 09, 2005

Earth's radio astronomers have saved the day for one of the Huygens instrument teams. Today, the Doppler Wind Experiment (DWE) team announced their first science results, despite losing nearly all of their expected data.

3-D Views of Titan's Surface from Huygens

Emily Lakdawalla • February 08, 2005

It's been close to a month since Huygens descended to the surface of Titan. Many visitors to this website have expressed impatience with the pace of the release of images from the Huygens cameras, a feeling that is no doubt shared by space enthusiasts around the world who are eager to see refined views of the alien surface of Titan.

They Were the First, and the Last, to Hear from Huygens

Emily Lakdawalla • February 07, 2005

On January 14, 2005, the eyes of the world were on the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, where Huygens mission operators were anxiously awaiting news from Huygens. Would the little probe -- a mission built in seventeen countries, more than twenty years in the making -- be a success, or would it prove a repeat of the heartbreaking silence of Beagle 2?

Huygens' Descending View of Titan

Emily Lakdawalla • January 17, 2005

Scientists from the Huygens Descent Imager Spectral Radiometer (DISR) team have released their first mosaic of images captured during Huygens' descent. The mosaic is composed of 30 images captured by the Medium Resolution Imager of Huygens' Descent Imager Spectral Radiometer while the probe was spinning and descending toward Titan.

Raw Images from Huygens

Emily Lakdawalla • January 16, 2005

In the 48 hours since Huygens' data first began streaming back to Earth, a few processed images of the channeled landscape and bouldery landing site have been released to the public. Now, the Descent Imager Spectral Radiometer team at the University of Arizona has put all of Huygens' images online for the public to view.

New Images from the Huygens Probe: Shorelines and Channels, But an Apparently Dry Surface

Emily Lakdawalla • January 15, 2005

This image brought applause from everyone at the European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany.

Huygens blog: "It's impossible to resist the speculation."

Emily Lakdawalla • January 15, 2005

After a mere twelve hours of work, all six of the science teams on Huygens were able to report results this morning. You could easily tell the difference between the administrators and the scientists on this morning's press panel: the administrators looked bright, fresh, and well-rested, while the scientists looked decidedly weary.

Huygens landing day live blog

Emily Lakdawalla • January 14, 2005

A frequently updated blog with the tumultuous events of Huygens' landing on Titan.

Huygens blog: "This is probably not the best day to speculate."

Emily Lakdawalla • January 13, 2005

Anticipation here at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) is rising to a fever pitch. The full complement of more than a hundred scientists are here from all over Europe and the U.S.; they are running around, greeting each other, getting ready for the long-awaited data.

Huygens blog: It's going to be great!

Emily Lakdawalla • January 12, 2005

In two days, it'll all be over; for better or worse, Huygens will have hit the ground on Titan, and back on Earth we'll be waiting to see whether the data will be returned. Today, I arrived at ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.

astronaut on Phobos
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