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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
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.
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 :)
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.
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 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.
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?"
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'.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Let's Change the World
Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration.