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Emily Lakdawalla's blogs from 2006

Mountain range on Titan

Emily Lakdawalla • December 26, 2006

A couple of weeks ago there were press releases coming out of the American Geophysical Union meeting about the discovery of a "massive mountain range" on Titan.

CIRS gets another view of Enceladus' south polar hot spot

Emily Lakdawalla • December 22, 2006

There's a new image product released from the Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) on Cassini, an instrument that is capable of measuring the temperatures on the extremely cold surfaces of Saturn's moons and rings.

Saturn from above

Emily Lakdawalla • December 19, 2006

Ever since I first read about the plans for Cassini's tour of the Saturn system I've been looking forward to the current phase of the mission.

Breaking a tie on the Cassini science teams

Emily Lakdawalla • December 15, 2006

This week's Cassini Project Update was particularly interesting, because it contained a story about how a difficult decision was made regarding the prioritizing of different science teams' desires for an upcoming Titan flyby.

Cassini VIMS and RADAR: a cryovolcano on Titan?

Emily Lakdawalla • December 13, 2006

Yesterday, the VIMS team released several images from Cassini's "T20" flyby of Titan, which took place on October 20.

Mars Odyssey is in safe mode

Emily Lakdawalla • December 07, 2006

According to an update posted on the Athena website by Steve Squyres this morning, the Mars Odyssey orbiter has gone in to safe mode.

New Horizons spots Pluto!

Emily Lakdawalla • November 29, 2006

Yesterday the New Horizons team released a flicker animation showing the spacecraft's first sight of Pluto, using the LORRI long-range imaging instrument.

New names for Enceladus' features

Emily Lakdawalla • November 15, 2006

The IAU has just approved new names for 35 craters, dorsa, fossae, and sulci on the surface of Enceladus, based upon Cassini's high-resolution mapping of the little moon. What are dorsa, fossae, and sulci, you might ask?

Still no word from Mars Global Surveyor

Emily Lakdawalla • November 14, 2006

It's now been nine days since Mars Global Surveyor was last heard from.

A few words from John Spencer on the OPAG meeting

Emily Lakdawalla • November 10, 2006

John Spencer, erstwhile guest blogger (see here and here), just sent me a few notes on the recent Outer Planets Assessment Group meeting.

New Horizons is locked on target for its Jupiter encounter

Emily Lakdawalla • November 02, 2006

Alan Stern just posted a detailed update on the status of New Horizons in his PI's Perspective blog on the mission website.

Last two days to send your photo in to the New Horizons Digital Time Capsule!

Emily Lakdawalla • October 30, 2006

Time's almost up to submit a photo to the New Horizons Digital Time Capsule!

MESSENGER's Venus flyby successful

Emily Lakdawalla • October 24, 2006

A press release just hit my mailbox stating that MESSENGER has been heard from since its Venus flyby, so there are now only four flybys to go before MESSENGER will be in orbit at Mercury!

MESSENGER is approaching its first Venus flyby

Emily Lakdawalla • October 23, 2006

There is a big event taking place tomorrow: the MESSENGER spacecraft flies by Venus for the first time.

Cassini's view from the backside of Saturn

Emily Lakdawalla • July 27, 2006

Over time, Cassini's orbit apoapsis—the point on the orbit that is farthest from Saturn—has been shifting slowly toward Saturn's night side. Lately, this point of view has resulted in some truly lovely photos of the planet.

They released the entire Cassini RADAR swath across Xanadu!

Emily Lakdawalla • July 20, 2006

Following immediately on the heels of the release of the "T7" swath to the Planetary Data System, the Cassini RADAR team has delivered more: yesterday they released the entire "T13" swath, acquired in April, to the public.

Cassini's T7 RADAR view of southern Titan; northern swath coming soon

Emily Lakdawalla • July 17, 2006

Cassini's T7 flyby of Titan occurred on September 7, 2005. They've now released the full swath of RADAR image data to the Planetary Data System; here it is for your enjoyment.

More time, and a great prize, for the New Horizons Digital Time Capsule

Emily Lakdawalla • July 12, 2006

We just issued a press release announcing that the deadline has been extended to enter photos into the New Horizons Digital Time Capsule.

MESSENGER has flipped for the last time

Emily Lakdawalla • June 21, 2006

I just received a MESSENGER mission news update stating that the MESSENGER spacecraft, en route to Mercury via two Venus flybys, has passed another milestone on its long journey: it has, for the last time, passed from Earth's environs toward the inner solar system.

New Horizons tracks an asteroid

Emily Lakdawalla • June 15, 2006

New Horizons is spending the summer traversing the asteroid belt. I haven't written a lot about New Horizons lately because the mission has been going so uneventfully well. But now I've got something to write about: data!!

The official publication on the second Titan RADAR swath is out

Emily Lakdawalla • June 07, 2006

Today Nature published an article titled "Titan Radar Mapper observations from Cassini's T3 fly-by."

An Odyssey THEMIS image of Gale Crater, Mars

Emily Lakdawalla • May 26, 2006

This week's releases from the Mars Odyssey THEMIS team included a gorgeous one of the layered interior of Gale crater.

A couple of neat artist's conceptions of ExoMars

Emily Lakdawalla • May 26, 2006

With the Aurora program under way, the next European mission to Mars will be a rover named ExoMars, to be launched in 2011.

Europe goes ahead with Aurora

Emily Lakdawalla • May 24, 2006

This item is a little bit old -- I missed it when it was announced last Monday. ESA issued a press release stating that "European ministers approve the Aurora Exploration Programme and give green light for the ExoMars mission."

Cassini RADAR: Another Flyby, Another Completely Different View of Titan

Emily Lakdawalla • May 23, 2006

OK, I finally got a story written about the latest and greatest of the Cassini RADAR data based upon a conversation I had with with Ralph Lorenz late last week.

Cassini RADAR images of the surface of Titan

Emily Lakdawalla • May 19, 2006

Since the last Titan flyby on April 30, the Cassini RADAR team has been releasing quite a large number of pieces of the swath to the Web.

A play-by-play of the Cassini scare on Mayday

Emily Lakdawalla • May 10, 2006

Last week's Cassini Significant Events Report included a detailed play-by-play of the frightening morning of Mayday. I thought it was a very interesting read on how a mission deals with an "anomaly."

OPAG, Day 2: Ground-based study of the small bodies in the outer solar system

Emily Lakdawalla • May 07, 2006

After the political discussions of the morning, Mike Brown stood up to give the "highly subjective view of one ground-based astronomer," he said.

OPAG, Day 2: Update from the NASA Advisory Committee meetings this week

Emily Lakdawalla • May 07, 2006

During the first day of OPAG, the chair of the group, Fran Bagenal, was not present because she was participating in some rather important discussions taking place in Maryland.

OPAG, Day 1: Status of radioisotope power and communications support for future missions

Emily Lakdawalla • May 06, 2006

Following the mission- and science-focused presentations of the morning, there came two rather alarming presentations.

OPAG, Day 1: Uranus equinox is coming up

Emily Lakdawalla • May 06, 2006

Heidi Hammel gave a brief but spirited presentation designed to wake up the audience to the fact that Uranus is fast approaching its equinox, an event that will happen on December 7, 2007.

OPAG, Day 1: Hot-air ballooning on Titan

Emily Lakdawalla • May 06, 2006

The next presentation at OPAG was given by Ralph Lorenz and Tom Spilker on a Titan Montgolfiere Mission Study. What's a Montgolfiere, you ask?

OPAG, Day 1: Getting to Europa

Emily Lakdawalla • May 05, 2006

Next up at the Outer Planets Assessment Group meeting was an overview of the plans for future Europa missions.

OPAG, Day 1: Cassini and Juno status

Emily Lakdawalla • May 05, 2006

The Outer Planets Assessment Group opened with the status of two of the three actual outer planets missions, Cassini and Juno.

OPAG: Looking back

Emily Lakdawalla • May 05, 2006

The two-day meeting of the Outer Planets Assessment Group is over and I have 30-odd pages of notes to wrestle with.

OPAG: A brief update

Emily Lakdawalla • May 04, 2006

It's already 9:00 and I've hardly begun assimilating my 16 pages of notes, so I am going to have to just post a short summary with some highlights from today's meeting of the Outer Planets Assessment Group, or OPAG.

Too much outer planets news for me to read (much less report on)

Emily Lakdawalla • May 04, 2006

Before I get to my notes from OPAG I want to minimally acknowledge today's news, which I'll have to get to in more detail later.

New items on the website: Rover update and [email protected]

Emily Lakdawalla • May 01, 2006

I just wanted to point out a couple of new items on the website.

How much data has Cassini returned to Earth?

Emily Lakdawalla • April 28, 2006

Since January 1, 2004—the beginning of the Saturn phase of the mission—Cassini has radioed almost 139 Gigabytes of science data to Earth.

Get used to this view

Emily Lakdawalla • April 19, 2006

Get used to this view of Home Plate and Husband Hill, because Spirit will be seeing a lot of it over the next 8 months, whenever power levels permit the rover to eke a little bit of science activity out of the day.

New Horizons passes farther from the Sun than Mars today!

Emily Lakdawalla • April 06, 2006

Today is the day that New Horizons passes Mars' orbit (not that Mars is anywhere close to New Horizons right now).

Updated Cassini tour table

Emily Lakdawalla • March 30, 2006

Cassini planner Dave Seal gave me a newly updated list of times and dates for Cassini's ongoing tour of the Saturn system, so I went through and compared my table to his and made updates to flyby distances.

MESSENGER's science team pages

Emily Lakdawalla • March 27, 2006

A news update from the MESSENGER mission last Friday included a news item that piqued my interest: they reported that the MESSENGER science team website is now live.

LPSC: Friday: Hayabusa

Emily Lakdawalla • March 20, 2006

The audience was rapt as Project Manager Jun'ichiro Kawaguchi stood up to give an introduction to the Hayabusa spacecraft and described the saga of the mission to date.

LPSC: Thursday: Can bugs get from Earth to Europa?

Emily Lakdawalla • March 20, 2006

LPSC: Thursday: Can bugs get from Earth to Europa?

LPSC: The Poster Sessions, Tuesday and Thursday

Emily Lakdawalla • March 20, 2006

LPSC: The Poster Sessions, Tuesday and Thursday

LPSC: Thursday: The Moons of Jupiter and the future of Outer Planet Exploration

Emily Lakdawalla • March 18, 2006

LPSC: Thursday: The Moons of Jupiter and the future of Outer Planet Exploration

LPSC: Thursday: The Moons of Jupiter and the future of Outer Planet Exploration

Emily Lakdawalla • March 17, 2006

I said earlier I was going to cover the poster sessions next, and there are some cool things that I want to write about, but I thought I'd better get to something a bit more topical a bit sooner: Europa and the other Galilean satellites, and when (if!?) we'll be exploring them again.

LPSC: Wednesday afternoon: Cassini at Enceladus

Emily Lakdawalla • March 17, 2006

So after those two rover talks I skipped over to the other large room to listen to what the Cassini science teams had to say about Enceladus.

LPSC, Wednesday morning: Titan

Emily Lakdawalla • March 15, 2006

This morning at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference began with Titan, and then later in the morning I had to choose between skipping Titan and going over to rover sessions, or staying with Titan. I elected to stay with Titan.

The hubbub about Enceladus

Emily Lakdawalla • March 09, 2006

I just posted a very brief story about all of the press releases that have been whizzing around today about the possibility of liquid water on Enceladus.

Notes from this morning's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter press conference

Emily Lakdawalla • March 08, 2006

They held the usual pre-arrival press conference this morning for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This press conference typically doesn't convey any information that people who have been paying attention don't already know.

Cassini is wrapping up another Titan flyby

Emily Lakdawalla • February 27, 2006

This one is "T-11," the twelfth Titan flyby; I prefer to keep track of which orbit Cassini is on, because that gives you one numbering system for all of Cassini's flybys, so that would make this the Rev 21 Titan flyby.

Suggestions for names of Pluto's moons

Emily Lakdawalla • February 21, 2006

I received quite a number of emails containing suggested names for Pluto's moons -- thanks! I just sent all the suggestions to Alan Stern; here they are for everybody's enjoyment.

Speaking of Pluto...

Emily Lakdawalla • February 20, 2006

I just posted today's installment of Planetary Radio, in which Mat Kaplan gets an update on New Horizons from Principal Investigator Alan Stern-- check it out!

Many, many views of Saturn's moons

Emily Lakdawalla • February 10, 2006

Another thing I've been trying to catch up on is the daily imaging activities of Cassini, but that, too, has been tough because Cassini has been taking so dang many pictures!

The Orbital Dance of Epimetheus and Janus

Emily Lakdawalla • February 07, 2006

Saturn is surrounded by a crowded family of rings and moons, and two of those moons -- Epimetheus and Janus -- orbit Saturn so close together that it seems as though their different orbital speeds should make them crash into each other.

Where is New Horizons now?

Emily Lakdawalla • January 30, 2006

It's in space, of course, and has a very, very long way to go to Pluto (nearly 50 billion kilometers). But it's finally more than 1 Astronomical Unit from the Sun.

New Horizons update

Emily Lakdawalla • January 23, 2006

I received a lot of email over the weekend about New Horizons. Many of them were expressing concern about how little news there has been since launch. Have no fear.

New Horizons post-launch press conference

Emily Lakdawalla • January 19, 2006

I am updating this as I take notes from the press conference.

OK, back to New Horizons!

Emily Lakdawalla • January 19, 2006

So the Stardust press conference is still going on on NASA TV, but I am now turning to the Internet to monitor the status of New Horizons' third attempted launch day.

How New Horizons' launch date affects its arrival date

Emily Lakdawalla • January 18, 2006

I was looking at that table of launch times for New Horizons and realized that the table included another valuable column of data that I hadn't noticed before: it tells you what year New Horizons will arrive, for each of the possible launch dates.

New Horizons launch scrubbed for today.

Emily Lakdawalla • January 17, 2006

Well, it was a nail-biting morning and too bad that New Horizons didn't go but these things happen pretty frequently.

Now launch is scheduled for the last possible time, 20:23 UTC

Emily Lakdawalla • January 17, 2006

OK, here's the final timeline for today.

Now launch is scheduled at 20:05 UTC

Emily Lakdawalla • January 17, 2006

That leaves less than 20 minutes in the window I think. It's not looking good for today but it could still happen.

New launch time: 19:50 UTC

Emily Lakdawalla • January 17, 2006

This time it's a problem within the Deep Space Network. They can't get out of the hold as scheduled, so launch has been delayed again.

Launch time is changing again to 19:10 UTC

Emily Lakdawalla • January 17, 2006

The winds are still questionable. Here is a new launch timeline.

Still T minus 4 and holding...

Emily Lakdawalla • January 17, 2006

Good news and bad news for the launch of New Horizons today.

Launch time is changing; still T minus 4 and holding

Emily Lakdawalla • January 17, 2006

The launch time has been changed to 13:45 eastern time because of the LOX valve and the winds. Here's a new timeline based on that launch time.

T minus 4 minutes and holding

Emily Lakdawalla • January 17, 2006

It's a built-in 10-minute hold. All of the fill sequences are complete, someone just reported.

T minus 21 minutes...

Emily Lakdawalla • January 17, 2006

They seemed to be discussing some kind of anomaly with one of the pre-launch tests on the launch vehicle, but I didn't catch exactly what it was; something was "not exactly as planned."

T minus 40 minutes

Emily Lakdawalla • January 17, 2006

The Centaur and Atlas stages are just about full of liquid hydrogen and oxygen, with "topping in progress..."

Some more New Horizons stuff for you to read as the clock ticks down...

Emily Lakdawalla • January 17, 2006

Last night Amir Alexander posted a very thorough pre-launch news story on New Horizons, "New Horizons Set to Launch on 9 Year Voyage to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt." There are lots of details in there I haven't read anywhere else.

Now it's T minus two hours and counting!

Emily Lakdawalla • January 17, 2006

So the countdown is continuing, and the weather looks fantastic. Here's the expected timeline from this point, assuming that the launch happens at the very opening of the launch window.

New Horizons: T minus two hours and holding...

Emily Lakdawalla • January 17, 2006

Here we go! New Horizons is poised for launch today, and I'm watching the feed on NASA TV to keep my eye on the status of the mission.

New Horizons progress report

Emily Lakdawalla • January 12, 2006

There's a new "Expendable Launch Vehicle Status Report" from Kennedy Space Center and it looks like everything is on schedule for a Tuesday launch for New Horizons.

The Road to New Horizons

Emily Lakdawalla • January 10, 2006

Amir Alexander has just posted a thoroughly researched story of the complicated history of New Horizons -- check it out!

Great news for New Horizons

Emily Lakdawalla • January 09, 2006

I'll just make this an "all New Horizons" morning. The latest Expendable Launch Vehicle Status Report from Kennedy Space Center has some good news for New Horizons.

What will happen just after New Horizons' launch

Emily Lakdawalla • January 09, 2006

Over the weekend, New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern posted a new "P.I. Perspective" on the official website, and it contained some interesting facts about what's planned for the days immediately following New Horizons' launch.

Cassini, Day By Day

Emily Lakdawalla • January 02, 2006

I've just resurrected a feature on the site that has been lost since our redesign: the "Cassini, Day By Day" pages.

astronaut on Phobos
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