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 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!!
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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