ESA announced this morning that the launch of their BepiColombo mission, a cooperative effort with JAXA, has been delayed from its originally planned July 2014 to the backup launch window in August 2015.
On June 30, Dawn stopped thrusting for a full Vestian day -- five hours and 20 minutes -- and just watched the asteroid rotate. But unlike the previous observations, they used all of Dawn's color filters to acquire the best-ever color photos of the lumpy world.
A few times a year I find myself confronting a table full of numbers describing the orbits of things in the solar system, and cursing at myself because I've forgotten, again, what all these numbers mean and how to manipulate them to get the particular numbers I want.
Planetary scientist Susan Niebur passed away on February 6, 2012, of inflammatory breast cancer. While I did not know Susan very well personally, I knew her professionally as a staunch supporter of and passionate organizer for young people, women, and families in planetary science.
There's been a bit of buzz on the Web this week regarding an ESA press release titled "ESA's Mars Express radar gives strong evidence for former Mars ocean." I don't ordinarily write about press-released science papers, but am making an exception for this one.
This weekend is SpaceUp unconference in San Diego, and I'll be attending on Saturday. You can still register if you want to attend, but if you can't, some part of the unconference will be webcast on Spacevidcast.
JPL issued a news note today that the Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft has successfully completed the first of twelve trajectory correction maneuvers it'll perform between launch last year and Jupiter arrival in 2016. Its next maneuver will take place in August of this year. Go Juno!
A recent tweet by Al Yankovic tipped me to the fact that the children's book author, songwriter, and illustrator Sandra Boynton recently established a presence on Twitter. As I'm a huge fan of her oeuvre, I immediately followed her.
I think the word for the month of February is: "routine." The 21 missions that I'm tracking (amounting to 24 spacecraft) are nearly all in routine science operations or cruise behavior, gathering data from across the solar system or journeying to new destinations.
Japan's Venus climate orbiter Akatsuki failed to enter orbit in December 2010 when a clogged valve caused catastrophic damage to its main engine. Since then, JAXA's engineers and navigators have determined that although the main engine is a total loss, there is the possibility of achieving Venus orbit on a future encounter, using only the attitude control rockets.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that after beginning with Dawn last week, I've kept my fingers busy, stitching more spacecraft from plastic canvas. I now have prototypes for GRAIL, New Horizons, and MESSENGER.
On February 24, 2007, the Rosetta spacecraft passed by Mars, the second of four planetary gravity-assist flybys on its long route to a 2014 rendezvous with comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. At the time, they released two photos from the main science camera, OSIRIS.
Today Opportunity sent back to Earth the last few frames of the "deck pan" self-portrait she took during the waning days of 2011. Her solar panels are very dusty, which isn't helpful. It's near winter solstice in her southern location on Mars, so the angled Sun is not providing as much power as it would in a different season.
At the end of last week, a rather sensational article appeared in both the Russian- and English-language sites of the Russian news agency, RIA Novosti. "Life Spotted on Venus - Russian Scientist," ran the English headline; a Google translation of the Russian one goes: "The Soviet probes may have photographed creatures on Venus."
From 1981 to 1997, the Galileo mission published an approximately quarterly newsletter called the Galileo Messenger. It eventually ran to 45 issues, until the end of the Prime Mission. The first 20 were published before Galileo ever got off the ground. That period is the subject of this post.
Last week when I joined the new weekly Space Hangout (a webcast video conference call of sorts), I realized I would need a 3D model of Dawn in order to explain what's going on with the mission right now.
Phobos-Grunt has returned to Earth, a lot sooner than it should have. Yesterday, at approximately 17:45 UT, the Russian spacecraft and its passengers, including a Chinese orbiter and the Planetary Society's LIFE experiment, descended into Earth's atmosphere.
The Planetary Society continues our strong political advocacy for space science and exploration. The following is an excerpt from a letter we sent to Jacob Lew of the Office of Management and Budget and the President's Chief of Staff.
I'm not looking forward to spending the weekend sitting deathwatch on Phobos-Grunt. It's not science, and it's a sad event, so my instincts would lead me to other subjects. But it contains the Planetary Society's Phobos LIFE experiment.
Evaporites form on planetary surfaces when dissolved chemical solids precipitate out of saturated solution as their liquid solvent evaporates and, until recently, were known to exist only on Earth and Mars. This article from the IAG Planetary Geomorphology Working Group describes the third planetary instance of evaporite, discovered on Saturn's moon Titan.
Fraser Cain at Universe Today has organized a weekly Space Hangout that happens at 1800 UTC on Thursdays. This week's conversation focuses on news on exoplanets and dark matter coming out of the American Astronomical Society meeting happening this week in Austin, as well as a Dawn update.
The Google Doodle for January 11, 2012 celebrates Nicholas Steno, one of the founding fathers of modern geology, on the occasion of his 374th birthday. This article describes Steno's set of rules that guide geologists in reading rocks to tell the story of how a place came to be and how the rules are currently used in geology.
January 10, 2012 was a high-stress day for many in the world of planetary geology: the deadline for submission of abstracts for the 2012 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC). One creative coping mechanism for the stress of completing the LPSC abstract submission process is the tradition of capturing the essence of one's work in the seventeen syllables of the Haiku form.