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Blogs

Emily Lakdawalla's blogs from 2014

Close to the end for Venus Express

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/24 02:42 CST

Venus Express is nearly out of fuel. Any day could be the last of its long mission to Venus.

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Curiosity update, sols 782-813: Walking the outcrop at Pahrump Hills

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/19 07:50 CST

At Pahrump Hills, Curiosity is becoming the field geologist she was intended to be.

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Remember Comet Siding Spring? Mars Orbiter Mission got photos, too

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/19 01:57 CST

A set of photos released by Mars Orbiter Mission last week completes the set of Mars spacecraft observations of the comet. Now we wait for science results!

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Rosetta imaged Philae during its descent -- and after its bounce

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/17 05:10 CST | 16 comments

This morning ESA released a set of images of the Philae lander taken by the Rosetta orbiter during -- and after -- the lander's first touchdown. The images contain evidence for the spot Philae first touched the comet, and a crucial photo of Philae's position several minutes into its first long bounce.

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Now Philae down to sleep

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/15 05:13 CST | 11 comments

My last post on the drama in Darmstadt, where ground controllers believe Philae may have fell asleep for good.

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Philae update: My last day in Darmstadt, possibly Philae's last day of operations

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/14 12:33 CST | 18 comments

Emily Lakdawalla gives a status report on Philae from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt.

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Philae status, a day later

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/13 01:26 CST | 9 comments

The Philae team scrambled all morning to comprehend the initially confusing status of the lander, and the picture is much clearer today. Speaking of which, there are lots more pictures!

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Brief Philae "Morning After" update: First ÇIVA panorama from the surface

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/13 04:53 CST | 1 comments

I'm just getting up to speed on the news from overnight, which is mostly good: Philae remained in contact with the orbiter (which means the CONSERT radar sounding experiment was working), and it's sitting stably on the surface, although it's not anchored in any way. And they released the first ÇIVA image from the ground!

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PHILAE HAS LANDED! [UPDATED]

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/12 10:21 CST | 16 comments

The landing happened on time just after 16:02 UT today! Philae mission manager Stephan Ulamec said: "Philae is talking to us! The first thing he told us was the harpoons have been fired and rewound. We are sitting on the surface." Those words later turned out not to be true; but we do know at least that Philae survived the landing and is returning good data.

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Philae update: Photo documentation of Philae's separation!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/12 08:22 CST | 4 comments

Here it is. We knew hours ago that Philae separation happened, but there's nothing like seeing a photo, seeing Philae's mothership receding into the distance.

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Philae update: "Go" for landing, despite apparent failure of cold-gas jet system [UPDATED]

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/12 01:26 CST | 4 comments

Philae is "go" for landing. But there has been drama overnight. One of the steps to prepare for landing did not proceed as planned. UPDATE: At 09:03 UTC, the lander separated from the orbiter, beginning a 7-hour descent to the surface of the comet.

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Philae update: First of four "go-no-go" decisions is a GO!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/11 01:21 CST | 3 comments

It's been a day of calm before the storm here at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, as we get ready for the big event tomorrow: Philae's hoped-for landing on a comet. The first of four "go-no-go" decisions has been made, and it's a "go." Mission navigators have gotten data back from Rosetta that indicates that the spacecraft is on the correct trajectory to deliver Philae to the comet.

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Report from Darmstadt: Philae status and early Rosetta results from DPS

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/11 03:04 CST | 3 comments

I'm reporting live from the press room at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. There's little news on Philae yet except that its status is good. Meanwhile, Rosetta scientists presented their first early comet results at the Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Tucson, Arizona, which I watched from afar using Twitter.

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Philae landing preview: What to expect on landing day

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/05 04:15 CST | 8 comments

Earth's first-ever landing on a comet is a week away. On November 12 at 8:35 UT, Philae will separate from Rosetta. Seven hours later, it will arrive at the surface of the comet. Hopefully, Philae will survive the landing, and begin to return data.

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Seven Mars spacecraft attempted observations of comet Siding Spring. How did they go?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/03 04:03 CST | 6 comments

It's been two weeks since comet Siding Spring passed close by Mars, and six of the seven Mars spacecraft have now checked in with quick looks at their images of the encounter. I round up all the results.

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Chang'e 5 test vehicle flying on to Earth-Moon L2

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/11/03 12:21 CST | 3 comments

The Chang'e 5 test vehicle service module did not follow the sample return capsule into Earth's atmosphere. Instead, it successfully performed a divert maneuver, and is now on its way to the Earth-Moon L2 point

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Chang'e 5 test vehicle "Xiaofei" lands successfully

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/10/31 06:23 CDT | 1 comments

The Chang'e 5 test vehicle landed successfully in Inner Mongolia today after an 8-day mission. It demonstrated technology that China plans to use for automated sample return by the Chang'e 5 mission in 2017.

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Hayabusa 2 nearly ready for launch: Photos from Tanegashima, and new artist's renderings

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/10/30 10:15 CDT | 2 comments

On October 27, JAXA provided media with an opportunity to view the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft at the Tanegashima space center, where it's making final preparations for launch. Koumei Shibata was there, and took several photos. And artist Go Miyazaki has shared several terrific new renderings of the spacecraft in flight.

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Chang'e 5 T1 rounds the lunar farside, returns lovely photo of Earth and the Moon together

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/10/28 11:15 CDT | 3 comments

The Chang'e 5 test vehicle's short mission is more than half over. It has rounded the far side of the Moon and is on its way back to Earth for a planned October 31 test of lunar sample return technology. It's not a science mission -- it's an engineering mission -- but it has managed to return an absolutely iconic photo of its distant home, seen across the very unfamiliar far side of the Moon.

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A feast of comet features from Rosetta at Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/10/27 09:22 CDT | 22 comments

I have been horribly behind in posting images from Rosetta's exploration of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and that's a shame, because the spacecraft has lately been exploring the comet from a range of only 10 kilometers. From that range, the NavCam gets sub-meter resolution, and we're seeing a menagerie of odd surface features

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GSA 2014: The puzzle of Gale crater's basaltic sedimentary rocks

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/10/23 07:31 CDT | 15 comments

At the Geological Society of America conference this week, Curiosity scientists dug into the geology of Gale crater and shared puzzling results about the nature of the rocks that the rover has found there.

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UPDATED: China successfully launched test mission for Chang'e 5 program today

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/10/23 09:54 CDT | 2 comments

China launched to the Moon today! The spacecraft will have a brief, 8-day mission, out to the Moon and back. It is an engineering test for the technology that the future Chang'e 5 sample return mission will need to return its precious samples to Earth.

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Status update: All Mars missions fine after Siding Spring flyby

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/10/20 12:07 CDT | 2 comments

All seven Mars spacecraft are doing perfectly fine after comet Siding Spring's close encounter with Mars.

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Watching Siding Spring's encounter with Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/10/17 04:11 CDT | 5 comments

The nucleus of comet Siding Spring passes close by Mars on Sunday, October 19, at 18:27 UTC. Here are links to webcasts and websites that should have updates throughout the encounter.

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Curiosity update, sols 764-781: Work complete at Confidence Hills; puzzling arm issues

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/10/17 12:53 CDT | 7 comments

Curiosity spent a total of four weeks at Confidence Hills, feeding samples to SAM and CheMin several times. On two weekends during this period, the rover's activities were interrupted by faults with the robotic arm. Curiosity drove away from Confidence Hills on sol 780, and is ready to observe comet Siding Spring over the weekend.

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Finally! New Horizons has a second target

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/10/15 01:02 CDT | 17 comments

What a huge relief: there is finally a place for New Horizons to visit beyond Pluto. A team of researchers led by John Spencer has discovered three possible targets, all in the Cold Classical part of the Kuiper belt. One is particularly easy to reach. New Horizons would fly past the 30-45-kilometer object in January 2019.

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Phobos over Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/10/14 08:05 CDT | 10 comments

Today the Mars Orbiter Mission released a nice four-image animation of teeny dark Phobos crossing Mars' huge orange disk. Mars Orbiter Mission joins a long line of Mars missions that have produced images of Mars and Phobos together.

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From Mercury orbit, MESSENGER watches a lunar eclipse

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/10/10 10:07 CDT | 3 comments

Watch as our enormous moon -- a quarter the diameter of the planet -- just winks out as it passes into Earth's long shadow, in an animation captured from more than 100 million kilometers away.

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What did Dawn learn at Vesta?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/10/09 03:53 CDT | 11 comments

It's now been two years since Dawn wrapped up its work at the second-largest asteroid. What else did we get from the Vesta encounter besides great photos? Recently, I asked Dawn's deputy project scientist, Carol Raymond, for help in summarizing a few of the big things Dawn taught us.

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New global Mars image from Mars Orbiter Mission features Gale crater

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/10/07 11:58 CDT | 4 comments

ISRO has released a second global image of Mars from the Mars Colour Camera on Mars Orbiter Mission, and smack dab in the center of it is Gale crater, home to Curiosity.

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Mattias Malmer's amazing 3D views of Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/10/02 01:14 CDT | 5 comments

I'm thrilled to be able to share with you all a spectacular set of images of Rosetta's comet, produced from NavCam data by a master space image processing enthusiast.

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Brief mission update: Hayabusa 2 has a launch date!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/29 11:28 CDT | 1 comments

JAXA announced the launch date for their Hayabusa 2 asteroid sample return mission today: November 30 at 13:24:48 Japan standard time (04:24:48 UT / November 29 at 20:24:48 PST)

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Curiosity update, sols 748-763: Driving and Drilling at Pahrump Hills

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/29 05:57 CDT | 10 comments

The biggest news on Curiosity of late is that the rover has drilled her fourth full drill hole on Mars! Drilling happened at a site called "Confidence Hills" on sol 759. But before she did that, she took a long series of amazing photos of rock formations at Jubilee Pass, Panamint Butte, and Upheaval Dome.

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Mars Orbiter Mission delivers on promise of global views of Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/29 11:15 CDT | 18 comments

Ever since I first learned about the capabilities of Mars Orbiter Mission's small payload of science instruments, I have been anticipating one type of data in particular: global color views of Mars captured in a single 2000-pixel-square frame. Just days after entering orbit, Mars Orbiter Mission has delivered on that promise.

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Philae's landing day announced as Rosetta swings to comet's dark side

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/26 03:36 CDT | 2 comments

ESA announced today that Philae will be landing on November 12, 2014. What time the landing occurs depends on which landing site they use. If they go to the prime landing site, "site J," Earth should receive word of the successful landing at 16:00 UTC (08:00 PST). If they go to the backup site, "site C," news will reach Earth at about 17:30 UTC (09:30 PST). Mark your calendars!

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MAVEN returns first images of Mars' atmosphere

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/24 01:24 CDT | 1 comments

On Sepember 22 at 02:24 UTC, Earth received word that MAVEN had ended its orbit insertion burn on time, completing its journey to Mars. Today MAVEN has released some of its very first data, taken by the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph just eight hours after arrival.

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Reflecting on the success of Mars Orbiter Mission

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/24 11:23 CDT | 13 comments

Mars Orbiter Mission successfully arrived at Mars on September 24, 2014, India's first interplanetary mission. What does this mean for India?

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How I will be watching Mars Orbiter Mission's arrival

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/23 05:04 CDT | 8 comments

Here are a few links to what will hopefully be working video feeds watching India's first-ever attempt to place a spacecraft into orbit around another planet. Begin watching in just a few hours, at 6:15 IST / 00:45 UT / 17:45 PDT for an orbit insertion burn scheduled to begin at 07:30 IST / 04:00 UT / 19:00 PDT!

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MAVEN orbit insertion timeline

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/21 12:55 CDT | 3 comments

Today's the day that MAVEN enters orbit at Mars, bringing the number of Mars orbiters up to four. So far everything looks good. The orbit insertion burn should begin tonight at 18:50 PDT / 01:50 UTC. I'll be on stage with Mat Kaplan and Rich Zurek at Planetary Radio Live, keeping up to date with the latest news from the spacecraft; here is a timeline in PDT, UTC, CEST, and IST to help you follow along.

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More jets from Rosetta's comet!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/19 01:07 CDT | 9 comments

Another lovely view of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko contains jets. Bonus: Emily explains how to use a flat field to rid these glorious Rosetta NavCam images of faint stripes and specks.

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Mars Orbiter Mission arrival timeline

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/16 01:11 CDT | 15 comments

Mars Orbiter Mission's fated arrival day is approaching fast! Here is the timeline of orbit insertion events, converted from India Standard Time to Universal, European, and Pacific time zones, and corrected for the 12.5 minutes it will take signals to reach Earth from Mars.

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A landing site for Philae, but it's not going to be easy

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/15 04:53 CDT | 7 comments

This morning, the European Space Agency announced the selection of a landing site for little Philae on the head of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Although a primary site has been selected, landing Philae successfully is going to be tough, and the mission is now working to manage people's expectations.

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Curiosity update, sols 727-747: Beginning the "Mission to Mount Sharp"

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/12 07:08 CDT | 3 comments

A lot has happened behind the scenes on the Curiosity mission in the last few weeks. The mission received a pretty negative review from a panel convened to assess the relative quality of seven different proposed extended planetary science missions. Then, just a week later, the mission announced big news: they have arrived at Mount Sharp.

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New Rosetta views and first science on comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko from EPSC

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/11 04:56 CDT | 3 comments

At the European Planetary Science Congress held this week in Portugal, the Rosetta team showcased some early science results from Rosetta's mission to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

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Pretty pictures: Vesta's dark material

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/05 10:38 CDT | 1 comments

More masterful processing of Dawn Vesta images by Björn Jónsson, including Aelia crater and some mysterious dark splats near Fulvia crater.

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Mars Orbiter Mission to test-fire main engine before orbit insertion
UPDATE: Test firing to take place September 22

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/04 12:59 CDT | 1 comments

According to a report in the Times of India, ISRO is deciding today whether to test-fire Mars Orbiter Mission's main engine to make sure it will work for their all-important orbit insertion maneuver on September 24. Both ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission and NASA's MAVEN are in good health and on track for their arrivals in three weeks.

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Latest Rosetta NavCam images reveal jets on Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/04 12:12 CDT | 5 comments

ESA released another set of NavCam images of the comet today, and lo and behold, there are jets! We knew they were there, from an earlier OSIRIS image, but it's tremendously cool to see the comet behaving like a proper comet should.

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Cassini's awesomeness fully funded through mission's dramatic end in 2017

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/03 07:54 CDT | 9 comments

Last year, rumors swirled that NASA may be so pinched for dollars that the agency might end the Cassini mission early. Today, Cassini received the welcome news that it has formally been funded through the planned end of its extended-extended mission in 2017. A huge congratulations to the Cassini mission!

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ESA invites amateurs to produce portraits of comet 67P

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/09/01 12:01 CDT

After a pause of about a week in daily image releases from Rosetta, ESA has begun sharing four-image sets of photos of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko and invited the public to help produce pretty pictures from them.

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Hayabusa 2 complete, ready to begin its journey to asteroid 1999 JU3

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/31 04:09 CDT | 5 comments

The excitement is building for Hayabusa 2! The spacecraft is now complete and ready to be shipped to its launch site. JAXA unveiled its next interplanetary traveler to the media in a special event on August 31.

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Rosetta identifies five possible landing sites for Philae

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/26 09:59 CDT | 8 comments

The Rosetta team has announced the selection of five regions on Churyumov-Gerasimenko that they will study as possible landing sites for little Philae. Now, as Rosetta surveys the comet from its second triangular "orbit" at an average distance of 60 kilometers, the mission will target these spots for extra attention.

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Cool animations of Phobos transits from Curiosity

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/25 04:41 CDT | 4 comments

Shooting video of a lumpy moon crossing the Sun and turning it into a giant googly eye is not a new activity for Curiosity, but I get a fresh thrill each time I see one of these sequences downlinked from the rover.

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Best-ever Neptune mosaics for the 25th anniversary of Voyager 2's flyby

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/25 10:58 CDT | 4 comments

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Voyager 2 flyby of Neptune, image magician Björn Jónsson has produced two new global mosaics of the distant ice giant, the highest-resolution ever made.

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Curiosity update, sols 697-726: Mars thwarts driving and drilling

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/22 04:24 CDT | 2 comments

The Mars gremlins really had it in for Curiosity this month. A computer glitch and slippery sand conspired to delay the rover's progress toward Mount Sharp. And shifting rocks proved unsafe for drilling. The rover will continue driving toward Mount Sharp, departing Bonanza King without drilling, skirting Hidden Valley along a plateau to its north.

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Philae landing site selection process under way as Rosetta closes to within 60 kilometers of the comet

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/22 02:01 CDT | 9 comments

Rosetta spent the week transitioning to a lower orbit from which it continues to observe the comet. This weekend, the mission will select about five landing sites for more detailed study. They have also now estimated the mass of the comet.

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Curiosity wheel damage: The problem and solutions

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/19 08:21 CDT | 26 comments

Now that a Tiger Team has assessed the nature and causes of damage to Curiosity's wheels, I can finally answer your frequently-asked questions about what wheel damage means for the mission, and why it wasn't anticipated.

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Finding my way around comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/15 12:30 CDT | 32 comments

Rosetta has nearly completed its first funky three-cornered orbit in front of the comet. Each day we're getting views of the nucleus from more directions. I step you through Churyumov-Gerasimenko's geography.

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Mars orbiters plan for their October encounter with comet Siding Spring

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/13 06:00 CDT | 2 comments

Now that we have reasonable confidence that our Mars orbiters will be safe from the close passage of comet Siding Spring, we are free to be excited about the opportunity that the encounter represents. At a community workshop on August 11, representatives from Mars missions shared their plans for great comet science.

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Twinkling worlds in motion: New Horizons' first optical navigation images of Pluto and Charon

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/07 02:31 CDT | 11 comments

What's that in the distance? A binary star? Those are two little round worlds dancing in circles, whirling around a point in space located between the two of them. It's Pluto and Charon, clearly separated by New Horizons' camera.

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"We're at the comet!" Rosetta has arrived at comet 67P

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/06 04:58 CDT | 9 comments

After a journey of more than a decade, Rosetta has finally arrived at comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Confirmation of the successful rocket firing came at about 9:30 UTC via a webcast from ESA's Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

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Join me on "Virtually Speaking Science" August 6

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/05 06:27 CDT

On Wednesday's "Virtually Speaking Science" podcast, The Planetary Society’s Emily Lakdawalla and Space.com contributor Rod Pyle look back at the first two years of the Curiosity Rover’s mission on Mars, and look ahead to the future of Mars exploration. NBC News science editor Alan Boyle is the host for the show, which airs at 5pm Pacific / midnight UTC.

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Today's the day Rosetta arrives at a comet!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/05 11:15 CDT | 2 comments

In less than a day, Rosetta will officially arrive, becoming the first spacecraft ever to orbit a comet! Watch an ESA Livestream of the arrival, and check out the latest photos.

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A new angle on Churyumov-Gerasimenko brings circular features into focus

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/04 10:23 CDT | 4 comments

It's just two days now until Rosetta arrives in its initial 100-kilometer "orbit" of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and the latest view from Rosetta's NavCam is fascinating. Circular features on the comet remind me of Tempel 1 as seen by Deep Impact and Stardust.

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[UPDATED] New Rosetta images show comet's craggy shape

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/02 09:44 CDT | 1 comments

A shift in position has brought shadows into view from Rosetta, outlining scarps and ridges on Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

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New Rosetta view of the comet - and a comparison to other comets

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/07/31 03:02 CDT | 8 comments

Rosetta's view of the comet is getting better and better. Today they released a new image from the high-resolution OSIRIS camera, and it's a very fresh one, taken only two days ago. Distinct features are coming into view. And it's finally detailed enough for me to compare it to the five other comets we've visited in the past.

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Rosetta update: Long journey to a comet nearly complete

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/07/29 01:40 CDT | 4 comments

A journey of nearly a decade is almost over. Rosetta is making its final approach to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and the comet's strange shape is beginning to come into focus. As of today, the spacecraft is only 2000 kilometers away from the comet, and 8 days away from arrival.

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Dark mountain on Vesta: Aricia Tholus

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/07/28 03:07 CDT | 1 comments

Newly processed images of one of the more puzzling features on the surface of Vesta: a dark mountain named Aricia Tholus.

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Curiosity update, sols 671-696: Out of the landing ellipse, into ripples and pointy rocks

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/07/24 05:55 CDT | 8 comments

For the last four weeks, the name of the game for Curiosity has been driving. But these weeks of driving have been more challenging than they used to be.

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Women Working on Mars: Curiosity Women's Day

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/07/22 10:57 CDT | 2 comments

Just after completing the primary mission of 669 sols on Mars, Curiosity's managers planned a special day -- June 26, 2014 -- in which mostly women were assigned to the more than 100 different operational roles.

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Chang'e 3 update: Both rover and lander still alive at the end of their eighth lunar day

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/07/21 07:26 CDT | 5 comments

Despite the fact that it hasn't moved for 6 months, the plucky Yutu rover on the Moon is still alive. Its signal is periodically detected by amateur radio astronomers, most recently on July 19. A story posted today by the Chinese state news agency offers a new hypothesis to explain the failure of the rover's mobility systems.

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New Horizons to take new photos of Pluto and Charon, beginning optical navigation campaign

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/07/18 05:06 CDT | 6 comments

Technically, Pluto science observations don't begin for New Horizons until 2015, but the spacecraft will take a series of photos of Pluto and Charon from July 20 to 27 as it begins the first of four optical navigation campaigns.

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I've been asteroided! (274860) Emilylakdawalla

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/07/16 07:22 CDT | 13 comments

What a great piece of news to receive upon returning home from vacation! There is now a small piece of the solar system named for me: asteroid 274860 has been formally named "Emilylakdawalla" by the International Astronomical Union. Here is everything I've been able to learn about my namesake asteroid.

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Quick Rosetta update: Churyumov-Gerasimenko is a contact binary!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/07/15 08:42 CDT | 17 comments

I could not wait to post these amazing new images of comet Churymov-Gerasimenko from Rosetta. The nucleus of the comet is clearly a contact binary -- two smaller (and unequally sized object) in close contact.

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On the masses and motions of mini-moons: Pandora's not a "shepherd," but Prometheus still is

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/07/04 12:04 CDT | 4 comments

As Cassini celebrates 10 years at Saturn, we're beginning to see its long-term observations of Saturnian moons bear fruit. A surprising new result: While Prometheus exerts control over the F ring and Atlas, Pandora -- long thought to be a shepherd of the F ring -- does not.

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A close look at Saturn's closest moons

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/06/26 08:13 CDT | 1 comments

A new composite image of the eight named moons that orbit closest to Saturn, and a list of all the best Cassini observations of these moons.

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Curiosity update: One Mars Year! Sols 662-670

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/06/25 03:34 CDT | 2 comments

On Monday JPL put out a press release marking one year since Curiosity landed -- one Mars year, that is! There was a new version of the Kimberley self-portrait, and a video update on wheel wear testing. While we've been celebrating on Earth, Curiosity has been driving, driving, driving, on a new "safe transit route" taking her southward toward the black sand dunes ringing Mount Sharp.

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Skimming the inner planets: Updates on MESSENGER and Venus Express

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/06/24 11:52 CDT | 1 comments

The two spacecraft currently orbiting the two innermost planets are both flying low in their orbits in the final phases of their missions. MESSENGER just performed a rocket burn to raise its orbit slightly, while Venus Express did the opposite.

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Book Review: Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account from Curiosity's Chief Engineer, by Rob Manning and William Simon

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/06/20 10:00 CDT | 1 comments

I am both elated and relieved that Rob Manning and William Simon have written Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account from Curiosity's Chief Engineer. The book delivers on the promise of its title, in a slender volume that is full of great stories you'll read nowhere else.

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Rosetta completes another rocket burn, spies decreasing activity on comet

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/06/19 10:42 CDT

Rosetta has now completed its three largest rendezvous burns as it approaches ever closer to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Beginning on July 2, Rosetta will now conduct weekly burns, through August 6. Meanwhile, the cometary activity of April and May has quieted again, leaving the comet looking smaller than it did before.

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Hubble to the rescue! The last-ditch effort to discover a Kuiper belt target for New Horizons

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/06/17 11:59 CDT | 5 comments

Will New Horizons have a mission after Pluto? Ground-based searches have failed to turn up anything that New Horizons can reach. Now Hubble is joining the search, but time is running out: a discovery must be made within the next two months.

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Curiosity update, sols 645-661: Driving, driving, driving

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/06/16 04:44 CDT

Curiosity has been busy. The rover has traveled more than half a kilometer since my last update, making steady progress beyond the Kimberley toward Murray Buttes. There hasn't been much time for science, but they sneaked in an observation of a Mercury transit across the sun, and a neat MARDI video of the rover driving.

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Mars-bound mission updates: Mars Orbiter Mission maneuvers, MAVEN detects Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/06/11 10:59 CDT | 12 comments

India's Mars Orbiter Mission has accomplished its second trajectory correction manuever, a small rocket burn lasting only 16 seconds. Meanwhile, NASA's MAVEN is testing out its instruments, with one obtaining "first light" on Mars.

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Rosetta update: Both "big burns" completed successfully

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/06/10 10:16 CDT | 7 comments

Rosetta is now in the final phase of its approach to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko after a decade-long journey. The two largest burns have now succeeded, and Rosetta reported this morning via Twitter that the second burn was close to perfect.

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How CRISM picks the pixels that guide Opportunity's travels

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/06/05 03:29 CDT | 4 comments

How scientists are working with CRISM, an aging but still exceptional spectrometer on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, to find the rocks where Opportunity's work will tell the story of ancient water on Mars.

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Curiosity update, sols 631-644: On the road again

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/05/30 06:51 CDT | 6 comments

The last couple of weeks have seen Curiosity return to the business of making steady headway toward Murray Buttes and, beyond them, Mount Sharp. Eight of the last 14 sols have seen drives ranging in length from 30 to 104 meters, racking up a total of more than half a kilometer. They are now occasionally working a shortened planning timeline that allows them to squeeze more drive sols into Curiosity's schedule.

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Daily Mail plagiarizes Planetary Society Blog guest post by Katherine Mack

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/05/29 06:06 CDT | 5 comments

Planetary Society guest blogger Katherine Mack is just the latest of a great many writers whose work has been copied, uncredited, on the website of the British tabloid.

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Deep Impact's last images

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/05/27 07:13 CDT

Today I received an email notification of new public releases of some image data sets. I always love seeing new public space image data, but this notification was bittersweet: it included the first public release of the very last image data returned to Earth by Deep Impact, of a distant comet ISON.

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New orbital images of Curiosity landing site from Mars Express and HiRISE

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/05/23 06:30 CDT | 4 comments

Mars Express and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are keeping their eyes in the sky on Curiosity. There's a nice newly public color image of all of Gale Crater from HiRISE, and two new HiRISE images within the Curiosity landing site.

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Lovely, live, continuous, high-definition video of Earth

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/05/20 05:19 CDT | 3 comments

Have you ever wished you could enjoy the astronauts' view of Earth from the Space Station? Now, you can. Just go to the live feed from the High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment, crank it up to its highest resolution, let it take over your monitor, and watch Earth spin by.

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Dust on, dust off: Before-and-after comparisons of rover decks on Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/05/19 04:16 CDT | 6 comments

Curiosity and Opportunity self-portraits show one rover accumulating dust, the other losing it. Check out these cool before-and-after comparisons.

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Venus Express science mission ends; aerobraking experiment beginning

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/05/16 03:33 CDT | 4 comments

Venus Express, currently the only spacecraft orbiting our nearest planetary neighbor, will soon meet a fiery end in Venus' atmosphere. But its work isn't over yet. ESA will maneuver Venus Express to dip into the uppermost Venus atmosphere and study how the spacecraft responds to atmospheric pressure, giving ESA valuable experience in aerobraking.

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Curiosity update, sols 610-630: Drilling work at Windjana

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/05/15 12:20 CDT | 3 comments

Finally, a new drill site! For the first time in nearly a year, Curiosity has put drill bit to rock and acquired a new sample of Martian material for her analytical instruments to chew on. Scientific data collection at Windjana is now complete; Curiosity drove away last night, on sol 630.

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Pretty pictures: Rosetta's comet is now acting like one!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/05/15 10:17 CDT | 5 comments

New photos from ESA's comet-chaser show its destination comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, developing a coma.

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A new Earthrise over the Moon from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's pushframe camera

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/05/13 11:53 CDT

Earth's brilliant colors shine above the drab lunar horizon in this new "Earthrise" photo from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. An animation that accompanied the image release helped me to write an explainer on how pushframe cameras like Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's Wide-Angle Camera works.

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Upcoming public appearances: Spacefest and ISDC

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/05/08 07:00 CDT | 3 comments

Updates on upcoming appearances in southern California at Spacefest tomorrow, and the International Space Development Conference next week.

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Rosetta update: Final orbit matching phase has begun

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/05/08 04:05 CDT | 1 comments

Rosetta is in the final stage of its approach to comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Yesterday, the spacecraft successfully performed the first of ten burns it needs to match velocity with the comet.

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A Martian analemma

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/05/06 01:31 CDT | 4 comments

A Mars year's worth of Sun images from Opportunity demonstrates Mars' orbital motions as reflected in the changing apparent position of the Sun: the analemma.

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Image processing trick: Removing interline transfer smear from Curiosity photos

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/05/01 03:27 CDT | 2 comments

Curiosity took a new self-portrait on sol 613. This post contains a tip for would-be Curiosity image processors on how to make their Curiosity mosaics better: removing the smearing effect of bright objects in MAHLI photos.

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When will we know which is bigger, Pluto or Eris?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/04/30 12:11 CDT | 7 comments

We don't currently know whether Pluto is the biggest thing in the Kuiper belt or not. When will New Horizons give us the answer?

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This is the post where you can comment about the IAU planet definition

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/04/30 12:09 CDT | 21 comments

An attempt to corral the discussion of the IAU planet definition in one place on planetary.org, so that we may be free to actually discuss Kuiper belt observations and scientific results on posts elsewhere on this site.

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