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Emily Lakdawalla's blogs from 2016

Spaceflight in 2017, part 2: Robots beyond Earth orbit

Emily Lakdawalla • December 30, 2016

What's ahead for our intrepid space explorers in 2017? It'll be the end of Cassini, but not before the mission performs great science close to the rings. OSIRIS-REx will fly by Earth, and Chang'e 5 will launch to the Moon, as a host of other spacecraft continue their ongoing missions.

Winter Solstice: A look at the solar system's north poles

Emily Lakdawalla • December 21, 2016

Today is the solstice, the longest winter night at Earth's north pole, the longest day of summer in the south. To give a little light to northerners in darkness today, please enjoy this gallery of images of (mostly) sunlit north poles across our solar system.

ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter takes in a rarely-imaged view of Phobos

Emily Lakdawalla • December 15, 2016

ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter's science team enjoyed the opportunity in November to test out their science instruments on Mars. One of the tests involved imaging Phobos from an unusual angle.

Curiosity update, sols 1489-1547: Drilling at Sebina, driving up through Murray, drill problems at Precipice

Emily Lakdawalla • December 12, 2016

It's been a drive-heavy two months for Curiosity. Since my last update, the rover has drilled at a site named Sebina, then traveled about 500 meters to the south across increasingly chunky-looking Murray rocks to a new attempted drill site at Precipice. They were planning to attempt a new drilling technique at Precipice, but encountered a new problem with the drill instead.

Schiaparelli investigation update; crash site in color from HiRISE

Emily Lakdawalla • November 23, 2016

ESA issued an update on the Schiaparelli landing investigation today, identifying a problem reading from an inertial measurement unit as the proximate cause of the crash. Meanwhile, ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is operating its science instruments for the first time this week, and HiRISE has released calibrated versions of the Schiaparelli crash site images.

Emily's recommended space books for kids of all ages, 2016

Emily Lakdawalla • November 22, 2016

Emily's eighth annual kids' space book recommendation post includes lots of new books for kids of all ages, 0 to 18.

HiRISE coverage of the Opportunity field site, version 1.0

Emily Lakdawalla • November 18, 2016

As she did before for Curiosity, Emily Lakdawalla has searched through the HiRISE image archive for photos of the Opportunity landing site and sorted them all out so that you don't have to.

Great whirling Jupiter

Emily Lakdawalla • November 10, 2016

Damian Peach's marvelous Jupiter photography, endlessly rotating in GIF form.

Juno update: 53.5-day orbits for the foreseeable future, more Marble Movie

Emily Lakdawalla • November 03, 2016

Juno may be staying in its 53.5-day orbit for quite a while. Here's a list of the future dates of the next 20 close approaches to Jupiter if the mission stays in that orbit, as well as the latest, near-final version of JunoCam's "Marble Movie."

What's up in the solar system, November 2016 edition: Cassini takes a leap, ExoMars starts science, Long March 5 launch

Emily Lakdawalla • November 01, 2016

Cassini is going to make a major change to its orbit, getting much close to Saturn, setting up 20 "F-ring" orbits. ExoMars will get two science orbits before beginning aerobraking. Long March 5 will have its first launch, while many Earth-observing missions, including Himawari-9 and GOES-R, will go up. But Juno science is on hold.

Schiaparelli crash site imaged by HiRISE

Emily Lakdawalla • October 27, 2016

Following up the detection of the Schiaparelli crash site by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter CTX, the higher-resolution HiRISE camera has now definitively identified the locations of lander impact site, parachute with backshell, and heat shield impact site on the Martian surface.

DPS/EPSC update on New Horizons at the Pluto system and beyond

Emily Lakdawalla • October 25, 2016

Last week's Division for Planetary Sciences/European Planetary Science Congress meeting was chock-full of science from New Horizons at Pluto.

Likely Schiaparelli crash site imaged by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Emily Lakdawalla • October 21, 2016

Just a day after the arrival of ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and its lander Schiaparelli, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken a photo of the landing site with its Context Camera, and things do not look good.

Brief update: Opportunity's attempt to image Schiaparelli unsuccessful

Emily Lakdawalla • October 19, 2016

Today, the Opportunity rover attempted a difficult, never-before-possible feat: to shoot a photo of an arriving Mars lander from the Martian surface. Unfortunately, that attempt seems not to have succeeded. Opportunity has now returned the images from the observation attempt, but Schiaparelli is not visible.

DPS/EPSC update: 2007 OR10 has a moon!

Emily Lakdawalla • October 19, 2016

The third-largest object known beyond Neptune, 2007 OR10, has a moon. The discovery was reported in a poster by Gábor Marton, Csaba Kiss, and Thomas Mueller at the joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society (DPS/EPSC) on Monday.

Juno to delay planned burn

Emily Lakdawalla • October 16, 2016

The Juno mission posted a status report late Friday afternoon, indicating that they will not perform the originally planned period reduction maneuver during their next perijove (closest approach to Jupiter) on October 19. The delay changes the start date of the science mission and also all the future dates of Juno's perijoves.

ExoMars update: Timeline for separation and orbit insertion

Emily Lakdawalla • October 14, 2016

Schiaparelli is GO for landing, and ExoMars TGO is GO for orbit insertion! When to expect ExoMars events: Schiaparelli separation, final trajectory maneuvers, landing events, orbit insertion, and press briefings.

Curiosity Update, sols 1428-1488: Through the Murray Buttes, drilling at Quela, and beyond

Emily Lakdawalla • October 13, 2016

In the two months since my last Curiosity update, the rover has traversed the scenic Murray Buttes, drilled at Quela, and driven another 300 meters southward.

ExoMars arrives soon!

Emily Lakdawalla • October 11, 2016

ESA's ExoMars will arrive at Mars on Wednesday, October 19, with Schiaparelli touching down in Meridiani Planum, and the Trace Gas Orbiter entering orbit while Mars Express watches.

Fun with a new image data set: Mars Orbiter Mission's Mars Colour Camera

Emily Lakdawalla • October 06, 2016

It's always a delight to sink my teeth into a new data set, and I have spent this week playing with one I've been anticipating for a long time: ISRO's Mars Orbiter's Mars Colour Camera, or MCC. MCC is unique among current Mars cameras in its ability to get color, print-quality, wide-angle, regional views of Mars.

What's up in the solar system, October 2016 edition: ExoMars arrives!

Emily Lakdawalla • October 04, 2016

ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter arrives on October 19, and it will deliver the Schiaparelli lander to its brief life on the Martian surface. Juno's headed into its science orbit, MOM has released science data, and New Horizons will finally finish downlinking Pluto flyby data.

Rosetta is gone

Emily Lakdawalla • September 30, 2016

Today there is one less spacecraft returning science data from beyond Earth. The European Space Operations Centre received the final transmission from Rosetta at 11:19 September 30, UT.

Rosetta spacecraft may be dying, but Rosetta science will go on

Emily Lakdawalla • September 29, 2016

The Rosetta mission will end tomorrow when the spacecraft impacts the comet. ESA took advantage of the presence of hundreds of members of the media to put on a showcase of Rosetta science. If there’s one thing I learned today from all the science presentations, it’s this: Rosetta data will be informing scientific work for decades to come.

OSIRIS-REx’s cameras see first light

Emily Lakdawalla • September 29, 2016

As OSIRIS-REx speeds away from Earth, it’s been turning on and testing out its various engineering functions and science instruments. Proof of happy instrument status has come from several cameras, including the star tracker, MapCam, and StowCam.

Rosetta end-of-mission event schedule

Emily Lakdawalla • September 27, 2016

A schedule of what to expect during Rosetta's final hours September 29 and 30, and how you can follow online.

Juno and Marble Movie update at Apojove 1

Emily Lakdawalla • September 22, 2016

Juno is on its second of two long orbits around Jupiter, reaching apojove (its farthest distance from the planet) today.

Where to find rapidly released space image data

Emily Lakdawalla • September 21, 2016

Interested in playing with recent space image data? Here's a list of places to get the freshest photos from space.

Some beautiful new (old) views of Neptune and Triton

Emily Lakdawalla • September 20, 2016

Beautiful new amateur work with 27-year-old Voyager data.

Successful launch for China's Tiangong-2 space station

Emily Lakdawalla • September 15, 2016

Today, China launched its second modular space station, Tiangong 2.

One year remains in the Cassini mission

Emily Lakdawalla • September 15, 2016

Cassini ends a year from today, which is sad. But the final year of the mission is going to be awesome.

Gaia's first galaxy map

Emily Lakdawalla • September 14, 2016

The astronomy world is abuzz today because of ESA's announcement of the first release of data from the Gaia mission. Gaia is a five-year mission that will eventually measure the positions and motions of billions of stars; this first data release includes positions for 1.1 billion of them, and proper motions for 2 million.

Cassini's camera views of Titan's polar lakes in summer, processed into pseudocolor

Emily Lakdawalla • September 12, 2016

Titan's north polar lakes are well-lit by summer sun in these recent Cassini images. Image processing enthusiast Ian Regan shares his recipe for processing the longer-wavelength Titan images into visually pleasing "pseudocolor."

Rosetta end-of-mission update

Emily Lakdawalla • September 09, 2016

The European Space Agency has shared plans for the end of the Rosetta mission scheduled for September 30, just three weeks from now. The landing site will be located on the "head" of the comet, next to a prominent pit now named Deir el-Medina.

Philae spotted on the surface of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Emily Lakdawalla • September 06, 2016

Ever since its landing, Philae has been elusive. It went silent just three days later and never returned any more science data, though it made brief contact with the orbiter last summer. Now, just a month until the planned end of the Rosetta mission, the orbiter has finally located the lander in a stunning high-resolution view of the surface.

OSIRIS-REx is on the launch pad, ready for the big day

Emily Lakdawalla • September 02, 2016

The OSIRIS-REx mission passed its flight readiness review yesterday, clearing the way for the spacecraft to launch on Thursday, September 8. Here's a schedule of next week's NASA TV briefings and a photo album of the launch preparations.

Juno's instruments return riches from first perijove

Emily Lakdawalla • September 02, 2016

On August 27, Juno soared across Jupiter's cloud tops from pole to pole, with all instruments operating. NASA posted some terrific first results from several of the instruments today. And the JunoCam team released all 28 raw images taken during the close encounter.

What's up in the solar system, September 2016 edition: OSIRIS-REx launches, Rosetta ends

Emily Lakdawalla • August 31, 2016

The month of September begins with an annular solar eclipse visible from much of Africa on September 1. On or after September 8, we'll see OSIRIS-REx launch into a two-year cruise toward a rendezvous with asteroid Bennu. But September will close, sadly, with the end of the wonderful Rosetta mission.

Juno's first Jupiter close approach successful; best JunoCam images yet to come

Emily Lakdawalla • August 27, 2016

NASA announced this afternoon that Juno passed through its first perijove since entering orbit successfully, with science instruments operating all the way. This is a huge relief, given all the unknowns about the effects of Jupiter's nasty radiation environment on its brand-new orbiter.

How big is that butte?

Emily Lakdawalla • August 23, 2016

Whenever I share images from Curiosity, among the most common questions I’m asked is “what is the scale of this image?” With help from imaging enthusiast Seán Doran, I can answer that question for some of the Murray buttes.

JunoCam "Marble Movie" data available

Emily Lakdawalla • August 22, 2016

Since a few days after entering orbit, JunoCam has been taking photos of Jupiter every fifteen minutes, accumulating a trove of data that can be assembled into a movie of the planet.

OSIRIS-REx launch preview

Emily Lakdawalla • August 17, 2016

Launch day is coming for NASA's next interplanetary explorer! OSIRIS-REx is on schedule for launch on September 8, 2016 at 19:05 EDT (16:05 PDT, 23:05 UTC) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. OSIRIS-REx is the first NASA planetary launch since MAVEN in 2013, and will be the last until InSight in 2018.

Photos: OSIRIS-REx prepares for launch

Emily Lakdawalla • August 15, 2016

Only 24 days remain until the opening of OSIRIS-REx's launch period, and final preparations are underway. There is a lot to do in the final months before a launch, but things seem to be going well.

Curiosity update, sols 1373-1427: Driving up to Murray buttes, drilling at Marimba

Emily Lakdawalla • August 11, 2016

Curiosity has now covered most of the flat ground that lay between the Naukluft plateau and the Murray buttes. The mission took only 11 days to complete drilling work at Marimba, despite a recurrence of a problematic short in the drill. The rover is ready to drive in among the buttes, shooting spectacular photos along the way.

Yutu is NOT dead (probably)

Emily Lakdawalla • August 10, 2016

Despite what you may have read on other websites last week, China's Yutu lunar rover is probably still functional on the surface of the Moon.

JunoCam raw data from the Juno approach movie

Emily Lakdawalla • August 09, 2016

As it approached Jupiter from June 12 to 29, JunoCam captured an animation of the major moons orbiting the planet. The mission released a processed version of the animation on the day of orbit insertion, but took a few weeks to release the raw image data. I've prepared a page hosting all the raw data, and share a few processed versions.

What's up in the solar system, August 2016 edition: Juno to get Jupiter close-ups, Rosetta descending, road-tripping rovers

Emily Lakdawalla • July 29, 2016

This month we'll finally see JunoCam's first high-resolution images of Jupiter. We'll also see OSIRIS-REx making progress toward its September 8 launch. Both rovers are road-tripping at Mars, while ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has completed a major mid-course correction ahead of its October arrival.

Rosetta end-of-mission plans: Landing site, time selected

Emily Lakdawalla • July 26, 2016

ESA's comet-chasing Rosetta spacecraft is nearing the end of its mission. Last week, ESA announced when and where Rosetta is going to touch down. And tomorrow, it will forever shut down the radio system intended for communicating with the silent Philae lander.

The Planetary Society at San Diego Comic-Con (UPDATED with video!)

Emily Lakdawalla • July 21, 2016

Whether or not you're attending San Diego Comic-Con, you can enjoy a discussion panel with Emily Lakdawalla and five science fiction authors about the future of science fiction in the context of today's amazing scientific advances.

Pluto is not the end

Emily Lakdawalla • July 14, 2016

One year after the New Horizons Pluto flyby, Emily reflects on its significance.

Oppositions, conjunctions, seasons, and ring plane crossings of the giant planets

Emily Lakdawalla • July 07, 2016

When are the solstices and equinoxes on the giant planets, and when are they best positioned for view from Earth? I ask these questions a lot as I write about Earth photos of giant planets, and I finally decided to gather the answers to those questions in a single post.

Juno has arrived!

Emily Lakdawalla • July 05, 2016

For a second time, NASA has placed a spacecraft into orbit at Jupiter. The spacecraft operated exactly according to plan, and Juno successfully entered orbit today, July 5, 2016, UTC

A peek at the JunoCam approach movie

Emily Lakdawalla • July 04, 2016

We're now just about 12 hours away from Juno's Jupiter orbit insertion. As anticipation ramps up, NASA has released this sneak peek at JunoCam's approach movie, made of views of Jupiter and its largest moons shot during the final approach, up until about five days ago.

How to watch Juno's orbit insertion

Emily Lakdawalla • July 01, 2016

The big day is almost here. Juno begins firing its main engine at 20:18 PT / 23:18 ET / 03:18 UT on July 4/5, and the maneuver should be over 35 minutes later at 20:53 / 23:53 / 03:53. Here's how you can follow the mission through its most hazardous event since launch.

What's up in the solar system, July 2016 edition: Juno to enter orbit, NASA missions all extended

Emily Lakdawalla • July 01, 2016

Highlights this month include the impending arrival of Juno at Jupiter, the approval of extended missions for all of NASA's solar system spacecraft, and public data releases from Rosetta, New Horizons, and Cassini.

Juno's first taste of science from Jupiter

Emily Lakdawalla • June 30, 2016

Jupiter is growing in Juno's forward view as the spacecraft approaches for its orbit insertion July 5 (July 4 in the Americas). The mission has released images from JunoCam and sonifications of data from the plasma waves instrument as Juno begins to sense Jupiter.

Plans for China's farside Chang'e 4 lander science mission taking shape

Emily Lakdawalla • June 22, 2016

The future Chang'e 4 lunar farside landing mission is rapidly taking shape. Now the mission's team is coming to a consensus on the landing location, as well as on the mission's instrument package.

National Selfie Day: Spacecraft self-portraits

Emily Lakdawalla • June 21, 2016

It's apparently National Selfie Day. I'm not entirely sure who has the authority to declare these things, or why they decided we needed a National Selfie Day, but since the self-portrait is one of my favorite subgenres of spacecraft photography, I couldn't resist writing about them.

Timeline of Juno Jupiter Orbit Insertion events

Emily Lakdawalla • June 16, 2016

Today NASA held a press briefing and released a press kit for the impending orbit insertion of the Juno spacecraft. The 35-minute orbit insertion burn is scheduled to begin July 5 at 03:18 UTC (July 4 20:18, PDT). Here's a timeline for events relating to orbit insertion.

ExoMars sights Mars

Emily Lakdawalla • June 16, 2016

Today ESA released ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter's first photo of Mars, taken from a distance of 41 million kilometers. It's no more detail than you can get through a pair of a binoculars, just a little taste of what's to come.

Curiosity update, sols 1311-1369: Drilling at Lubango, Okoruso, and Oudam, and a turn to the south

Emily Lakdawalla • June 15, 2016

Curiosity is at a turning point in its mission to Mount Sharp, both literally and figuratively. Having drilled at three sample sites in 7 weeks, the rover took a left turn, changing its trajectory from a generally westward driving path to a southward one. It is now poised to cross the Bagnold dune field at Murray buttes.

Nadia Drake: NSF investigating how to shut down Arecibo

Emily Lakdawalla • June 13, 2016

Reporter Nadia Drake has been following the status of Arecibo very closely, and recently wrote two articles explaining what it means that the National Science Foundation has begun an environmental review process for the giant radio telescope.

Video: Two talks featuring pretty pictures from space

Emily Lakdawalla • June 10, 2016

Videos of two recent talks I've given, one intended for a general audience and one aimed at professionals.

What to expect from JunoCam at Jupiter

Emily Lakdawalla • June 09, 2016

Juno will go in to orbit at Jupiter on July 5 (July 4 in North and South American time zones), and it's carrying a camera that's going to take really awesome photos of Jupiter. But you're going to have to be patient. Emily Lakdawalla explains why.

What's up in the solar system, June 2016 edition: Juno approaches Jupiter

Emily Lakdawalla • June 01, 2016

Your monthly roundup of the adventures of the 20+ robots exploring our solar system.

Three bright planets: Portraits from the Pyrenees

Emily Lakdawalla • May 26, 2016

It's a great time to go outdoors and look at planets. I have three glorious planetary portraits to share today, sent to me by amateur astronomer Jean-Luc Dauvergne.

New work with 35-year-old data: Voyagers at Ganymede and Saturn

Emily Lakdawalla • May 25, 2016

The Voyager data set is a gift to Earth that keeps on giving. This week, I've seen three great new images processed from this old data set.

OSIRIS-REx shipped to Florida for September launch

Emily Lakdawalla • May 23, 2016

OSIRIS-REx's long journey to an asteroid has begun. The spacecraft departed Colorado on Friday, May 20, travelling aboard an Air Force C-17 to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center.

Akatsuki begins a productive science mission at Venus

Emily Lakdawalla • May 19, 2016

Japan's Akatsuki Venus orbiter is well into its science mission, and has already produced surprising science results. The mission, originally planned to last two years, could last as many as five, monitoring Venus' atmosphere over the long term.

A feast of new OSIRIS photos from comet 67P

Emily Lakdawalla • May 11, 2016

Last week, the Rosetta mission released a large quantity of science data to the worldwide public, including photos from the mission's close observation phase and the Philae landing.

What's up in the solar system, May 2016 edition: Good news in cruise for Juno and ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter

Emily Lakdawalla • May 03, 2016

May 2016 will be yet another month of fairly routine operations across the solar system -- if you can ever use the word "routine" to describe autonomous robots exploring other planets. ExoMars' cruise to Mars has started smoothly, and Juno is only two months away from Jupiter orbit insertion. Earthlings will witness a Mercury transit of the Sun on May 9.

The phases of the far side of the Moon

Emily Lakdawalla • April 28, 2016

Serbian artist Ivica Stošić used Clementine and Kaguya data to give a glimpse of the phases of the lunar farside.

Quick Curiosity update, sol 1320: "Lubango," the 10th drill site on Mars

Emily Lakdawalla • April 25, 2016

Curiosity has drilled into Mars for the 10th time at a site named Lubango, on sol 1320 (April 23, 2016). Lubango is in a bright-toned halo around a crack in the Stimson sandstone unit on the western edge of the Naukluft Plateau.

NASA Space Apps Challenge: Women hacking space image data

Emily Lakdawalla • April 22, 2016

Today I'm participating in a program called the International @SpaceApps Women in Data Bootcamp. I'm presenting a brief talk highlighting the way that my personal discovery of NASA's image data archives shaped my path into public communication about science, and briefly showcasing three other women who do amazing work with public image data.

Moonset over Mars

Emily Lakdawalla • April 21, 2016

Enjoy this serene image of a moonset on another world, captured by Curiosity's Mastcam in April 2014 and processed here by Justin Cowart.

A new angle on Mars for Mars Odyssey

Emily Lakdawalla • April 19, 2016

Mars Odyssey has been in space for 15 years. It flies in a special "sun-synchronous" orbit, crossing the equator at roughly the same local time every day. Over time, the Odyssey mission has changed what that local time of day is, and I just realized something cool about how those changes show up in the geometry of its images.

Curiosity update, sols 1250-1310: Across the Naukluft Plateau

Emily Lakdawalla • April 13, 2016

Curiosity has driven onward from Namib dune across a highstanding unit of rock called the Naukluft Plateau. Despite some frustrating sols lost to a short circuit in the RTG and DSN troubles, the rover has made progress, and performed lots of 3D imaging of weirdly wind-eroded rocks.

Opposition surge comet

Emily Lakdawalla • April 12, 2016

Today, the Rosetta OSIRIS team's Image of the Day is this highly unusual view of the comet with the Sun very nearly behind the spacecraft.

What's up in solar system exploration: April 2016 edition

Emily Lakdawalla • April 04, 2016

This month (actually, today), Cassini had a relatively close flyby of Titan, and New Horizons will observe a very distant Kuiper belt object named 1994 JR1. Akatsuki has just fine-tuned its orbit around Venus, and Hayabusa2 has begun an 800-hour ion engine thrusting phase to steer it toward near-Earth asteroid Ryugu.

LPSC 2016: So. Much. Ceres.

Emily Lakdawalla • March 30, 2016

At last week's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, I enjoyed a large number of talks about Ceres. Now in its Low-Altitude Mapping Orbit, Dawn is showering scientists with high-resolution, color data.

Looking Forward to the 2016 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference

Emily Lakdawalla • March 16, 2016

If it's March, it's time for LPSC, the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. The 2016 LPSC runs from March 21 to 25; I'll be attending the first three days of it.

ExoMars launch successful! What to expect for the Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli missions

Emily Lakdawalla • March 14, 2016

The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander are safely on their way to Mars! The two lifted off at 9:31 UTC today, March 14, 2016. Orbiter and lander will arrive at Mars on October 19 at approximately 16:00 UTC. The lander is expected to last about 3 days. The orbiter will spend a year aerobraking before beginning its science mission.

Approaching Neptune

Emily Lakdawalla • March 11, 2016

Image processing enthusiast Ian Regan is working on a cool new version of the Voyager 2 Neptune approach movie.

ExoMars: Prepare for launch!

Emily Lakdawalla • March 10, 2016

ESA's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander are in the final preparations for a launch as early as Monday, toward an October 2016 Mars orbit insertion and landing in Meridiani Planum. Launch on a Proton rocket is expected at 09:31:42 UT Monday, March 14. A Breeze-M upper stage will send the spacecraft on to Mars, with separation at 20:13 UT.

InSight has a new launch date: May 5, 2018

Emily Lakdawalla • March 09, 2016

NASA has decided to move forward with the InSight mission after its delay last December, setting a new launch date of May 5, 2018. That will put the landing on Mars on November 26, 2018. In order to launch in two years, one of its two science instruments must be redesigned.

"Planet Nine" update: Possible resonances beyond the Kuiper belt?

Emily Lakdawalla • March 08, 2016

A new paper by Renu Malhotra proposes that an undiscovered distant planet could have organized extremely distant Kuiper belt objects into orbital resonances.

Mars Express VMC is back online

Emily Lakdawalla • March 04, 2016

Mars Express' Visual Monitoring Camera is taking photos again! The camera was turned on for the first time in six months on Leap Day to take some lovely photos of Mars.

What's up in solar system exploration: March 2016 edition

Emily Lakdawalla • February 29, 2016

Welcome to my monthly inventory of the 20-plus spacecraft actively exploring our solar system. Highlights of this month include the impending launch of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander, currently planned for March 14, and the resumption of regular VMC Mars images by Mars Express.

Curiosity Rover: Design, Planning, and Field Geology on Mars

Emily Lakdawalla • February 26, 2016

Emily is back to work on her Mars Science Laboratory book, which has a new publication date and a new title.

Pretty pictures: Cassini views of Titan's poles (with bonus Enceladus)

Emily Lakdawalla • February 25, 2016

Image processing enthusiast Ian Regan produced a pretty view of Titan's lake-filled north pole, now visible to Cassini's cameras in the summer sun.

UPDATED: ESA activates a new old space camera

Emily Lakdawalla • February 19, 2016

Inspired by the Mars Webcam on Mars Express, ESA's Cluster mission has turned on a camera on the Cluster spacecraft for the first time since their launch more than 15 years ago. UPDATE: It has now acquired images of Earth.

Light plays on a Martian crater rim

Emily Lakdawalla • February 16, 2016

Recently, space image processing enthusiast Thomas Appéré noticed that Curiosity had taken five photos of exactly the same spot on the rim of Gale crater, identical but for being taken at different times of day. That spot was due north of the rover, so the rising and lowering Sun illuminates the rounded hummocks of the crater rim differently from early morning to early afternoon.

Curiosity update, sols 1218-1249: Digging in the sand at Bagnold Dunes

Emily Lakdawalla • February 10, 2016

Curiosity has spent the last month sampling and processing dark sand scooped from the side of Namib Dune. The rover has now departed Namib and is preparing to cross the Bagnold dune field, while working to diagnose an anomaly with the CHIMRA sample handling mechanism.

HiRISE image coverage of the Curiosity field site on Mars, Version 3.0

Emily Lakdawalla • February 05, 2016

There have been tons and tons of HiRISE images of the Curiosity landing region, and it has taken quite a lot of work for me to find, locate, and catalogue them. This post is a summary of what I've found; after five revisions and updates, it's now version 3.0 of the list.

30th anniversary images of Uranian moons

Emily Lakdawalla • February 02, 2016

January 24 was the 30th anniversary of the Voyager flyby of Uranus. Uranian moons have been on my mind ever since New Horizons sent us close-up images of Charon. On the occasion of the anniversary, Ted Stryk produced latest-and-greatest versions of the Voyager views of these worlds.

What's up in solar system exploration: February 2016 edition

Emily Lakdawalla • January 29, 2016

What's going on with our robotic planetary missions? In February I count more than 20 planetary spacecraft exploring six targets beyond Earth or cruising to new destinations.

Fun with a new data set: Chang'e 3 lander and Yutu rover camera data

Emily Lakdawalla • January 28, 2016

Here, for the first time in a format easily accessible to the public, are hundreds and hundreds of science-quality images from the Chang'e 3 lander and Yutu rover.

Wide views of Mars from Mars Express

Emily Lakdawalla • January 27, 2016

Geologist and amateur space image processor Justin Cowart has dug into the Mars Express archives and located some lovely, wide views across great swaths of the Martian globe.

xkcd: Possible Undiscovered Planets

Emily Lakdawalla • January 22, 2016

Randall Munroe is a genius at disguising seriously educational infographics as funny jokes.

Theoretical evidence for an undiscovered super-Earth at the edge of our solar system

Emily Lakdawalla • January 20, 2016

It's looking likelier that there is an undiscovered planet orbiting beyond the Kuiper belt. If it's there, it's roughly 10 times the mass of Earth (or about half the mass of Neptune), likely never gets closer to the Sun than about 100 AU, and takes more than 10,000 years to orbit the Sun.

Pretty pictures: Bittersweet goodies from Cassini at Titan, Enceladus, and Telesto

Emily Lakdawalla • January 15, 2016

Tomorrow, Cassini will fly by Titan, picking up a gravity assist that will tilt its orbit slightly up and out of the ring plane. That will end what has been a wonderful year of frequent encounters with Saturnian moons.

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astronaut on Phobos
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