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Emily Lakdawalla's blogs from 2017

#DPS2017: Progress report on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring

Emily Lakdawalla • October 20, 2017

Three years ago, on October 19, 2014, comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring passed within 138,000 kilometers of Mars. At the 2017 meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, we heard a progress report on Mars orbiter imaging of the comet's nucleus.

A new year's worth of Mars Orbiter Mission data

Emily Lakdawalla • October 02, 2017

India's Mars Orbiter Mission has now completed three years in orbit at Mars, and ISRO celebrated the anniversary by releasing the mission's second-year data to the public. Emily Lakdawalla spent a week downloading and processing data for your enjoyment.

Earth flyby tests OSIRIS-REx's cameras

Emily Lakdawalla • September 28, 2017

As expected, OSIRIS-REx's Earth flyby on September 22 was a success. The mission is slowly releasing beautiful images of our home worlds taken by its many cameras following the flyby.

An honor from The Open University

Emily Lakdawalla • September 22, 2017

Today in London, Emily Lakdawalla was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of the University by The Open University.

OSIRIS-REx Earth flyby: What to Expect

Emily Lakdawalla • September 19, 2017

OSIRIS-REx launched on September 8, 2016. Now, a year later, it's returning to its home to get a second boost on to its destination, the asteroid Bennu. It'll test all its cameras on Earth and the Moon in the 10 days after the flyby.

Cassini: The dying of the light

Emily Lakdawalla • September 15, 2017

Cassini is no more. At 10:31 according to its own clock, its thrusters could no longer hold its radio antenna pointed at Earth, and it turned away. A minute later, it vaporized in Saturn’s atmosphere. Its atoms are part of Saturn now.

Curiosity update, sols 1726-1813: Surveying Vera Rubin Ridge from below

Emily Lakdawalla • September 13, 2017

Curiosity had a productive three months driving along the front of Vera Rubin Ridge, gathering photos and data with its arm instruments, finally driving up on to the ridge on sol 1809.

What to expect during Cassini's final hours

Emily Lakdawalla • September 11, 2017

A timeline of what to expect from the great mission during its final hours.

Curiosity's balky drill: The problem and solutions

Emily Lakdawalla • September 06, 2017

Since December 1, 2016, Curiosity has been unable to drill into rocks because of a serious problem with one of the drill's motors. Emily Lakdawalla thoroughly explains the issues and the path forward for Curiosity.

Voyager 40th anniversary: Reflecting on the pale blue dot

Emily Lakdawalla • September 05, 2017

Today is the 40th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 1. Four decades later, both spacecraft survive, still producing science, still working on their interstellar missions. On the occasion of the anniversary, we revisit Carl Sagan's reflections on the significance of the Voyager missions.

Book Update: The Design and Engineering of Curiosity

Emily Lakdawalla • September 01, 2017

Emily Lakdawalla's first book is now available for pre-order.

Voyager 40th anniversary: The Planetary Report's chronicles

Emily Lakdawalla • August 25, 2017

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Voyager missions, we're making publicly available seven back issues of The Planetary Report that chronicled the grand tour of the giant planets.

Celebrating the 40th anniversaries of the Voyager launches

Emily Lakdawalla • August 17, 2017

Sunday, August 20 marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 2. Tuesday, September 5, will be the 40th anniversary for Voyager 1. Throughout the next three weeks, we'll be posting new and classic material in honor of the Voyagers. Here's a preview.

Sharing an eclipse with kids

Emily Lakdawalla • July 28, 2017

Here's a simple and safe way to observe a partial eclipse that's appropriate for young children, with no eclipse glasses or other special equipment needed.

In total eclipse of a star, New Horizons' future flyby target makes its presence known

Emily Lakdawalla • July 19, 2017

The team reported two weeks ago that the first attempts at observing 2014 MU69 were unsuccessful. But in their third try, on July 17, astronomers in Argentina saw the telltale sign of MU69's presence: a stellar wink.

A guide to Cassini's remaining orbits

Emily Lakdawalla • July 05, 2017

Sadly, the Cassini mission ends soon. We're halfway through the "Grand Finale" orbits. Only eleven and a half orbits remain until Cassini meets its fate on September 15. Here's a look at the great mission's final science orbits.

Curiosity update, sols 1675-1725: Traverse to Vera Rubin Ridge

Emily Lakdawalla • June 13, 2017

Curiosity has had a busy eight weeks, driving south from the Bagnold Dunes toward Vera Rubin Ridge. The path has steepened and the rover is now rapidly climbing upward with every meter traveled. It's been a productive time for arm instruments, but the drill is still not working.

Saturn's small satellites, to scale

Emily Lakdawalla • May 17, 2017

Emily shares another of her popular size comparisons of solar system bodies, taking advantage of Cassini's recent views of Saturn's tiniest moons.

Saturn and Titan in the Milky Way

Emily Lakdawalla • May 08, 2017

An unusual photo of Saturn by astrophotographer Damian Peach shows the planet and its largest moon nestled among the star-filled lane of the Milky Way.

Trusty Cassini survives first dive between Saturn and its rings

Emily Lakdawalla • April 28, 2017

Cheers erupted in the Von Karman auditorium at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory early Thursday morning as a squiggly green line on a graph developed a crisp, tall peak, signifying that the Cassini spacecraft was calling home after surviving its first plunge between Saturn and its ring system.

Curiosity update, sols 1600-1674: The second Bagnold Dunes campaign

Emily Lakdawalla • April 25, 2017

The four-stop dune science campaign offered the engineers some time to continue troubleshooting the drill without any pressure to use it for science. They scooped sand at a site called Ogunquit Beach but couldn't complete the planned sample activity because of new developments in the drill inquiry. The rover has now headed onward toward Vera Rubin Ridge.

MAVEN dodges Phobos, with (maybe) a little help from Curiosity

Emily Lakdawalla • March 06, 2017

This week MAVEN had to execute a short rocket burn in order to prevent a future collision with Phobos. Curiosity (and other rovers) may have played a role in those trajectory predictions.

Curiosity update, sols 1548-1599: Serious drill brake problem as Curiosity drives through Murray red beds

Emily Lakdawalla • February 03, 2017

Since my last update, the Curiosity mission has developed a better understanding of the problem that prevented them from drilling at Precipice, but its intermittent nature has slowed the development of a workable solution that will allow them to use the drill again. In the meantime, the rover has driven onward, making good use of its other instruments.

A writing sabbatical

Emily Lakdawalla • January 24, 2017

Four years ago, I announced that I was writing a book about Curiosity, describing the mission from its inception through its nominal mission. I am still not done, so am taking a three-month break from other work -- including this blog -- in order to focus and finish. I'm seeking scientists and engineers to serve as guest bloggers.

Amazing photos of tiny moons as Cassini orbits among the rings

Emily Lakdawalla • January 19, 2017

Behold: Daphnis, the tiny, 8-kilometer moon that orbits within a ring gap, gently tugging on the edges of the gap to create delicate scallops.

Hidden Figures: Triumphant in the theater, sobering after

Emily Lakdawalla • January 10, 2017

Go see Hidden Figures, and bring your kids. Despite its serious subject matter, the movie is joyful, often funny, and, in the end, triumphant.

astronaut on Phobos
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