Snapshots from Space
by Emily Lakdawalla
Follow the thrilling adventures of planetary missions, past and present, and see the stunningly beautiful photos that they return from space!
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Curiosity is finally on the road again! And she's never taken a more scenic route than this. Her path to Mount Sharp is taking her to the west and south, across sandy swales between rocky rises.
Today the New Horizons team released a new animation of images taken on approach to Pluto. The animation clearly shows how Pluto wobbles around the Pluto-Charon barycenter. It also shows something more exciting to the scientists: variations in brightness across the surface of Pluto. They also began releasing raw images to the Internet.
I checked out the latest public image release from Cassini and found an awesome panorama across Saturn's rings, as well as some pretty views looking over Titan's north pole.
In the two months since I last checked up on the Rosetta mission, the comet has heated up, displaying more and more jet activity. Rosetta completed very close flybys on February 14 and March 28, taking amazing photos. But comet dust is making navigation difficult, so the mission is now keeping a respectful distance from the comet and replanning its future path.
New Horizons took its first color photo of Pluto and Charon, while Dawn obtained a 20-frame animation looking down on the north pole of a crescent Ceres.
PROCYON (PRoximate Object Close flYby with Optical Navigation) is a microsatellite that launched on December 3 as a secondary payload with Hayabusa2. The mission has now selected their asteroid flyby target -- a binary asteroid named 2000 DP107 -- but is reporting a problem with their ion engines.
Since I last wrote about Curiosity drilling at Pink Cliffs, the rover has visited and studied two major sites, drilling at one of them. It has also suffered a short in the drill percussion mechanism that presents serious enough risk to warrant a moratorium on drill use until engineers develop a plan to continue to operate it safely.