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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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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2016/03/09 03:41 CST
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.