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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.