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Guest blogs from 2014

Riding With Cassini Through 2014

Bill Dunford • December 31, 2014

Video: see some of the sights Cassini saw this year.

Field Report from Mars: Sol 3875 – December 18, 2014

Larry Crumpler • December 30, 2014

Opportunity is continuing its drives along the rim of Endeavour toward Marathon Valley. Larry Crumpler tells us what to expect as the rover continues its journey.

Dawn Journal: History of Ceres

Marc Rayman • December 29, 2014

As Dawn looks toward the new world of Ceres, Mission Director Marc Rayman looks back on Ceres' discovery.

A Visit to India: New Space Collaborations and New Friendships with Role Models for Women in STEM

Ellen Stofan • December 24, 2014

NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan discusses her recent trip to India to speak at the India-U.S. Technology Summit in Delhi and Miranda House a the University of Dehli on women in STEM careers.

Pretty Pictures of the Cosmos: Infinity

Adam Block • December 23, 2014

Astrophotographer Adam Block shares four stunning images capturing the expansiveness of the universe.

Like A Bad Penny: Methane on Mars

Nicholas Heavens • December 16, 2014

With the announcement of Curiosity's detection of methane on Mars, Nicholas Heavens gives us a guide to the history of methane detection on Mars, a discussion of its scientific significance, and a few things to consider when hearing about and asking about the detection.

Our Global Volunteers: December 2014 Update

Kate Howells • December 12, 2014

The Planetary Society’s Global Volunteer Network has been busy these past few months!

Pretty Pictures of the Cosmos: Strange and spooky

Adam Block • December 12, 2014

Award-winning astrophotographer Adam Block shares his haunting images of three different types of nebulae.

New Churyumov-Gerasimenko Shapemodel!

Mattias Malmer • December 12, 2014

Mattias Malmer shares his latest shape model of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, created using data from the Rosetta spacecraft.

The YORP Effect and Bennu

Dante Lauretta • December 11, 2014

The YORP effect is a phenomenon that affects the rotation rate and pole orientation of an asteroid. YORP is an acronym that combines four scientist’s names: Yarkovsky, O’Keefe, Radzievskii, and Paddack.

Revisiting Uranus with Voyager 2

Björn Jónsson • December 10, 2014

Amateur image processor Björn Jónsson brings us some new views of Uranus from reprocessed Voyager 2 data.

What Happens When Space Projects Go Over Budget? The Curious Case of MSL’s Overrun

Jason Callahan • December 08, 2014

Jason Callahan takes a detailed look at the effects of Curiosity's cost overruns on NASA's budget.

New Views of Ancient Martian Landscapes

Bill Dunford • December 08, 2014

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter just keeps delivering remarkable scenes from the Red Planet.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Roves from Wdowiak Ridge into Network of Fractures

A.J.S. Rayl • December 03, 2014

Last month, the Earth's longest-lived and most traveled robot on another planet drove into a network of fractures the likes of which the scientists had never seen before on Mars and wound up working there through the end of the month – and then something not completely unexpected happened.

Selecting the Next Creative Idea for Exploring the Solar System

Van Kane • December 01, 2014

With the release of the official Announcement of Opportunity (AO) early in November, NASA has officially begun the competition to select its next low cost ($450M) Discovery program planetary mission. Because planetary scientists are free to propose missions to any destination in the solar system other than the sun and Earth, these competitions bring out the creativity in the planetary science program.

Dawn Journal: Looking Ahead at Ceres

Marc Rayman • December 01, 2014

This month, Marc Rayman looks ahead to some upcoming activities for Dawn as it approaches the dwarf planet Ceres.

Some Recent Views of Mars from Hubble

Ted Stryk • November 26, 2014

Ted Stryk showcases some of his processed versions of recent Hubble Space Telescope views of Mars.

A Rich Potpourri of Future Mission Concepts

Van Kane • November 26, 2014

The past few months have brought announcements for new missions from India and China as well as a wealth of creative ideas for future missions.

The Science of “Bennu’s Journey”

Dante Lauretta • November 25, 2014

The OSIRIS-REx project released Bennu’s Journey, a movie describing one possible history of our target asteroid – Bennu. The animation is among the most highly detailed productions created by Goddard’s Conceptual Image Laboratory.

Field Report from Mars: Sol 3848 — November 20, 2014

Larry Crumpler • November 25, 2014

Larry Crumpler returns with an update on Opportunity's recent activities, and its road ahead.

Lunar Polar Volatile Puzzle

Deepak Dhingra • November 21, 2014

Deepak Dhingra gives an exciting update from the recent Lunar Exploration and Analysis Group (LEAG) meeting at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (JHU-APL) in Baltimore.

Want Funding? Then Be a National Priority

Jason Callahan • November 14, 2014

On Monday, Jason Callahan published an article in The Space Review discussing the importance of aligning the goals of federally funded scientific communities with national priorities. This post highlights some of the main points of the article and suggests a possible role for The Planetary Society.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Images Comet, Ducks Storm, Departs Ulysses

A.J.S. Rayl • November 04, 2014

As winds whirled and converged to the west of Endeavour Crater, Opportunity's power dropped dramatically in October, but the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) pressed on. By month's end, the robot field geologist had completed her assignments – including capturing the first close-in shot of a comet from the surface of the Red Planet – and was roving onward through the darkness, driving the mission into the 130th month of what started out more than 10-and-a-half years ago to be a 3-month tour.

Fall Issue of The Planetary Report is Here!

Donna Stevens • November 04, 2014

The fall issue of The Planetary Report has mailed and is on its way to our members’ doors. Those of you who prefer an electronic file, or a preview of the printed copy, can pick it up online.

Dawn Journal: Ion thrusting (or not)

Marc Rayman • November 02, 2014

Marc Rayman gives the latest update on the Dawn mission, focusing this time on the performance of its ion propulsion system.

The Art of Planetary Science

Dante Lauretta • October 31, 2014

On October 17-19, 2014, the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory on the University of Arizona campus hosted the second annual Art of Planetary Science exhibition. This exhibition featured works of art inspired by the solar system, alongside works by scientists created from their scientific data.

A (Difficult) Day in the Solar System

Bill Dunford • October 30, 2014

After a bad day on the launch pad, some perspective.

When Nixon Stopped Human Exploration

John M. Logsdon • October 28, 2014

Society Board Member John Logsdon describes how the decisions made by Richard Nixon in late 1969 and early 1970 effectively ended human exploration beyond Earth orbit for the indefinite future.

Rosetta NAVCAM's Shades of Grey

Claudia Mignone • October 27, 2014

What do “light” and “dark” mean for an object like Comet 67P/C-G? Here are some details on how Rosetta's NAVCAM images are taken and displayed to make a wide range of surface features possible.

Herschel observations of Comet Siding Spring initiated by an amateur astronomer

Peter Mattisson • October 22, 2014

The European satellite Herschel acquired images of Comet Siding Spring before its death in 2013 — thanks to an observing proposal from an amateur astronomer!

Collaboration Between OSIRIS-REx and Hayabusa2

Dante Lauretta • October 20, 2014

The University of Arizona (UA) hosted representatives of the Hayabusa2 asteroid sample return mission to explore opportunities for collaboration with the OSIRIS-REx team.

Field Report from Mars: Sol 3808 — October 10, 2014

Larry Crumpler • October 15, 2014

Opportunity will become a comet flyby mission beginning in mid-October. The comet Siding Spring will zoom past Mars at a distance of about 135,000 km on October 19.

Comet Siding Spring: Exciting times

Karl Battams • October 06, 2014

We're now less than two weeks away from Comet Siding Spring buzzing ridiculously close to Mars, and the excitement is building - in both good and bad ways...

A Clearer Impression of Degas Crater

Bill Dunford • October 06, 2014

MESSENGER is revealing the first planet in sharp detail.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Gets Extension, Returns Killer Panoramas, and Roves onto Mystery Rocks

A.J.S. Rayl • October 04, 2014

While the winds of Martian spring blew through Meridiani Planum in September, Opportunity reformatted its Flash memory then continued exploring Wdowiak Ridge on the western rim of Endeavour Crater. Even though the Flash-related issues soon returned, the robot field geologist hardly seemed to notice as it sent home two spectacular panoramas, presented the scientists with a rocky Martian mystery, and delivered yet another September to remember for the mission. And that's not all.

How Richard Nixon Changed NASA

Jason Callahan • October 04, 2014

The end of the Moon race raised the question: what, if anything, was next for NASA? The decisions made by President Nixon in the aftermath of Apollo still impact the space program today.

Preparing for A-MAVEN Science!

Karl Battams • October 03, 2014

How can we use MAVEN to learn about Comet Siding Spring, passing very close by Mars this month?

Mars Orbiter Mission activates all science instruments as NASA, ISRO form joint Mars working group

Srinivas Laxman • October 01, 2014

Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) began its science activities fully on Wednesday with all five science instruments being activated. And on Tuesday, an ISRO-NASA Mars working group was formed which will "seek to identify and implement scientific and technological goals that NASA and ISRO have in common regarding Mars exploration."

Dawn Journal: 7 Years of Interplanetary Travel

Marc Rayman • September 27, 2014

Marc Rayman gives us an update on the Dawn mission, heading to Ceres, on the 7th anniversary of its launch.

Field Report from Mars: Sol 3790 — September 22, 2014

Larry Crumpler • September 26, 2014

After a stand-down of activities to reformat its flash memory, Opportunity has re-commenced the long climb up this high and steep segment of the Endeavour crater rim.

All That is Known About Bennu

Dante Lauretta • September 24, 2014

The OSIRIS-REx Design Reference Asteroid (DRA) document is now available to the public. The DRA is a compilation of all that is known about the OSIRIS-REx mission target, asteroid (101955) Bennu.

A Tour of 67P...

Stuart Atkinson • September 23, 2014

Stuart Atkinson takes us on a stunning guided visual tour of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

A Glimpse Into NASA's New History Archives

Jason Callahan • September 23, 2014

NASA's immense reference collection got a makeover at its Washington, D.C. location recently. Jason Callahan gives you a glimpse behind the scenes as guests made their way into the new rooms while enjoying good conversation and, of course, Moon Pies.

45th Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium Report

Ted Stryk • September 23, 2014

The 45th Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium, usually focused on terrestrial studies, shifted this year to planetary science. Ted Stryk gives us an overview.

SHARAD: Delving Deep at Mars

Bill Dunford • September 22, 2014

Some of Mars' most important secrets are hiding beneath the surface.

Mars Orbiter Mission test firing successful; all ready for orbit insertion

Srinivas Laxman • September 22, 2014

There was celebration in the Mars mission control room in Bangalore on Monday following the success of the crucial four-second test firing of the Mars Orbiter Mission’s (MOM) 440-Newton liquid apogee motor. MOM will now go ahead with the nominal plan for the Mars orbit insertion on September 24 at 07:30 IST (02:00 UT / September 23 19:00 PDT).

NASA's Global Reach: Pakistan

Nagin Cox • September 18, 2014

Nagin Cox, a systems engineer and manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory currently working on the mission operations team for Curiosity, tells us about a trip she took to Pakistan as an ambassador for science and technology.

Comet Siding Spring Mars encounter: One Mars Express plan becomes two

ESA Mars Express Team • September 17, 2014

The Mars Express Flight Control Team at ESOC have been actively preparing for the flyby of comet C/2013 A1/Siding Spring on October 19. Initial estimates gave the possibility that Mars Express might be hit by 2 or 3 high-speed particles. Happily, additional observations by ground and space telescopes have shown the risk to be much lower – and perhaps even as low as zero. In today's blog post, the team explain how this (happy!) real-life, real-time development is affecting their preparations for fly-by.

Recovery. Peak. Collapse. Planetary Science from 1990 - 2014

Jason Callahan • September 11, 2014

The history of planetary exploration repeats itself starting with a resurgent program in the 90s and 2000s that launched a new fleet of planetary spacecraft. Like our first story, this great success rewarded by deep budget cuts.

So Close and Yet So Far: Why isn't Siding Spring going to sandblast Mars?

Tony Farnham • September 09, 2014

Comet Siding Spring is going to make a very close approach to Mars in October. Any comet dust that reaches Mars has the potential to inflict significant damage on the spacecraft orbiting the planet. As it turns out, however, Mars and its orbiters are likely to see very few, if any, impacts. Why?

Growth. Peak. Collapse. Planetary exploration from 1959 - 1989

Jason Callahan • September 08, 2014

The first three decades of planetary exploration tell a story that sounds all-too-familiar to modern day space advocates. Growth, peak, and then collapse of hard-earned capability. This is the story of planetary science for the first half of its existence.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Suffers Unwanted Computer Reboots, Hunkers Down for Reformat

A.J.S. Rayl • September 03, 2014

After setting the new off-Earth rover distance record in July, Opportunity roved on in August, driving south along the eastern edge of Endeavour Crater's western rim to Wdowiak Ridge on its journey to the next big destination, Marathon Valley.

Dawn Journal: From HAMO to LAMO and Beyond

Marc Rayman • September 02, 2014

Marc Rayman updates us on the Dawn mission, its plans from high to low altitude mapping orbits at Ceres, and what the intrepid spacecraft will pursue next.

The Pivotal Discovery You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Karl Battams • August 29, 2014

Karl Battams highlights the historic discovery, by an Air Force satellite, of a sungrazing comet.

The Rise and Fall (and Rise and Fall) of Planetary Exploration Funding

Jason Callahan • August 29, 2014

NASA has explored the solar system since the 1960s, but it has rarely been the top priority for the space agency. Jason Callahan breaks down how planetary science has been funded over the years within NASA's larger budget.

The Birth of the Modern Universe

Amir Alexander • August 29, 2014

Amir Alexander reviews Alan Hirshfeld's newest book, "Starlight Detectives: How Astronomers, Inventors, and Eccentrics Discovered the Modern Universe."

Canadian Mars Analogue Mission: Field Report, Week 2

Tanya Harrison • August 28, 2014

Tanya Harrison wraps up the final week of Mars sample return analogue mission operations at the Canadian Space Agency.

The Competition for Dollars

Jason Callahan • August 27, 2014

We all know NASA needs more money to achieve its goals. But competition for money is intense within the U.S. federal government, and two trends have made it harder for NASA to get what it needs.

Europa: How Less Can Be More

Van Kane • August 26, 2014

Van Kane explains three factors that make exploring Europa hard—factors that can make a mission concept that seems like less actually be more.

Comet Flyby Missions for Mars Rovers

Mark Lemmon • August 21, 2014

On October 19, the Mars rovers — like their orbiting cousins — will become comet flyby missions. Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will pass within 140,000 km of Mars.

Stardust@home Finds Some Stardust

Amir Alexander • August 21, 2014

What’s new at Stardust@home, the groundbreaking program that asked volunteers to help find interstellar dust particles collected by the spacecraft Stardust.

Canadian Mars Analogue Mission: Field Report, Week 1

Tanya Harrison • August 20, 2014

Tanya Harrison reports on Canada's efforts to simulate a Mars sample return mission here on Earth.

New Postcards from Mars

Bill Dunford • August 18, 2014

The latest snaphots from the "Mars Webcam" include something special.

Field Report From Mars: Sol 3753 – August 15, 2014

Larry Crumpler • August 18, 2014

Opportunity just completed its first drives upslope on its long journey toward the crest of the highest rim segment of Endeavour crater, “Cape Tribulation.” Larry Crumpler gives us an update on what to expect next from the little rover that could.

The OCO-2 First Light Spectra

David Crisp • August 15, 2014

Dr. David Crisp explains how NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) works, and what its first light spectra tells his team about the spacecraft’s performance.

Three Major Volcanic Eruptions Observed On Io in the Span of Two Weeks

Jason Perry • August 12, 2014

Jason Perry brings us a report on recent ground-based observations that shed new light on the most powerful of Io’s volcanic eruptions.

Mars 2020 Instruments – A Plan for Sample Return

Van Kane • August 08, 2014

Van Kane gives us a tour of the instruments selected for the Mars 2020 rover.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Sets Historic Distance Record and Roves On

A.J.S. Rayl • August 08, 2014

It's official: Opportunity has traveled farther and lived longer than any other vehicle on another planet, driving to a place in history with an out-of-this-world distinction no one even imagined when the robot field geologist left Earth 11 years ago.

Comet Siding Spring: Risk Assessment

Karl Battams • August 07, 2014

On October 19, 2014, Comet Siding Spring is going to have an extremely close encounter with the planet Mars. The bottom line: it seems most likely that our Martian spacecraft will be absolutely fine.

Rosetta's Big Day

Stuart Atkinson • August 06, 2014

Stuart Atkinson muses on the difference between the Europe of today and the Europe of a century ago in the context of Rosetta's momentous arrival at comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Rendezvous with a crazy world

Daniel Fischer • August 06, 2014

Beaming scientists all around, spectacular images on large TV screens, and the best - or at least most exciting - yet to come: such was the extraordinary scene at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, today as the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft reached its cometary destination.

Field Report From Mars: Sol 3737 – July 30, 2014

Larry Crumpler • August 04, 2014

Larry Crumpler updates us on the Opportunity rover, which now holds the distance record for a rover on another planet and is about to climb up its highest crater rim segment yet.

The Planetary Report: Summer Solstice Edition

Donna Stevens • August 04, 2014

Summer’s edition of The Planetary Report is on its way to your mailbox!

Dawn Journal: Not-So-Quiet Cruise

Marc Rayman • August 01, 2014

Dawn's Mission Director updates us on the status of the mission, and tells us what Dawn and Star Wars have in common.

8th Mars Report: Martian habitability

Valerie Fox • July 30, 2014

Valerie Fox reports from the 8th International Conference on Mars on the habitability of the Red Planet.

8th Mars Report: Was Ancient Mars Warm and Wet or Cold and Icy?

Abigail Fraeman • July 29, 2014

One of the hot topics of the 8th International Conference on Mars was the nature of Mars' ancient past. Abigail Fraeman reports on our updated view of whether Mars was ever warm and wet.

The Osirian Asteroid Family

Dante Lauretta • July 28, 2014

The asteroid community recently gathered in Helsinki, Finland for the 12th Asteroids, Comets, and Meteors Conference. As this meeting showed, one of the hottest topics in asteroid science is the study of asteroid families.

Pretty Pictures of the Cosmos: Perception

Adam Block • July 25, 2014

Astrophotographer Adam Block shares two recent images of star clusters, along with a pair of depth perception-defying galaxies.

Standing on Venus in 1975

Ted Stryk • July 24, 2014

Venera 9 and 10 landed on Venus in 1975 and sent back the first images of the planet's surface. Now, Ted Stryk brings new life to these images to show us what it would be like to stand on the Venusian surface.

One Day on Mars

Bill Dunford • July 21, 2014

A single day's observations take us from orbital overviews all the way down to ground truth.

Mars and Europa: Contrasts in Mission Planning

Van Kane • July 19, 2014

Several announcements for proposed missions to Mars and on the planning for a NASA return to Europa that highlight the contrasts in planning missions for these two high priority destinations.

A right old comet kerfuffle…

Stuart Atkinson • July 18, 2014

A European space enthusiast, children's author, and volunteer astronomy outreach worker asks for more images from Rosetta.

How Arecibo Observatory Transmits to the ISEE-3 Spacecraft

Alessondra Springmann • July 16, 2014

Talking to spacecraft is a normal occurrence at Arecibo Observatory, but sometimes the nuts and bolts are a little unconventional.

Trundling Across the Moon

Mark Robinson • July 11, 2014

High resolution images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera detail the 1973 path of the Soviet rover Lunokhod 2.

Voyager 3 Project

Peter Rosén • July 08, 2014

In 1979, the Voyager 1 probe took a stunning series of images on its final approach to Jupiter. Thirty-five years later, almost to the day, a group of seven Swedish amateur astronomers set out to replicate this odyssey, but with images taken with their own ground-based telescopes.

The Habitable Zone of Inhabited Planets

Jaime Green • July 07, 2014

A team of Colombian researchers are arguing for a new refinement to the idea of the habitable zone that takes the presence of life itself into account.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Nears End of Murray Ridge, Pillinger Point Christened

A.J.S. Rayl • July 03, 2014

Opportunity got off to a bumpy start in June, but the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission pressed on, continuing the exploration of Murray Ridge at the western rim of Endeavour Crater.

Pretty Pictures of the Cosmos: Interacting Galaxies

Adam Block • July 02, 2014

Award-winning astrophotographer Adam Block showcases some of his stunning images of what happens when galaxies get a little too close to each other.

Dawn Journal: HAMO at Ceres

Marc Rayman • July 01, 2014

Dawn's chief engineer and mission director Marc Rayman gives an overview of the plan for the penultimate orbital phase at Ceres, the “high altitude mapping orbit” (HAMO).

Field Report From Mars: Sol 3705 – June 27, 2014

Larry Crumpler • June 30, 2014

Opportunity has left the winter haven and is still driving south along the rim of Endeavour crater, currently exploring an outcrop a few meters from crater rim.

Of Rings and Resolution

Bill Dunford • June 23, 2014

Seeing Saturn before and after Cassini.

One Number, Two Budgets

Van Kane • June 17, 2014

The Senate and House have both agreed to increase NASA's budget to $17.9 billion, but they have very different ways of spending that money.

The OSIRIS-REx Design Reference Mission

Dante Lauretta • June 12, 2014

This week the OSIRIS-REx team gathered at the Lockheed Martin facility in Denver to perform a “Design Reference Mission (DRM)” walkthrough. The DRM is basically the battle plan for OSIRIS-REx for accomplishing our goal of returning pristine samples from asteroid Bennu.

A Checkup on Future Mars Missions

Van Kane • June 09, 2014

NASA’s Mars Exploration Analysis Group (MEPAG) recently reviewed plans by Europe, the Japanese, and NASA for future Mars exploration. The prognosis is for another exciting decade of Mars exploration.

Pretty Pictures of the Cosmos

Adam Block • June 06, 2014

Award-winning astrophotographer Adam Block shares some of his recent work.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Hunts Ancient Clays along Murray Ridge

A.J.S. Rayl • June 05, 2014

At the western rim of Endeavour Crater, Opportunity spent the month of May exploring a new clayground along Murray Ridge and the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) mission trundled into the 125th month of what was originally to be a short, 3-month tour.

The construction of OSIRIS-REx has begun!

Dante Lauretta • June 05, 2014

The construction of OSIRIS-REx has begun! Seeing the core structure being assembled demonstrated that OSIRIS-REx is no longer just a set of drawings and PowerPoint charts, it is starting to become a real spacecraft.

Tracks in the Wilderness

Bill Dunford • June 03, 2014

Pioneer trails extend all the way to Mars.

Dawn Journal: Survey Orbit at Ceres

Marc Rayman • June 03, 2014

This month Dawn's mission director Marc Rayman continues the preview of how Dawn will explore Ceres, this time in its survey orbit.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's Ongoing Adventure

Samuel Lawrence • May 29, 2014

A few people think that when it comes to the Moon, because we’ve “been there, and done that,” there is nothing new left to discover. But that viewpoint could not be farther from the truth!

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