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Blogs

Guest blogs from 2014

Forensic Ballistics: How Apollo 12 Helped Solve the Skydiver Meteorite Mystery

Posted by Philip Metzger on 2014/04/21 09:33 CDT | 6 comments

What can a 45-year-old mission to the Moon tell us about a "meteorite" flying past a skydiver on Earth?

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The Birth of the Wanderers

Posted by Augusto Carballido on 2014/04/16 02:50 CDT | 8 comments

How did planets originate? This is a question that has puzzled scientists for centuries, but one which they have been able to tackle directly only in the last few decades, thanks to two major developments: breakthroughs in telescope technology and ever-increasing computing power.

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Interview with a Mars Explorer

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2014/04/14 08:03 CDT | 5 comments

A conversation with Dr. Sarah Milkovich, HiRISE Investigation Scientist.

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Will We Finally Rove Mawrth Vallis?

Posted by J. Brian Balta on 2014/04/10 05:44 CDT | 3 comments

Mawrth Vallis was axed as a landing site for Curiosity, but will we get a chance to explore it with ESA's ExoMars rover?

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Yutu Update

Posted by Phil Stooke on 2014/04/10 03:08 CDT

We don’t hear a lot at the moment about Chang’E 3 and Yutu, the Chinese lander and rover which were all over the news a few months ago. But Phil Stooke has been collecting news online and in person last month at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference and now tries to put it all together and address the current state of the mission.

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Come Rock the Planet with Yuri’s Night!!

Posted by Loretta HidalgoDanielle Hannah on 2014/04/09 06:10 CDT

First launched on April 12, 2001, Yuri’s Night celebrates two amazing accomplishments of humankind: Yuri Gagarin’s becoming the first human to orbit the earth in 1961 and the first launch of the U.S. Space Shuttle, twenty years later to the day. It is also a global celebration of humanity’s future in space and how we can use space to bring us closer together.

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Arecibo Observatory operational after repairs to fix earthquake damage

Posted by Alessondra Springmann on 2014/04/09 09:48 CDT | 1 comments

Early in the morning on January 13, 2014, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck beneath the Atlantic Ocean north of Puerto Rico, damaging Arecibo Observatory, the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope. The telescope is now operational after repairs and scientists have resumed observations. However, the future of Arecibo Observatory remains unclear due to funding uncertainties in the federal budget.

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The Spring Equinox 2014 issue of The Planetary Report is here!

Posted by Donna Stevens on 2014/04/08 04:46 CDT

Wind-sculpted sand—that is how I think of dunes. In our main feature, “The Dune Whispers,” Ralph D. Lorenz describes the formation, and varieties, of these fascinating and beautiful works of planetary art.

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Opposition time for Mars, and several months of dancing with the stars

Posted by ESA Mars Express Team on 2014/04/08 08:47 CDT | 1 comments

The Mars Express team showcases some of the best viewing opportunities of Mars in 2014, including how to spot Comet Siding Spring when it flies past Mars this October.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Powers Up in Cook Haven and in Fans' Minds
Sols 3590 – 3621

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2014/04/07 03:05 CDT | 1 comments

At the Solander Point section of the rim of Endeavour Crater, Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity spent the month of March just off Murray Ridge working on its final targets in Cook Haven and dusting itself in the winds of winter, while MER mission officials on Earth were roving toward what may be the robot's current greatest potential threat – being cut from NASA's planetary science budget.

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My Own Corner of Mars

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2014/04/07 10:02 CDT

How I took a high-res photo of an intriguing spot on the Red Planet--and how you can, too.

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Field Report From Mars: Sol 3623 – April 3, 2014

Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2014/04/06 01:17 CDT

Larry Crumpler gives an update on Opportunity's current location, next long-term target, and excitingly increasing power levels.

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Fireworks in the Earth's Sky Sent from the Moon: Reflections from LPSC 2014

Posted by Deepak Dhingra on 2014/04/03 07:00 CDT

Deepak Dhingra reports on presentations from this year's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference focusing on how impacts on the Moon have affected Earth.

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Discovery Missions for an Icy Moon with Active Plumes

Posted by Van Kane on 2014/04/02 07:31 CDT | 8 comments

In December, scientists announced the discovery of possible plumes of water being ejected from Jupiters’s moon Europa. If confirmed, Europa would be the second moon with confirmed plumes after Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Two Discovery mission proposals for Enceladus suggest the types of missions that may be proposed for Europa.

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Dawn Journal: Orbital Trajectories

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2014/04/01 09:48 CDT | 3 comments

Marc Rayman updates us on Dawn's status and explains how the spacecraft is actually getting closer to Earth at the moment as it moves deeper into the asteroid belt.

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LPSC 2014: The Curious Case of Active Volcanism on Venus

Posted by Constantine Tsang on 2014/04/01 12:10 CDT | 4 comments

She’s alive! She’s alive! Or is she? A little more than a week ago, at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 2014, evidence was presented that Venus was geologically active, not in the recent past, like 100,000 years ago, but right now.

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Comet Siding Spring Mars encounter: Cosmic bully spotted by ESA and NASA

Posted by ESA Mars Express Team on 2014/03/31 05:46 CDT

Hubble has taken some great new images of our 'friend,' Comet Siding Spring, due to pass by Mars at less than 136,000 km on October 19 – less than half the distance between Earth and our moon.

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Returning Explorers

Posted by Achim Vollhardt on 2014/03/28 01:25 CDT | 3 comments

ICE has been on a journey for over 30 years around our sun. While the owner has decided not to bring the ship back to its home port, a group of radio amateurs tries to find out how ICE is doing.

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A Centaur’s shadow reveals bright rings

Posted by Alex Parker on 2014/03/27 09:28 CDT | 7 comments

Yesterday, a team of astronomers announced that they discovered a set of planet-like rings around Chariklo, an asteroid-like body that currently resides in the unstable region between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus.

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Detecting Spacetime Distortions

Posted by Katherine Mack on 2014/03/25 08:17 CDT | 4 comments

Katie Mack explains why the BICEP2 detection of primordial gravitational waves has left astrophysicists at a loss for words.

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Dancing With Saturn

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2014/03/24 09:30 CDT | 5 comments

Cassini images in motion.

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Comet Siding Spring Mars encounter: Ya gotta have a little ‘tude

Posted by ESA Mars Express Team on 2014/03/24 03:44 CDT

In the latest update on how the Mars Express flight control team is planning to deal with Comet Siding Spring is all about attitude -- and hiding behind the biggest guy in the fight.

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Further Analysis of NASA's FY15 Budget Proposal: Steady As She Goes?

Posted by Van Kane on 2014/03/22 10:23 CDT

The President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget details were released last week. For the next several years, the budget proposes a steady as she goes plan, but with two “what are they thinking?” surprises.

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Calling Congress Is Easy

Posted by Kirby Runyon on 2014/03/21 07:38 CDT | 3 comments

Calling your senators and representatives about NASA's budget isn't that bad. In fact, I just took 15 minutes out of my day to do it! If you're not sure what to say to support planetary exploration, I hope you'll be inspired by what I've transcribed from my phone call this afternoon.

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Moonwalking

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2014/03/18 12:42 CDT | 8 comments

Get an astronaut's view into several lunar craters.

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Postcards from Pluto

Posted by Amanda Zangari on 2014/03/12 03:26 CDT | 2 comments

Amanda Zangari shares what it's like to be a scientist on New Horizons, and explains some of the day-to-day workings of the mission behind the scenes.

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Comet Siding Spring Mars encounter: How to determine the orbit of a comet?

Posted by ESA Mars Express Team on 2014/03/12 02:02 CDT | 2 comments

In the quest to track Comet Siding Spring, the Mars Express team tells us how computing the orbit of a comet isn't as straightforward as science fiction would have us believe.

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Why Cosmos should matter, especially to Hollywood

Posted by Taryn O'Neill on 2014/03/07 01:52 CST | 3 comments

For a town dependent on Stars, there are far too few people here who look up at the sky. But come this Sunday, March 9, the epic series of science, space and humanity will return: Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Why does it matter for Hollywood, specifically? I'll tell you why it will. And then why it should.

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Hypervelocity Cratering and Riding Out the Risk

Posted by ESA Mars Express Team on 2014/03/06 07:34 CST

Today's update from the Mars Express team contains the realisation that, for some of the risks associated with October's Siding Spring flyby, there may not be much the team can do.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Cruises Through Winter Solstice, Into Year 11
Sols 3564 - 3590

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2014/03/05 01:32 CST

The Mars Exploration Rover mission put its 10th anniversary in the rear view mirror in February and roved on into its 11th year of surface operations at Endeavour Crater.

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Space is really, really big – except sometimes it isn’t

Posted by ESA Mars Express Team on 2014/03/04 11:19 CST

Here's the next installment in the continuing story of how the Mars Express team is preparing for Comet Siding Spring flyby, 19 October 2014. This week: introducing the spacecraft's subsystems and structure – and wondering how we can absorb impacts.

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Eyes and stopwatch are all that are needed to help measure an invisible asteroid

Posted by Ted Blank on 2014/03/03 01:04 CST | 1 comments

Would you like to be part of one of the largest citizen-science efforts in the history of astronomy? The International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) invites you to join in the campaign to observe and time the best and brightest asteroid occultation ever predicted to occur over a populated area – and no telescope is required!

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Dawn Journal: Maneuvering Around Ceres

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2014/03/03 06:00 CST | 2 comments

Continuing its daring mission to explore some of the last uncharted worlds in the inner solar system, Dawn remains on course and on schedule for its rendezvous with dwarf planet Ceres next year.

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Comet Siding Spring Mars encounter: Why orienting Mars Express is the heart of the challenge

Posted by ESA Mars Express Team on 2014/02/28 12:25 CST

Today's post continues where we started last week with an update from the Mars Express Flight Control Team at ESOC on their preparations for the 19 October Comet Siding Springs flyby. Today: defining the challenge!

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Reflecting on NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement mission, launching today

Posted by J. Marshall Shepherd on 2014/02/27 11:31 CST | 2 comments

Former deputy project scientist and current science team member J. Marshall Shepherd tells us why missions like NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) are vital to our way of life.

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Mars Express team readies for Siding Spring

Posted by ESA Mars Express Team on 2014/02/26 01:31 CST | 3 comments

On Sunday, 19 October 2014, at around 18:30 UTC, comet C/2013 A1 – known widely as 'Siding Spring' after the Australian observatory where it was discovered in January 2013 – will make a close fly-by of Mars.

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Field Report From Mars: Sol 3572 – February 10, 2014

Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2014/02/25 12:49 CST | 5 comments

Opportunity is still exploring an outcrop high up on Murray Ridge as the winter solstice on Mars approaches. At this location the tilts are good, so Opportunity is getting excellent solar input on its solar panels.

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Field Report From Mars: Sol 3556 – January 24, 2014

Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2014/02/25 12:18 CST

Today is the tenth anniversary of Opportunity's landing on Mars. Here at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, we just opened a tenth anniversary exhibit.

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Field Report From Mars: Sol 3519 - December 18, 2013

Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2014/02/25 11:55 CST

Opportunity arrived at the location that has been the target of all this climbing since late last (Earth) summer. We will settle in for some detailed work on the outcrop here since this appears to be something different from the impact breccias that we have been seeing along the ridge crest.

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A Spin Through the Inner Solar System

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2014/02/24 09:57 CST | 1 comments

Animated maps of the planets show the spheres in motion.

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Sand Waves in the Desert
or “Pet Peeves and Deciphering Climate Change in the Solar System”

Posted by Lori Fenton on 2014/02/21 03:19 CST | 1 comments

I have a pet peeve: the words dune and ripple are often used interchangeably, although they are quite distinct from one another. So what’s the difference between aeolian dunes and ripples? And why should anybody care?

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Mission to a Metallic World: A Discovery Proposal to Fly to the Asteroid Psyche

Posted by Van Kane on 2014/02/19 07:45 CST | 1 comments

Imagine flying deep within the asteroid belt to study the most unreachable location in the solar system: the deep core of a terrestrial world.

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Missions to a Star

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2014/02/17 02:45 CST | 2 comments

Upcoming deep space missions will venture right to the heart of the Solar System.

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The Two Faces of Phoebe

Posted by Daniel Macháček on 2014/02/13 10:03 CST | 7 comments

Cassini flew past Phoebe on June 11, 2004, on its way to entering Saturn orbit. The flyby was almost perfect but overexposure of some images have prevented color mosaics from being produced. Even though Phoebe's body is gray and dull in color, the absence of color images always provoked me. By using VIMS data, I have now produced color mosaics.

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What is NASA for?

Posted by Craig Hardgrove on 2014/02/12 04:19 CST | 3 comments

Planetary scientist Craig Hardgrove takes a look at what NASA really does for humanity.

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Behind-the-scenes story of Yutu: Promoting space exploration in China

Posted by Quanzhi Ye on 2014/02/11 12:24 CST

Promoting the story of Yutu to the Chinese public through social media: a successful case of science outreach.

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New Hills, Old Secrets

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2014/02/10 08:04 CST | 1 comments

Exploring a set of newly named hills on Mars reveals tantalizing clues to the planet's story.

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Discovery Next

Posted by Van Kane on 2014/02/08 08:36 CST | 5 comments

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, the Discovery program is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. The creativity of the scientific community has given us a wide assortment of missions in the past and is likely to surprise and delight us again.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Finds Mystery Rock, Mission Celebrates 10 Years
Sols 3534 - 3563

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2014/02/07 01:22 CST

In the storied history of the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) mission, January 2014 will likely be remembered as one of the most memorable months of all.

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Curiosity update, sols 521-533: Assessing Dingo Gap

Posted by Ken Herkenhoff on 2014/02/04 05:08 CST | 3 comments

While continuing to perform regular wheel health assessments, Curiosity took a sharp right turn and headed for Dingo Gap. On sol 533, they performed a "toe dip" that parked the rover atop the dune with a good view down into the valley.

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The Faces of Mars

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2014/02/03 10:49 CST | 5 comments

Portraits of a planet.

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Dawn Journal: Onward to Ceres

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2014/02/01 10:58 CST | 4 comments

The majority of Dawn's time in the Ceres approach phase will be devoted to continuing ion-powered flight. Let’s take another look at how this remarkable technology is used to deliver the adventurer to the desired orbit around Ceres.

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A new comet observing campaign for C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring)
You thought you were rid of us...but we're baa-aaack!

Posted by Karl Battams on 2014/01/27 11:22 CST

You thought you were rid of us...but we're back! Following the spectacular and, quite frankly unprecedented, success of the Comet ISON Observing Campaign, we are launching a similar venture for another unique cometary encounter that's happening this year. In October 2014, comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will pass extremely close to Mars.

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The Giant Spider of Mercury

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2014/01/27 01:23 CST | 3 comments

Striking terrain discovered by the MESSENGER probe.

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New Horizons: Updates From the January 2014 Science Team Meeting, Part 2

Posted by Ted Stryk on 2014/01/24 01:16 CST | 3 comments

Ted Stryk reports on the status of the New Horizons mission from the mission's latest Science Team Meeting. Updates include the status of the Kuiper Belt target search and the use of ALMA to refine Pluto's ephemeris.

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New Horizons: Updates From the Science Team Meeting, Part 1

Posted by Ted Stryk on 2014/01/23 06:15 CST | 1 comments

Ted Stryk reports on the status of the New Horizons mission from the mission's latest Science Team Meeting.

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Russia's Ambitious Planetary Exploration Goals

Posted by Van Kane on 2014/01/22 11:58 CST | 5 comments

Roscosmos has ambitious planetary exploration plans in the coming decades, including a series of solo lunar missions and joint missions to Mars with the European Space Agency.

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Curiosity update, sols 488-520: Steady driving while watching the wheels

Posted by Ken Herkenhoff on 2014/01/22 03:38 CST | 1 comments

In the last month, Curiosity put 222 meters on the odometer in 12 short drives, while regularly assessing the wheels for damage. The rover performed touch-and-go analyses of rocks including Oneida and Kodak, and also took some ChemCam RMI mosaics of rocks near the base of Mount Sharp.

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Rosetta update from mission control

Posted by Daniel Scuka on 2014/01/21 01:37 CST | 3 comments

We spoke with (a slightly tired but hugely happy) Rosetta Spacecraft Operations Manager Andrea Accomazzo earlier this afternoon and he reports the spacecraft is doing fine!

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New Views of Martian Weather

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2014/01/20 12:03 CST | 3 comments

The latest postcards from Mars Express feature cloudy skies.

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Dry Ice Snowfall at the Poles of Mars

Posted by Paul Hayne on 2014/01/16 11:23 CST | 1 comments

Paul Hayne takes a look at the mysterious polar caps of Mars, and what it would be like to ski there.

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Do you want to learn more about the Universe?

Posted by Matthew Francis on 2014/01/15 12:08 CST

CosmoAcademy — a project from the CosmoQuest educational and citizen-science group — is offering three new online classes: Introduction to Dark Matter, Introduction to Astronomy via Color Imaging, and Life Beyond Earth: Introduction to Astrobiology.

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Through a Glass, Darkly

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2014/01/13 12:46 CST | 5 comments

When sent from deep space, even imperfect images can inform and amaze.

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Europa New Frontiers Mission? (Or why I like the Europa Clipper concept even more now)

Posted by Van Kane on 2014/01/07 05:14 CST | 3 comments

Europa remains a top priority for a future mission to explore whether it could host life. While the Europa Clipper mission, remains the current front runner, a senior NASA manager has suggested that the agency may look at still lower cost options. Van Kane looks at what those options might be.

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Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Mission Nears 10-Year Milestone, Oppy Roves On, We Look Back on 2013
Sols 3503–3533

Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2014/01/07 02:00 CST

Opportunity wrapped a landmark year in December, sending home more evidence of ancient habitable environments at Endeavour Crater as the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) mission geared up to celebrate an historic milestone – the completion of 10 years of surface operations on the Red Planet.

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The Last Flight of the Original Space Ranger

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2014/01/06 07:13 CST | 10 comments

Remembering the Moon's first extreme close-up.

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Dawn Journal: Planning for the Ceres Approach Phase

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2014/01/01 10:43 CST | 4 comments

Now more than halfway through its journey from protoplanet Vesta to dwarf planet Ceres, Dawn is continuing to use its advanced ion propulsion system to reshape its orbit around the sun. Now that the ship is closer to the uncharted shores ahead than the lands it unveiled astern, we will begin looking at the plans for exploring another alien world.

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