Guest blogs from 2016
China outlines its space exploration ambitions
Missions to the Moon and Mars will dominate China's focus
China released a new white paper on its policy and activities in space, outlining ambitious deep space exploration, human spaceflight and space science projects as major priorities for the years up to 2020 and beyond.
Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2016/12/20 08:25 CST
Opportunity continues to climb up the inner crater wall of Endeavour crater, heading south on its journey toward its next valley target.
Posted by Steven Hauck on 2016/12/20 10:01 CST
2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of what has become one of the primary venues for the publication of research in planetary science: the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. This occasion is a good opportunity to look back at what we have learned in this era of expanded exploration and to try to take a peek at the future.
Whether you explore The Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive online or at the Library of Congress during a visit to Washington, D.C., you’ll learn something new and have a deeper understanding of Carl Sagan.
Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2016/12/09 06:25 CST
Opportunity has begun the ascent of the steep slopes here in the inner wall of Endeavour crater after completion of a survey of outcrops close to the crater floor. The goal now is to climb back to the rim, drive south, and arrive at the next major mission target on the rim before the next Martian winter.
If NASA’s managers hold to their schedule, we will learn sometime this month what NASA’s next planetary mission will be.
ESA has committed to continuing its ExoMars programme and participation with the International Space Station, but cut funding for its Asteroid Impact Mission.
Opportunity worked along Endeavour Crater's western rim through November, taking pictures, hiking slopes, and finishing work in the depths of Cape Tribulation.
TeamIndus, India’s only entry for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, just announced their launch contract with ISRO. If successful, TeamIndus would be the first private company from India to land a craft on an extraterrestrial body.
Posted by Anatoly Zak on 2016/11/17 07:00 CST
After many years of development, a cutting-edge Russian-German space observatory with little-known contribution from the US is finally approaching the launch pad...or so its scientists say.
Posted by Heather Hunter on 2016/11/14 01:07 CST
The current GOES-East and GOES-West have been faithfully providing continuous imagery and data on Earth and space weather for almost a decade. So, with the launch of the first of the next generation of GOES satellites, GOES-R, what is NOAA trying to accomplish?
Just over a month ago the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft finished its mission by spectacularly diving into the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. How did it observations influence and alter our ideas about the typical formation and lifetime of a comet?
Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2016/11/05 11:45 CDT
Opportunity spent the month of October on Spirit Mound studying the rich yet familiar geology at the first science stop on its 10th extended mission – pausing only to take a shot at freeze-framing part of the descent of Europe’s Schiaparelli lander.
Today, China launched its largest rocket yet, the Long March 5, from the new coastal launch center on Hainan Island. The launch is a major step forward on the country's path to deep space.
International Space Station (ISS) project partners are inching ever closer toward an agreement to begin the development of a new human outpost in the vicinity of the Moon. If successful, the cis-lunar space station (a space station in the vicinity of the Moon) will be the largest international space project to date, influencing the direction of human space flight for decades to come.
Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2016/11/02 07:01 CDT
Opportunity is currently finishing up observations of its first outcrop target of its 10th extended mission plan.
Posted by Erika Nesvold on 2016/10/31 11:21 CDT
At this year’s Division for Planetary Sciences/European Planetary Science Congress meeting, the Exoplanet Dynamics session was packed full of talks on tightly-packed multi-planet systems and their instabilities.
The fate of the ExoMars lander, Schiaparelli, remains uncertain. European Space Agency mission controllers had been optimistic on Wednesday night that a definitive answer would be known by Thursday morning’s news briefing. However, although some more details have been made public about the lander’s descent, it is not yet clear whether it hit the martian surface at a speed it could not survive.
Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2016/10/04 07:17 CDT
It was another September to remember for Opportunity as she cruised through the Lewis and Clark Gap and out of Marathon Valley, then hiked downslope, leading the first overland expedition of the Red Planet to Spirit Mound, a new site deep in Endeavour Crater’s rim.
Nine years ago today, Dawn set sail on an epic journey of discovery and adventure. The intrepid explorer has sailed the cosmic seas and collected treasures that far exceeded anything anticipated or even hoped for.
How far have we come and how far do we still need to go to welcome women into planetary science, and, particularly, spacecraft missions?
Posted by Björn Jónsson on 2016/09/14 08:00 CDT
A few weeks before the first Juno high resolution imaging, I decided to take a look at Voyager color images at various resolutions, with particular attention to high-resolution mosaics.
Opportunity is about to leave Marathon Valley for good and head south into the next valley, marking the beginning of the current extended mission plan.
Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2016/09/05 11:01 CDT
Opportunity got in the groove at Endeavour Crater in August finishing the last of her science assignments in Marathon Valley.
Following the conclusion of Dawn's ambitious 8.8-year prime mission on June 30, the spacecraft has been gathering a wealth of data with all sensors in its extended mission as it orbits closer to Ceres than the International Space Station is to Earth.
Several readers have contacted me recently about reports that a group of international astronomers have detected a strong signal coming from a distant star that could be a sign of a high-technology civilization. Here’s my reaction: it’s interesting, but it’s definitely not the sign of an alien civilization—at least not yet.
It is not easy to observe Jupiter’s moons as more than points of light with Juno, because Juno will never get very close to any of the moons, but as its orbit shifts there will be opportunities to collect data on some of the moons.
NASA’s managers have begun the process for a competition to select a new planetary mission to launch in the mid-2020s that will address one of the most important questions in planetary science.
What began as a tantalizing rumor has just become an astonishing fact. Today a group of thirty-one scientists announced the discovery of a terrestrial exoplanet orbiting Proxima Centauri. The discovery of this planet, Proxima Centauri b, is a huge breakthrough not just for astronomers but for all of us. Here’s why.
Martian gullies were in the spotlight last week thanks to a NASA press release stating they were "likely not formed by liquid water" based on spectral results. But how does this stack up against their morphology?
NASA’s next big “flagship” astronomy mission, following the ambitious James Webb Space Telescope due to be launched in 2018, is currently known as the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST)—but it's had a slew of different names.
Posted by CaLisa Lee on 2016/08/08 06:00 CDT
On August 25th, 2016, the U.S. National Park Service is celebrating its Centennial. That’s 100 years of protecting the lands and the night skies so that people from around the world and all walks of life can come and see the stars!
Posted by Kate Howells on 2016/08/05 04:25 CDT
We know, as well as you do, that if we want to see a great future – one where humans explore, understand, and benefit from space – we need to invest right now in the people who will be leading the way. To empower the world’s youth, we need to educate them. And to educate them, we need to inspire them.
Despite the intensifying rancor and ugliness of the U.S. Presidential campaigns on Earth, as the spring Sun shined down on Meridiani Planum in July, all was right with the world at Endeavour Crater.
Posted by Mark Hilverda on 2016/08/02 02:24 CDT
Selecting a theme for our reinvented membership experience involved hundreds of people from staff to members. Here's the process that created the names for the new membership levels.
The MAVEN mission to Mars was just approved for a two-year extended mission that runs through September 2018. Now is a good time to take stock of we've learned so far and to describe the plans for the extended mission.
Today we launch a new expedition to engage our members in more ways than ever before. Since our inception, our members have supported The Planetary Society as we forge new paths in space science and exploration. You have always been at the center of our success and we want the structure of our membership program to reflect that by offering new benefits, premiums and payment options.
Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2016/07/07 08:01 CDT
The Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission entered its 150th month of surface exploration in June as Opportunity began checking off the last science investigations in Marathon Valley, and the crew on Earth looked ahead to the future past.
Posted by Kevin Cooke on 2016/06/24 01:32 CDT
Science in America depends on federal funding, yet many young scientists don't understand how the U.S. government decides to spend its money on science, nor are they encouraged to use their new degrees to advise the process. This is changing with support from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Posted by A.J.S. Rayl on 2016/06/06 09:24 CDT
Opportunity spent the first half of May digging into an outcrop, taking dozens of panoramic images from her site on the south wall of Marathon Valley at Endeavour Crater’s western rim, and basking in the Martian spring weather.
A difficult but necessary decision by ESA and Roskosmos to postpone the launch of the ExoMars rover from 2018 to 2020 raises a question about the fate of other planetary exploration programs in the pipelines of both space agencies.
Looking back at Earth from beyond helps to give perspective on our place in the cosmos.
Opportunity and the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) team pressed on through the Martian winter and spent April sleuthing for clay minerals at the mission’s new site on the southern wall of Marathon Valley.
Since April 11, instead of photographing the scenery directly beneath it, Dawn has been aiming its camera to the left and forward as it orbits and Ceres rotates to map more of the dwarf planet.
HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen explains an imaging technique known as Super-Resolution Restoration (SRR), and how it could come in handy for high-resolution imaging of the Red Planet.
Why does our planet look the way it does from space? How does light interacting with land, clouds, water, snow, ice, gases, and various aerosols all come together? One way to learn the answer is to try and synthesize DSCOVR's view from various "building blocks" of geophysical and atmospheric data.
Until just a few years ago, a plot of mass versus size of other worlds would have looked pretty sparse and uninformative. But thanks to the tireless efforts of exoplanet astronomers, we now know fairly precise masses and radii for hundreds of distant worlds.
There was no shortage of interesting lunar science talks at last month’s Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Dr. Ryan Clegg-Watkins highlights some of the interesting results for us.
At a recent meeting of an advisory group for NASA, the Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science (CAPS), Jim Green, the head of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, and Barry Goldstein from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, provided updates on plans to explore our solar system's ocean worlds.
This year's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference included a session devoted to a group of rocks from space called differentiated meteorites, and their proposed parent bodies.
Huygens may have landed on Titan over a decade ago, but a group of researchers from York University were able to make a new and unexpected discovery with this older dataset.
As March Madness on Earth sent sports fans into their annual kinetic frenzy watching more than 60 American teams battle it out for college basketball’s grandest title, Opportunity was experiencing her own Martian brand of March Madness.
One year after taking up its new residence in the solar system, Dawn is continuing to witness extraordinary sights on dwarf planet Ceres. Mission Director Marc Rayman brings us his monthly update on Dawn's status.
This past week brought to the fore two challenges for NASA’s managers as they try to enable the richest possible mix of coming planetary missions. At stake are whether the agency will be able to select two Discovery missions from the current competition, and whether there will be the possibility of a mission selected for Enceladus and/or Titan in the next decade.
Ever wanted to stand on Mars and watch a sunset? Unfortunately for many of us, it will never be something that we get to experience in person. But thanks to our robotic emissaries on Mars, and some careful processing of images from NASA's Planetary Data System, we can get a sense of what it’s like.
As the Martian winter slowly begins to recede, Opportunity is working away on the steep slopes of Knudsen Ridge at the southern end of Marathon Valley, showing her mettle in some of the most challenging terrain of the rover’s 12+ years on the Red Planet.
MENCA (Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser) is a quadrupole mass spectrometer onboard India's Mars Orbiter Mission, MOM. A report on measurements of neutral species accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters is the first peer-reviewed scientific result from the mission.
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