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Guest blogs from 2017

An exoplanet-hunting space telescope turns and takes a photo of Earth

James Davenport • December 08, 2017

On December 10, Kepler—NASA’s prized exoplanet discovery telescope—will finally turn back and take a picture of the Earth.

Celebrating Our Volunteers

Kate Howells • December 05, 2017

December 5th is International Volunteer Day, and The Planetary Society has many reasons to celebrate...3,652, to be exact!

The Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Returns Fundamental Finding in Perseverance, Cruises Through Winter Solstice

A.J.S. Rayl • December 01, 2017

Opportunity continued the historic winter science campaign inside Perseverance Valley and delivered the goods that confirmed an important discovery in November, and then cruised through winter solstice, driving the mission closer to its 14th anniversary of surface operations coming up in January.

How far they'll go: Moana shows the power of Polynesian celestial navigation

Duane W. Hamacher and Carla Bento Guedes • November 21, 2017

The Polynesian peoples' astronomical knowledge helped them colonize the vast Pacific Ocean.

Dawn Journal: Second Extended Mission

Marc Rayman • November 03, 2017

Building on the successes of its primary mission and its first extended mission, NASA has approved the veteran explorer for a second extended mission.

The Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Pops Wheelies Over Etched Rocks in Perseverance

A.J.S. Rayl • November 02, 2017

As brutally cold got even colder at Endeavour Crater in October, the depths of winter gripped Opportunity, and ‘life’ on Mars slowed. But the robot field geologist continued to work on through the doldrums of the season.

Mastcam-Z team blog: Preparing for five-hour operations

Elsa Jensen and Katherine Winchell • November 02, 2017

It takes hundreds of scientists and engineers many years to design and build just one instrument for a Mars mission. In the first Mastcam-Z team blog post, we'll talk about the special challenges we expect for Mars 2020 operations, and how we're planning to overcome them.

Then vs. Now: How the Debate Over a Distant Planet in the Solar System Has Evolved

Stephanie Hamilton • October 30, 2017

What have we learned about the distant objects in our Solar System beyond Neptune in the past year?

Cassini’s Last Dance With Saturn: The Farewell Mosaic

Ian Regan • October 10, 2017

Amateur image processor Ian Regan shares the story of processing Cassini's final images of the ringed planet.

Meet VOX, a proposed mission to uncover the secrets of Venus

Van Kane • October 09, 2017

Van Kane brings us newly released details of the Venus Origins eXplorer (VOX), one of NASA's 12 New Frontiers mission proposals.

Doing SETI Better by Understanding Ourselves

Jason Wright • October 06, 2017

One of the reasons SETI is hard is that we don’t know exactly what we are looking for, and part of that difficulty is that we still aren’t sure of who we are. An astronomer and an anthropologist team up to explore how cultural myopia shape what we can find in the cosmos.

Dawn Journal: 10 Years in Space

Marc Rayman • October 04, 2017

A decade after leaving its first home in the solar system, Dawn is healthy and successful at its current residence around Ceres.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Braves Onset of Winter to Picture Perseverance

A.J.S. Rayl • October 02, 2017

The Martian winter began to grip Endeavour Crater in September, slowing Opportunity's pace. But she braved the brutal cold in Perseverance Valley and followed her commands to visually document everything in sight.

Is Mars habitable? With the right technologies, yes

Max Fagin • September 28, 2017

Making Mars habitable will require us to master the conversion of raw Martian materials into resources we can use to survive. Fortunately, Mars has a wealth of usable materials, making it one of the most human-habitable places in the solar system, other than Earth itself.

Fall 2017 issue of The Planetary Report now available

Donna Stevens • September 27, 2017

The Fall 2017 issue of The Planetary Report is in the mail and available online now to our members!

In Appreciation of Kim Poor

Donna Stevens • September 20, 2017

We at The Planetary Society are saddened to hear about the recent passing of veteran space artist Kim Poor.

How did China decide where to land its upcoming Moon missions?

Phil Stooke • September 20, 2017

How were the Chang'e 5 and 4 landing sites chosen? Space exploration historian Phil Stooke explains.

Voyager 40th Anniversary: Summer of '79

Paul Schenk • September 08, 2017

Planetary scientist Paul Schenk shares his story of working on the Voyager missions as a JPL intern back in 1979.

Upward bound: Canada's Space Advisory Board provides its recommendations

Kate Howells • September 08, 2017

Canada's Space Advisory Board has provided a clear set of recommendations to advance the country's space program, and The Planetary Society is proud to have played a role in the process.

Planetary Society hosts space policy reception at Australian Embassy

Matt Renninger • September 06, 2017

This year’s International Astronautical Congress (IAC) is being held in Adelaide, Australia. Thanks to the generous support of our members, The Society’s advocacy and outreach capability is rapidly expanding, and we decided to step up our IAC advocacy this year.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Ventures Deeper into Perseverance

A.J.S. Rayl • September 01, 2017

Along the western rim of Endeavour Crater, Opportunity forged onward in August vicariously taking the Mars Exploration Rovers team – along with a global contingent of mission observers all around Earth – downhill into Perseverance Valley and deeper into a new chapter in this legendary expedition of the Red Planet.

Voyager 40th anniversary: Revisiting the Voyagers' planetary views

Björn Jónsson • August 30, 2017

Björn Jónsson argues that even now, 40 years after Voyager 1 and 2 were launched, a lot of the data they returned is still of high interest.

Voyager 40th Anniversary: Watching an Alien World Turn

Ian Regan • August 28, 2017

In 1979, both Voyager missions captured thousands of photos of Jupiter as frames of movies of the giant planet spinning among its moons. In honor of the mission's 40th launch anniversary, Ian Regan has reprocessed the data to produce stunning new movies.

Chasing the total solar eclipse at 38,000 feet

Tanya Harrison • August 24, 2017

Where did you venture to view the Great American Eclipse? About 100 people were lucky enough to make the trip of a lifetime for it: 38,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, courtesy of Alaska Airlines.

Voyager 40th anniversary: The transformation of the solar system

Ted Stryk • August 23, 2017

The Voyager missions transformed most of the large worlds of the solar system from points of light into places to be explored.

NASA experiments will watch eclipse's effect on atmosphere

Heather Hunter • August 18, 2017

The upcoming solar eclipse isn’t just about watching the Moon block out the Sun. A suite of NASA-funded science experiments will to study the unseen effects of the eclipse on Earth's atmosphere.

Could the total solar eclipse reveal a comet?

Karl Battams • August 16, 2017

Next week's solar eclipse will reveal the Sun's corona, nearby bright planets and stars, and, if we get extremely lucky, a comet!

A dispatch from the path of totality: the 2017 solar eclipse in Ravenna, Nebraska

Shane Pekny • August 15, 2017

Ravenna, population 1,400, sits on the plains of central Nebraska, and almost on the center line of the path of totality for the upcoming Great American Eclipse. Nebraska native Shane Pekny reports on how this small town is preparing for the big event.

Here's what we know about the 12 proposals for NASA's next New Frontiers mission

Van Kane • August 10, 2017

NASA officials are in the process of selecting the agency’s next planetary science mission from a field of 12 competitors.

A space advocate on Capitol Hill: Planetary Society intern shares story

Aaron Campbell • August 08, 2017

Planetary Society intern Aaron Campbell recaps his experience working on Capitol Hill over the course of two summers.

From space plane to sky crane: How part of a space shuttle landed a rover on Mars

Robert Pearlman • August 05, 2017

Did you know that hardware from one of NASA's retired space shuttle orbiters played a critical role in the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars five years ago?

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Enters Perseverance Valley, Settles in for Solar Conjunction

A.J.S. Rayl • August 01, 2017

After struggling to get her left front wheel unstuck in June, Opportunity quickly adapted to a new driving strategy and unabashedly cruised into Perseverance Valley in July.

Cubes in Space

Julie Seven Sage • July 27, 2017

Aspiring astrophysicist Julie Seven Sage reports from the launch of student-designed CubeSat payloads at NASA's Wallops Flight Center.

HERA team completes 45-day mission to explore asteroid, from Texas

Tim Evans • July 25, 2017

What's it like spending 45 days confined to a habitat at Johnson Space Center simulating a crewed NASA mission to an asteroid? Tim Evans sends us this report.

Dawn Journal: Still More Science

Marc Rayman • July 11, 2017

Orbiting the only dwarf planet inside the orbit of Neptune, Dawn is healthy and continuing to carry out its assignments at Ceres, which includes keeping an eye on cosmic rays.

How we would explore Uranus or Neptune

Van Kane • July 06, 2017

One fact dominates the planning for any mission to Uranus or Neptune: They lie far from the sun. A newly released NASA report looks at how we can explore these icy giants.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Sprains ‘Ankle’ but Perseveres on Walkabout

A.J.S. Rayl • July 02, 2017

The autumn skies over Endeavour Crater remained hazy as dust from the summer storms continued to rain down, but Opportunity encountered some unexpected and serious June gloom when her right front steering wheel jammed during the walkabout atop Perseverance Valley.

This giant, flower-shaped starshade creates an artificial eclipse to see distant exoplanets

Jason Rhodes • June 23, 2017

Starshade is a proposed flower-shaped spacecraft that can create an artificial eclipse, allowing space telescopes to spot planets orbiting distant stars.

Planetary Society volunteers host SpaceUp London 2017

Harriet Brettle • June 22, 2017

Earlier this month, The Planetary Society brought together space enthusiasts at Queen Mary University of London for “SpaceUp London 2017”—the first large-scale event organized by Planetary Society volunteers in Europe.

When New Horizons' next target passed in front of a star, this scientist was watching from Argentina

Alejandro Soto • June 16, 2017

A team of scientists recently traveled to rural Argentina in the hopes of catching New Horizons' next target—Kuiper Belt object MU 69—crossing in front of a distant star.

Space station partners weigh in on NASA’s Deep Space Gateway plans

Anatoly Zak • June 08, 2017

In March, NASA officials revealed updated plans for a small space station near the Moon called the Deep Space Gateway. Anatoly Zak reports the plans threw a monkey wrench into years-long planning efforts by NASA’s international partners.

Recap: India's new GSLV-MK3 rocket completes successful test

Sridhar Narayanan • June 07, 2017

The first operational launch of the Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark 3 rocket, or GSLV-MK3, developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), was successfully conducted on Monday.

Remembering planetary scientist Michael A’Hearn

William Blume • June 07, 2017

Planetary scientist Michael A’Hearn passed away on Monday, May 29, leaving a remarkable legacy in cometary science—but even more importantly in the careers of many younger scientists who flourished with his encouragement and mentorship.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Shoots the Moon on Arrival at Perseverance Valley

A.J.S. Rayl • June 06, 2017

In another dynamic demonstration of what can be achieved when a team works together, Opportunity cruised to the top of Perseverance Valley, shot the moon, and drove into her 160th month of surface operations in May.

India enters the big league with new, powerful rocket

Sridhar Narayanan • June 02, 2017

The countdown has begun for the first fully operational flight of the Indian Space Research Organization’s most powerful rocket to date: the Geostationary Launch Vehicle Mark 3, or GSLV-MK3.

Dawn Journal: Adaptations

Marc Rayman • May 30, 2017

On the other side of the solar system, invisible by virtue both of the blinding glare of the sun and by the vastness of the distance, Dawn is continuing its remarkable cosmic adventure.

The Planetary Society’s Canadian Initiative

Kate Howells • May 26, 2017

It’s an exciting time for Canada in space. It’s also an exciting time for Canadian space advocacy, as The Planetary Society's Global Community Outreach Manager Kate Howells describes.

Pretty Pictures of the Cosmos: Waltzing Through the Universe

Adam Block • May 25, 2017

Award-winning astrophotographer Adam Block brings us more of his stunning images of the universe—this time of cosmic dances through space.

Jupiter from New Horizons

Alex Parker • May 16, 2017

Using new image processing techniques, Alex Parker brings new life to an old image of Jupiter captured by the New Horizons mission on its way to Pluto over a decade ago.

Cassini's 'Grand Finale' Portrait of Saturn

Ian Regan • May 16, 2017

Amateur image processor Ian Regan shares a stunning mosaic of Saturn in all its ringed glory.

Geology on Mars: Using stratigraphic columns to tell the story of Gale Crater

Heidi Stauffer • May 15, 2017

Stratigraphic columns are a basic tool in geology, used on both Earth and Mars to tell the story of a location. But what are they really?

Radar in Earth and Planetary Science, Part 2

Heather Hunter • May 12, 2017

Heather Hunter brings us the next installment in her series on radio detection and ranging.

A journey to Jupiter: Amateur astronomers create 1,000-image video of planet in motion

Peter Rosén • May 09, 2017

Peter Rosén shares an amazing animation of Jupiter made from more than 1,000 images taken by 91 amateurs from around the world.

Earth's ring system: This mosaic shows 46+ geostationary satellites in one image

Adam Block • May 05, 2017

Astrophotographer Adam Block captures 46 geostationary satellites, plus some unnamed stragglers, in one 10-frame image mosaic.

HERA crewmember shares thoughts ahead of simulated 45-day asteroid mission

Tim Evans • May 05, 2017

Tonight, a four-person crew will seal themselves inside a three-story habitat at NASA's Johnson Space Center, kicking off a simulated 45-day mission to an asteroid. One crewmember shares his thoughts before entering.

Learn the rocket equation, part 2

David Shortt • May 05, 2017

In the second and final chapter of our series, we’ll explore what the rocket equation has to say about travel through the solar system, using the example of launching a rocket to Pluto.

The Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Closes in on Perseverance Valley

A.J.S. Rayl • May 03, 2017

Opportunity spent the month of April 2017 outside the western rim of Endeavour Crater, cruising toward Cape Byron and Perseverance Valley, the centerpiece of its tenth extended mission.

Dawn Journal: On Course for Opposition

Marc Rayman • May 01, 2017

The Dawn spacecraft is about to swing into a new orbital path to observe the enigmatic "bright spots" in Occator Crater on Ceres—among other targets.

Learn the rocket equation, part 1

David Shortt • April 28, 2017

Have you ever wanted to learn the fundamental physics behind one of the most basic concepts of rocket science? In part one of our two-part series, we explore the foundations of the famous rocket equation.

Spring 2017 issue of The Planetary Report now available

Donna Stevens • April 18, 2017

The Spring 2017 issue of The Planetary Report is in the mail and available online now to our members!

Postcard from the Space Symposium: Planetary Society outreach coordinator finds her place in space

Harriet Brettle • April 14, 2017

The annual Space Symposium brings together space leaders from around the world to discuss, address and plan for the future of space.

Another smoking gun in the search for life in Enceladus’ ocean

Franck Marchis • April 13, 2017

NASA's Cassini spacecraft sniffed out molecular hydrogen spewing from Enceladus' subsurface ocean. The discovery means Saturn's moon has all the basic ingredients needed to support life.

Fossils or good-looking rocks? Why searching for life on other worlds is hard

Elias Nakouzi • April 13, 2017

If you find a structure that looks like ancient life, can you be really sure that it is ancient life?

Extraterrestrial culture: How we express ourselves through space exploration

Felipe Cervera • April 11, 2017

Planetary Performance scholar Felipe Cervera brings a perspective on "extraterrestrial-ity" in terrestrial cultures—from rituals to technology.

China's lunar sample return mission will pave way for future ambitions

Andrew Jones • April 06, 2017

Later this year, China is launching the Change'5 spacecraft to return a sample from the Moon. The mission will pave the way for future ambitions, including crewed trips to the lunar surface.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Dodges Dust Storms, Makes Tracks to Perseverance Valley

A.J.S. Rayl • April 04, 2017

After wrapping the final science investigations on the slopes of Cape Tribulation, Opportunity climbed up and over the rim of Endeavour Crater in March and embarked on the journey south toward its next science target: Perseverance Valley.

Daring mighty things: Pathways to careers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Nathan Barba • April 03, 2017

Arizona State University graduate student Nathan Barba talks with some of JPL’s finest to get guidance and advice on how to join this illustrious group of space explorers.

Dawn Journal: Bonus Plans

Marc Rayman • March 31, 2017

Now in its third year of orbiting a distant dwarf planet, a spacecraft from Earth is as active as ever. Like a master artist, Dawn is working hard to add fine details to its stunning portrait of Ceres.

New treasures from Juno: Jupiter dazzles during fourth close approach

Björn Jónsson • March 27, 2017

Image processor Björn Jónsson shares some of his latest stunning images of Jupiter, created using data from NASA's Juno spacecraft.

Juno just flew past Jupiter for the fifth time. What have we learned from the mission so far?

Anna Scott • March 27, 2017

There's no verdict quite yet on the giant planet's core, and scientists are still gathering clues about the accuracy of our current solar system formation models.

Unraveling a Martian enigma: The hidden rivers of Arabia Terra

Joel Davis • March 21, 2017

Arabia Terra has always been a bit of a martian enigma. Planetary scientist Joel Davis takes us on a tour of its valley networks and their significance in telling the story of water on Mars.

Postcard from Kentucky: Space in the Bluegrass State

Wayne Hall • March 16, 2017

In Kentucky, some very driven people are writing their own chapter of space exploration based on vision, entrepreneurial risk, and scientific and engineering know-how. Wayne Hall shares their stories.

You’ve met Saturn’s ravioli-shaped moon, Pan. Now learn how it was discovered

Mark Showalter • March 13, 2017

Planetary astronomer Mark Showalter tells the story of when he became the first human to ever set eyes on Saturn's strange moon Pan in 1990.

Field Report from Mars: Sol 4662 - March 6, 2017

Larry Crumpler • March 11, 2017

For nearly two years, Opportunity's world has been tilted 10–25 degrees as it drove down to the lower slopes of the wall of Endeavour Crater. Toward the end of last week, Opportunity pulled itself up and over the lip of the crater.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Reaches Top of Endeavour Rim, Wraps Cape Tribulation

A.J.S. Rayl • March 03, 2017

Driving the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) mission further into its fourteenth year of surface operations, Opportunity continued hiking the slopes of Cape Tribulation in February and finally reached the crest of Endeavour Crater’s western rim.

Dawn Journal: Intricate Maneuvers

Marc Rayman • March 02, 2017

The Dawn mission is executing an ambitious bonus goal recently devised for its extended mission. Mission Manager and Chief Engineer Marc Rayman brings us his monthly update.

Citizen scientist spots changes on Rosetta's comet

Marco Parigi • February 27, 2017

Citizen scientist and self-described "comet whisperer" Marco Parisi explains how he made a striking discovery on Comet 67P using Rosetta mission data.

Radar in Earth and Planetary Science: An Intro

Heather Hunter • February 24, 2017

Heather Hunter explains how radar works and what it's used for on Earth and beyond.

Wonderful potentially habitable worlds around TRAPPIST-1

Franck Marchis • February 22, 2017

Scientists have found seven, Earth-size planets orbiting a star just 40 light years away. Three lie in the habitable zone and could have water on their surfaces.

Did Voyager 1 capture an image of Enceladus' plumes erupting?

Ted Stryk • February 21, 2017

Amateur image processor Ted Stryk revisited Voyager 1 data of Enceladus and came across a surprise.

Finding spacecraft impacts on the Moon

Phil Stooke • February 20, 2017

Over nearly 60 years of spacecraft exploration of the Moon, lots of spacecraft have crashed on the lunar surface—some accidental, some intentional. Phil Stooke hunts for their impact sites.

Field Report from Mars: Sol 4639 - February 10, 2017

Larry Crumpler • February 10, 2017

Opportunity has successfully clawed its way to within a few meters of the crater rim after spending the last few months climbing and the last two years inside the crater.

Space, Science, and Technology Take Center Stage

Sara Jennings and Hannah Kerner • February 10, 2017

The Science Line—a non-profit working to bridge the gap between science, technology and fashion by inspiring youth through STEM fashion shows, competitions, educational kits and hands-on workshops—hosted the first STEM Fashion Show in partnership with the Challenger Space Center of Arizona.

Field Report from Mars: Sol 4633 - February 6, 2017

Larry Crumpler • February 06, 2017

Several sols ago, Opportunity made it up and past the steepest section of its climb out of Endeavour crater.

Microbes exist deep inside Earth’s craters. Could this be the secret to finding life on other worlds?

Bryan J. Rodriguez-Colon • February 06, 2017

Earth possesses amazing biological diversity. Every corner of this planet—no matter how bizarre the place—is inhabited by microorganisms. This includes impact craters.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Celebrates the Big 1-3, Begins 14th Year of Ops!

A.J.S. Rayl • February 04, 2017

2017 got off to a start that was unprecedented in every good way: Opportunity completed her 13th Earth year of surface operations and drove the first overland expedition of the Red Planet into its 14th year.

Dawn Journal: A New Perspective on Ceres

Marc Rayman • February 01, 2017

Dawn has moved into its sixth orbital phase, with a new sun angle that provides an opportunity to gain a new perspective on the asteroid Ceres.

Explorer of Enceladus and Titan

Van Kane • February 01, 2017

For the third time in less than a decade, scientists have proposed a multiple-flyby mission to explore the habitability of Saturn’s ocean moons Titan and Enceladus.

The Winter 2016 issue of The Planetary Report

Donna Stevens • January 27, 2017

The Winter 2016 issue of The Planetary Report is on its way to members’ doors, showcasing the stunning year in pictures.

Russia’s Proton rocket grounded by poor quality control

Anatoly Zak • January 25, 2017

Russia's workhorse Proton rocket may be grounded until June or July, dealing another blow to the country's launch infrastructure, which has been plagued by brain drain, mismanagement, poor quality control and corruption.

Need a break from Earth? Go stand on Mars with these lovely landscapes

Kevin Gill • January 25, 2017

Amateur space image processor Kevin Gill shares some of his stunning 3D images of Mars, created from real spacecraft data.

Blitzing Congress for NASA

Bill Gowan • January 12, 2017

Last February, a group called the Space Exploration Alliance held their annual "legislative blitz," walking the halls of Congress to sway lawmakers toward increased support for NASA's 2017 budget.

CYGNSS Launch: The Human Side

John Noonan • January 11, 2017

What is it like behind the scenes before, during, and after the launch of a spacecraft?

Lucy and Psyche Asteroid Missions

Van Kane • January 09, 2017

Last week, NASA selected its thirteenth and fourteenth missions in its low cost Discovery program.

Saturn's Ring Particles

Judy Schmidt • January 05, 2017

Artist and astrophotographer Judy Schmidt brings us a view from within the rings of Saturn.

Mystery of Russia’s doomed Progress spacecraft may delay next ISS crew launch

Anatoly Zak • January 04, 2017

More than a month after a Progress spacecraft bound for the International Space Station plunged to the ground during a botched launch attempt, investigators are still unable to clear its rocket to carry future ISS crews.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Opportunity Wraps 2016, Heads into 2017 Toward 13th Anniversary

A.J.S. Rayl • January 04, 2017

As 2016 came to an end and 2017 rang in, Opportunity was working the first leg of the ascent up the rugged western rim of Endeavour Crater on her way to an ancient gully, the next scientific tour de force down the road, and the mission was closing in on its 13th anniversary of surface operations coming up in the New Year.

Dawn Journal: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Marc Rayman • January 03, 2017

Dawn is concluding a remarkable year of exploring dwarf planet Ceres. Chief Engineer and Mission Manager Marc Rayman brings us his latest update.

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