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Stories, updates, insights, and original analysis from The Planetary Society.

Zapping Rocks for Science

Laser beams and space exploration are perfect for each other, and not just because all self-respecting starship captains know their way around a blaster. It turns out that zapping rocks with a laser is not only fun, it also can tell you what they're made of!

Neat video of Curiosity drive testing (plus a code-cracking challenge)

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has posted a short video showing some recent testing of an engineering model of the Mars Science Laboratory in their outdoor Mars Yard; they're testing the performance of the rover's driving capability over slopes of varying steepness and covered with bedrock, compacted sand, and very loose sand.

Hayabusa's return: a review

Hayabusa's return: round up some of the amazing photos, movies, and artworks that were posted and shared and Tweeted and re-Tweeted over the previous dozen hours or so.

How radio telescopes get "images" of asteroids [DEPRECATED]

Every time I post a radio telescope image of a near-Earth asteroid, I get at least one reader question asking me to explain how radio telescopes take photos, so I'm hereby writing a post explaining the basics of how delay-Doppler imaging works.

APOLLO program pinpoints location of Lunokhod 1 retroreflector

With the recent Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter imaging of the Lunokhod 1 rover, scientists on the APOLLO project were finally able to do something that scientists have been dreaming of for more than three decades: shoot the rover with a laser.

Hayabusa's coming home

It really looks like Hayabusa is going to make it home. Hayabusa's sample return capsule will be returning to Earth on June 13, 2010, landing in the Woomera Prohibited Area, Australia at about 14:00 UTC.

What about the non-imaging data from spacecraft?

Data from all science instruments on all of NASA's and ESA's space missions, not just cameras, is archived in the Planetary Data System and Planetary Science Archive, and almost all of that data is available online.

No, they can't push with the arm to free Spirit

I've gotten this question about once a week since Spirit got stuck, but yesterday, two different readers asked the same question within an hour of each other, so I figured it was time for a blog entry.

Hayabusa stumbles on the path back to Earth

JAXA issued a press release (in Japanese) on November 9 stating that one of Hayabusa's ion thrusters, thruster D, had stopped operating. Hayabusa launched with four ion thrusters, but D was one of only two that are still functioning. So the failure of thruster D is a serious problem.

Mars Science Laboratory Instruments: MAHLI

Last time, I talked about the MastCam color cameras on MSL, so it only makes sense to continue with one of the other cameras: The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI).

Mars Science Laboratory Instruments: Mastcam

A few weeks ago I gave a lunch talk at Cornell summarizing the MSL mission and particularly the instruments that it will carry and was shocked by the number of people who showed up!

Gravity's Bow

Timothy Reed explains how optical telescopes are tested for gravity sag, and the methods used to counteract or compensate for it.

Designing the Cassini Tour

Each Titan flyby is not a fork in the road, but rather a Los Angeles style cloverleaf in terms of the dizzying number of possible destinations. So how did our current and future plans for the path of the Cassini spacecraft come to be? That's the question Dave Seal put to me since that's my job -- I am a tour designer.

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