Archive for the ‘Spacecraft’ Category

Solar System Exploration in 2018


(Planetary Blogs) – Emily Lakdawalla:

2018 is shaping up to be a very busy year in space exploration, with most of the action happening relatively close to Earth. There will be three launches to the Moon and one each toward Mars and Mercury. Two spacecraft will rendezvous with near-Earth asteroids and prepare to descend for samples. We’ll see the most distant ever planetary encounter with a tiny Kuiper belt object. And fifteen other spacecraft remain active in science missions at Venus, the Moon, Mars, Ceres, and Jupiter. …

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Solar system missions in 2018


SpaceX Rocket Launch Plume over California


(APoD) – The photogenic launch plume from a SpaceX rocket launch created quite a spectacle over parts of southern California and Arizona.

A Falcon 9 rocket successfully delivered to low Earth orbit ten Iridium NEXT satellites that are part of a developing global communications network. …

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SpaceX launch 2017-12-22

Why NASA’s Kepler Mission Is Toast


(Starts With A Bang!) – Ethan Siegel:

All of Kepler’s major discoveries are in the past.

There are great advances to come, but Kepler has already seen almost all of what it’s going to, and practically all of the great science we’d hoped for has already been extracted. It’s time for the next step. It’s no longer satisfying to speculate about what could be out there. It’s time to know. …

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Kepler-90 planets

An Orbital Moon Station Is Our Gateway to Mars


(Discover Blogs::The Crux) – David Rothery:

The dream of a human habitat in orbit about the moon came a step closer on Sept. 27, when NASA and the Russian space agency (Roscosmos) signed up to a common vision for future human exploration. The project, a follow-up to the International Space Station (ISS), involves a facility placed in orbit somewhere between the Earth and the moon – a region known as cis-lunar space. Seen as a stepping-stone on the way to deeper space exploration, it has been dubbed the Deep Space Gateway, DSG. …

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Deep Space Gateway and NASA Orion craft

Last Days of Cassini


(Discover Blogs::Out There) – Corey S. Powell:

As Cassini’s program manager and a veteran of the mission since 1993, Earl H. Maize of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a unique perspective on the last days of this remarkable spacecraft. There is no other comparable mission on the drawing boards; given current political realities, there may not be another like it in our lifetimes. And yet, Cassini is a beginning as well as an end. Maize notes that omnibus missions like Cassini allow more targeted follow-ups, like the upcoming Europa Clipper and (here’s hoping) future visits to the moons Enceladus and Titan.

I spoke with Maize just ahead of Cassini’s heroic final plunge. He offered an insider’s view of how it all ended. …

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Enceladus setting behind Saturn 2017-09-13

Cassini Must Die


(FTB Pharyngula) – PZ Myers:

The Cassini probe is being ordered to destroy itself by crashing into Saturn. It seems harsh. You’ve sent a tourist to an exotic location to go crazy taking vacation snaps, and then instead of a return trip, you reward them with a request to send more pictures of their suicide. I guess it is a spectacular way to go. …

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Cassini spacecraft at Saturn

Voyager’s “Cosmic Map” of Earth’s Location is Hopelessly Wrong


(Starts With A Bang!) – Ethan Siegel:

The pulsar map to Earth was perfect when it was launched. By time aliens get it, it’ll be completely useless. …

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Voyager golden record

New Horizons’ Next Target


(Syfy Wire::Bad Astronomy) – Phil Plait:

Astronomers looked for any Kuiper Belt Objects near the New Horizons trajectory, and, after using Hubble, they found one: Called 2014 MU69, it was a perfect target. Likely to be an ancient piece of solar system left over from its formation, it was reachable using some of what was left of the spacecraft’s fuel. The course correction was made, and New Horizons will blow past MU69 on January 1, 2019, passing just 10,000 km from it. …

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2014 MU69 binary

Street View in Space


(Atlantic Science) – Marina Koren:

New images on Google Maps were taken by an astronaut as he floated from module to module inside the International Space Station. …

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Google maps interior view of ISS

The Wink of a Star


(Planetary Blogs) – Emily Lakdawalla:

After a world-spanning effort, the New Horizons team has successfully observed the tiny target of its future exploration dimming a distant star. …

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2014 MU69, artist's impression