Archive for the ‘Spacecraft’ Category

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

A Front-Row Seat at Saturn


(RawStory) – Dan Reisenfeld:

Cassini now begins one last campaign. Dubbed the Grand Finale, it will end on Sept. 15, 2017 with the probe plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere, where it will burn up. Although Saturn was visited by three spacecraft in the 1970s and 1980s, my fellow scientists and I couldn’t have imagined what the Cassini space probe would discover during its sojourn at the ringed planet when it launched 20 years ago. …

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Does Earth Have a Trojan Horde?


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

Are there asteroids sharing Earth’s orbit around the Sun?

Cutting to the chase: Yes, there is at least one. But how many are there? There might be a lot, but we don’t know. The cool news is, we may very well know more soon. …

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OSIRIS-REx at Earth's L4

How the James Webb Space Telescope Was Made


(Starts With A Bang!) – Ethan Siegel:

An Ariane 5 rocket, launching at dawn, will carry James Webb in full sunlight to its destination: the L2 Lagrange point, beyond the shadow of both the Earth and the Moon. For only 32 minutes, James Webb will be under battery power; after that, the solar arrays deploy and it will forever be in direct sunlight. Its mission to reveal the Universe will have begun, and every scientist and engineer who helped design and build it will get their celebratory moment of a lifetime. …

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James Webb Space Telescope

Robots Beyond Earth Orbit


(Planetary Blogs) – Emily Lakdawalla:

What’s ahead for our intrepid space explorers in 2017? It is with great sadness that I write that this year will be the last for Cassini. But the Saturn orbiter will be sending back spectacular ring science between now and its September end. Also in September, OSIRIS-REx will return to Earth for a flyby, enjoying the opportunity to test out its science suite on our home planet and Moon while getting an assist on to asteroid Bennu. At the end of the year, Chang’e 5 is expected to launch to the Moon to perform a robotic sample return, and there might be a Google Lunar XPRIZE launch or a few. Meanwhile, a ton of other missions continue exploring the solar system from Venus to the Kuiper belt, returning routine science or cruising to new destinations. For a rundown of what’s happening closer to home, read Jason Davis’ post. …

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Solar System missions 2017-01

What’s Up in Solar System Exploration


(Planetary Blogs) – Emily Lakdawalla:

November will be a huge month for the Cassini Saturn orbiter: it’s rapidly circling Saturn in 8- or 9-day orbits, setting up for a November 29 encounter with Titan that will shoot it much closer to Saturn, into a new orbit that takes it just outside Saturn’s main ring system. It’s the beginning of the end for the mission, but also the beginning of awesome new science. November was also supposed to be the beginning of awesome new science for Juno, but they have had to delay the beginning of their science mission because of engine and computer problems. Meanwhile, ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is going to acquire its first science data, just a taste for the science instruments before they begin their aerobraking phase. And here on Earth, two important weather spacecraft, Himawari-9 and GOES-R, should be getting off the ground, while China debuts its Long March 5 rocket. …

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Solar system missions 2016-11

What’s Up in Solar System Exploration


(Planetary Blogs) – Emily Lakdawalla:

Hopefully this month will see another ESA mission begin its science operations phase: ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter arrives on October 19, and it will deliver the Schiaparelli lander to its brief life on the Martian surface. Other milestones this month: Juno will shorten its long initial Jupiter orbit to its much shorter, two-week-long science orbit. Cassini will spiral through four, count them, four orbits of Saturn. ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission has issued its first science data release. And New Horizons is going to finish downlinking all its Pluto data. …

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Solar system missions in Oct. 2016

SpaceX Plans to Colonize Mars


(Slate::Bad Astronomy) – Phil Plait:

Elon Musk finally revealed his vision for the future of SpaceX, and possibly humanity. It involves a big rocket, a big spaceship, a big fleet, and big money.

He calls it the Interplanetary Transport System, or ITS, and he’s not thinking small: He claims this plan can lead to a city on Mars of 1 million people or more, and it could be well on its way in less than a century. …

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SpaceX ITS departure

What’s Up in Solar System Exploration


(Planetary Blogs) – Emily Lakdawalla:

Mid-month (on or after September 8), we’ll see OSIRIS-REx launch into a two-year cruise toward a rendezvous with asteroid Bennu. But you win some and you lose some: September will close, sadly, with the end of one of our great flagship planetary exploration missions. Rosetta will be brought down onto the surface of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko on September 30, after which it will be unable to communicate with Earth, and the 12-year mission will be over. We’ll still have about 19 spacecraft performing routine science operations …

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Solar system missions in Sept. 2016