Archive for the ‘Spacecraft’ Category

Last Days of Cassini

2017/09/16

(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. …

outthere 2017/09/16 last-days-of-cassini

Enceladus setting behind Saturn 2017-09-13

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Cassini Must Die

2017/09/15

(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. …

pharyngula 2017/09/14 cassini-must-die

Cassini spacecraft at Saturn

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

2017/08/30

(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. …

starts-with-a-bang 2affdf9c400c

Voyager golden record

New Horizons’ Next Target

2017/08/11

(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. …

syfywire binary-relic

2014 MU69 binary

Street View in Space

2017/07/24

(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. …

theatlantic 2017/07 534369

Google maps interior view of ISS

The Wink of a Star

2017/07/22

(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. …

emily-lakdawalla 2017/0720 mu69

2014 MU69, artist's impression

A Front-Row Seat at Saturn

2017/04/24

(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. …

rawstory 2017/04 key-things

Does Earth Have a Trojan Horde?

2017/03/19

(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. …

blastr 2017-2-14 trojan-horde

OSIRIS-REx at Earth's L4

How the James Webb Space Telescope Was Made

2017/01/26

(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

2016/12/31

(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