Hayabusa-2 and Asteroid Ryugu

September 22, 2018: YES!!!!!!!


Hopping rovers . . . now why didn’t Star Trek ever dream of that?



Continue reading


Guest Video: Planet Hunting with TESS

September 22, 2018: TESS has already found two new planets, per preliminary reports.

Original post:

NASA released the first images from TESS today.

What is TESS?

Here is today’s image:


There are more planets than stars in the Milky Way–and these are mostly stars. (Source)

TESS mission page.

Featured image: Yaquina Head Lighthouse, BLM Oregon and Washington/Daniel Gomez

Guest Videos: OSIRIS-REx Mission to Bennu

We’ve gone into a space a lot this week–let’s keep going and celebrate the launch of OSIRIS-REx on September 8, 2016.


Mission page

Here’s an update. (Note: Look at the graphic on the wall behind her when they tell you what DSN is – that’s actually showing the Deep Space Network in real-time operation, and the moving lines are transmissions to and from various spacecraft.)

And here’s the basic mission . . .

WAIT! WHAT ABOUT ME????!!!–Asteroid Bennu

Oh, all right, Bennu:

Now then, here’s the basic OSIRIS-REx mission video.

Featured image: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Guest Videos: Juno and Jupiter

Meanwhile, at Jupiter . . .

Another bumped post. This is turning into a Blog Carnival of Space, but it’s worth it in sheer awesomeness. It’s too bad ongoing space exploration just doesn’t get a lot of coverage in the news. (PS: Work on the domestic cat ebook is going slowly but progressing steadily.)

September 5, 2018: Juno has found that Jupiter’s magnetic field is unique (also the Lego figures and, more importantly, the spacecraft’s electronics are holding, thus far, during the dives close to the giant planet.

Update, July 10, 2018: This week, NASA released a summary of the Juno Mission’s accomplishments over the last two years.

Original post:

We have three Lego figures orbiting the planet Jupiter now.


Why are the instruments in a titanium vault?

Well, for one thing, Jupiter “roars” at you, even before you get there: Continue reading

Guest Reblog: “Opportunity Under Threat,” by The Road To Endeavour

September 22, 2018:

sols 5203 to 5209, Sept. 12, 2018 – Sept. 18, 2018: No Signal Has Been Heard From Opportunity for Nearly 100 Days

The Opportunity team is increasing the frequency of commands it beams to the rover via the dishes of NASA’s Deep Space Network from three times a week to multiple times per day.

No signal from Opportunity has been heard since Sol 5111 (June 10, 2018). That’s nearly 100 sols (days) without communication. It is expected that Opportunity has experienced a low-power fault, perhaps, a mission clock fault and an up-loss timer fault. The dust storm on Mars continues its decay with atmospheric opacity (tau) over the rover site below 1.5. The project has been listening for the rover over a broad range of times using the Deep Space Network Radio Science Receiver and commanding “sweep and beeps” to address a possible complexity with certain conditions within the mission clock fault.

Total odometry is 28.06 miles (45.16 kilometers.

NASA/MER program

September 11, 2018:

Updated at 2:45 p.m. PDT on Sept. 11, 2018

Scientists reviewing data from the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have determined that the tau estimate (a measure of the amount of haze in the Martian atmosphere) in the skies above the rover Opportunity has been below 1.5 for two consecutive measurements. With more sunlight reaching the rover’s solar array, the Opportunity team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are increasing the frequency of commands it beams to the 14-plus-year-old rover via the dishes of NASA’s Deep Space Network from three times a week to multiple times per day. Passive listening for Opportunity will also continue to be performed by JPL’s Radio Science Group, which records radio signals emanating from Mars with a very sensitive broadband receiver…”


Update, September 10, 2018: Still waiting . . .

Original post:

I shared this on Twitter after reading it yesterday but gave it some thought before reblogging it here. After all, Oppy has served long past its “expiration date”; as well, NASA is under pressure–for example, reportedly, Russia won’t be carrying our astronauts up into space any more, starting next year.

But NASA is composed of human beings, who are not perfect. And people everywhere, in every line of work, make questionable decisions; they set overly ambitious goals for themselves (although, give NASA its due–that’s their business, and they usually come through, eventually). People compete. They rise up the ladder and lose touch with some basics.

It’s a part of being human.

I don’t have the knowledge to say whether the 45-day cut-off is a good thing or not; however, I do recognize that we need to reward the ability to design rovers (Spirit was a laster, too) that are even better than expected and to continue their missions as long as possible.

Hopefully, Opportunity will respond soon. But if it doesn’t, let’s give it more time. The people behind it, past and present, deserve that.

Humanity is going into space eventually. Lets bring as much of that 60s spirit of wonder and exploration with us as possible, and only what little “business as usual” mindset is absolutely necessary to keep basic operations functioning.

In the long term, that will work out best for everybody.

For background, here’s the news release that inspired the reblogged post below.

When I started writing this blog – almost ten years ago now – I thought that Opportunity had two, maybe three more years of roving ahead of her. Five at the most. She had already travelled so far, seen so much, made so many discoveries, that to expect many more years than that seemed not […]

via Opportunity Under Threat — The Road To Endeavour

Guest Videos: Mikhail Lomonosov

You might run across the word “Lomonosov” in the news soon. A ridge of that name is a big part of Russia’s claim to the Arctic, and the UN committee that is responsible for deciding such territorial claims just began a new session.

This ridge is named after a famous 18th-century Russian polymath–Mikhail Lomonosov–who, among other things, discovered in 1761 that the planet Venus has an atmosphere.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much about him in English online other than Wikipedia and the usual science biography sites on YouTube.

However, Lomonosov is worth checking out today for two reasons.

First, during the 1970s, the Russians followed up spectacularly on that initial Venus discovery.

Second, tomorrow’s Sunday Morning Volcano sits very close to the Lomonosov Ridge.

To be continued . . .

Featured image: The 2012 transit of Venus, NASA/SDO, AIA via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.0/Portrait of M. Lomonosov, Russian Academy of Sciences via Wikimedia.


Lomonosov, M., and Shiltsev, V. 2018. Mikhail Lomonosov. Meditations on Solidity and Fluidity of Bodies (1760). English translation and commentary by V. Shiltsev. arXiv preprint arXiv:1801.00909 (PDF).

Marov, M. Y. 2004. Mikhail Lomonosov and the discovery of the atmosphere of Venus during the 1761 transit. Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union, 2004(IAUC196), 209-219.

Guest Videos: The Winds of Mars

The hardest part of space exploration, at least for laypeople trying to keep up to date, is getting used to familiar things, like wind, in unfamiliar settings.

Mars is smaller than the Earth, but it has enough wind to support the currently ongoing planetwide dust storm that has shut down Opportunity (hopefully, temporarily). And we have seen its twisters, though they don’t look as powerful as ours.

Martian winds must be pretty powerful, though, right? After all, the planet’s surface looks like it has been scoured in places:

There are some awesome wind-made features on the Red Planet, including yardangs. To really appreciate them, we need to understand just how weak the winds of Mars actually are.

Spoiler: Not quite as strong as they are depicted in The Martian.

Those beautiful Martian dunes and streamlined rocky features must have taken way longer than it took to sculpt similar structures on Earth. But then, according to a new study, Mars may have gotten a hundred-million-year jump on the Earth in terms of this whole solid planetary crust thing.

All told, over billions of years even weak winds can have impressive effects.

Featured image: NASA/JPL.