Mars Update


The planet-wide dust storm (image on right) has cleared. Here’s an update on humanity’s active missions to the Red Planet.

About to make headlines in next 30 days

:


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Update, November 8, 2018:


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Active spacecraft on or around Mars

Per Wikipedia:

  1. Mars Odyssey (NASA); also keeps Earth in touch with the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers
  2. Mars Express (ESA)
  3. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (NASA)
  4. Curiosity rover (NASA); currently has a glitch. Update:

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  5. Mangalyaan; Mars Orbiter Mission (ISRO)
  6. MAVEN

In need of a Matt Daimon-style rescue mission

Opportunity rover (NASA).


Remember how H. G. Wells began his novel The War of the Worlds?

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.

Well, no one in the 19th or early 20th century would have believed that soon we would know what the view of Earth from Mars actually looks like!


Somehow, that doesn’t make me feel transient at all. But my mind is boggled!


Featured image: NASA



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New Horizons Opens A Path to Pluto (and Beyond)


Apparently the updates menu goes by the original post date, and this 2014 post is still buried. It shouldn’t be, since New Horizons is now closing in on its next target wa-a-a-a-a-a-y out there on the edge of the our little corner of the Universe. Also, people should check out that 2006 launch video again: that was powerful!


Update, October 5, 2018:

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Here is more information on the upcoming Ultima Thule encounter.

Somehow I missed updating this post for the Pluto flyby in 2015. Here is a video that NASA put up about a year ago to show us all what New Horizons saw up close:



Beautiful, but weird! I’m not a musician, but that silent video makes me want to write some music!



Original post:
Let’s watch the 2006 launch of the fastest spacecraft ever to leave our planet.

Put on your hard hat and watch your speaker volume as an Atlas V rocket, Centaur rocket, and five solid rocket boosters light up.
 

Yeah. That baby took only 9 hours to reach the Moon.

Continue reading

Hayabusa2 and Asteroid Ryugu


November 3, 2018: It is going to a challenge to maneuver the spacecraft close enough to poke the surface for a sample.


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October 30, 2018, 8:54 p.m., Pacific: Look at the footage they got during the most recent touchdown rehearsal! Heh. If Ryugu were sentient, it would think there was a mosquito buzzing around it . . . but this mosquito is going to swat Ryugu in 2019!


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October 25, 2018, 1:32 p.m., Pacific: Another spectacular image, this from today’s rehearsel for the 2019 touchdown. The shiny thing is a target marker, but look at that spacecraft shadow! Wow, they were close! JAXA reports a new approach record of 12 meters (40 feet).


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October 14, 2018, 4:15 p.m., Pacific: This is the rehearsal–they report that the LIDAR problem was fixed, so they’re doing the rehearsal again. There will be another rehearsal later this month.


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However, they have moved up the actual touchdown to next year–see this report for details.

Although the first touchdown schedule is changed, we have enough time margins in our schedule, and our aim is a more reliable and safe operation through a comprehensive study of all the sources of information obtained so far during the Hayabusa2 project.



Real-time images from the October 3rd MASCOT deployment in English here.


October 3, 2018:

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And here is the press conference (the first few minutes are silent reaction shots in the control room–those initial grins are wonderful!–and then the conference, which is narrated by an English-language translator):



October 2, 2018, 8:55 p.m., Pacific: Per most recent tweet, they’ve got communication with the lander, and . . .

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October 2, 2018, 8:49 p.m., Pacific:


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I’m not sure, but there may be another delay of hours now, as there was with the MINERVA rovers, before we know MASCOT has landed and is operating. . .


October 2, 2018, 6:25 p.m., Pacific: MASCOT deployment update: It’s October 3 in Japan, and Hayabusa2 is descending toward Ryugu again, just as it did recently to deploy the MINERVA rovers. Check these Twitter feeds for updates and links as things progress today:


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Indeed, good luck, MASCOT!


October 1, 2018: JAXA released this update today:

Hayabusa2 status (the week of 2018.09.24) ★

This week, the MINERVA-II1 rovers that landed on the asteroid last week sent images from the asteroid surface. No regolith was seen in these images, only a shocking scenery of large and small boulders. On the other hand, the scenes of sunlight on the asteroid and the rover hopping were both very beautiful and dynamic. Next week is the deployment of the MASCOT lander. The decent operation is always a nervous time and we want to deliver the lander steadily and carefully. (Regolith: fine grain sediments).

Apparently some asteroids do have regolith.

Meanwhile, MASCOT tweeted yesterday:


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Check out the MASCOT Twitter feed for more of those wonderful messages people have sent before the descent begins, day after tomorrow.


September 27, 2018: First movie ever taken on an asteroid:


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Check out the Twitter feed for more breath-taking images and updates; the rovers are hopping!


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


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


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Wheee!

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:


180768_web

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


Meanwhile, at Ceres . . .


. . . the Dawn mission is coming to an end. Remember those shiny spots on the asteroid? They’re still making headlines!

Here is an overview of Dawn’s accomplishments:



Mission page and “What we learned from the mission.”


Update, September 17, 2018: More on Ceres’ three-mile-high ice volcano.


November 3, 2018: Good night, Dawn. And thanks.


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Guest Videos: OSIRIS-REx Mission to Bennu


November 5, 2018: They’re getting close enough to image the asteroid now, and have found something intriguing:


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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.


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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.

Seriously.

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


November 15, 2018: Hopes were raised briefly of a signal, and then dashed, apparently.


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October 30, 2018: As the 45-day deadline arrives, NASA has decided to continue trying to raise Opportunity until January and then review things again.

Jason Major was just a tad pumped about this.



Per NASA’s statement, released yesterday afternoon:

After a review of the progress of the listening campaign, NASA will continue its current strategy for attempting to make contact with the Opportunity rover for the foreseeable future. Winds could increase in the next few months at Opportunity’s location on Mars, resulting in dust being blown off the rover’s solar panels. The agency will reassess the situation in the January 2019 time frame.

Per Aragorn Mr. Major:

. . . when the dust devils start whirling and twirling inside Endeavour, and winds start to whip up its slopes, the MER team will be there to takew advantage of it, shouting out Oppy’s name from Earth’s doorstep and urging her to “phone home” rather than just sitting inside with the TV on hoping to hear a plaintive call from outside…

This is a big deal, it really is. It means there is now a much better chance of cintact being re-established with Opportunity. So, good luck to all the MER team who have already worked so hard to get to this place – and best wishes to them as they continue their efforts.

What he said. Go, MER team! And Oppy, please phone home. We miss you.


October 27, 2018:

Opportunity Updates

sols 5238 to 5244, Oct. 18, 2018 – Oct. 22, 2018: Still No Signal From Opportunity

The dust storm on Mars has ended and atmospheric opacity (tau) over the rover site hovers around a typical seasonal value between 1.0 and 1.1.

No signal from Opportunity has been heard since Sol 5111 (June 10, 2018). Opportunity likely experienced a low-power fault, a mission clock fault and an up-loss timer fault. The team has been listening for the rover over a broad range of times using the Deep Space Network (DSN) Radio Science Receiver since loss of signal. In addition, more recently they have been commanding “sweep and beeps” throughout the daily DSN pass to address a possible complexity with certain conditions within mission clock fault.

Total odometry is unchanged at 28.06 miles (45.16 kilometers).



October 24, 2018: They’re certainly giving Opportunity every possible chance. C’mon, Oppy . . . phone home!

Opportunity Updates

sols 5230 to 5237, Oct. 10, 2018 – Oct. 17, 2018: Actively Listening for Opportunity

The dust storm on Mars has ended with atmospheric opacity (tau) over the rover site down to around typical values of 1.0 to 1.1.

No signal from Opportunity has been heard since Sol 5111 (June 10, 2018). Opportunity likely experienced a low-power fault, a mission clock fault and an up-loss timer fault. The team has been listening for the rover over a broad range of times using the Deep Space Network (DSN) Radio Science Receiver since loss of signal.

In addition, more recently have been commanding “sweep and beeps” throughout the daily DSN pass to address a possible complexity with certain conditions within mission clock fault.

Total odometry is unchanged at 28.06 miles (45.16 kilometers).


October 13, 2018: Not looking good, per the MER update page:

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Efforts To Communicate With Opportunity Continue – sols 5224 to 5229, Oct. 4, 2018 – Oct. 9, 2018:
The dust storm on Mars has effectively ended with atmospheric opacity (tau) over the rover site down to around 1.0 to 1.1, values are typical for storm-free conditions this time of year.

No signal from Opportunity has been heard since Sol 5111 (June 10, 2018). As stated previously, it is expected that Opportunity has experienced a low-power fault, a mission clock fault and an up-loss timer fault. The science team has been listening for the rover over a broad range of times using the Deep Space Network (DSN) Radio Science Receiver since loss of signal.

The team has been commanding “sweep and beeps” throughout their daily DSN pass. They are addressing a possible complexity with certain conditions within the mission clock fault.

Total odometry is unchanged at 28.06 miles (45.16 kilometers).


October 1, 2018: From the Mars Exploration Rover Mission status page:

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Opportunity Remains Silent For Over Three Months – sols 5210 to 5216, Sept. 19, 2018 – Sept. 25, 2018:
No signal from Opportunity has been heard in over 115 sols, since Sol 5111 (June 10, 2018).

It is expected that Opportunity has experienced a low-power fault. Perhaps, a mission clock fault and an up-loss timer fault, as well. The dust storm on Mars continues to subside with atmospheric opacity (tau) over the rover site at around 1.3.

The science team has been listening for the rover over a broad range of times using the Deep Space Network (DSN) Radio Science Receiver. In addition, commanding “sweep and beeps” throughout our daily DSN pass to address a possible complexity with certain conditions within the mission clock fault.

Total odometry is 28.06 miles (45.16 kilometers.


September 26, 2018: And here is a close-up from The Road to Endeavour blog:


Phone home, Oppy!



Update, September 25, 2018: They can see Oppy, even if it remains silent:


It’s that little speck in the center of the white box, per NASA.


Update, 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…”

NASA


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.



Sources:

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.