Guest Video: Sniffing Out Methane on Mars

On April 10, the European Space Agency announced that the trace gas orbiter–Part 1 of its ExoMars mission to the Red Planet–has finished aerobraking:

Here’s why they are so interested in Martian methane.

NASA also has a 2020 mission planned and is hoping to retrieve some rocks. (Uh, guys, you’ve already got some!)

Featured image: ESA/ATG medialab


Rosetta Comet Landing Livestream


Mission control for Rosetta and Philae.  ESA

Mission control for Rosetta and Philae. ESA

We’re doing this week’s Ad Astra post early because the European Space Agency is sending down the Rosetta mission’s Philae lander on Wednesday, November 12.

It’s going to attempt a landing on Comet 67P, according to the present schedule, at around 10:35 a.m. Eastern. Since there is a time delay due to distance (this is happening about midway between Mars and the asteroid belt), people on Earth won’t know if it worked until about a half-hour later.

No one knows what a comet’s surface is like, so we’ll all have to wait and see what happens.

The Livestream will be here, starting Tuesday. The ESA will have its webcast here, also starting Tuesday. NASA-TV will carry live coverage here from 9 to 10 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday and then will switch over to ESA coverage from 10 to 11:30.

Rosetta mission updates

Check out the European Space Agency’s Rosetta blog, too.

Last update, November 10, 3:27 p.m. Pacific: Switching over to this week’s Ad Astra post for links to landing coverage.

Update, November 5: The Planetary Society has a page listing all the events and information for next Tuesday’s comet landing.

And there was this little exchange on Twitter today:


Update, October 24, 2014, 4:14 p.m.: Wow!

Also, telemetry data from the Philae lander are here.

Earlier updates

Here’s an animation of Comet 67P by Mattias Malmer – imagine if you had to land a relatively tiny machine on that rotating, gas-jetting comet nucleus!


October 8, 2014, 12:31 p.m.: They’re going to deploy the Philae Lander on November 12th. Hopefully it will go as smoothly, although the comet is already starting to noticeably jet as it gets nearer to the Sun. Here is ESA’s latest mission update, from two weeks ago:

September 19, 2014, 3:32 p.m.: More jets coming off the comet have been detected coming off 67P.

Also, from earlier this week, a couple of tweets about the Philae Lander’s selected site – scheduled to land November 11 (hope the comet doesn’t become too “gassy” in the meantime:



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Blazing Comets


Rosetta mission updates


There’s an awesome graphic making the Internet rounds right now – the city of Los Angeles and Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P), to scale.

Well done, Michel @quark1972!  Source

Well done, Michel @quark1972! Source

That comet isn’t going to hit LA. It’s special because the Rosetta spacecraft just intercepted it this month, about midway between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

It looks big here, but Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko, billions of years old, is really just a speck in the Solar System.

Imagine putting downtown Los Angeles physically out beyond Mars and the asteroid belt. Now, try not just to hit it with a rocket launched from South America, but also to have that rocket circle around downtown and then land in a park.
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