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

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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:


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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.


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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


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: 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.


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Update, 6:38 p.m., June 20, 2018:

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I think this situation with Oppy waiting out a storm has somehow made Mars very real for a lot of people who don’t usually read science news. And that’s a good thing.



Typical. TYPICAL. I go away for a week – up to the beautiful Isle of Skye to take in some museums, castles and white sandy beaches – and after virtually ignoring her for years and years the rest of the world suddenly goes crazy about Opportunity! No-one (ok, almost no-one) has cared about her for […]

via Opportunity and the 2018 Dust Storm — The Road To Endeavour



Read the whole thing. There is some good news. The rover isn’t buried in sand; it just can’t get enough sunlight for power. However, the dust may keep the extreme Martian cold temperatures from falling so low that Oppy can’t power up again. They are taking a wait-and-see attitude. Go! Oppy! And thanks, Spirit, Oppy, and their human builders and operators for this vast trove of solid information about the once-unknown “Barsoom.” (Yeah, I was a Burroughs fan as a kid.)


Reblog on Opportunity Rover and the Mars Dust Storm from The Road To Endeavour