Launch Day for JAXA

JAXA the Japanese Space Agency is going to launch its H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)-6 at 8:26 a.m. EST / 13:26 UTC.

About the mission:
Loaded with more than 4.5 tons of supplies, water, spare parts and experiment hardware for the six-person station crew, the unpiloted cargo spacecraft, named “Kounotori” – the Japanese word for white stork – will set sail on a four-day flight to the station. Also aboard the resupply vehicle are six new lithium-ion batteries and adapter plates that will replace the nickel-hydrogen batteries currently used on the station to store electrical energy generated by the station’s solar arrays. These will be installed during a series of spacewalks currently scheduled in January.

On Tuesday, Dec. 13, the HTV-6 will approach the station from below, and slowly inch its way toward the complex. Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) will operate the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm from the station’s cupola to reach out and grapple the 12-ton spacecraft and install it on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module, where it will spend more than five weeks. Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA will monitor HTV-6 systems during the rendezvous and grapple.

John Glenn 1921 – 2016


John Glenn the first American to orbit the Earth passed yesterday at the age of 95.

Glenn was launched into space on 20 February 1962 aboard an Atlas rocket inside a Mercury capsule, the mission: Friendship 7

John Glenn also went to space aboard a Space Shuttle at the age of 77 years, he was and still is the oldest person in space.


John Glenn was a true hero. Before he was launched atop the Atlas missile he knew the risk:

The very first time we saw a missile launch, it went up and blew up at 27,000 feet and that wasn’t a confidence builder” – John Glenn

John Glenn I salute you.

Phobos and ExoMars


There is also an a red–blue anaglyph image of Phobos composed from the stereo pair acquired by the ExoMars orbiter’s CaSSIS – you’ll need 3D glasses (or some sort of red/blue viewing device.

The ESA caption:
Colour composite of Phobos taken with the ExoMars orbiter’s Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS) on 26 November 2016. The observation was made at a distance of 7700 km and yields a resolution of 87 m/pixel.

To create the final colour image, two images were taken through each of the four colour filters of the camera – panchromatic, blue–green, red and infrared – and then stitched together and combined to produce the high-resolution composite.

Two of the colour filters used by CaSSIS lie outside the wavelength response of the human eye, so this is not a ‘true’ colour image. However, showing the data as a colour representation can reveal details of the surface mineralogy. Different colours are clearly seen, with the bluest part in the direction of the large crater Stickney, which is out of view over the limb to the left. Although the exact composition of the material is unknown, the colour differences are thought to be caused by compositional variations on scales of hundreds of metres to several kilometres.

Credit: ExoMars (ESA/Roscosmos/CaSSIS

New Views of Cassini


If all goes as planned this is just the first of a new set of images the Cassini spacecraft will be returning in the new phase of its mission.

Click the image for a larger version.

From NASA:
This view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft was obtained about half a day before its first close pass by the outer edges of Saturn’s main rings during its penultimate mission phase.

The view shows part of the giant, hexagon-shaped jet stream around the planet’s north pole. Each side of the hexagon is about as wide as Earth. A circular storm lies at the center, at the pole (see PIA14944).

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Dec. 3, 2016, at a distance of about 240,000 miles (390,000 kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 14 miles (23 kilometers) per pixel.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NGC 4696


From Hubble:

This picture, taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), shows NGC 4696, the largest galaxy in the Centaurus Cluster.

The new images taken with Hubble show the dusty filaments surrounding the centre of this huge galaxy in greater detail than ever before. These filaments loop and curl inwards in an intriguing spiral shape, swirling around the supermassive black hole at such a distance that they are dragged into and eventually consumed by the black hole itself.

Credit:  NASA, ESA/Hubble, A. Fabian

Yalode Crater


It’s all about perspective.

Original caption:
Sunlit cliffs tower above Yalode Crater on Ceres in this shadowy perspective view. At 152 miles (260 kilometers) in diameter, Yalode is one of Ceres’ largest craters. A fissure called Nar Sulcus is seen just right of center.

Dawn took this image on Oct. 19, 2016, from its second extended-mission science orbit (XMO2), at a distance of about 920 miles (1,480 kilometers) above the surface. The image resolution is about 460 feet (140 meters) per pixel.

A different view of Yalode, taken almost exactly one year prior, can be seen by clicking the image.


Mars Pathfinder

It has been 20-years since the Mars Pathfinder with the little Sojourner rover was launched to Mars. The spacecraft landed successfully in an ancient flood plain called Ares Vallis or the valley of Ares. The landing site is in the northern hemisphere of Mars and is where Sojourner because the first rover to operate on Mars.

Mars Pathfinder page at JPL / NASA

Here is one of JPL’s 360 views around the Pathfinder lander, later renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station: