Nap Time for New Horizons

Flight controllers Mike Conner and Josh Albers, in the New Horizons Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, await the signal confirming the spacecraft’s entry into hibernation on August 29; (inset) mission operations manager Alice Bowman keeps an eye on spacecraft telemetry and the communications link between New Horizons and NASA's Deep Space Network.  Image and caption: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/NASA/JPL

Flight controllers Mike Conner and Josh Albers, in the New Horizons Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, await the signal confirming the spacecraft’s entry into hibernation on August 29; (inset) mission operations manager Alice Bowman keeps an eye on spacecraft telemetry and the communications link between New Horizons and NASA’s Deep Space Network. Image and caption: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/NASA/JPL

Shortly after crossing the Neptune orbit New Horizons mission controllers at Johns Hopkins University put the New Horizons spacecraft down for a nap. This period of hibernation will be the last in the mission.

Mission managers verified a sucessful entry into hibernation at 13:21 UT 29 August. This part of the mission comes after a 10-week check of the spacecraft systems “The checkout went very well,” says Chris Hersman, New Horizons mission systems engineer from APL. “The spacecraft is healthy and in great shape to begin Pluto encounter activities in early 2015.”

The spacecraft was more than 4,425,696,000 km (4.426 billion) or 2,750,000,000 miles (2.75 billion) from Earth when the commands were sent. It takes over four hours for commands to reach the spacecraft, thankfully the Deep Space Network was up to the task.

One of the commands during the hibernation sequence is to point the New Horizons main antenna where Earth will be the next time the spacecraft wakes up so data about the condition of the spacecraft will be immediatly available.

The scheduled wake up date is 07 December 2014 and “Distant-encounter” operations at Pluto to begin 04 January 2015.

New Horizons mission site.

Comet Mosaic

Make a mosaic from Rosetta's comet pictures.   ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Make a mosaic from Rosetta’s comet pictures. ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

ESA’s Rosetta is now taking images from just 61 km from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. That is close enough so Rosetta is imaging the comet in about quarters.

The above four-image mosaic is featured at the Rosetta blog was taken on 31 August 2014. It’s really not quite a mosaic yet  If you look at the four-panels you will see some overlap. The images were made from 20 minute exposures and there is also some rotation from the mutual movement of Rosetta and comet.

We, the public are invited to create a mosaic from them. Rosetta Blog has the four individual frames on the page for downloading which I have done.  Just scroll down the page linked above to get the individual shots.

I have everything loaded into a imaging program and working on my mosiac. The rotation is creating quite a challange!

Give it a try. I’ll post my effort if I can get anywhere with it.

Martian Landscape

oppysm

A Navcam view of the Martian landscape. Click for the larger version. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

A picture of the Martian landscape but not from Curiosity. This is the the Navcam view from Opportunity.

Yes, Opportunity is still doing science on Mars after 3,749 Martian days when this image was taken (10 August 2014).
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September Sky

NASA’s JPL gives us “What’s Up for September 2014″

One of the nice things about this time of year is the clearing skies. I mean really clear skies, cooler temperatures and stable “seeing” kind of clear. If you have a telescope you probably know exactly what I mean.

We have a few nice pairings of stars / planets / moon. These pairings are especially nice for casual viewing and interesting conversation with those friends who might not otherwise notice and I find they almost always will look.

I don’t always get the best view of the zodiacal light right here because of the hills to my east but I can see it. If I’m on the road at the right time I can drive to a good location and stop long enough to let my eyes acclimate some and sip my coffee or tea for a short time and appreciate the view. Yes, I know coffee / tea doesn’t help the process, but it does make it more enjoyable. :)

Source.

Neptune’s Clouds

Voyager's look at clouds on Neptune.  Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory / NASA Planetary Photojournal

Voyager’s look at clouds on Neptune. Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory / NASA Planetary Photojournal

The bit of an interlude in the ESA’s Comet watch blog is a good time to look at some of Voyager 2′s images of Neptune. This is one of my favorites. I don’t really know if there is more than coincidence that the New Horizon’s spacecraft crossed the Neptune orbit 29 years almost to the day after Voyager started its Neptune encounter.

There is a lot of comparisons being drawn between the New Horizon’s and Voyager missions. Hey I’m on board with it. If I had my way there would be a “Le Verrier” or “Galle” spacecraft, a Neptune analog of the Cassini spacecraft in orbit right now.

In case you were wondering what was going on with Rosetta, everything is fine. Mission managers are looking at images from as close as 50 km trying to select the best landing spot. New images will be posted shortly.

This image comes from NASA’s Solar System Exploration (and Planetary Photojournal) site:

This Voyager 2 high resolution color image, taken 2 hours before closest approach, provides obvious evidence of vertical relief in Neptune’s bright cloud streaks.

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Bonanza King Update

Curiostiy's HazCam testing Bonanza King. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity’s HazCam testing Bonanza King. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Last week I mentioned the Mars Science Laboratory – Curiosity was at an interesting rock and mission managers were evaluating it to see if it would be a good choice for a sample collection (see the post).

Before there is a sample collection Curiosity uses the mini-drill procedure to aide in evaluating the location. Part of using the percussive drill for making a starter hole, probably akin to a hammer drill many of us use now and then. During the starter hole step Bonanza King moved a little bit and the protective software on Curiosity sensed it and stopped the procedure.

Mission managers decided to move on towards the long term goal of reaching Mount Sharp. Maybe they will find something interesting along the way.

MSL mission pages

Philae Landing Sites

The five candidate landing sites for Philae. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

The five candidate landing sites for Philae. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

ESA’s Landing Site Selection Group met over the past weekend and identified five possible landing sites for Rosetta’s Philae lander on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Three of the sites are on the smaller lobe and two on the larger one.

The original ten candidate sites were all marked with a letter designation, A to J and the group was narrowed to five at the meeting (A, B, C, J, I). The letters are only for identification and do not denote any preference.

After a detailed review for physical hazards and even long term illumination are complete, a primary landing site will be selected on 14 September. A secondary site will also be selected at that time.

Personally (today and very subject to change) I like:

Site A
Site B
Site I
Site C
Site J