Category Archives: Uncategorized

Terraced Crater

The Dawn spacecraft is orbiting Ceres and returned this picture of a wonderfully terraced crater in the southern hemisphere of Ceres.


The image was taken on 25 June 2015 from a distance of 4,400 km / 2,700 miles. We will have to wait on details on the measurement details as there isn’t enough information in the Dawn description nor are there any shadows to infer them. We will get them eventually as this is one of the larger craters and the Dawn team gathers a little more information themselves.

Currently the Dawn spacecraft is descending to a lower orbit using its ion engine and over the next five weeks will drop to about 1,500 km / 900 miles. The alititude was last reported at 3,900 km / 2,400 miles.

The spacecraft did go into “safe mode” due to the Ion Engine-3 gimbal system anomaly moving the orientation out of expected values. The engineering team switched to Ion-Engine 2 and after testing for a couple of days before deciding all was good.

When Dawn reaches the lower altitude the resolution of the images will naturally get better and we should see the results in August. The image above has a resolution of 410 meters per pixel (or 1,400 feet) we will be seeing the best resolution ever soon.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

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Charon on 12 July


Great picture of Charon from New Horizon’s and it will get even better!

From New Horizons site:

Charon’s newly-discovered system of chasms, larger than the Grand Canyon on Earth, rotates out of view in New Horizons’ sharpest image yet of the Texas-sized moon. It’s trailed by a large equatorial impact crater that is ringed by bright rays of ejected material. In this latest image, the dark north polar region is displaying new and intriguing patterns. This image was taken on July 12 from a distance of 1.6 million miles (2.5 million kilometers).

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

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Pluto’s Spots



From the New Horizons site:
New Horizons’ last look at Pluto’s Charon-facing hemisphere reveals intriguing geologic details that are of keen interest to mission scientists. This image, taken early the morning of July 11, 2015, shows newly-resolved linear features above the equatorial region that intersect, suggestive of polygonal shapes. This image was captured when the spacecraft was 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) from Pluto.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

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Commercial Crew Program

The future of commercial space endeavors just took a HUGE leap forwards with the addition of the first astronauts to crew commercial flights starting in 2017.

“I am pleased to announce four American space pioneers have been selected to be the first astronauts to train to fly to space on commercial crew vehicles, all part of our ambitious plan to return space launches to U.S. soil, create good-paying American jobs and advance our goal of sending humans farther into the solar system than ever before,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “These distinguished, veteran astronauts are blazing a new trail — a trail that will one day land them in the history books and Americans on the surface of Mars.”

The four astronauts are seasoned veterans whose names will surely be recongnized by most readers here, they are: Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley and Sunita Williams. The four will work closely with The Boeing Company and SpaceX to develop their crew transportation systems and provide crew transportation services to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

The Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts with Boeing and SpaceX each require at least one crewed flight test with at least one NASA astronaut on board to verify the fully-integrated rocket and spacecraft system can launch, maneuver in orbit, and dock to the space station, as well as validate all systems perform as expected, and land safely.

To meet this requirement, the companies also must provide the necessary training for the crew to operate their respective vehicles. NASA is extensively involved with the companies and reviews their training plans.

Meet the astronauts below the fold:

Continue reading

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Happy Spring!


No not here, today is the first of Spring on Mars!

Determining the seasons on Mars isn’t difficult to understand but is a little complicated to explain and The Planetary Society has already done an excellent job at the task I recommend you go to their Mars Calendar page.

Also if you have been wondering about the lack of updates on the Rovers lately, Mars has been in solar conjunction. Mars is behind the Sun and hidden from us, it happens about every 28 months. When the solar conjunction occurs communications range from very difficult to impossible. The image above from the Mars Science Laboratory – Curiosity was taken on 03 June 2015 and is the last image recieved before the beginning of the conjunction. Mars will come out of the conjunction (hopefully) enough for communications to begin on 21 June.

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LDSD Launch?


THE TEST IS COMPLETE.  There was one anomaly otherwise it was a good test. I will post a replay when the high resolution video becomes available.


The second flight of NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) might be attempted today. The attempt is being attempted from from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. The launch originally scheduled for 02 June has been delayed due to weather. The launch window extends until 12 June (Friday). Launch time each day are between 17:30 to 19:00 UTC (1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. EDT / 7:30 to 9 a.m. HST).

The LDSD has the potential to double the payload that can be delivered to the surface of Mars.

A balloon will carry the vehicle to 37,000 meters / 120,000 feet then a booster rocket will take it further, to 55,000 meters / 180,000 feet. The vehicle will accelerate to about three times the speed of sound at which point a “supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator” (SAID) will inflate and slow the vehicle to Mach 2.35 when a parachute will (hopefully) carry the vehicle to a safe landing to the ocean.

The “SAID” and the parachute are new technologies being tested.

The image above shows the dress rehearsal for the launch on 29 May. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Here is a link for live video of the launch for you to check. I will try to confirm the launch but I’m not sure how much go/no go lead time there will be.  NASA TV will also carry the launch live.

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