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Space Updates [Mar. 14th, 2007|09:14 am]
[Current Mood |far out]

The Mars Exploration Rovers have just entered their fourth year of service on the planet. That's a dozen times longer than the targetted 90-day mission! Those are some amazing little machines.

The Cassini spacecraft, orbiting Saturn since July 2004, has detected seas on Titan. Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, was the target of the Huygens Probe carried by Cassini. The probe photographed what appeared to be lakes and channels; Cassini has backed this up and now detected bodies of water (called "seas" though there isn't a concrete definition for that term) as large as Lake Superior.

The Rosetta spacecraft swung by Mars last month to get a gravity assist on its way out to rendezvous with the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (which desperately needs a nickname). Rosetta will pass by Earth two more times, make observation passes of two different asteroids, then go into a cruise phase towards the outer solar system. It'll finally encounter Comet Chur-Ge (much better!) in May-June 2014. Mark your calendars now!

The New Horizons spacecraft has just completed its pass through the Jovian system, picking up speed on its way out to ex-planet Pluto. During the flyby, it had a look at Jupiter and also managed to catch some amazing photos of volcanic ejecta plumes on Io. New Horizons will make its observation pass of the Pluto-Charon system in July 2014. That's going to be a fun year, evidently.

Meanwhile, closer to home, Space Shuttle Atlantis is in the VAB for repairs after an unexpected hailstorm damaged the external tank's insulating foam shell. It did get fairly dinged up by the hail, so I'm not surprised that they chose to carefully patch it up rather than risk yet more problems due to the foam. No official revised launch date has been set, though the NASA article suggests "late April".

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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2007-03-14 05:56 pm (UTC)
True, true. Love the icon, BTW. :)
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[User Picture]From: spazfox
2007-03-14 07:08 pm (UTC)
Yay, photos of Pluto! And only seven years away. :D
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2007-03-14 08:29 pm (UTC)
We'll finally get some pictures of that enigmatic little snowball. It'll be cool. (You know, what with the reduced solar radiation out there...)
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[User Picture]From: spazfox
2007-03-14 08:30 pm (UTC)
Wah wah waaaaaaaah.
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[User Picture]From: maxgoof
2007-03-14 07:43 pm (UTC)
Why not call the comet "Chur-Ger"?
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2007-03-14 08:28 pm (UTC)
I just thought Chur-Ge sounded more like a nickname. "Hey, Churgee!" :)
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[User Picture]From: fjmccloud
2007-03-15 07:56 am (UTC)
It's about time!
There is sooo much out past Neptune worth seeing there's no way 1 probe can do it all. What's holding up NASA? Hubble can't resolve Sedna and Eris and friends and they gave up on Pluto with Voyager 2. :-(

Methinks the astronomers are embarassed they can claim to find extrasolar planets but they are too nearsighted to see so many new planets in our own solar system. That's why they retaliated with a redefinition scheme last year. :-/ They're all planets in my book, so let's get the lead out and explore!
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[User Picture]From: ankhorite
2007-03-15 11:51 am (UTC)

For your flist...

You should friend menagerie73, a buddy of ours (Savant's and mine) who is deeply into a couple of your interests, but mostly this one.

I'll leave it to him to to tell you where he works, and on what. Discretion a necessity. You'll probably figure it out pretty quickly, despite that.

He's new to LJ, but not new at the space stuff... :)
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