July 5th, 2007

Sy Liebergot

Spacey Stuff

  • Mars rover Opportunity is read to dive into Victoria crater. The rover's been positioned near the top of "Duck Bay" (a smooth flume decline in between the bluffs of the crater rim) and is standing by to enter. There's been a slight delay due to dust storms in the atmosphere; the controllers want the rover to have all of the solar power it can during this operation.

    Victoria crater may very well be a one-way trip. The slope may cause the rover to lose control and it may be too steep for it to ever climb out. But the views from inside the crater could allow analysis of exposed rock unlike any they've seen up to now.

    Besides, the mars rovers have been there about three and a half years and are at roughly thriteen times their planned operational life.

  • The Dawn Mission is preparing for launch in the next couple of days. Planned launch is Saturday afternoon.

    The Dawn spacecraft's mission is to visit the asteroids Ceres and Vesta. These are the two largest bodies in the asteroid belt (Ceres now being designated a "dwarf planet" by the new astronomical categorization that stripped Pluto of planethood.)

    The spacecraft will stop and orbit both of these asteroids, making it the first craft to enter into stable orbits around multiple bodies. It's going to do this using ion propulsion, a thrust mechanism that virtually requires a Star Trek mention.

  • Armadillo Aerospace is gearing up for this fall's next round of the X-Prize Lunar Lander Challenge. The goal is to create a craft that can autonomously hover and travel between two target points.

    I've been idly following Armadillo for, what, five years now? I think this may when they take it, though. There's probably only two other teams that are serious competition for this prize and Armadillo's unofficial test flights have met the goals already. Can John Carmack go up another notch in geek cool?