Cassini – An exhilarating story of planetary exploration

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For more information: Cassini at Saturn

More on the Grand Finale (2nd dive: May 2, 2017; End of mission: Sept 15, 2017)

OSIRIS-REx on a mission to asteroid Bennu and back by 2023

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Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx mission, the first mission to sample an asteroid, was launched from Cape Canaveral on September 8. The launching rocket, an Atlas V 411, reached supersonic speed (video @ 01:10).

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Earth has a non-threatening small orbiting asteroid

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It was recently discovered that a small asteroid has been in a stable orbit around Earth for at least a decade. The nature of its orbit “prevents the asteroid from approaching much closer than about 38 times the distance of the moon.”.

Source: JPL via Slashdot news

The phenomenal feat SpaceX achieved

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For some reasons I missed the live cast of the launch and landing that SpaceX did.

Here’s the deal in short. They launched the Falcon 9 rocket into space, passed the maximum Q at which aerodynamic pressure is at its highest and could cause serious trouble to any rocket.

Following the detachment of the stage 1 booster and the ignition of the 2nd stage booster, and this is the phenomenal feat they did, the stage 1 part made an acrobatic flip, made the appropriate adjustments to put itself on the right trajectory to return to land and actually do a(n) (experimental) landing (occurs at 32m 20s). The goal of this is pretty obvious, a reusable rocket.

The second stage part continued into outer space to release 6 deployments with a total of 11 satellites (36m 46s). Not one but six deployments. They have achieved not a single feat but several. Even the live cast on-board the Falcon 9 and during the satellite deployment is a feat by itself.

All this happened in under 20 minutes not counting preparation time of course.

Congrats SpaceX.

Below is the full cast. The first video starts at the launching event(22m 10s) and the second video starts at the landing of the 1st stage rocket followed by the 6 deployments.

Amazing NASA simulation of Solar Wind Striping the Martian Atmosphere

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The following video by NASA’s Scientific Visualization Center simulates the Martian atmosphere being striped by incoming solar wind.

More videos and images can be found here.

Mars is a cold and barren desert today, but scientists think that in the ancient past it was warm and wet. The loss of the early Martian atmosphere may have led to this dramatic change, and one of the prime suspects is the solar wind. Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a global magnetic field to deflect the stream of charged particles continuously blowing off the Sun. Instead, the solar wind crashes into the Mars upper atmosphere and can accelerate ions into space. Now, for the first time, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft has observed this process in action – by measuring the speed and direction of ions escaping from Mars. This data visualization compares simulations of the solar wind and Mars atmospheric escape with new measurements taken by MAVEN.

Update on the Rosetta (comet) mission

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The Rosetta orbiter is continuing its science until the end of the extended Rosetta mission in September 2016. The lander’s future is less certain. This film covers some of what we’ve learnt from Philae about comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko so far.

This includes information about the comet’s surface structure from the ROsetta Lander Imaging System – or ROLIS camera – a copy of which can be found at the German Space Agency, DLR, in Berlin.

Data from all Philae’s instruments has informed the work of the other scientific teams. Rosetta scientists have analysed grains from the comet and discovered that it contains carbon rich molecules from the early formation of our solar system.

The video also contains footage from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany – where a flight replica of Philae’s COSAC instrument is maintained in a vacuum chamber to test commands. COSAC has already detected over a dozen molecules containing carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen from the dust cloud kicked up from landing.

Breaking News: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explodes 2 minutes after launch

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The Falcon 9 rocket launched earlier today to supply the International Space Station with food and supplied.

At launch a propulsion anamoly was detected and the rocket, at highest pressure, exploded 2 minutes after launch. Footage of the incident is below: