Recently in Space & Planetary Science Category

Pluto's dwarf planet status is 'bulls---,' says lead scientist of NASA mission, Business Insider

"The mission to Pluto was meant to complete the exploration of the planets in the Solar System. But scientists reclassified Pluto from a planet to a "dwarf planet" shortly after New Horizons launched in 2006. That reclassification split the space science community. But Stern has a clear opinion about Pluto's demotion: "It's bullsh*t," he told Tech Insider (and said we could quote him on that)."

Keith's note: (Sigh) once again this NASA principal investigator sets a new low standard for public discourse. At a time when NASA is focusing on education and inspiring the next generation of space explorers I find it rather odd that a NASA PI, speaking in an official capacity, would be putting forth such a crude example of how NASA scientists conduct themselves in the public's eye - and that he does so over such a tired and worn-out issue. Pluto is Pluto. Get over it.

- Planetary Science Trash Talking, earlier post
- NASA's Pluto Mission Seeks to Confuse People, earlier post

Hearing on Pluto Flyby

"Tuesday, July 28, 2015: The Science Committee's NASA Authorization Act for FY16 and FY17 restored funds the Obama administration proposed cutting from planetary science budgets. This would bring parity between NASA's science accounts and allow for development of missions like New Horizons to continue at the current pace."

Keith's note: The New Horizons team is now openly talking about a New Horizons-2 mission back to Pluto. It will be interesting to see if this topic is raised given that this committee is on the record about their interest in Europa - not Pluto. Also, given the NASA's budgetary issues, it will be interesting to see how the extra $1 billion-plus needed for New Horizons-2 would be squeezed out of an already constrained budgetary future - one that will inevitably stressed by SLS costs.

- Video
- Hearing charter
- Scientists Advocate for Planetary Funding in Wake of #PlutoFlyby, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Committee Discusses New Accomplishments in the Exploration of the Solar System, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats

- Statement of Brian Babin
- Statement of Lamar Smith
- Statement of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson
- Statement of Rep. Donna Edwards
- Statement of Robert Pappalardo
- Statement of John Grunsfeld
- Statement of Robert Braun
- Statement of Chris Russell
- Alan Stern did not provide a prepared statement - just pictures and the New Horizons Press Kit

Nightside Image Reveals Pluto's Hazy Skies

"Speeding away from Pluto just seven hours after its July 14 closest approach, the New Horizons spacecraft looked back and captured this spectacular image of Pluto's atmosphere, backlit by the sun. The image reveals layers of haze that are several times higher than scientists predicted."

- New Horizons Discovers Flowing Ices on Pluto
- New Horizons Reveals Pluto's Atmospheric Pressure Has Sharply Decreased
- Pluto and Charon in Natural Color
- NASA's New Horizons Team Finds Haze, Flowing Ice on Pluto
- Pluto Flyby Lead, Planetary Scientists to Discuss Discoveries at Hearing
- Pluto Dazzles in False Color

"Potential reach and Number of Mentions of all social media posts(NASA & non-NASA) across 21 different social media platforms using one or more of the following keywords between July 13-17, 2015: Pluto, "New Horizons", #PlutoFlyby, or #Pluto:"

- Download NASA presentation
- NASA's Pluto Web Stats, earlier post

NASA's Social Media Strategy Is Genius And Kinda Maddening, Wired

"Organizations can sometimes let social media metrics obscure their core goals and mission. (Trust us on this.) On the evening of July 14, the world was waiting for New Horizons to phone home and say it had successfully passed by Pluto. With less than two minutes until the message was scheduled to arrive, the cameras cut to (drumroll) a NASA social media representative, who proceeded to tell the world how high New Horizons was trending on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The Pluto Press Corps was not too amused. The camera cut to New Horizons Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman in the nick of time, seemingly the moment she received the I'm-OK signal from New Horizons. For a moment, it seemed, NASA's ace team of publicists had forgotten that the cameras were supposed to be on Pluto."

NASA Media Teleconference to Announce Latest Kepler Discoveries

"NASA will host a news teleconference at 9 a.m. PDT (12 p.m. EDT) Thursday, July 23 to announce new discoveries made by its planet-hunting mission, the Kepler Space Telescope. The teleconference audio and visuals will be streamed live at:"

Press briefing graphics

Kepler Finds 12 Earth-sized Worlds In Stellar Habitable Zones, SETI Institute

"The new catalog includes 12 candidates that are less than twice Earth's diameter, orbiting in the so-called habitable zone of their star. This zone is the range of distances at which the energy flux from the star would permit liquid water to exist on the planet's surface. Of these candidates, Kepler 452b is the first to be confirmed as a planet. At a distance of 1,400 light-years, Kepler 452b accompanies a star whose characteristics are very similar to the Sun: it is 4 percent more massive and 10 percent brighter. Kepler 452b orbits its star at the same distance as Earth orbits the Sun."

Kepler Discovers Bigger, Older Cousin to Earth, NASA

"The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone -- the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet -- of a G2-type star, like our sun."

Deep Space Climate Observatory Captures EPIC Earth Image

"A NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite has returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away."

"This color image of Earth was taken by NASA's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), a four megapixel CCD camera and telescope. The image was generated by combining three separate images to create a photographic-quality image. The camera takes a series of 10 images using different narrowband filters -- from ultraviolet to near infrared -- to produce a variety of science products. The red, green and blue channel images are used in these color images."

NASA's New Horizons Discovers Frozen Plains in the Heart of Pluto's Heart

"In the latest data from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, a new close-up image of Pluto reveals a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old, and is possibly still being shaped by geologic processes."

"This frozen region is north of Pluto's icy mountains, in the center-left of the heart feature, informally named "Tombaugh Regio" (Tombaugh Region) after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930."

"This terrain is not easy to explain," said Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team (GGI) at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. "The discovery of vast, craterless, very young plains on Pluto exceeds all pre-flyby expectations."

- Pluto Wags its Tail: New Horizons Discovers a Cold, Dense Region of Atmospheric Ions Behind Pluto

- New Horizons Reveals Pluto's Extended Atmosphere

Ted Cruz Is Really Excited About Pluto. So Why Does He Want to Cripple NASA?, Mother Jones

"But NASA is also one of the main purveyors of the satellite observations of Earth that are a basic necessity for many fields of Earth science. That's the part Cruz doesn't like: He wants to slash the agency's budget for Earth sciencesin particular, for climate change, a subject on which Cruz's theories are, in the words of one scientist, "a load of claptrap." It's not just Cruz. In the House, Republicans are forging ahead with a bill that would gut $90 million from NASA's Earth science budget. There are a couple major problems with that approach, and they make Cruz's lauding of the Pluto mission distinctly ironic and hypocritical. First, NASA is uniquely equipped among federal agencies to send satellites into space, so it would be hard to transfer its Earth research to some other outfit. (These are the very satellites, by the way, that produce the data Cruz likes to erroneously cite as evidence against global warming.)"

Keith's note: Comments are closed. People have gone totally off topic and are ranting and making personal attacks. Please do not try and post comments elsewhere since they will be deleted.

New Horizons Phones Home Safe after Pluto Flyby

"The call everyone was waiting for is in. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft phoned home just before 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday to tell the mission team and the world it had accomplished the historic first-ever flyby of Pluto. "I know today we've inspired a whole new generation of explorers with this great success, and we look forward to the discoveries yet to come," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "This is a historic win for science and for exploration. We've truly, once again raised the bar of human potential."

Pluto and Charon Shine in False Color, SpaceRef

"New Horizons has obtained impressive new images of Pluto and its large moon Charon that highlight their compositional diversity. These are not actual color images of Pluto and Charonthey are shown here in exaggerated colors that make it easy to note the differences in surface material and features on each planetary body."

New Spectacular Pluto Image Released, SpaceRef

"As New Horizons flew by Pluto on its closet approach today NASA released the best ever image of the planet. Should the spacecraft has survived its closet approach and did collect the data it was expected to, we should see much more stunning images in the coming days."

- Get the latest updates.
- Live updates. Next update at 9:30 pm ET.

Message from NASA Administrator: Reaching Pluto With New Horizons

"Today, our nation is poised to reach a new milestone in exploration and discovery. More than 50 years after our first flyby of another planet, and five years after President Obama challenged America's space program to extend humanity's reach in space while strengthening America's leadership here on Earth, the New Horizons spacecraft will reach Pluto, providing the closest view humanity has ever seen of the dwarf planet."

Three-Billion-Mile Journey to Pluto

"Because New Horizons is the fastest spacecraft ever launched hurtling through the Pluto system at more than 30,000 mph, a collision with a particle as small as a grain of rice could incapacitate the spacecraft. Once it reestablishes contact Tuesday night, it will take 16 months for New Horizons to send its cache of data 10 years' worth -- back to Earth."

Charon Emerges

New Image Shows Charon's Chasms and Craters

"New Horizons' newest images reveal Pluto's largest moon Charon to be a world of chasms and craters. The most pronounced chasm, which lies in the southern hemisphere, is longer and miles deeper than Earth's Grand Canyon, according to William McKinnon, deputy lead scientist with New Horizon's Geology and Geophysics investigation team."

New Horizons' Last Portrait of Pluto's Puzzling Spots, NASA

"Three billion miles from Earth and just two and a half million miles from Pluto, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has taken its best image of four dark spots that continue to captivate. The spots appear on the side of Pluto that always faces its largest moon, Charonthe face that will be invisible to New Horizons when the spacecraft makes its close flyby the morning of July 14. New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado, describes this image as "the last, best look that anyone will have of Pluto's far side for decades to come."

Pluto Comes Into Focus

Houston, We Have Geology

"It began as a point of light. Then, it evolved into a fuzzy orb. Now in its latest portrait from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft Pluto is being revealed as an intriguing new world with distinct surface features, including an immense dark band known as the "whale." As the newest black and white image from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) appeared on the morning of July 10, members of the science team reacted with joy and delight, seeing Pluto as never before. There will no doubt be many similar moments to come. New images and data are being gathered each day as New Horizons speeds closer to a July 14 flyby of Pluto, following a journey of three billion miles."

Latest Images of Pluto from New Horizons

"These are the most recent high-resolution views of Pluto sent by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, including one showing the four mysterious dark spots on Pluto that have captured the imagination of the world."

New Horizons Spacecraft In Safe Mode

"The New Horizons spacecraft experienced an anomaly the afternoon of July 4 that led to a loss of communication with Earth. Communication has since been reestablished and the spacecraft is healthy. "

New Horizons Plans July 7 Return to Normal Science Operations

"NASA's New Horizons mission is returning to normal science operations after a July 4 anomaly and remains on track for its July 14 flyby of Pluto."

NASA Media Call: New Horizons Mission Plans Following Spacecraft Anomaly

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 3 p.m. EDT today to discuss the New Horizons spacecraft returning to normal science operations after a July 4 anomaly."

Color Images Reveal Two Distinct Faces of Pluto, NASA

"New color images from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft show two very different faces of the mysterious dwarf planet, one with a series of intriguing spots along the equator that are evenly spaced. Each of the spots is about 300 miles in diameter, with a surface area that's roughly the size of the state of Missouri."

New Horizons Stays the Course to Pluto, NASA

"After seven weeks of detailed searches for dust clouds, rings, and other potential hazards, the New Horizons team has decided the spacecraft will remain on its original path through the Pluto system instead of making a late course correction to detour around any hazards. Because New Horizons is traveling at 30,800 mph (49,600 kph), a particle as small as a grain of rice could be lethal."

A spacecraft launched in 2006 is about to try for our first good photo of Pluto, Washington Post

"NASA's Jim Green is dismissive of the controversy: "That's nomenclature. To me, that's unimportant. What's important is that this is a body well worth going to. It represents a brand new frontier." Does Alan Stern think Pluto is still a legitimate, no- qualifiers "planet"? "Of course I do!" Stern said. "It has all the attributes of a planet. Screw the astronomers! Would you go to a podiatrist for brain surgery? They don't know what they're talking about!"

Keith's note: At a time when NASA is focusing on education and inspiring the next generation of space explorers I find it rather odd that a NASA mission principal investigator, speaking in an official capacity, would be dumping on astronomers in such a public fashion. Why would anyone want to pursue a career in astronomy if a NASA mission PI says things like this in connection with their mission? Its also a bit baffling that a NASA PI, using their mission as a pulpit, pushes their own personal planetary nomenclature system - one that is at odds with what the agency and astronomical community has adopted.

QR Codes on Ceres?

New Images of Ceres

"New images of dwarf planet Ceres, taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, show the cratered surface of this mysterious world in sharper detail than ever before. These are among the first snapshots from Dawn's second mapping orbit, which is 2,700 miles (4,400 kilometers) above Ceres."

Keith's note: Looks like someone at NASA PAO used Dawn's ion drive to paint QR code graffiti on Ceres. Just sayin'.

Hubble Finds Two Chaotically Tumbling Pluto Moons

"If you lived on one of Pluto's moons Nix or Hydra, you'd have a hard time setting your alarm clock. That's because you could not know for sure when, or even in which direction, the sun would rise. A comprehensive analysis of all available Hubble Space Telescope data shows that two of Pluto's moons, Nix and Hydra, are wobbling unpredictably. Scientists believe the other two moons, Kerberos, and Styx, are likely in a similar situation, pending further study."

- News briefing materials

- Resonant interactions and chaotic rotation of Pluto's small moons, Nature (it costs $32 to read this article if you do not subscribe to Nature)

- Update: The text is online here - for free.

Report Released: The Humans to Mars Report 2015

The non-profit Explore Mars Inc. group today released its first annual Humans to Mars Report. According to Explore Mars the report "provides updates on challenges, plus progress in areas such as mission architecture design and development, scientific discoveries, policy, public perception, international cooperation and competition, and new private capabilities".

Marc's note: The report is not comprehensive but it does promise a website for ongoing updates and an annual report. We'll see what the website provides once it's launched and how it evolves before passing judgement. This isn't the first try for something like this, the Mars Society and other have tried.

Hubble at 25: The Documentary, Memories and Social

"On the occasion of the 25th anniversary take a stroll down memory lane and learn how the Hubble Space Telescope became so instrumental to our knowledge of the universe."

Celestial Fireworks Celebrate Hubble's 25th Anniversary (With Amazing Video)

"This glittering tapestry of young stars exploding into life in a dramatic fireworks display has been released today to celebrate 25 incredible years of the Hubble Space Telescope. The NASA/ESA Hubble was launched into orbit by the Space Shuttle on 24 April 1990. It was the first space telescope of its kind, and has surpassed all expectations, providing a quarter of a century of discoveries, stunning images and outstanding science."

Keith's note: At a NASA press event today, the New Horizons team decided to make their mission less accessible to the public in real time. New Horizons was supposed to be an open mission where everything is shared with everyone as soon as it arrives on Earth. Not any more. They changed their mind and have reversed previous public statements. Just watch as these images will be leaked to selected media first as has been the case with other mission news. What is really baffling is the TBD nature of image release policy. This mission left Earth 9 years ago and basic things such as the overall image release policy are still TBD? #FAIL

NAC Adopts Finding To Redirect the Asteroid Redirect Mission -- to Mars, SpacePolicyOnline

"The NASA Advisory Council (NAC) today unanimously adopted a finding that it thinks NASA should change the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) into a mission that would go all the way to Mars and thus be more closely aligned with the goal of sending humans there. NAC chairman Steve Squyres stressed that it is a finding, not a recommendation, and requires no action from NASA. NASA's existing concept for ARM responds to Obama Administration policy and NAC recommendations at odds with Administration policy have little value, he explained, since NASA must implement what it is told to do."

Public Asked to Help Name Features on Pluto, SETI Institute

Keith's 6 April update: NASA has yet to mention this public engagement project on its own New Horizons website. Nor has JHUAPL. Gee, and there's only 1 day left. Next time perhaps SETI Institute and SwRI will actually get NASA's permission for things like this before they go off and tell others (IAU etc.) that they already have NASA's permission - permission they never had, according to NASA sources. There is a meeting between senior New Horizons mission staff and Charlie Bolden today. They will be talking about this issue ...

NASA Extends Campaign for Public to Name Features on Pluto

"The public has until Friday, April 24 to help name new features on Pluto and its orbiting satellites as they are discovered by NASA's New Horizons mission."

Keith's 6 April update: Funny how NASA did not say a thing about this activity until less than 24 hours before it was due to end - and only a few minutes after the meeting with Bolden concluded ...

MESSENGER's Operations at Mercury Extended

"MESSENGER mission controllers conducted a maneuver yesterday to raise the spacecraft's minimum altitude sufficiently to extend orbital operations and further delay the probe's inevitable impact onto Mercury's surface. The previous maneuver, completed on March 18, raised MESSENGER to an altitude at closest approach from 11.6 kilometers (7.2 miles) to 34.4 kilometers (21.4 miles) above the planet's surface. Because of progressive changes to the orbit over time in response to the gravitational pull of the Sun, the spacecraft's minimum altitude continued to decrease."

Earth-like Tatooines From Star Wars May Be Common

"Luke Skywalker's home in "Star Wars" is the desert planet Tatooine, with twin sunsets because it orbits two stars. So far, only uninhabitable gas-giant planets have been identified circling such binary stars, and many researchers believe rocky planets cannot form there. Now, mathematical simulations show that Earth-like, solid planets such as Tatooine likely exist and may be widespread."

NASA OIG: NASA's Management of the Deep Space Network, NASA OIG

"Although DSN is meeting its current operational commitments, budget reductions have challenged the Network's ability to maintain these performance levels and threaten its future reliability. ... If budget reductions continue, DSN faces an increased risk that it will be unable to meet future operational commitments or complete the upgrade project on schedule. We also found that NASA, JPL, and DSN have significantly deviated from Federal and Agency policies, standards, and governance methodologies for the security of the Network's IT and physical infrastructure."

Statement by John Grunsfeld, NASA

"The project has done an excellent job of managing its budget reserves, and this ability to efficiently address problems as they come up has enabled Webb to remain on schedule for its 2018 launch."

Statement by Cristina Chaplain, GAO

"The proximity of all the elements and major subsystem schedules to the critical path means that a delay on any of the elements or major subsystems may reduce the overall project schedule reserve further, which could put the overall project schedule at risk. As a result, the project has less flexibility to choose which issues to mitigate. While the project has been able to reorganize work when necessary to mitigate schedule slips thus far, with further progression into subsequent integration and testing periods, flexibility will be diminished because work during integration and testing tends to be more serial, as the initiation of work is often dependent on the successful and timely completion of the prior work. This is particularly the case with JWST given its complexity."

- Hearing Charter

- Statements: Rep. Lamar Smith, Rep. Steven Palazzo, John Mather, Jeffrey Grant, John Grunsfeld, and Cristina Chaplain

Space Weather Alert: Geomagnetic K-index of 8 (G4)

"Space Weather Message Code: WARK07
Serial Number: 47
Issue Time: 2015 Mar 17 1642 UTC

EXTENDED WARNING: Geomagnetic K-index of 7 or greater expected
Extension to Serial Number: 46
Valid From: 2015 Mar 17 1215 UTC
Now Valid Until: 2015 Mar 17 1900 UTC
Warning Condition: Onset

Potential Impacts: Area of impact primarily poleward of 50 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude.
Induced Currents - Power system voltage irregularities possible, false alarms may be triggered on some protection devices.
Spacecraft - Systems may experience surface charging; increased drag on low Earth-orbit satellites and orientation problems may occur.
Navigation - Intermittent satellite navigation (GPS) problems, including loss-of-lock and increased range error may occur.
Radio - HF (high frequency) radio may be intermittent.
Aurora - Aurora may be seen as low as Pennsylvania to Iowa to Oregon."

MMS Flock Leaves Earth

Magnetospheric Multiscale Spacecraft Launched

"Following a successful launch at 10:44 p.m. EDT Thursday, NASA's four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft are positioned in Earth's orbit to begin the first space mission dedicated to the study of a phenomenon called magnetic reconnection. This process is thought to be the catalyst for some of the most powerful explosions in our solar system."

Throwing Shade on Mars One

Mars Missions Are A Scam, BuzzFeed

"It looks like a scam," John Logsdon, a space policy expert at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., told BuzzFeed News. "They don't have any technology, they don't have any agreements with the space industry. It looks very shaky." The bigger problem? Mars One's flaws too few spaceships, nonexistent life-support technologies, not nearly enough money, and, really, no good reason for going discredit all Mars exploration plans, including NASA's."

Mars One plan to colonise red planet unrealistic, says leading supporter, The Guardian

"Gerard 't Hooft, a Dutch Nobel laureate and ambassador for Mars One, said he did not believe the mission could take off by 2024 as planned. "It will take quite a bit longer and be quite a bit more expensive. When they first asked me to be involved I told them 'you have to put a zero after everything'," he said, implying that a launch date 100 years from now with a budget of tens of billions of dollars would be an achievable goal. But, 't Hooft added, "People don't want something 100 years from now."

No more 'Big Brother' on the red planet, Daily Mail

"Last week Mars One announced a list of 100 people who will train on Earth for a one-way mission to the red planet in 2025. But the venture's accompanying reality TV show - which was to be made by the makers of Big Brother to document their training and new lives on the red planet - has been shelved after the companies were 'unable to reach an agreement on details', MailOnline has learned. Instead, Mars One is working with a new production company to record the colonists' progress."

Getting Closer to Ceres

Dawn Captures Sharper Images of Ceres

"Craters and mysterious bright spots are beginning to pop out in the latest images of Ceres from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. These images, taken Feb. 12 at a distance of 52,000 miles (83,000 kilometers) from the dwarf planet, pose intriguing questions for the science team to explore as the spacecraft nears its destination."

Keith's note: Larger screen grab

NASA Television will provide live coverage of a news briefing on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) mission

"NASA Television will provide live coverage of a news briefing on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) mission, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) new satellite mission to monitor space weather, at 1 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 7 from the Press Site at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The briefing also will stream live on the agency's website."

NASA TV Coverage Set for NOAA DSCOVR Launch

"The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) is scheduled to launch at 6:10 p.m. EST Sunday, Feb. 8 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. A backup launch opportunity is available at 6:07 p.m. on Feb. 9, if needed."

Good Thing We Waited 14 Years to Launch Goresat, earlier post
DSCOVR/Triana/Goresat Is Ready For Launch, earlier post
GoreSat Lives - Again and Again and Again, earlier post
Vice President Gore challenges NASA to build a new satellite to provide live images of Earth from outer space, 13 March 1998
Earlier DSCOVR/Triana/Goresat posts

NASA's $349 million monument to its drift, Washington Post

"In June, NASA finished work on a huge construction project here in Mississippi: a $349 million laboratory tower, designed to test a new rocket engine in a chamber that mimicked the vacuum of space. Then, NASA did something odd. As soon as the work was done, it shut the tower down. The project was officially "mothballed" closed up and left empty without ever being used."

Keith's note: Under the FY 2016 budget Mars Opportunity shuts down in FY 2016 and Mars Odyssey shuts down in FY 2017. Both spacecraft still work. Funny how NASA, Congress, and the White House can spend hundreds of millions on an engine and test stand facilities that will not be used - but keeping still-useful Mars probes operational for a few million is not possible? Where is the logic in that? The "State of NASA" is confused - and adrift - if this is what passes for a good space policy.

Keith's update: According to Dave Radzanowski NASA is looking to zero out LRO, Opportunity, Odyssey etc. in FY 2016 BUT that this happened last year as well and NASA looked at the missions and eventually found the money to keep them going. That said, its a little bit like Charlie Brown and Lucy and the football. They do this every year with small missions. Everyone screams, they find the money, and nothing gets cancelled. You have to wonder why they do this in the first place since they already know that they will fund these missions. Again, this speaks to a lack of strategic thought - the sort of thing you'd expect within an agency that is adrift.

Keith's note: NASA JPL PAO issued this media advisory yesterday giving 4 days advanced notice of a media event covering NASA missions to Europa, Ceres, Pluto, and Saturn. But if you want to know what NASA is saying about these missions you have to physically be there. No NASA TV, no NASA news audio, no dial-in - nothing. So if you can't afford to buy plane tickets at the last minute, your media outlet is out of luck. So are your classrooms. In other words this is a southern California-only update. I asked JPL PAO about this. Their response: "The event is for media who can attend at JPL in person." Oddly, JPL is the first to brag about how they can communicate with - and even reprogram spacecraft millions - billions - of miles away. But a simple audio or video recording ...

Asteroid Abduction

The Space Program - A Modest Proposal, Paul Spudis

"I'm at a loss to explain why one aspect of the ARM mission hasn't been discussed in the media: seeing that advocates of the ARM think nothing about re-arranging the architecture of the Solar System for their convenience, environmental activists might object to the very idea behind the mission. We can't get to a near-Earth asteroid with the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS), so let's just drag the asteroid to us! Imagine a defenseless rock, innocently tumbling its way through space, only to be snagged, bagged, and defiled appropriated and exploited by arrogant, human interlopers. There ought to be a law!"

Al Gore's dream spacecraft gears up for launch, Nature

"For Jay Herman, an atmospheric scientist at Goddard and EPIC instrument scientist, the delay has a silver lining: the refurbishment revealed a manufacturing defect in EPIC that would have let in stray light and potentially ruined its image of Earth. The delay allowed enough time to study the problem and correct for it. "So in some ways," says Herman, "I'm very glad it did not fly 14 years ago. Because it might have been embarrassing."

Keith's note: Wow. It was a good idea to wait 14 years after all - imagine another Hubble-like embarrassment for NASA? It will be interesting to see how NASA calculates the total cost of Goresat/DSCOVR- from inception to final launch. I doubt they can. And if they do, they'll lowball it to avoid another form of embarrassment.

NASA Spacecraft Get a Closer Look at Dwarf Planets Pluto and Ceres, NY Times

"Marc W. Buie, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., and a member of the New Horizons team, agrees with Dr. Stern but wishes the issue would go away. Years ago, people would be fascinated to hear the scientific puzzles about Pluto. Now, conversations usually start with "Is Pluto a planet?" "It's a very annoying, distracting issue," Dr. Buie said. "You have to get past this wall of this nonscientific issue before you get to the good things."

"The moon is such a planet I can't even stand it," [Fashion designer] Mizrahi says, exasperated. "Well, what else is it if it's not a planet?" Under Dr. Stern's definition, Mr. Mizrahi would win the argument. "I am happy to defend him," Dr. Stern said via email Sunday. "I see no logical reason why large moons that are in hydrostatic equilibrium should not be considered planets too, and I call them that." Dr. Stern's classification system distinguishes moons as "secondary planets," while "primary planets" directly orbit around the sun -- pushing the number of planets in the solar system to more than 20."

Keith's note: So ... let's see if I understand the New Horizons mission's revised solar system nomenclature: Planets orbit the sun. Planets also orbit other Planets. Moons orbit Planets but Moons do not orbit the sun otherwise they'd be Planets which also orbit Planets and the sun. But wait - there's more: now we need to add Primary Planets and Secondary Planets into the mix. So when does a Moon become a Secondary Planet? Is it still a Moon also? Can Planets be Moons and Moons be Planets?

Iapetus is not in hydrostatic equilibrium so it is not a Planet (right?). But it is a Moon (right?). But Iapetus is larger than Ceres which is .. a Planet (right?) Pluto's Moon Charon is smaller than Iapetus but Pluto fans refer to it as a Planet. Alas, Pluto fans always love to use the "Titan is larger than Mercury" argument to justify Titan as a Planet.

I can't wait to see how all NASA education materials are adjusted for the New Horizons mission so as to tackle this issue. Textbooks will clearly need to be revised to reflect NASA's latest discoveries. Who determines how these revisions will be made? Will other missions be required to adapt accordingly or is NASA going to be talking about more than one system of planetary nomenclature? What will happen at press events - will NASA be required to issue press releases in both nomenclatures (as well as English/metric)? WiIl this IAU Vs Pluto fans thing just drag on and on?

The oddest thing of all is how the Pluto fans rant about how some small group of people at IAU made this decision about what a Planet is without consulting everyone else - yet the Pluto fans have gone out and proclaimed this new nomenclature for Planets and Moons without consulting anyone else. Pot-Kettle-Back.

Why make things more complex? Our solar system has lots of worlds. Ice worlds. Rock worlds. Gas worlds. Some worlds are big others are small. Some worlds orbit the sun and are "planets". Some worlds orbit planets and are called "moons". This simply defines the location of a world - not its inherent physical nature. #OcamsRazor

Beagle 2 Lander Found on Mars

"The UK-led Beagle-2 Mars lander, which hitched a ride on ESA's Mars Express mission and was lost on Mars since 2003, has been found in images taken by a NASA orbiter at the Red Planet. Beagle-2 was released from its mother craft on 19 December 2003 and was due to land six days later. But nothing was heard from the lander after its scheduled touchdown, and searches by Mars Express and NASA's Mars Odyssey mission were fruitless."

Some Advice For Congress

Beagle 2 Mars lander's remains may have been spotted on red planet, Guardian

... Beagle 2's final resting place may finally have been discovered. Scientists operating the HiRise camera on Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) will take part in a press conference this Friday to announce "an update" on the ill-fated mission."

Goresat Gets Closer To Launch

DSCOVR Mission Passes Major Milestones

"NOAA will manage the DSCOVR mission, giving advanced warning of approaching solar storms. NASA, funded by NOAA, refurbished the DSCOVR satellite and instruments, which were in storage for several years. The U.S. Air Force is funding and overseeing the launch of DSCOVR, which will be aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket."

Keith's note: In storage for "several years"? It would be more accurate to say "for more than a decade".

- DSCOVR/Triana/Goresat Is Ready For Launch, earlier post
- Earlier DSCOVR/Triana/Goresat posts

Osiris Spots Philae Drifting Across Comet 67P/C

"These incredible images show the breathtaking journey of Rosetta's Philae lander as it approached and then rebounded from its first touchdown on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 12 November 2014."

Philae Spacecraft - robotic european space agency (ESA) lander, eBay

"Highly complex spacecraft with on-board laboratory, solar panels (requires sun), inter-stellar communications pack. Power system, Thermal control system, Landing gear, Anchoring system (faulty). Buyer must collect item from it's storage location on Comet 67P."

Why we all fell in love with Rosetta's Philae lander, Washington Post

"By Friday night, we knew it was coming to an end: That morning, Rosetta scientists had told the public that Philae's batteries were almost certainly going to die during their next communication link with the probe. And sure enough, Philae's Twitter account followed through until the end, tweeting out a series of messages about going to sleep that made many (myself included) express grief for - and immense pride in - the little lander that could."

Keith's note: Looks like the Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla is not a fan of putting people in space - she endorsed this anti-human spaceflight tweet by a factor of "+100". This is kind of odd given that the Planetary Society pushed NASA and the White House to adopt the crewed Asteroid Retrieval Mission. Also, since she has endorsed this tweet, just what are the "highs and lows of the last week" ? SpaceShipTwo and Antares? What is the connection between an unrelated airplane control surface issue and a rocket engine malfunction with a ten year old robot landing on a comet? And how could any of this point to deciding factors as to whether its better to send humans or robots into space? Her follow up tweet is below. In essence it says we can send robots instead of humans because they are humans or we are them. Huh? We (they) are not - no more than your car or your cellphone is you.

Philae Has Landed on a Comet

Philae Image of Comet From 3 km

"The image shows comet 67P/CG acquired by the ROLIS instrument on the Philae lander during descent on Nov 12, 2014 14:38:41 UT from a distance of approximately 3 km from the surface. The landing site is imaged with a resolution of about 3m per pixel."

Touchdown! Rosetta's Philae probe lands on comet

"ESA's Rosetta mission has soft-landed its Philae probe on a comet, the first time in history that such an extraordinary feat has been achieved. After a tense wait during the seven-hour descent to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the signal confirming the successful touchdown arrived on Earth at 16:03 GMT (17:03 CET)."

Tensions surround release of new Rosetta comet data, Science

"The comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which the Rosetta spacecraft is now orbiting, is by all accounts a fascinating chunk of dust and ice. This week, scientists using the spacecraft's high-resolution camera presented some staggering images of the duck-shaped comet at a planetary science conference in Tucson, Arizona. They showed the first color images of the comet. They showed dust grains being ejected from the surface, arcs that could be traced back, presumably, to geysers of sublimating ice. And they showed brightness variations less than 10 centimeters apart--which could indicate that they have found sparkling bits of ice peeking through a black crust of dust. But Rosetta's operator, the European Space Agency (ESA), has released none of these images to the public. Nor have any of these images been presented in Darmstadt, Germany, where scientists at ESA's mission control are preparing to drop the Philae lander to the comet surface on Wednesday. Project scientist Matt Taylor was reduced to learning about the new results at the Arizona conference by thumbing through Twitter feeds on his phone."

NASA's Plan to Visit an Asteroid Faces a Rocky Start, Scientific American

"What the critics don't seem to understand is that if we don't send humans to an asteroid that is moved closer to Earth, we will send humans nowhere for the foreseeable future, which means the next decade or two," Friedman says. "If we drop this mission, our planned rockets and crew modules can go out as far as the moon but we won't be able to land without investments that are frankly unrealistic right now." ARM's harshest critics, asteroid scientists such as [Mark] Sykes of the Planetary Science Institute and M.I.T. professor Richard Binzel, remain unconvinced. "It's an empty threat to say if you don't take this thing that came from nowhere you'll get nothing and that will be the end of everything," Sykes says. "Well, you know, okay, fine--pull the trigger, guys. Maybe some people don't get the toy that they want but there are other options our leaders can pursue."

Earlier posts

Loss of Contact with STEREO Behind

"Communications with the STEREO Behind spacecraft were interrupted on October 1, 2014 immediately after a planned reset of the spacecraft performed as part of a test of solar conjunction operations. There have been no successful communications since then, though attempts to recover the spacecraft continue. Here we explain the events that led up to the loss in communications, and the activities that have been carried out in an attempt to recover the spacecraft. As explained below, initial indications are that a series of problems in the guidance and control system led to the anomaly."

STEREO Behind Spacecraft Experiencing Communication Problems, Earlier story

ALMA Image Reveals Planetary Genesis, ESO

"This new image from ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, reveals extraordinarily fine detail that has never been seen before in the planet-forming disc around a young star. These are the first observations that have used ALMA in its near-final configuration and the sharpest pictures ever made at submillimeter wavelengths. The new results are an enormous step forward in the observation of how protoplanetary discs develop and how planets form."

Keith's note: This is a REAL IMAGE - not an artist's concept. Update: here's another - from Hubble.

Hubble Surveys Debris-Strewn Exoplanetary Construction Yards

"Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have completed the largest and most sensitive visible-light imaging survey of dusty debris disks around other stars. These dusty disks, likely created by collisions between leftover objects from planet formation, were imaged around stars as young as 10 million years old and as mature as more than 1 billion years old."

STEREO Behind Spacecraft Experiencing Communication Problems (Updated with NASA Comments)

"Communications with the STEREO Behind spacecraft were interrupted on October 1, immediately after a planned reset of the spacecraft performed as part of a test of solar conjunction operations. The cause of the anomaly is not yet known, though a sensor anomaly in the guidance and control system is suspected. Attempts to recover the spacecraft are continuing."

Letter From Clive Neal to NASA Inspector General Regarding NASA SMD Mission Extension Process Report

"I am writing this open letter with regard to the Inspector General Report No. IG-15- 001 (hereafter "IG-Report") regarding the Science Mission Directorate's (SMD) Mission Extension Process that was released on 9 October of this year. In this report you highlighted the Planetary Science Division (PSD) for particular criticism because of its non-standardized approach to evaluating mission extensions. Having been part of the PSD 2012 Senior Review, and chair of the GRAIL and the PSD 2014 Senior Reviews, I feel I must respond to note some errors and misunderstandings within the IG report. It is my opinion that the proposed recommendations could have a serious deleterious impact on the effectiveness of planetary science missions."

OIG Finds Major Flaws in Planetary Science Division Mission Extension Process, earier post

Sun's stroke keeps Kepler online, Nature

"Wiemer had fashioned a crutch for Kepler using the only resource available: sunlight. Positioned so that its long side faces the Sun, the spacecraft leans against the pressure created by the onslaught of photons and balances using its two good wheels. With this approach, the team hoped to get within a factor of ten of Kepler's original performance -- but with additional software refinements, NASA's Kepler project manager Charlie Sobeck says that it is better than that, more like a factor of two or three. Wiemer thinks that further tweaks will close the gap entirely. One limitation of the K2 mission is that Kepler must keep the Sun side-on as it orbits, forcing the telescope to switch its field of view roughly every 80 days. This is not enough time to hunt for Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars, but it does let K2 track other celestial bodies such as clusters of newly-formed stars."

Earth at risk after cuts close comet-spotting program, scientists warn, The Guardian

"The Earth has been left with a huge blind spot for potentially devastating comet strikes after the only dedicated comet-spotting program in the southern hemisphere lost its funding, leading astronomers have warned. The program, which discovered the Siding Spring comet that narrowly missed Mars on Sunday, was shut down last year after losing funding. "It's a real worry," Bradley Tucker, an astronomer at the Australian National University (ANU) and University of California Berkeley, told Guardian Australia. "There could be something hurtling towards us right now and we wouldn't know about it."

Siding Spring survey

All Three NASA Mars Orbiters Healthy After Comet Flyby

"All three NASA orbiters around Mars confirmed their healthy status Sunday after each took shelter behind Mars during a period of risk from dust released by a passing comet. Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter all are part of a campaign to study comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring and possible effects on the Martian atmosphere from gases and dust released by the comet. The comet sped past Mars today much closer than any other know comet flyby of a planet."

- NASA's Mars Odyssey Orbiter Watches Comet Fly Near
- NASA's MAVEN Studies Passing Comet and Its Effects
- NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Studies Comet Flyby

NASA OIG: The Science Mission Directorate's Mission Extension Process

"We concluded SMD's Astrophysics, Earth Science, and Heliophysics Divisions conducted Senior Reviews that included all eligible projects and provided budgetary and programmatic guidance for these missions for up to 5 fiscal years (FY). In contrast, we found the Planetary Science Division's Senior Review process focused too narrowly on the short term and unnecessarily excluded some projects. Furthermore, the Division had no documented rationale for extended mission budget guidelines. In our judgment, these shortcomings impair the Planetary Science Division's ability to inform its budget formulation process and ensure the effectiveness and transparency of its Senior Review process."

India's Mars Orbiter Sends Back Its First Images

"India's Mars Orbiter Spacecraft has captured its first image of Mars. The image was taken from a height of 7300 km; with 376 m spatial resolution. Another image shows the limb of Mars."

India becomes first Asian nation to reach Mars orbit, joins elite global space club, Washington Post

"By comparison, India's $72 million Mars orbiter is the cheapest interplanetary mission ever. [Indian Prime Minister] Modi said that India's Mars mission cost less than what it took to make the famous Hollywood space movie "Gravity." "We kept it low cost, high technology. That is the Indian way of working," Sandip Bhattacharya, assistant director of B.M. Birla Planetarium in the northern city of Jaipur, said in a telephone interview. " ... "

Five things to know about India's Mars orbiter, CNN

"In a rapid turnaround, the ISRO worked at breakneck speed to engineer, assemble and launch the Mars Orbiter. By November 2013, it launched from Chennai and 10 months later, it reached Mars' orbit to inspire a nation. From announcement to execution, the Mars mission took India's space agency two years and one month."

Why India's Mars mission is so cheap - and thrilling, BBC

"So how has India done it? For sure, people costs are less in this populous nation, and the scientists and engineers working on any space mission are always the largest part of the ticket price. Home-grown components and technologies have also been prioritised over expensive foreign imports. But, in addition, India has been careful to do things simply."

India Enters Mars Orbit

India's Mars Orbiter Spacecraft Enters Mars Orbit (with video)

"India successfully placed its Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft into orbit around Mars this evening - and in so doing it became the first nation to put something into Mars orbit on its very first attempt."

Mars Fleet +1

MAVEN Enters Orbit Around Mars

"NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft successfully entered Mars' orbit at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, where it now will prepare to study the Red Planet's upper atmosphere as never done before. MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars."

NASA's Efforts to Identify Near-Earth Objects and Mitigate Hazards

"NASA has organized its NEO Program under a single Program Executive who manages a loosely structured conglomerate of research activities that are not well integrated and lack overarching Program oversight, objectives, and established milestones to track progress. In addition, NASA is undertaking NEO-related activities not managed by the Program and not sufficiently integrated into ongoing Program activities. Furthermore, NASA lacks formal agreements or procedures for NEO-related activities it conducts with other Federal agencies and foreign governments and has not taken advantage of possible partnership opportunities. Consequently, managers could not identify the level of resources required to adequately support the Program or explain how activities to which the NEO Program is contributing further Program goals. Even though the Program has discovered, categorized, and plotted the orbits of more than 11,000 NEOs since 1998, NASA will fall short of meeting the 2005 Authorization Act goal of finding 90 percent of NEOs larger than 140 meters in diameter by 2020."

Nasty Space Weather Ahead

ALERT: Geomagnetic K-index of 7 (G3), Space Weather Prediction Center (NOAA)

WARNING: Geomagnetic K-index of 7 or greater (G3 or Greater), Space Weather Prediction Center (NOAA)

"NOAA Scale: G3 or greater - Strong to Extreme

- Potential Impacts: Area of impact primarily poleward of 50 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude.
Induced Currents - Power system voltage irregularities possible, false alarms may be triggered on some protection devices.
- Spacecraft - Systems may experience surface charging; increased drag on low Earth-orbit satellites and orientation problems may occur.
- Navigation - Intermittent satellite navigation (GPS) problems, including loss-of-lock and increased range error may occur.
- Radio - HF (high frequency) radio may be intermittent.
- Aurora - Aurora may be seen as low as Pennsylvania to Iowa to Oregon."

Alerts and related information available at @SpaceWeather

Mission to Mt. Sharp - Habitability, Preservation of Organics, and Environmental Transitions
Senior Review Proposal Sections 1 and 2 April 2014

Keith's note: Jim Green just made a point of spelling out the URL for this report. He did so rather defensively in an effort to show that there was a science plan in place for MSL. In the process he sought to minimize the comments made by NASA's own NASA Planetary Senior Review Panel Report wherien the MSL science plan was bluntly criticized. If Green thinks that the Review Panel was wrong on their MSL criticism, then does that not call into question everything else they said? If so why did NASA make funding decisions based on the committee's report?

Looking at the report there are no ITAR or SBU notations. Of course they were removed - or were they? Looking at the document properties [image] it is clear that this document was created on 10 April 2014 and modified on 9 September 2014. Why is it that NASA only voluntarily releases documents like this to defend their actions but they don't just publish them - for all to see - simply because they are interesting? Why didn't NASA release this document when the review committee report first came out? Why wasn't this report mentioned in yesterday's hearing where Green testified - when this topic came up?

Oh yes ... by voluntarily releasing this document NASA SMD has set a new precedent for things that a FOIA request can obtain. They have nulified any "predecisional" claims that they might have once been able to make. Oops.

NASA Holds Teleconference to Discuss Science Campaign of Curiosity Mars Rover

Keith's note: NASA SMD PAO's Dwayne Brown continues to refuse to respond to media inquiries from last month's Mars 2020 media opportunity - despite overtly soliciting such inquiries. Let's see who Dwayne ignores during this briefing - since he's NASA PAO - and I am not. As such I am not going to bother to dial in since it is a waste of my time. More opportunity for others to ask questions. I have had multiple interactions with NASA PAO on this non-response by Dwayne and their lack of response is a de facto endorsement of Dwayne's behavior. So it goes. I'll live tweet the event - with commentary.

- SMD Wants To Talk About MSL Science (Or Lack Thereof), earllier post
- Results of Planetary Science Mission Review: MSL = Yawn, earllier post
- NASA PAO Promises To Answer Questions and Then Does Not, earllier post

Planetary Science Hearing

Subcommittee Considers Asteroid Mining, Planetary Exploration Priorities

"The Space Subcommittee today held a hearing to review issues facing planetary exploration of our solar system, including NASA's proposed budget for planetary science, and potential commercial interests. Witnesses also testified on the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities In Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act, H.R. 5063."

Prepared statements: Rep. Lamar Smith, Rep. Steven Palazzo, Jim Green, Jim Bell, Mark Sykes, Joanne Gabrynowicz, Philip Christensen

NASA Holds Teleconference to Discuss Science Campaign of Curiosity Mars Rover

"NASA will host a teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 11, to discuss mission status and the future science campaign for the Mars rover Curiosity mission."

NASA Planetary Senior Review Panel Report

"Unfortunately the lead Project Scientist was not present in person for the Senior Review presentation and was only available via phone. Additionally, he was not present for the second round of Curiosity questions from the panel. This left the panel with the impression that the team felt they were too big to fail and that simply having someone show up would suffice. ... As Curiosity is a flagship mission, the panel was surprised by the lack of science in the EM1 proposal ..."

Hearing Charter: Exploring Our Solar System: The ASTEROIDS Act as a Key Step, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"Specifically, the panel felt that Curiosity's extended mission plan to take only eight samples in the next two years was not efficient and that "this is a poor science return for such a large investment in a flagship mission." The panel also found that "the proposal lacked specific scientific questions to be answered, testable hypotheses, and proposed measurements and assessment of uncertainties and limitations."

NASA Planetary Senior Review Panel Report

"After the presentation and subsequent discussion within the panel during executive session, other questions were formulated and then presented to the Curiosity team. Unfortunately the lead Project Scientist was not present in person for the Senior Review presentation and was only available via phone. Additionally, he was not present for the second round of Curiosity questions from the panel. This left the panel with the impression that the team felt they were too big to fail and that simply having someone show up would suffice. ... As Curiosity is a flagship mission, the panel was surprised by the lack of science in the EM1 proposal (the Overguide budget would support greater roving distance over samples analyzed, with only a promise of a maximum of eight analyses throughout EM1)."

"There should always be one Senior Review panel - not two that meet at separate times as there was in 2014. The Senior Review is for the Planetary Science Division, not the Mars Program and then everyone else. Having one panel assures that ALL missions are treated equally and fairly."

NASA Still Won't Look For Existing Life on Mars (update), earlier post

Keith's 31 July note: I obviously expected Jim Green to answer in the same cautious way that NASA has always answered this question - one I have asked again and again for the nearly 20 years. Instead, Green launched into a detailed description of all the things that the Mars 2020 rover could detect that have a connection with life. Much of what he said clearly referred to extant / existing life. Now THAT is cool. To clarify things I sent the following request to NASA PAO "Can the Mars 2020 rover detect extant/existing life on Mars?  Will NASA be looking for extant/existing life on Mars?" Let's see how they respond.

Keith's 3 Sep update: Well it has been more than a month. Dwayne Brown from NASA SMD PAO specifically asked media reps who were on the telecon to send him any questions via email they might have and that he'd get an answer back to them. I haven't heard a thing from him since I sent him the email he requested (wth cc: to SMD management). So much for his promises. Either NASA cannot/will not answer this rather simple question or it is not on Dwayne's priority list right now. I sent additional requests via email to NASA SMD and PAO last week. Still no response.

Keith's note: Planets orbit stars. Moons orbit planets. Planets and moons are worlds. Our solar system has lots of worlds and no two are the same - Right? "Planet" and "Moon" define where a world is located - not what it is made of. But it seems that NASA's New Horizons mission has decided that they want to unilateraly rewrite the definitions for these terms and, in so doing, confuse everyone.

NASA Still Won't Look For Existing Life on Mars (update), earlier post

Keith's 31 July note: I obviously expected Jim Green to answer in the same cautious way that NASA has always answered this question - one I have asked again and again for the nearly 20 years. Instead, Green launched into a detailed description of all the things that the Mars 2020 rover could detect that have a connection with life. Much of what he said clearly referred to extant / existing life. Now THAT is cool. To clarify things I sent the following request to NASA PAO "Can the Mars 2020 rover detect extant/existing life on Mars?  Will NASA be looking for extant/existing life on Mars?" Let's see how they respond.

Keith's 25 Aug update: Well it has been nearly a month. Dwayne Brown from NASA SMD PAO specifically asked media reps who were on the telecon to send him any questions via email they might have and that he'd get an answer back to them. I haven't heard a thing from him since I sent him the email he requested (wth cc: to SMD management). Either NASA cannot/will not answer this rather simple question or it is not on Dwayne's priority list right now.

Keith's 27 Aug update: I have sent additional requests via email to NASA SMD and PAO. No response.

New Study: Electric Sparks May Alter Evolution of Lunar Soil, University of New Hampshire

"The study, published recently in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets, proposes that high-energy particles from uncommon, large solar storms penetrate the moon's frigid, polar regions and electrically charge the soil. The charging may create sparking, or electrostatic breakdown, and this "breakdown weathering" process has possibly changed the very nature of the moon's polar soil, suggesting that permanently shadowed regions, which hold clues to our solar system's past, may be more active than previously thought."

ISEE-3 Science Status Report 7 August 2014

"As promised, the time of closest approach to the Moon is 18:16 UTC (on Sunday, 10 August). Vassilis Angelopolous at UCLA is now involved. He has two spacecraft in lunar orbit and is planning to acquire data during the ISEE flyby in a special telemetry mode. That should add immeasurably to the scientific results. The telemetry signal continues to improve. There is still random telemetry noise but few if any long gaps so there is little disruption of the data and real signals are becoming clear. Don Gurnett's team (SCH or Plasma Waves) recently reported seeing Auroral Kilometric Radiation from Earth, ion acoustic waves in the solar wind and electron plasma oscillations usually caused by a shock wave. They are debating whether they are seeing waves from Earth's bow shock or an interplanetary shock."

- Recent ISEE-3 Electric Wave Experiment Data
- Infographic: ISEE-3 Closest Approach to the Moon
- ISEE-3 Detects Type III Solar Burst
- Updated Ephemeris for ISEE-3 at JPL Horizons for August 2014

The Past is Prologue to the Future When It Comes to the Next Decade of Mars Exploration, SpaceRef

"Past missions, and in some case the spare parts of past missions, will help drive the next decade of Mars exploration, a panel of experts from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the University of California at Berkeley, told an audience yesterday at the AIAA SPACE 2014 Forum in San Diego."

ESA Releases Stunning New Images of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, ESA

Marc's note: ESA has released these detailed images from Rosetta of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko now that it's in "orbit". The images use the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera from a distance of 285 km. Image resolution is 5.3 metres/pixel.

Comet Siding Spring's October Encounter with Mars Will Create 30 Minutes of Concern for Global Space Agencies, SpaceRef (An AIAA Space 2014 Report)

"On October 19, 2014, at 18:32 UTC, Comet Siding Spring (2013A1) will pass Mars at roughly 150,000 kilometers, about 1/3 the distance between Earth and the Moon, in a direction putting it on a track for its dust to pass over the Martian North Pole, possibly endangering, over a thirty minute window, the collection of orbital spacecraft currently on station in that region."

Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chair Smith Statement on NASA Advisory Council Recommendations

"Contrary to this administration's rhetoric, the President's proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) has many skeptics within the scientific community. And the experts who advise NASA recently stepped up their criticism. The NASA Advisory Council warns that NASA 'runs the risk of squandering precious national resources' if they move forward with ARM. One expert, Mr. Tom Young, went so far as to say that the ARM proposal 'dumbed down NASA.' For months, the Obama administration has downplayed such criticism. I appreciate the good work of NASA's technical advisors and encourage the Obama administration to take their recommendations seriously."

SBAG Asteroid Redirect Mission Special Action Team, July 2014 presentation

Report of the Small Bodies Assessment Group Asteroid Redirect Mission Special Action Team, 30 July 2014 (Draft)

"This report summarizes discussions and findings of the SBAG ARM SAT. The report will be presented at the SBAG meeting on July 30, 2014, and made available to the SBAG community for comment. The report will be finalized in August, 2014, following the opportunity period for comments. The SBAG ARM SAT echoes the statement in the CAPTEM ARM report: of necessity, this is a preliminary report. If such a mission goes forward, we recommend that the prioritization of the science, planetary defense, and resource utilization requirements be refined through a more comprehensive process."

Future of NASA's Human Spaceflight Program Dominates NAC Meeting, SpacepolicyOnline

"Another criticism is that NASA does a poor job of explaining why it is pursuing ARM. Williams used a chart with several bullets, one of which pointed to ARM's role in demonstrating techniques that could be used to defend Earth from potentially hazardous asteroids -- planetary defense. During questioning about those bullets, Bolden quickly chimed in to say that planetary defense is NOT a goal of ARM. It is a goal of the Asteroid Grand Challenge, which NASA is funding at $7 million in FY2014, he said, but not of ARM. He acknowledged that because NASA is doing both ARM and the Grand Challenge, there is a lot of confusion. "We need to get that confusion out of it. We are not saving the planet," he exclaimed. However, many other NASA officials, including Williams, include planetary defense in the list of rationales for ARM. Scott Hubbard insisted that NASA needs to have a single bullet explaining why ARM is needed, not a list of them, in any case."

NASA Announces Mars 2020 Rover Payload

"The Mars 2020 mission will be based on the design of the highly successful Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, which landed almost two years ago, and currently is operating on Mars. The new rover will carry more sophisticated, upgraded hardware and new instruments to conduct geological assessments of the rover's landing site, determine the potential habitability of the environment, and directly search for signs of ancient Martian life."

NASA Hosts 3 p.m. EDT Teleconference with Mars 2020 Principal Investigators

Keith's note: (sigh) NASA still does not have the imagination or inclination to search for signs of extant life on Mars. All they seem to be willing to do is see if it used to be there. At the rate that they are going it will be 20 years before they get up the nerve to try and answer the question.

Keith's update: I asked the following question at the Mars 2020 Rover press event today. "Your press release says "determine the potential habitability of the environment, and directly search for signs of ancient Martian life." Why isn't NASA directly searching for signs of EXISTING LIFE on Mars? And I will ask my follow-up since the answer to this question is always "we don't know how to look for life on Mars - yet". - How are you going about the task of learing how to look for existing life on Mars, when will you have this capability and why is it that NASA was eager to search for existing life on Mars 40 years ago but is unwilling or unable to do so now?"

I obviously expected Jim Green to answer in the same cautious way that NASA has always answered this question - one I have asked again and again for the nearly 20 years. Instead, Green launched into a detailed description of all the things that the Mars 2020 rover could detect that have a connection with life. Much of what he said clearly referred to extant / existing life. Now THAT is cool. To clarify things I sent the following request to NASA PAO "Can the Mars 2020 rover detect extant/existing life on Mars?  Will NASA be looking for extant/existing life on Mars?" Let's see how they respond.

NASA limits foreign contributions to U.S. planetary missions, Science Insider

"Today, at a meeting of asteroid and comet scientists in Washington, D.C., NASA officials explained some of the new rules for the next mission, to be selected in 2016. Among them was a stipulation that the principal investigator would not be allowed to recruit foreign instrument contributions in excess of one-third the value of the U.S. instruments on the payload, even though those contributions don't count against the $450 million cap."

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Sunshield Stacks Up to Test, NASA

"The Sunshield on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is the largest part of the observatory--five layers of thin membrane that must unfurl reliably in space to precise tolerances. Last week, for the first time, engineers stacked and unfurled a full-sized test unit of the Sunshield and it worked perfectly."

AGU: Voyager Spacecraft Might Not Have Reached Interstellar Space, AGU

"In 2012, the Voyager mission team announced that the Voyager 1 spacecraft had passed into interstellar space, traveling further from Earth than any other manmade object.

But, in the nearly two years since that historic announcement, and despite subsequent observations backing it up, uncertainty about whether Voyager 1 really crossed the threshold continues. There are some scientists who say that the spacecraft is still within the heliosphere - the region of space dominated by the Sun and its wind of energetic particles - and has not yet reached the space between the stars."

NASA Responds: NASA Voyager Statement About Solar Wind Models

"A paper recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters describes an alternate model for the interaction between the heliosphere -- a "bubble" around our planets and sun -- and the interstellar medium. It also proposes a test for whether Voyager 1 has, indeed, left the heliosphere.

NASA's Voyager project scientist, Ed Stone of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, responds."

Related: Voyager 1 stories on SpaceRef

NASA Planetary Science Review To Be Released Soon, Space News

"The planetary senior review, from a scientific report standpoint, has just been completed," said Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, in a presentation at the NASA Exploration Science Forum at NASA's Ames Research Center here. NASA is now drafting "letters of direction" to the various missions covered by the review, he said."

NASA OIG: SOFIA: NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy

"We found that despite substantial delays in reaching operational capacity, SOFIA remains capable of contributing to the scientific body of knowledge and many in the science community view the observatory as a valuable resource. However, we understand that the SOFIA Program is competing for limited resources and policymakers will have to decide whether other NASA projects are a higher scientific and budgetary priority. If the decision is made to continue the Program, we identified several challenges SOFIA will face going forward."

Ocean on Saturn's Moon Titan Could be as Salty as the Dead Sea, NASA

"Scientists analyzing data from NASA's Cassini mission have firm evidence the ocean inside Saturn's largest moon, Titan, might be as salty as the Earth's Dead Sea.

The new results come from a study of gravity and topography data collected during Cassini's repeated flybys of Titan during the past 10 years. Using the Cassini data, researchers presented a model structure for Titan, resulting in an improved understanding of the structure of the moon's outer ice shell. The findings are published in this week's edition of the journal Icarus."

NASA Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator Update 12 June 2014

"NASA did not conduct the flight test of the agency's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range in Kauai, Hawaii, during its designated launch period. The project's reserved time at the range will expire Saturday, June 14, with NASA unable to fly the test because of continuing unfavorable weather conditions."

NASA Prepares to Launch Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2

The spacecraft will sample the global geographic distribution of the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide and allow scientists to study their changes over time more completely than can be done with any existing data. Since 2009, Earth scientists have been preparing for OCO-2 by taking advantage of observations from the Japanese GOSAT satellite. OCO-2 replaces a nearly identical NASA spacecraft lost because of a rocket launch mishap in February 2009.

NASA Releases Orbiting Carbon Observatory Accident Summary, earlier post

"A NASA panel that investigated the unsuccessful Feb. 24 launch of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, or OCO, has completed its report."

Keith's note: David Chenette has been terminated as Heliophysics Director at NASA SMD. His termination is effective COB 20 June 2014. Chenette has been placed on paid administrative leave until that time. Chenette was escorted out of NASA HQ building last week by security personnel.

NASA SMD Internal Memo: Interim Heliophysics Director

"Dr. Jeffrey Newmark will be interim Director for NASA's Science Mission Directorate Heliophysics Division as of June 6, 2014."

NASA Heliophysics Director Fired

"You have demonstrated little effort to engage your personnel and provide an inclusive workplace that fosters development to their full potential, despite being instructed that this was your primary objective when you were selected for this position," Grunsfeld, said in the notice, adding that the former Lockheed Martin executive had sown "confusion and apprehension in the scientific community."

55-year old dark side of the moon mystery solved, Penn State

"UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The "man in the moon" appeared when meteoroids struck the Earth-facing side of the moon creating large flat seas of basalt that we see as dark areas called maria. But no "face" exists on farside of the moon and now, Penn State astrophysicists think they know why."

Keith's note: This is an odd thing to put in the title i.e. "dark side of the Moon" since this constantly changes - and yet this research focuses on a specific part of the Moon that does not change. So I sent a note to the author, A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Ph.D. Sr. Science & Research Information Officer at Penn State. She replied by email "As it says in the story, the "dark" side of the moon is the side that is always turned away from the Earth. It does not change."

Baffled by her response, I asked her (again) about this and she followed with really goofy stuff i.e. "yes, the "dark" side of the moon is called that because it is the farside of the moon and was completely unknown until the Russians sent a probe around the back to photograph it. It has absolutely nothing to do with sunlight -- as is explained in the story. Dark is used in the same way it used to be used in Darkest Africa. It wasn't dark in africa, it was unknown."

Keith's note: NASA's Astrobiology Institute has over 879,000 followers on its Twitter account @AstrobiologyNAI. Not once in the months that "Cosmos" has been on air has it ever made mention of the show - despite the fac that it amounted to a free multi-week advertisement for Astrobiology. If you go to the offocial NASA NAI website you will see that it totally ignored Cosmos too. Yet @NASA and other Twitter and social media accounts openly featured links of direct relevance to the show. Even the President chimed in on the opening episode.

The NASA Astrobiology Institute has made a colossal mistake by not taking advantage of this teaching moment for millions on national television - one wherein all of the things that NASA seeks to study under the banner of "astrobiology" have been thoroughly explained in terms almost anyone can grasp. Indeed, this amounts to utter incompetence on the part of the entire leadership and staff at the NASA Astrobiology Institute - and those at NASA Headquarters who manage Astrobiology as a whole. They simply do not care if they are doing their job and explaining their research to the rest of us who pay the bills.

Why Is NASA's Astrobiology Program STILL Ignoring "Cosmos"?, earier post

Scientists Finish Last-Ditch Plan to Save Infrared Spitzer Space Telescope,

"Spitzer likely can operate through 2018, Helou said. To get there, the project will have to trim its full-time staff, discontinue some engineering support services and cease efforts to make spacecraft operations more efficient, Helou said. There are about 45 full-timers on Spitzer now, including 27 at the Spitzer Science Center. The others are at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, which is run by Caltech, and Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, California, which built the telescope."

Shutdown for Spitzer and MaxWISE?, earlier post

Keith's note: The Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is making some sort of big extrasolar planet announcement Thursday. That's all we know (we have received nothing under embargo).

Keith's update: This announcement will be made on Monday at the AAS meeting.

Pluto-bound probe faces crisis, Nature

"Nearly 4.3 billion kilometres from Earth, and most of the way to Pluto, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is in danger of missing out on half of its mission. Project managers face a looming deadline to identify an icy object in the outer Solar System for the probe to fly by after it passes Pluto. A visit to a Kuiper belt object, or KBO, was always meant to be a key part of New Horizons' US$700-million journey, which began in 2006. But there is only a slim chance that astronomers will find a suitable KBO with their current strategy of using ground-based telescopes - and securing time on the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope is far from guaranteed."

2014 NASA Astrophysics Senior Review

Spitzer: "Given the budget climate, the SRP cannot recommend funding of Spitzer at the levels requested. Should the mission be unable to operate given the levels of funding recommended through FY18, the mission should plan, in consultation with NASA HQ, for termination."

NASA Response to the 2014 Senior Review for Astrophysics Operating Missions

"Spitzer Space Telescope: The Spitzer mission extension for FY 2015 is not approved due to the constrained budget conditions and based on the findings and recommendations of the Senior Review report."

"Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE): The MaxWISE proposal was recommended for selection by the Senior Review. However, the only source of funding would be to displace funding from higher rated operating missions in the Senior Review. Due to constrained budget conditions, the MaxWISE proposal is declined."

The Hackers Who Recovered NASA's Lost Lunar Photos, Wired

"Sitting incongruously among the hangars and laboratories of NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley is the squat facade of an old McDonald's. You won't get a burger there, though-its cash registers and soft-serve machines have given way to old tape drives and modern computers run by a rogue team of hacker engineers who've rechristened the place McMoon's. These self-described techno-archaeologists have been on a mission to recover and digitize forgotten photos taken in the '60s by a quintet of scuttled lunar satellites. The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Progject has since 2007 brought some 2,000 pictures back from 1,500 analog data tapes. They contain the first high-resolution photographs ever taken from behind the lunar horizon, including the first photo of an earthrise (first slide above). Thanks to the technical savvy and DIY engineering of the team at LOIRP, it's being seen at a higher resolution than was ever previously possible."

NASA's Extended Science Missions in Peril, Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"We do not yet know how the Senior Review will turn out. NASA is famous for wanting to "move on" to the next thing and often abandons working spacecraft. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush but as things currently stand, there isn't much in the mission pipeline to move on to. Planetary Science has taken several massive budgetary hits in the past few years, with more on the way. The termination of LRO and MER will not help move new missions off the drawing board. Money not spent on these extended missions will probably slide into SMD's Black Hole of Funding (the James Webb Space Telescope) or be dissipated on new paperwork, committee meetings and concept studies. It would be both fiscally prudent and programmatically responsible for NASA to fund and retain these working and still productive extended missions."

Maximizing Dawn's Scientific Mission at Ceres: SBAG Report

"At the last SBAG meeting, it was implied that the Dawn at Vesta Participating Scientist Program had not been fully successful. To gain insight into the issue, SBAG undertook a confidential survey of all the U.S. Dawn at Vesta Participating Scientists, receiving responses from 15 of 18 individuals. A sixteenth person did not want to participate. Responses ranged from extremely positive to deeply negative. The details provided indicated no hesitance on the part of the respondents to voice their opinion and provide specifics. Overall, 9 indicated very positive and productive experiences, 4 both positive and negative, and 2 deeply negative. 12 of the 15 respondents would propose to a Dawn at Ceres Participating Scientist Program. While some participating scientists had serious issues, the SBAG survey did not find evidence that the Dawn at Vesta Participating Scientist Program would offer a basis for not proceeding with a Dawn at Ceres Participating Scientist Program."

Keith's update: We REALLY Need this document: GSFC Document ISEE-733-74-001, Revision C, dated 28 June1976 "International Sun-Earth Explorer - A/C, Electrical Interface Specification".  Does anyone have a copy?

Keith's note: We have had multiple folks ask if we have any received data telemetry tapes from ISEE-3 or the others in the series (ISEE-1 or ISEE-2). If anyone has any of these tapes it would be incredibly useful as we could then feed them into our software radio program. We have the ability to read a lot of different formats as that is what we have been doing with the Lunar Orbiter and the Nimbus data recovery efforts. If anyone has them squirreled away in boxes anywhere it would be great to know about. Send an email to wingod - at - if you have any information on possible tapes.

Help us make ISEE-3 do science again at

NASA Completes LADEE Mission with Planned Impact on Moon's Surface

"Ground controllers at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., have confirmed that NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft impacted the surface of the moon, as planned, between 9:30 and 10:22 p.m. PDT Thursday, April 17. LADEE lacked fuel to maintain a long-term lunar orbit or continue science operations and was intentionally sent into the lunar surface. The spacecraft's orbit naturally decayed following the mission's final low-altitude science phase."

Earth-Size Planet Found that Might Hold Liquid Water, University of Michigan

"In a dim and faraway solar system, astronomers have for the first time discovered a rocky, Earth-sized planet that might hold liquid water -- a necessary ingredient for life as we know it."

New Rocky Planet May Have Liquid Water, SFSU

"San Francisco State University astronomer Stephen Kane and an international team of researchers have announced the discovery of a new rocky planet that could potentially have liquid water on its surface."

NASA Hosts Media Teleconference to Announce Latest Kepler Discovery

"NASA will host a news teleconference at 11 a.m. PDT (2 p.m. EDT) Thursday, April 17, to announce a new discovery made by its planet-hunting mission, the Kepler Space Telescope. The journal Science has embargoed the findings until the time of the news conference."

ISEE-3 Reboot Project (IRP): Our plan is simple: we intend to contact the ISEE-3 (International Sun-Earth Explorer) spacecraft, command it to fire its engine and enter an orbit near Earth, and then resume its original mission - a mission it began in 1978.

ISEE-3 was rechristened as the International Comet Explorer (ICE). If we are successful it may also still be able to chase yet another comet.

Working in collaboration with NASA we have assembled a team of engineers, programmers, and scientists - and have a large radio telescope fully capable of contacting ISEE-3. If we are successful we intend to facilitate the sharing and interpretation of all of the new data ISEE-3 sends back via crowd sourcing.

NASA has told us officially that there is no funding available to support an ISEE-3 effort - nor is this work a formal priority for the agency right now. But NASA does feel that the data that ISEE-3 could generate would have real value and that a crowd funded effort such as ours has real value as an education and public outreach activity.

Time is short. And this project is not without significant risks. We need your financial help. ISEE-3 must be contacted in the next month or so and it must complete its orbit change maneuvers no later than mid-June 2014. There is excitement ahead as well: part of the maneuvers will include a flyby of the Moon at an altitude of less than 50 km.

NASA missions bid for extensions, Nature

"... like six other ongoing NASA missions studying the Moon, Mars and Saturn, Opportunity's money is due to run out at the end of the US fiscal year, on 30 September. Managers for each mission are trying to convince the agency to cough up continued funding, and their arguments are due on 11 April. A 'senior review' panel of external planetary scientists will rank the proposals' potential science return, and submit their suggestions to NASA headquarters for a final decision."

Mars mission cost citizen less than BEST bus fare, Times of India

"How much did the Rs 450-crore India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) cost an individual? Believe it or not it is less than the minimum BEST bus fare. While the minimum fare is Rs 6, each Indian on the other hand has spent just Rs four for the Mars mission. This unbelievable fact that the mission cost each citizen of this country a pittance was revealed to TOI by Isro chairman K Radhakrishnan recently. He said, "The fact it cost each person Rs 4 was moreover just a one-time payment. It was neither weekly, monthy or yearly."

Keith's note: Rs 4 = $0.07, India has 1.237 billion people. If they can go to Mars for 7 cents each, I wonder what they could do for 10 cents each ...

American Astronomical Society Statement on Proposed FY 2015 Budget

"At a time when space science is one of nation's brightest lights, delivering outstanding scientific discoveries and substantial public support, the President's proposed 3.5-percent cut for NASA's SMD is extremely worrying. We are particularly concerned by the 9 percent cut to the Astrophysics Division and the unanticipated decision to mothball a major mission outside the well-established senior review process. The AAS is also concerned about the imbalance within SMD given the inadequate funding for ongoing mission operations (including damaging cuts to major missions), flat or declining research and analysis grant funding, and the outlook for the Planetary New Frontiers and Heliophysics Explorer competed mission lines."

Planetary Society Decries NASA Science Cuts - Calls on Congress to Support Planetary Exploration

"NASA's planetary exploration is one-of-a-kind," said Casey Dreier, The Planetary Society's Director of Advocacy. "Our members know this, the public knows this, and we want to make sure that The White House knows this, too. We've had very strong support from key members of Congress, and we will depend on them once again to help preserve NASA's leadership in solar system exploration." Within two days of the Society's call, more than 20,000 messages of support have been sent to Congress, once again demonstrating the intense public support for this key NASA capability."

The 'Other' Lunar Orbiter 1 Earthrise Image, Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

"A newly enhanced image of Earth taken from lunar orbit 47 years ago has been released. The image, taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966, is the latest in a series of images released by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP). This image is actually one of a pair of images taken of Earth by Lunar Orbiter 1. Its twin image, taken first, was much more famous and captured the world's imagination when first released by NASA nearly half a century ago. That "Earthrise" image, as it came to be known, was also the first image re-released by the LOIRP in November 2008. These two pictures were not included in the original mission plan. Taking these images required that the spacecraft's attitude in relation to the lunar surface be changed so that the camera's lenses were pointing away from the Moon. Such maneuvering meant a calculated risk and, coming early in the flight, the unplanned photograph of Earth raised some doubts among Boeing management about the safety of the spacecraft - especially on the very first Lunar Orbiter mission."

Redesign of Planned Space Telescope Would Add Scientific Capabilities, Costs to Original Mission

"However, the inherited hardware was designed for another purpose, and the degree to which changes to the hardware must be made to accommodate a different launch vehicle and scientific requirements is uncertain at this time. This uncertainty contributes to higher technical risk and a greater likelihood that costs will increase beyond current estimates, the report says. The WFIRST/AFTA without the coronagraph was estimated to cost $2.1 billion, up from an estimate of $1.8 billion for an earlier design which was more similar to the mission recommended in the 2010 survey report."

- NRO Gives NASA Two Hubble-Class Telescopes (Shh!), earlier post
- How Much Will the Free NRO Space Telescopes Cost?, earlier post
- Are NASA's New Telescopes NRO Future Imagery Architecture Leftovers?, earlier post

First Direct Evidence of Cosmic Inflation, HSCFSA

"Researchers from the BICEP2 collaboration today announced the first direct evidence for this cosmic inflation. Their data also represent the first images of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time. These waves have been described as the "first tremors of the Big Bang." Finally, the data confirm a deep connection between quantum mechanics and general relativity."

Studying Gender in Conference Talks: Data From 223rd American Astronomical Society Meeting

"The most significant result from this study is that while the gender ratio of speakers very closely mirrors that of conference attendees, women are under-represented in the question-asker category. We interpret this to be an age-effect, as senior scientists may be more likely to ask questions, and are more commonly men. A strong dependence on the gender of session chairs is found, whereby women ask disproportionately fewer questions in sessions chaired by men. While our results point to laudable progress in gender-balanced speaker selection, we believe future surveys of this kind would help ensure that collaboration at such meetings is as inclusive as possible."

SOFIA ... eine Erfolgsgeschichte ist in Gefahr (in German), January Wörners Blog, DLR

[translation] "As part of the current budget statement of NASA it has now let announced from Washington that the continued operation as of 2015 could no longer be financed. That would not only be a major blow for the science that has planned many interesting astronomical research for the coming years, but also for the relationship between NASA and DLR."

Mars Rover Opportunity Faces New Threat: Budget Ax, Discovery

"NASA's baseline budget for the year beginning Oct. 1 pulls the plug on the 10-year-old Mars rover Opportunity, newly released details of the agency's fiscal 2015 spending plan show. The plan, which requires Congressional approval, also anticipates ending the orbiting Mars Odyssey mission on Sept. 30, 2016. "There are pressures all over the place," NASA's planetary science division director Jim Green said during an advisory council committee teleconference call on Wednesday. NASA currently spends about $13 million a year to support Opportunity."

Keith's note: Just as JWST cost growth is killing off valuable existing missions that cost a pittance to continue - and stiffling others from even being started - SLS will soon start to eat Human Spaceflight's budgetary lunch - and the 2024 ISS extension will become less and less of a certainty

NASA Wants to Explore Europa On the Cheap, Planetary Society

"Over the past few years, JPL and APL has been working on a reduced-cost Europa concept called the Europa Clipper, which would fly by Europa on the order of 50 times over a few years to map the surface and determine the properties of the assumed ocean and ice sheet. The Clipper had an estimated cost of $2.1 billion, less than half of the originally-conceived Europa Orbiter, which was around $4.7 billion. This would place the Clipper as a "flagship" mission, though on the low side for a flagship."

Did NASA Ground SOFIA?

Computing a Winner, Fusion a Loser in U.S. Science Budget, Science Insider

"A White House summary of NASA's budget notes that the savings achieved by reducing funding for SOFIA will enable "continued support for higher priority programs, including lower cost, competitive science missions, and extended operations for the Cassini Saturn mission." A more detailed presentation of the space agency's budget proposal, unveiled this afternoon by NASA, says the agency is in talks with its German partner to determine the best path forward for SOFIA."

NASA Media Telecon to Announce Latest Kepler Discoveries, 26 Feb.

"NASA will host a news teleconference at 1 p.m. EST (18:00 UTC), Wednesday, Feb. 26, to announce new discoveries made by its planet-hunting mission, the Kepler Space Telescope."

Kepler Has Discovered 715 New Extrasolar Planets

"NASA's Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly-verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system. Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system."

Tom Pierson

Keith's note: SETI Institute Founding CEO Tom Pierson has left our planet. Learn more about his life here. Ad Astra, Tom.

"Under Pierson's guidance, the Institute grew from a tiny, narrowly focused research center with a handful of employees to its current status: an internationally known organization that is home to more than 130 scientists, educators, and support staff.  While founded to conduct SETI searches, the Institute soon broadened its mandate to encompass all aspects of understanding the nature and prevalence of life beyond Earth."

Looking For Other Earths

Looking for a Mirror, NY Times

"The challenges to photographing a mirror Earth are daunting, but not insurmountable. A small rocky planet is a dim mote of dust lost in the glare from a thermonuclear fireball we call a star. For every photon of planetary light that goes into making a picture, 10 billion stellar photons must first be filtered out; remarkably, researchers have already devised several ways to do this. All that the planet-hunters really need to find the mirror Earths is a big mirror, high above the Earth's blurring atmosphere -- a space telescope large enough to gather the faint light of Goldilocks worlds around a sizable sample of stars."

Opportunity Heads Uphill After Solving 'Doughnut' Riddle

"Researchers have determined the now-infamous Martian rock resembling a jelly doughnut, dubbed Pinnacle Island, is a piece of a larger rock broken and moved by the wheel of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity in early January. Only about 1.5 inches wide (4 centimeters), the white-rimmed, red-centered rock caused a stir last month when it appeared in an image the rover took Jan. 8 at a location where it was not present four days earlier."

Keith's update: As you will see below this just got sillier when NASA GSFC PAO responded.

LADEE Extended

NASA Extends LADEE Moon Exploring Satellite Mission

"NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, observatory has been approved for a 28-day mission extension. The spacecraft is now expected to impact the lunar surface on or around April 21, 2014, depending on the final trajectory. The extension provides an opportunity for the satellite to gather an additional full lunar cycle worth of very low-altitude data to help scientists unravel the mysteries of the moon's atmosphere."

Keith's note: NASA has spent $2 billion on Curiosity. But NASA allows researchers to post the research results - results paid for by taxpayers - behind a paywall at Science. You have to pay twice if you want to see what has been discovered. Too bad NASA is not interested in following OSTP guidelines on Open Data, Transparency, etc.

Keith's update: Note: the papers from the 24 January issue of Science are now also online here at JPL (some are listed as being from 9 Dec 2013) with the warning "This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only.". With two exceptions, if you go to Science magazine (see links below) which is what all the public statements would prompt you to do, Science still requires payment in order to read the articles.

This posting of the papers at is a good step forward, but NASA really doesn't tell you that the papers are even online at Nothing in the website menu leads you to think they are online and nothing is included in press releases. There is another list of other papers but all of them require steep fees in order to read in full.

If only NASA made ALL of the research it conducts with taxpayer funds openly available, and then prominently featured these papers so as to overtly tell people that these papers are online, then the agency would see the greatest possible use of these discoveries.

Another Lunar Orbiter Earthrise Retrieved and Enhanced, Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

"The other day, as we were going through tapes from Lunar Orbiter IV we came across a picture of the Earth and the Moon - one that was not instantly familiar to us. This image is not included in the LPI Lunar Orbiter IV image gallery but is listed in another, more obscure document at LPI. So we downloaded the data and set to work on restoring and enhancing the image."

Keith's note: Space Artist Don Davis Has Re-imagined our newly emhanced Lunar Orbiter IV Earthrise.

Adam Mann (@adamspacemann) at @wiredspacephoto and @wiredscience was nice enough to tweet a link to our Lunar Orbiter IV earthrise image to over a million followers as the WIred's Space Photo of the day - thanks, Adam!

Clementine +20

Clementine - The Mission, Twenty Years Later, Paul Spudis

"In the twenty years following the end of the Apollo program, the lunar science community tried to interest NASA in sending a robotic orbiter to the Moon to map its shape, composition and other physical properties. Such a mission would not only document the processes and history of the Moon, but would also serve as an operational template for the exploration of other airless planetary objects through the collection of global remote sensing data and use of surface samples to provide ground truth."

Dueling NASA Flagships?

The Final Frontier's Financial Limits, NY Times

"The Obama administration, which proposed deep cuts in the planetary sciences budget the past two years, could also ask for more money for 2015. "The administration remains committed to operating the pathbreaking Cassini and Curiosity missions as long as they keep passing these rigorous reviews," said Phillip Larson, a White House space policy adviser. "If we keep one going, that doesn't mean we have to cancel the other." The administration's budget request is likely to be disclosed in late February or early March."

- Bolden: No More Flagship Missions (Update: Bolden Flip Flops), earlier post

Rosetta Is Awake

ESA's Rosetta Wakes Up From Hibernation

"It was a fairy-tale ending to a tense chapter in the story of the Rosetta space mission this evening as ESA heard from its distant spacecraft for the first time in 31 months. Rosetta is chasing down Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, where it will become the first space mission to rendezvous with a comet, the first to attempt a landing on a comet's surface, and the first to follow a comet as it swings around the Sun."

Continued Victories for Planetary Exploration, Planetary Society

"The book is not closed on 2014. Now that NASA has its money, it has to spend it. It does this through its operating plan, where the agency can make minor adjustments to project funding based on programmatic needs. Last year NASA abused this process and tried to shift all additional money allocated for Planetary Science by Congress to unrelated projects. I feel that this is unlikely to happen again, but it's something that we will be watching closely. I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes you have to ensure that NASA spends planetary money on planetary projects."

The big problem with the "big win" for NASA's exploration program budget, Houston Chronicle

"Sen. Bill Nelson, who chairs the Senate subcommittee that oversees NASA, and bills himself as "one of the leading architects of a plan to build a new monster rocket and crew capsule for deep space exploration," said of the plan, "This is a big win." NASA's administrator, Charles Bolden, also praised the budget deal. This is the same Nelson who along with other congressional leaders and the White House agreed on a budget plan to fund and build the SLS and Orion during the summer of 2010 (see authorizing legislation). In that bill Congress called, for example, in fiscal year 2013 to fund the SLS rocket at a level of $2.64 billion. It received significantly less than that in fiscal year 2013. And one would presume funding along those lines, or more, would be needed as the SLS rocket program was building up toward a 2017 test launch. So what did the government give NASA in the new budget for fiscal year 2014? $1.6 billion."

Keith's note: Let's see what the FY 2015 Budget looks like. Those projects that benefited from the FY 2014 budget may see different news in a few weeks. And some projects that did not benefit in FY 2014 may well do even worse in FY 2015. Alas, everyone seems to be parroting the buzz phrase "flat is the new up". When your budget is supposed to be ramping up, "flat" is a budget cut folks.

Once the dust settles is will become clear that there is still not enough money for everything. Congress is going to fund SLS/Orion no matter what the White House or NASA wants them to do and they will raid commercial crew and technology budgets to do so. And when Congress realizes that even more money for SLS is needed it will go back and take more. The asteroid mission is one step away from dead as far as Congress is concerned. Commercial crew is substantially underfunded and will not be able to continue at NASA's advertised pace of flying its first crew in 2017. And despite all of this, the space science crowd thinks that they are somehow immune from these pressures and should be given more money. They are in for a shock.

Editorial: First Do No Harm, Mark V. Sykes, Planetary Science Institute

"The most immediate threat is the ROSES2014 proposal due date of late February 2015 for the monster "Solar System Workings" (SSW) to which 1/3 of all planetary research and data analysis proposals will be submitted. For proposers to the major programs Cosmochemistry, Planetary Geology and Geophysics, Planetary Atmospheres and Mars Fundamental Research, this means a 20-22 month interval from the previous due dates in 2013, guaranteeing funding gaps for scientists, many of whom will be forced to seek other employment."

James Webb State Telescope: Meeting Commitments but Technical, Cost, & Schedule Challenges Could Affect Continued Progress, GAO

"Overall the project is maintaining a significant amount of cost reserves; however, low levels of near-term cost reserves could limit its ability to continue to meet future cost and schedule commitments. Development challenges have required the project to allocate a significant portion of cost reserves in fiscal year 2014. Adequate cost reserves for the prime contractor are also a concern in fiscal years 2014 and 2015 given the rate at which these cost reserves are being used. Limited reserves could require work to be extended or work to address project risks to be deferred--a contributing factor to the project's prior performance issues. Potential sequestration and funding challenges on other major NASA projects could limit the project's ability to address near-term challenges."

Webcast Events Today

- NASA and Smithsonian to Host 10 Year Anniversary Events for Mars Rovers

8:30 AM - 12:00: NASA Television and the agency's Web site will provide live coverage of the event. The discussion will also be Webcast live at: Reporters and the public can ask questions from NASA centers and via Twitter using the hashtag #10YrsOnMars.

- American Astronomical Society NASA Town Hall

12:45pm-1:45pm, AAS meeting, Potomac Ballroom A and

Keith's note: At a time when NASA science budgets are being slashed, I find it to be a little odd that USRA, a non-profit that could simply not exist without a constant influx of NASA funds (and the overhead that they charge on those funds) is able to find the money to host a reception for 5,000 astronomers - and to be telling everyone that they have done so. Receptions like this can easily cost $20 to $30 per person - or more. Perhaps USRA can tell us what they spent on this. My guess is that it would cover a good portion of someone's college education.

I guess this was what it was like when Rome was burning.

Finding Pandora and Endor

Sub-Earth-Mass Moon Orbiting a Gas Giant Primary or a High Velocity Planetary System in the Galactic Bulge

"We present the first microlensing candidate for a free-floating exoplanet-exomoon system, MOA-2011-BLG-262, with a primary lens mass of M_host ~ 4 Jupiter masses hosting a sub-Earth mass moon. The data are well fit by this exomoon model, but an alternate star+planet model fits the data almost as well. Nevertheless, these results indicate the potential of microlensing to detect exomoons, albeit ones that are different from the giant planet moons in our solar system. The argument for an exomoon hinges on the system being relatively close to the Sun. The data constrain the product M pi_rel, where M is the lens system mass and pi_rel is the lens-source relative parallax."

A New Site to Explore on the Moon, Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"... we are poised to investigate a new site on the Moon of considerable interest and complexity, one that displays a variety of geological units and processes. The Chang'E 3 lander and Yutu rover can provide many answers to our questions regarding the geological history of this region of the Moon and about lunar history in general. That will be a lot to learn over 3 lunar days (one lunar day equals 14 Earth days of light, sandwiched between 14 days of dark)."

American Exceptionalism and Space Exploration, Paul Spudis

"China on the Moon is not the issue. The issue - and the problem - is that the United States is not on the Moon, nor planning to return there to harvest resources necessary to build and profit from the inevitable transportation system to be built in cislunar space (the area between the Earth and the Moon, where all of our commercial and national space assets reside). American exceptionalism must stay viable and be a strong presence along side China and other nations."

NRC Panel Pans NASA's Draft Science Plan

"A panel of scientists from fields NASA spends $5 billion a year to address finds that the draft strategic plan fails to tackle the agency's uncertain funding outlook in a meaningful way. This means important exploration capabilities could fall by the wayside and "a generation of scientists" may be lost in some disciplines, they say. ... The panel's report, requested by Associate Administrator John Grunsfeld, the Hubble-servicing astronaut who runs SMD, underscores the problems NASA faces in sustaining the space-science program it built over 50-plus years. It was prepared by the Space Studies Board panel that was chaired by the University of Michigan's Dr. James P. Bagian, who conducted biomedical research as an astronaut-scientist on two shuttle missions."

Review of the Draft 2014 Science Mission Directorate Science Plan, NRC SSB

"As discussed in Chapter 8, the draft Science Plan is uneven with respect to the level of detail and clarity across disciplines as well as in its use of examples and graphics that clearly communicate the salient points. It appeared as if the document was written by a committee without the benefit of a cohesive editing effort to ensure that the important points were made in a clear, concise, and compelling manner and that the facts had been appropriately checked. There are numerous factual and other errors in the draft Science Plan (see Appendix B for examples) as well as the absence of a consistent style or level of detail across the document. The draft Science Plan does not contain a clear description of how the program, as now proposed, is consistent with or varies from past NASA plans and the recommendations from the various decadal surveys."

House Committee Approves Bill To Shield Big NASA Programs from Cancellation, Space News

"The House Science Committee on Dec. 11 approved a bill that would require NASA to obtain legislative permission to cancel some of its most expensive human spaceflight and science programs, while at the same time allowing contractors for these programs to tap into hundreds of millions of dollars in reserve funding. The bill, H.R. 3625, was introduced Dec. 2 by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), whose district includes the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville."

House Committee Approves Bill Requiring Congressional Approval Before Terminating JWST, ISS, SLS or Orion, Space Policy Online

"The markup lasted less than 10 minutes and the amendment and bill were adopted by voice vote. ... Another change made by the amendment replaces language that would have voided existing contract provisions that provide for payment of termination liability costs in a manner inconsistent with the bill. The new language simply states that funds being held in reserve for termination liability "shall be promptly used" for executing the program. The bill also makes clear that it is the intent of Congress to authorize appropriations to cover termination liability if, in fact, Congress agrees that the Administration should terminate a contract and that it is the Administration's responsibility to spend such funds for that purpose."

Turning SLS and Orion into Entitlements (Update: Webb Too), earlier post

"If passed into law, H.R. 3625 would make it exceptionally difficult to ever halt SLS, Orion, or Webb or to adjust funds internally by treating them in a way that is utterly different than other NASA programs. Indeed it would make these programs into Zombies that can never be killed. I have to wonder what CBO will say when it scores this bill and what the Budget Committee might have to say. This bill sets a precedent that could spread across the government."

Are the Days of NASA's Science Flagship Missions Over?, Space Policy Online (last week)

"NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden had a tough message for the space science community today - forget about flagship missions, they're not affordable today. At the very same time on Capitol Hill, however, the chairman of one of NASA's key committees was expressing enthusiasm about a mission to Europa - unquestionably a flagship mission. The disconnect could not be more stark. Flagship missions are NASA's most expensive (over $1 billion) and risky space science missions, but offer exceptional scientific payoff."

Statement of Administrator Charles Bolden Regarding NASA's Commitment to Flagship Missions

"NASA remains committed to planning, launching and operating flagship missions that meet the challenging objectives of our science, technology and aeronautics communities as identified through decadal surveys, advisory groups, the Administration and Congress. We are dedicated to pursuing the most cost-effective ways to accomplish this goal in order to provide balance with an increased cadence of missions that vary in size, destination and complexity."

NASA's Planetary Science Shift Rattles Researchers, Science

"Jim Green, the head of NASA's Planetary Science Division, shook things up for planetary scientists this week by announcing a restructuring that will change how the division funds grant proposals. ... That's why some researchers--including Mark Sykes, director of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona--have been railing against the restructuring on Twitter and in the blogosphere. Sykes says the change Green has made is ill-considered because it doesn't take into account the impact on the workforce. "There are many people whose research programs and salaries depend upon successfully proposing to several major programs in 2014," Sykes says. "They have just learned that there will be no opportunity for these programs until 2015. I have had several people tell me that if there is no regular ... call at the regular time in 2014, they will have to look for other employment in a year. There are postdocs whose positions are ending this next year, who would have applied to these programs to get started as independent planetary scientists. They need to find something else to do."

When it comes to planetary science will NASA soon stand for NADA?, Houston Chronicle

"Let's start with a town hall meeting (watch it here) that occurred on Tuesday during which NASA's $1.2 billion planetary science division announced a restructuring of how it funds research and analysis. Restructuring is a nice euphemism here. Due to budget cuts, in essence, NASA officials announced that it would not seek new research grant submissions in 2014."

NASA funding shuffle alarms planetary scientists, Nature

"But at the town-hall meeting, NASA's Jonathan Rall said that funding proposals in this field are not likely to be due until February 2015. That was the last straw for many researchers who live from grant to grant, because most of their existing funding is likely to expire well before money becomes available for the new Solar System workings area. Outraged scientists vented their frustration in the comments section of the meeting website and on Twitter. "People are upset with not knowing where their next paycheck is going to come from, how they're going to pay the mortgage," says Schmidt."

Comments Transcript: NASA Planetary Science Division Research and Analysis Program Restructuring Virtual Town Hall

"Michael H. New: [personal, non-official, comment] The degree to which the field shrinks is driven by the budget and the number of hard-money positions available. Regardless of how PSD's solicitations are organized, when the budget is flat and there are few hard-money positions available, people will be forced to leave the field. [end]"

(Update) SMD Planetary Town Hall: Time For Planetary Scientists To Job Hunt, Earlier post

NASA Planetary Science Division Research and Analysis Program Restructuring Virtual Town Hall

"The Planetary Science Division announces a virtual town hall presenting the Research and Analysis Program Restructuring. The town hall will be held on Tuesday, December 3, 2013, 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm (EST). A presentation by Jonathan Rall will be followed by a question/answer period. The town hall will be live-streamed with participation available to anyone having Internet access."

Keith's note: Follow comments on Twitter in real time here

Keith's note: From the comments section: "Michael H. New: [personal, non-official, comment] The degree to which the field shrinks is driven by the budget and the number of hard-money positions available. Regardless of how PSD's solicitations are organized, when the budget is flat and there are few hard-money positions available, people will be forced to leave the field. [end]"

New also posted this: "Michael H. New: Do you want us to predict the number of funded PIs in FYxx? A very, very, rough estimate is to take your favorite R&A budget estimate and divde by $125,000 which is not a bad approximation for the overall average annual award size. This estimate, of course, ignores all year-to-year variations in the actual budget and how that propagates from year-to-year."

NASA Statement on Planetary Research and Analysis Restructuring

"The following is a statement from NASA's Planetary Director Jim Green on Tuesday's virtual town hall meeting with the planetary scientific community. During the afternoon call, he outlined and answered questions about the proposed agency restructuring plans to consolidate some of the supporting research and technology activities to ensure a balanced planetary science portfolio for the next decade."

Comments Transcript: NASA Planetary Science Division Research and Analysis Program Restructuring Virtual Town Hall

"NASAWATCH: Is SMD management reading what the Twitterverse is saying about this Town Hall? Audience of followers exceeds 100,000 and includes journalists."

Photographer Captures Meteor Streaking Through the Aurora Borealis, PetaPixel

"Photographer Shannon Bileski of Signature Exposures captured this beautiful photograph last Friday at Patricia Beach in Canada. It shows a bright meteor streaking through a sky filled with the green glow of the aurora borealis. Bileski tells us she was out at the beach attempting to witness and photograph the northern lights with others from a photography club and an astronomy club."

Review of the NASA Science Mission Directorate Draft Strategic Plan

"In preparation for the release of its quadrennial strategic plan in February 2014, the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) at NASA asked the National Research Council to review a draft plan. In a new report, the Research Council provides specific recommendations in each of these key areas that would improve the clarity and consistency of the plan. The report notes that it is "more important than ever" for NASA to describe in plain language how it will prioritize and apportion its resources within the science program."

China's Chang'e-3 Heads For The Moon (with video), SpaceRef

"China's Chang'e-3 lunar rover Yutu ("Jade rabbit") left Earth today aboard a Long March IIIB rocket today. Liftoff occurred at 12:30 pm EST from Xichang launch facility in in China's Sichuan province. Chang'e-3 will take approximately four days to reach the Moon and will enter orbit on or around 6 December. A week or so later Change'e-3's large landing stage will deliver the Yutu rover to a landing site in Sinus Iridum - The Bay of Rainbows. The current expected landing date is 14 December."

- Were You Wondering About China's Long-Term Moon Goals?
- China/U.S. Collaboration on LADEE/Chang'e 3? Not Likely

India Is On Its Way To Mars

Mars Orbiter Spacecraft Successfully Placed in Mars Transfer Trajectory

"The critical manoeuvre to place India's Mars Orbiter Spacecraft in the Mars Transfer Trajectory was successfully carried out in the early hours of today (Sunday, December 1, 2013). The spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the Sun."

China aims for the Moon, Nature

"Space analysts expect that the lunar and crewed objectives of China's space-flight programme will merge, with Chinese astronauts (known as taikonauts) aiming to walk on the Moon some time in the 2020s."

- China will achieve first soft landing on the moon, CNTV (Video)
- Meet China's Jade Rabbit, the peace-loving moon rover, Quartz (Photos)
- NASA Exploration Ideas - With Added China Bashing (Update), earlier post

Comet ISON May or May Not Still Exist

"Comet ISON went around the sun on Nov. 28, 2013. Several solar observatories watched the comet throughout this closest approach to the sun, known as perihelion. While the fate of the comet is not yet established, it is likely that it did not survive the trip."

- Comet ISON Streams Toward the Sun (video)
- Hyper Suprime-Cam Captures Comet ISON's Long Tails, NAOJ
- NASA Hosts Nov. 28 Hangout to Discuss Comet Nearing Sun

China's 1st Moon Lander May Cause Trouble for NASA Lunar Dust Mission,

"Conversely, with some sort of communication between the missions, including NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)," talk between countries could enhance both LADEE and Chang'e 3 investigations, [Clive] Neal said. "What we have here is a situation where politics is certainly inhibiting good scientific cooperation and discovery because the NASA mission people are not allowed to communicate bilaterally with their Chinese counterparts," Neal said."

Keith's note: The possibility that the U.S. and China might collaborate on Chang'e 3 and LADEE is certainly moot now that the U.S. just flew B-52's through China's new self-declared air defense zone. Add this to existing China prohibitions from the Frank Wolf contingent and ...

Maven Leaves Earth

MAVEN Leaves Earth for Mars

"Flight of NASA's MAVEN spacecraft continues to go well following an on-time launch at 1:28 p.m. EST aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket."

NASA TV coverage.

Important Changes in the NASA Planetary Science Division's (PSD) Radioisotope Program

"With an adequate supply of Pu-238, and considering the current budget-constrained environment, NASA has decided to discontinue procurement of ASRG flight hardware. We have given direction to the Department of Energy, which manages the flight procurement, to end work on the flight units. The hardware procured under this activity will be transferred to the Glenn Research Center to continue development and testing of the Stirling technology."

Keith's note: At bottom of this release "Mars Rover Teams Dub Sites in Memory of Bruce Murray", JPL has included "For more information about Opportunity, visit , and . For more information about Curiosity, visit and" .

Two missions - five websites.

First for the Opportunity links. if you go to you do not get anything on Opportunity but rather its a Curiosity page. If you go to it redirects you to at JPL. If you go to it redirects you to at NASA HQ. If you go to the NASA HQ rover site it has a link to a JPL rover website at it does not link to And is identical to So, one of the three links listed has nothing to do with Opportunity. The NASA HQ MER site links to a JPL MER site but it is at a different address than the JPL MER website listed in the release even though the content is identical.

Now for the Curiosity links. If you go to it redirects you to at NASA HQ. If you go to you end up at a MSL website at JPL. The NASA HQ MSL site points to the JPL MSL site but the JPL MSL site does not point to the NASA HQ MSL site.

So, NASA is paying to maintain two MSL websites and the web addresses they give out are different than the actual web addresses - but they won't bother to put the actual addresses in press releases. Meanwhile, NASA is paying for 2 (or 3) MER websites - and again the links put in the press release are not the actual website address. And a website link that has "MSL" in it is listed as a place to get MER information. In total 5 links are included for 2 missions - and JPL PAO seems to think this is just fine. Meanwhile NASA PAO and SMD have the nerve to moan and complain about lack of education and public outreach funds? They are squandering their money on overlapping websites that don't even coordinate their content or links. I have raised this issue at several SMD media telecons. All they say is "we'll look into it". They don't. They just don't care about being efficient or coordinating. No - they just want more money and refuse to change the way that they operate. Clueless.

Oh yes --- did you know that NASA's Constellation Program is building the Altair Lunar Lander that will land on the moon by 2020? Moreover, the Altair will be launched on the Ares V rocket. HEOMD has an incredibly tangled web presence too.

- Why Does NASA Maintain Three (Four) Different MSL Websites?
- Why does NASA need multiple websites for the same mission?, earlier post
- NASA's Tangled Human Spaceflight Web Presence, earlier post
- NASA's Sprawling Web Presence, earlier post
- NASA's Inability To Speak With One Voice Online, earlier post

Editorial: NASA Planetary R&A Reorganization

"The planetary research and analysis programs, along with mission data analysis programs, support most of the US planetary community. Their streamlining could provide benefits. A misstep could permanently damage US solar system exploration capability. The plan laid out is very vague. Its implementation is premature. So, it is very good that NASA is reaching out to the community for input. This should be the first step in a more extended process that will transparently and iteratively add important details and well-defined improvements to any reorganization plan. It is far more important to get it right, than to rush and cause harm."

Request for Questions Regarding Planetary Science R&A Restructuring

Keith's note: The NAS Space Studies Board is meeting today. Here is the webex Link that the NAS doesn't want you to know about. Their PR office told me several weeks ago that they would be letting media know about webcasting in advance of their meetings. They never sent me anything despite their pledge to do so. You have to know which internal NASA webpage to go to in order to download an agenda that has the links on them. Alas when you dial in the audio is so faint that you can't really hear what people are saying. Here are the presentations (not that there is anything interesting)

- Space Studies Board is (Not Really) Interested In What You Think, earlier post

Chelyabinsk Meteoroid Airburst Event Yields Crucial Data

"A team of NASA and international scientists for the first time have gathered a detailed understanding of the effects on Earth from a small asteroid impact. The unprecedented data obtained as the result of the airburst of a meteoroid over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on Feb. 15, has revolutionized scientists' understanding of this natural phenomenon."

New research shows events like Russian asteroid may happen more frequently

"Existing models predict events like the Chelyabinsk asteroid might hit every 120 or 150 years, but our data shows the frequency may be closer to every 30 or 40 years," explains Brown, the Canada Research Chair in Meteor Science, who also serves as CPSX Director. "That's a big surprise. When Chelyabinsk happened, I would have never expected to see an event big enough to cause damage on the ground. It's totally outside the realm of what we thought likely in our lifetimes based on earlier statistics. Our statistics now suggest this type of event likely happens with more frequency."



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