Space & Planetary Science: June 2007 Archives

NASA Mars Rover Ready For Descent Into Crater

"NASA's Mars rover Opportunity is scheduled to begin a descent down a rock-paved slope into the Red Planet's massive Victoria Crater. This latest trek carries real risk for the long-lived robotic explorer, but NASA and the Mars Rover science team expect it to provide valuable science."

Dawn Update

NASA Dawn Mission Damage Update, SpaceRef

"NASA is investigating a minor mishap affecting the Dawn spacecraft. On June 11, during a procedure to prepare the spacecraft for spin-balance testing, the back of a solar array panel was slightly damaged by a technician's tool.

No solar cells were broken. The necessary minor repairs will be made this weekend.

There is no impact to the launch date of July 7."

Editor's Update: According to NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science Alan Stern, when contacted for comment: "DAWN was slightly damaged Monday by a tech's tool. The damage was to the back side of a solar array. It affects a tiny area and looks like it can be repaired without delaying the 7 July LRD. This is an exciting NASA science mission that promises to unlock new details about the origin of the asteroid belt and dwarf planets. We are pressing forward to launch, ever vigilant as we go forward."

Sloppy Science on Mars

Mars rover finds "puddles" on the planet's surface, New Scientist

"If confirmed, the existence of such ponds would significantly boost the odds that living organisms could survive on or near the surface of Mars, says physicist Ron Levin, the report's lead author, who works in advanced image processing at the aerospace company Lockheed Martin in Arizona."

Mars rover finds puddles on Mars?, Planetary Report

"The white square shows you where the image comes from. It's in the middle of Opportunity's Burns Cliff panorama, on some of the steepest slopes that Opportunity saw before arriving at Victoria crater! Those can't be puddles -- unless the amazing "liquid" that puddles here on Mars in a freezing near-vacuum also has antigravity properties. A less sensational hypothesis is that the smooth "fluid" that fills local lows between rocks on this sloping surface is fine dust."

It's kind of astonishing to me that anyone could present a paper of this nature without having checked the spatial context. They must have assumed that the surface that the rover was observing was horizontal, like so many surfaces in Meridiani Planum. It may even have been "horizontal" with respect to the rover's deck -- but the rover was sitting on the same slope that it was photographing at the time the images were taken. It shows you how dangerous it can be to attempt to do science from partial data."

Editor's note: Emily Lakdawalla has deftly demolished this latest claim by the Levin family. If I get this right, Ron Levin apparently did not bother to learn that the photo he thought was a flat portion of the Martian surface with a puddle is actually a photo of a sloping cliff inside a crater. And Lockheed Martin pays this guy to do their imagery? That's a little scary to contemplate.

I wonder why such "discoveries" by the Levin family never manage to appear in professional, peer-reviewed scientific journals - and end up in engineering journals - and sometimes only in meeting abstracts - instead?

It's at times like this when I feel the need to bring back this NASA Watch oldie but goodie ...

Hydroelectric Dams on Mars, (much) earlier post

Editor's Update: No puddles on Mars, New Scientist

"I want to retract the claim in the paper that the smooth area we discussed was 'standing liquid water'," Levin acknowledged on Tuesday. "I am sorry that we made such a large mistake."

NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE Releases 1,200 Images, Launches Viewer on Website

"Anyone connected by Internet can now see planet Mars better than at any time in history, through the eye of HiRISE, the most powerful camera ever to orbit another planet. A University of Arizona-based team that runs the High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has just released more than 1,200 Mars images to the Planetary Data System, the U.S. space agency's mission data archive."

NASA, National Space Society and Northrop Grumman Corporation To Unveil Extrasolar Planet Exhibition at Goddard Visitor Center

"The opening will take place at the NASA Goddard Visitor Center, on Tuesday, June 5th, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. The Visitor Center is located off of Rt. 193, Greenbelt Rd., in Greenbelt, Maryland. In addition to the art exhibition, NASA scientists and engineers will be present to interact with the students and the public to share the wonders of the discovery of extrasolar planets, those that orbit stars other than our sun."


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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from June 2007.

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