Space & Planetary Science: January 2017 Archives

Keith's note: There as a live Facebook webcast today about the New Horizons mission. I submitted this question which was asked of New Horizons PI Alan Stern: "A variety of names are used by the New Horizons team in public and in scientific publications for features on Pluto and Charon based on images obtained during the flyby. Have any of these names been formally submitted to the IAU by the New Horizons team or NASA? Have any of these feature names been formally approved by the IAU?"

Dawn arrived at Ceres in 2015 a few months before New Horizons flew past Pluto. IAU has already approved a bunch of names on Ceres yet no names have been formally approved for Pluto. During the webcast Stern replied to my question by saying that the IAU required that a proposal for themes for naming be submitted, that "the ball is in the IAU's court", and that once that has been approved then they will submit names by the end of this year. Yet if you go to the IAU website you will see that they already have a naming theme for Pluto and its moons. So it is somewhat confusing as to why New Horizons has yet to submit any feature names.

Meanwhile all of the unofficial feature names are used in scientific papers and even on commercial products such as Pluto globes. It would certainly seem that the New Horizons team is in no hurry to send anything to the IAU due to the "dwarf planet" nomenclature hostility that has been simmering between them for years. In other words they can force the issue of their feature names being accepted (in contrast to what IAU had already established) by dragging their feet and allowing the names to become official by default. There's certainly nothing wrong with allowing the discoverers of new planetary features name those places. But if there is a process that NASA has signed up to for all of its missions - missions that it has paid for - then everyone needs to follow the same rules.

The Real Origin Of Some Notable Pluto Nomenclature, earlier post

NASA Selects Two Missions to Explore the Early Solar System, NASA

"In addition to selecting the Lucy and Psyche missions for formulation, the agency will extend funding for the Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) project for an additional year. The NEOCam space telescope is designed to survey regions of space closest to Earth's orbit, where potentially hazardous asteroids may be found."

NASA Cancels Space Act Agreement With B612 Foundation, earlier post

NASA Cancels B612 Sentinel Agreement and Then Picks JPL NEOCam, earlier post

Keith's earlier note: Isn't it a litte odd that the decision to cancel the Space Act Agreement with B612 for its "Sentinel" asteroid hunting mission suddenly came to light on the eve of Discovery mission finalists being announced -- and that JPL's asteroid hunting "NEOCam" mission is among those selected for further work?. These spacecraft even look a lot alike. JPL folks clearly saw Sentinel as competition - even if it was Sentinel team that first pushed the envelope on this whole idea. JPLers were pushing Lindley Johnson and others at NASA HQ to end the Sentinel agreement. At this point Johnson could use all the help he can get given how miserably his organization's NEO work has been progressing.

Keith's update: A lot of people in the planetary science community were pushing for an in-space NEO/asteroid detection capability such as this. For a while, NASA SMD used to get around the issue (and funding it) by saying "Oh, we don't have to worry about that, B612 is going to do that for us". But then the pressure from JPL began to mount and NASA pulled the rug out from under B612 to make the way easier for NEOCam. Now, a year later, they don't even pick NEOCam - but they keep it on life support - perhaps until JPL can submit another proposal next time.

NASA to Hold Media Call for Discovery Program Announcement

"NASA will discuss the results of its latest Discovery mission selection during a media teleconference at 4 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Jan. 4. Members of the public also may submit questions to be answered during and immediately following the briefing using #AskNASA."

Streaming audio of the briefing will be available on this page: https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive

NASA Selects Two Missions to Explore the Early Solar System

"NASA has selected two missions that have the potential to open new windows on one of the earliest eras in the history of our solar system - a time less than 10 million years after the birth of our sun. The missions, known as Lucy and Psyche, were chosen from five finalists and will proceed to mission formulation, with the goal of launching in 2021 and 2023, respectively."


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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from January 2017.

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