Category Archives: Space

Farewell, Oppy

The Washington Post: Opportunity, NASA’s record-setting Mars rover, is declared dead after 15 years. “A eulogy for the spacecraft that transformed our understanding of the Red Planet.” By Sarah Kaplan.

Opportunity’s historic mission, which uncovered signs of Mars’s watery past and transformed our understanding of the Red Planet, has finally come to an end after 15 years, NASA declared Wednesday.

The cause was system failure precipitated by power loss during a catastrophic, planetwide dust storm that engulfed the Mars rover last summer.

“It’s going to be very sad to say goodbye,” said John Callas, the mission’s project manager. “But at the same time, we’ve got to remember this has been 15 years of incredible adventure.”

Opportunity’s mission was planned to last just 90 days, but it worked for 5,000 Martian “sols” (which are about 39 minutes longer than an Earth day) and traversed more than 28 treacherous miles — two records for NASA.”

Link via MetaFilter.

The far side of the moon

Deutsche Welle: China gelingt erste Landung auf Mondrückseite. “Das schwierige Manöver ist den Chinesen nach eigenen Angaben im ersten Versuch geglückt: Eine Raumsonde erreichte die Mondoberfläche und soll jetzt die Umgebung erkunden – an Bord ist auch deutsche Technik.”

“Es ist ein historischer Erfolg der noch jungen Raumfahrt-Nation China: Um 3.26 Uhr (MEZ) landete die am 8. Dezember gestartete “Chang’e 4” am Aitken-Krater in der Nähe des Südpols des Erdtrabanten. Das berichteten die amtliche Nachrichtenagentur Xinhua und der Staatssender CCTV.

Damit ist China die erste Nation, die auf der erdabgewandten Seite des Mondes gelandet ist. Nach der erfolgreichen Landung der “Chang’e 4″ soll ein Roboterfahrzeug das Terrain um die Landestelle erkunden. Dafür ist es mit einer Panoramakamera und vielen Messgeräten ausgestattet.”

Astro-Alex ist zurück auf der Erde

Deutsche Welle: Deutscher Raumfahrer Alexander Gerst wieder auf der Erde. “Nach fast 200 Tagen im All ist der deutsche Astronaut Alexander Gerst mit zwei weiteren Raumfahrern wieder sicher auf der Erde gelandet. Die Mission hatte es in sich.”

In English:
German astronaut Alexander Gerst returns to Earth from ISS, again. “After his second mission to the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst has returned home. He sent some thoughts about the state of the world before he left the station above the planet.”

ESA auf YouTube: Alexander Gerst: Nachricht an meine Enkelkinder [with Closed Captions].

On the Outskirts of our Solar System

NPR Science: Voyager 2 Bids Adieu To The Heliosphere, Entering Interstellar Space.

“Just a few months after celebrating its 41st birthday, the Voyager 2 probe has left its familiar environs and entered interstellar space — only the second human-made object in history to do so, after Voyager 1 did it in 2012.
[…]
The moment they were waiting for arrived early last month, when Voyager 2 left what’s known as the heliosphere — the vast bubble of plasma and particles generated by the sun and stirred in solar winds. This bubble ends at a boundary called the heliopause, where the sun’s magnetic field peters out and solar winds give way to interstellar space.
[…]
By one definition, that also means Voyager 2 — now more than 11 billion miles from the sun — has achieved another, much simpler-to-say feat: leaving the solar system.

It’s not the only definition, though. And the JPL itself marks the end of the solar system at the edge of the sun’s gravitational influence, on the outer boundaries of the Oort Cloud. By that measure, the lab explained, both Voyager probes “have not yet left the solar system, and won’t be leaving anytime soon.”

“It will take about 300 years for Voyager 2 to reach the inner edge of the Oort Cloud,” it said, “and possibly 30,000 years to fly beyond it.”

It’s full of stars!

Astronomy Picture of the Day: Tiny Planet Timelapse .

“You can pack a lot of sky watching into 30 seconds on this tiny planet. Of course, the full spherical image timelapse video was recorded on planet Earth, from Grande Pines Observatory outside Pinehurst, North Carolina. It was shot in early September with a single camera and circular fisheye lens, digitally combining one 24-hour period with camera and lens pointed up with one taken with camera and lens pointed down. The resulting image data is processed and projected onto a flat frame centered on the nadir, the point directly below the camera. Watch as clouds pass, shadows creep, and the sky cycles from day to night when stars swirl around the horizon. Keep watching, though. In a second sequence the projected center is the south celestial pole, planet Earth’s axis of rotation below the tiny planet horizon. Holding the stars fixed, the horizon itself rotates as the tiny planet swings around the frame, hiding half the sky through day and night.”