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Archive for 2004

25-Jan-04 | Opportunity arrives

Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity (Delta 299, 08-Jul-03) arrived safely on Mars’ Meridiani Planum last night, and soon returned images of a site with sharp contrast: a solid rock outcropping alongside the finest, most powdery soil ever seen on the Red Planet. Once again, as the images roll in, it will take several days to get situated and prepare the rover for roll out. Meanwhile, a few days ago Spirit gave controllers a scare when a software glitch put the rover into a continual-reboot mode. Fortunately it was still responding to commands from Earth, and it is not in immediate danger. The issue will likely delay further Spirit operations for about three weeks.

14-Jan-04 | Aquarius takes the next step

NASA recently announced that the Aquarius mission has been given the go-ahead to begin with “mission formulation,” an early phase of development where planners will determine what exactly they want the spacecraft to accomplish. In general terms, Aquarius will measure global Sea Surface Salinity (SSS), which will help scientists to draw conclusions regarding ocean currents, the water cycle, and the earth’s climate. Aquarius is expected to launch on a dedicated Delta II Med-Lite vehicle in September 2008. (NASA Press Release, 06-Jan-04)

14-Jan-04 | Spirit prepares to roll out

Mars Exploration Rover Spirit is healthy and already returning good science data, but has yet to depart from its landing platform, as rock-snagged airbags are obstructing the primary exit route. As in the case of Sojourner‘s first steps in 1997, the lander itself is the rover’s biggest obstacle. Spirit has cut its last umbilical cable and completed an approximately 120-degree turn, and may roll out early tomorrow morning.

04-Jan-04 | Safe passage, safe landing

It’s been a busy weekend for NASA. On Friday evening, Stardust (Delta 266, 07-Feb-99) cruised smoothly through the tail of comet Wild 2, surviving the encounter with nary a glitch and providing exciting pictures of the comet nucleus. A day later, the innovative sample return mission was overshadowed by Mars Exploration Rover Spirit (Delta 298, 10-Jun-03), which bounced to a safe landing in Gusev Crater. It soon provided black-and-white images of a terrain with little to see visually but, one hopes, plenty to learn scientifically. Colour photos are expected some time later today; the rover will hit the road in about a week.

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