Outer Solar System

Remembering Voyager: Triton’s New Map

August 29, 2014

I’m glad to see Ralph McNutt quoted in a recent news release from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. McNutt has been working on interstellar concepts for a long time, including the Innovative Interstellar Explorer mission that could become a follow-up to New Horizons. But he’s in the news in late August because of Voyager, […]

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What Io Can Teach Us

August 14, 2014

Io doesn’t come into play very much on Centauri Dreams, probably because of the high astrobiological interest in the other Galilean satellites of Jupiter — Europa, Callisto and Ganymede — each of which may have an internal ocean and one, Europa, a surface that occasionally releases material from below. Io seems like a volcanic hell, […]

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Rosetta: Arrival at a Comet

August 7, 2014

How do you close on a comet? Very carefully, as the Rosetta spacecraft has periodically reminded us ever since late January, when it was awakened from hibernation and its various instruments reactivated in preparation for operations at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The spacecraft carried out ten orbital correction maneuvers between May and early August as its velocity […]

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Outer Planet Exploration Strategies

June 19, 2014

I’ll wrap up this week’s outer planet coverage with a look at recent Cassini flybys of Titan, but I also want to put these accomplishments in the context of what we might do with future missions to the ice giants Uranus and Neptune like the proposed ODINUS missions we looked at yesterday. One-off missions to […]

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Return to the Ice Giants

June 18, 2014

Once New Horizons has performed its flyby of Pluto/Charon and, let’s hope, its reconnaissance of a Kuiper Belt object (KBO), what comes next in our exploration of the outer Solar System? Pushing further out, Innovative Interstellar Explorer grew out of a NASA ‘Vision Mission’ study and has been developed at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics […]

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New Horizons: Hubble Hunts KBOs

June 17, 2014

My guess is that the public thinks of the Hubble Space Telescope largely in relation to deep space objects. The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is a case in point, a region of the sky in the constellation Fornax that is no more than a tenth of the width of a full moon, but one that […]

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What to Look for at Charon

June 16, 2014

Let me suggest that you mark August 25th on your calendar. It’s the day we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Voyager 2’s closest approach to Neptune in 1989. That would be reason enough to look back and remember — marveling all the while at the Voyagers’ continuing mission — but it’s also the day when […]

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Proposed Europa/Io Sample Return Mission

May 28, 2014

I love a long journey by car or rail, but not by airplane. Back in my flight instructing days, I used to love to take a Cessna 182 on a long jaunt, but these days the flying I do means sitting in the cheap seats in the back of a gigantic jet and suffering the […]

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2030s: The Decade of Europa?

May 7, 2014

Our recent discussions of the Jovian moons Ganymede and Europa highlight a fact that not so long ago would have seemed absurd. Three of the four bright dots that Galileo saw through his primitive telescope around Jupiter are potential habitats for life. Even battered Callisto gives evidence of an internal ocean, as do, of course, […]

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A Layered Ocean within Ganymede?

May 2, 2014

Remember as you ponder NASA’s Request for Information about a Europa mission that the agency is contributing three instruments to the European Space Agency’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission, to be operational in Jupiter space in the 2030s. The goal here is to explore Europa, Callisto and Ganymede through numerous flybys, with the craft […]

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