TVIW 2016: Worldship Track

March 30, 2016

Our second report from the recent Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop is the work of Cassidy Cobbs and Michel Lamontagne, with an emphasis on the worldship track. Cassidy has an MS from Vanderbilt, where she studied ecology and evolution. She currently works at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, doing traditional and next-generation gene and genome sequencing. […]

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Voyager Update: Probing the Boundary

November 2, 2015

I always feel that my day starts right when a story involving the Voyagers crosses my desk. The scope, the sheer audacity of these missions in their day cheers me up, and the fact that they are still communicating with us is a continual cause for celebration. With Voyager 1 now moving beyond the heliosphere, […]

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Orbital Change at Ceres (and a Note on the Euphrosynes)

August 5, 2015

As we close in on perihelion at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the Dawn spacecraft continues its operations at Ceres. The contrast between Dawn’s arrival at Ceres in March and New Horizons’ flyby of Pluto/Charon could not have been more striking. With Dawn’s gentle ion push, we watched Ceres gradually grow in the skies ahead, and then settle […]

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Rosetta’s Comet Nears Perihelion

August 4, 2015

With the fanfare of the New Horizons flyby of Pluto/Charon, we learned that public interest in space can be robust, at least to judge from the number of people I spoke to who had never previously seemed aware of the subject. Here’s hoping that interest continues to be piqued — as it should be — […]

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Interplanetary Updates: Philae and New Horizons

June 16, 2015

Given that the Philae lander has just come to life after seven months without communicating, it’s no wonder that the mood among everyone involved with Rosetta’s mission to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko is exuberant. On the surface of the comet, conditions have been improving for Philae since March, meaning that with higher temperatures and better illumination, it […]

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A Cometary Reawakening

June 15, 2015

In a summer already packed with interesting missions, we also have the unusual phenomenon of spacecraft ‘waking up’ after unexpected periods of dormancy. The European Space Agency’s Philae lander, which shut down on November 15, 2014 after operating on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for about sixty hours, came out of its hibernation on June 13. ESA reports […]

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Mission Updates Far and Near

June 9, 2015

The Planetary Society’s Emily Lakdawalla tells us (via Twitter) that she has a history with jigsaw puzzles, one that finally paid off in the image below. You’re looking at her work on a partially de-scrambled image from LightSail, fragmentary because the entire image was not downloaded during a Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo) overflight on […]

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Mission Data: An Early Summer Harvest

June 3, 2015

What a time for space missions, with data returning from far places and a nail-biter close at hand. On the latter, be advised that the LightSail mission team has decided to divide sail deployment into two operations, one of them starting today as the CubeSat’s solar panels are released and an imaging session verifies the […]

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Thoughts on Voyager’s Closest Stars

May 6, 2015

Not long ago I looked at the future of the Voyager spacecraft and noted a possibility once suggested by Carl Sagan. Give the Voyagers one last ‘empty the tank’ burn and both could be put on a trajectory that would take them near, if not through, another star’s system (see Voyager to a Star). It […]

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Mission Updates: New Horizons, Hayabusa 2

March 11, 2015

While we wait for the Dawn spacecraft to come back around the lit side of Ceres as it continues a long period of orbital adjustment, let’s check in on two other spacecraft with the potential for a big science return. New Horizons performed a 93-second thruster burn on March 10 that was the farthest burn […]

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