July 2009

Reconfiguring the Early Solar System

July 17, 2009

Other than Monday, the week here has been devoted to the outer planets, and before I leave that subject, I want to work in the findings of a team of astronomers looking at the early history of the asteroid belt. Recent numerical simulations suggest that many of the objects found in the ‘main belt’ between […]

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Cryovolcanism on Charon?

July 16, 2009

Gentry Lee (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) discusses the question of extraterrestrial life on a program called Are We Alone, which airs this evening on the Discovery Channel at 2100 EDT (0100 UTC on the 17th). Lee is chief engineer for the Solar System Exploration Directorate at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a veteran of Viking and Galileo, […]

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Haumea: Technique and Rationale

July 15, 2009

Yesterday’s look at a fast orbiter mission to Haumea raises useful questions. The mission, developed conceptually by Thales Alenia Space and presented at Aosta by Joel Poncy, is particularly demanding because this outer system object has no atmosphere. You can make the case for a Neptune orbiter with associated study of Triton, as several readers […]

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Fast Orbiter to Haumea

July 14, 2009

One of the surprises of the Aosta conference was Joel Poncy’s presentation on a fast orbiter mission to Haumea. Poncy (Thales Alenia Space, France) and colleagues have been developing ideas for the extraordinarily difficult challenge of not just sending a probe to the outer system, but slowing it down for orbital capture. It’s one thing […]

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Back from Italy, We Turn to Nanotech

July 13, 2009

One of the things that makes travel both entertaining and exasperating is the assurance that the best laid plans will come up against events beyond your control. Thus I arrived at Milan’s Malpensa airport in plenty of time for my Delta flight, only to be told that the flight had been canceled. But Delta moved […]

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A Milanese Morning (with NEOs)

July 10, 2009

The driver who took me from Aosta to Milan yesterday evening spoke no English, but he was an affable young man who had a love for fast cars. As we drove along a fine Alpine highway, a low red sports car moved fast us so quickly that I almost didn’t see it. But suddenly the […]

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Aosta Update for Thursday

July 9, 2009

I’m just in from an early morning walk around the streets of Aosta, enjoying a brisk spring morning. The streets at this hour are largely empty and the Sun lights the nearby peaks. We have a heavy session of papers on this last day of the conference, and we had an even longer day yesterday, […]

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Aosta Update for Wednesday

July 8, 2009

Today we get into the heart of this interstellar conference, with multiple sessions on propulsion via solar and electric sail, as well as looks at specific mission concepts and robotic applications in deep space. I spent a good part of our bus ride back from Bard castle yesterday talking to Pekka Janhunen, creator of the […]

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Busy Times in Northern Italy

July 7, 2009

I had intended to use today’s post to talk about yesterday’s sessions here in Aosta, but it’s going on midnight here, and tomorrow will clearly not afford any opportunities to write. Tuesday turns out to be our sightseeing day. We leave the hotel at 9:00 and head for Verrès, where we visit the Mechatronics Laboratory […]

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First Day in Aosta

July 6, 2009

What I’ll surely remember the most about arriving in Italy is the sight of snow on the Alps as the plane descended out of a cloudy morning sky into Milan. But right after that comes the two hang gliders that soared past an alpine peak as the van that was taking me to Aosta moved […]

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