Posts Tagged ‘Mars rover’

'This Week In Space' May 22, 2010

May 23, 2010

The lastest edition of “This Week In Space” is now out!  Give us a watch…

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Hello, and welcome…
We have a scoop for you this week – an exclusive interview with SpaceX founder Elon Musk – we’ll ask him how things are going as he and his team prep for that high stakes first flight of the Falcon 9 rocket…And we’ll also share with you David Letterman’s reaction to seeing his first shuttle launch…that’s coming up shortly…But first some other space news – and this week in honor of the Falcon 9 countdown and Dave’s first launch – we are doing it top ten list style…

Number 10

The Mars rover "Spirit." Source: NASA/JPL

Comes from the fourth rock from the sun.  (Miles mutters to himself and counts on his fingers).  Mars!  Yeah, Mars.  On March 20, the rover Opportunity overtook the Viking-1 Lander and is now holds the surface longevity record for NASA probes on Mars.  Opportunity is now six years, 116 days and counting into a 3 month mission.    But if you are listening Oppy – don’t rest on your laurels.  Your sibling  Spirit on the other side of the planet  is in winter hibernation mode, and if she manages to wake up come Spring, she will grab the record.  Spirit landed on Mars about three weeks before Opportunity back in 2004.  And as long as we are on Mars – the team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory commanded the the Mars Odyssey spacecraft to make  a final listen for life signs from the Phoenix Mars Lander this week.  Phoenix landed in the Northern polar region back in 2008, and operated successfully for about 6 months until the cold and dark of the Martian winter set in and craft went silent.  Mission managers were pretty sure that the lander would not survive the winter, but figured it wouldn’t hurt to see if they might be able to reestablish communication.  Looks like “no dice” though.  Rest in Peace, Phoenix.

Number 9

An update on a manned mission to Mars that is launching next month – had ya there for a minute didn’t I? Actually this is an ersatz trip to Mars that will never get off the ground.  I am talking about the Mars 500 SIMULATED mission to the red planet. Liftoff – well actually lock down – is set for early June.  Six crew members – two Europeans, one Chinese, and three Russians will spend 520 days locked inside a spacecraft mock-up at the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow.  Mission controllers are doing their best to make this mission as close to the real thing as possible.  They’ll have to take all the food they’ll need with them from day one – no ordering in pizza a la Biosphere 2.  Communication is limited to email, – and it will be intermittent – just as it would on a really interplanetary voyage, and it will include a delay of as much as 40 minutes.   ESA has picked their two crew members.  Diego Urbina, who has Italian-Colombian nationality, and Frenchman Romain Charles.  The rest of the crew will be announced later this month.

Number 8

Oil’s not so well in the Gulf of Mexico – and NASA is pitching in to help. The space agency flew its King Air  research aircraft over the Gulf of Mexico this week in an effort to help monitor the size and thickness of the BP oil spill…Researchers wondering how the oil might impact sea life.   The Langley Based King Air 200 was outfitted with instruments normally used to study clouds and aerosols in the atmosphere – which researchers hope can help them learn more about spills. NASA satellites have also been trained on the oil slick since the drilling rig exploded in April. Crew members aboard the ISS have a unique vantage point to keep an eye on the growing environmental crisis.  Cosmonaut Oleg Kotov has been watching the oil spread.



The Spirit is willing, but the wheels are weak

January 13, 2010
The Mars rover "Spirit."  Source:  NASA/JPL

The Mars rover "Spirit." Source: NASA/JPL

Six years after it first bounced onto the rusty regolith of Mars, the rover Spirit is alive and still…well…spinning.

The rover is stuck in a sand trap and two wheels on it’s right side remain “muerte.”  The team is still trying to make the robot a free Spirit.  But they may soon have to settle for digging in deeper on one side, so the solar arrays will generate enough juice to keep it alive through the Martian winter –  which starts in May.

Want to know more about all the news on the space beat?  Join me for the new show “This Week In Space,” powered by Spaceflight Now!

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"This Week In Space" – Part 1

December 21, 2009

twis300Welcome to the premier of “This Week In Space With Miles O’Brien,” a new show dedicated to keeping space lovers up to speed on the stories and issues making news off the planet.

This is Part 1 of 3, and features interviews with Augustine Commission member and former astronaut Leroy Chiao and SpaceX VP and former astronaut Ken Bowersox on the future of the U.S. manned spaceflight program.

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'This Week In Space' – Part 3

December 21, 2009

twis300Welcome to the premier of “This Week In Space With Miles O’Brien,” a new show dedicated to keeping space lovers up to speed on the stories and issues making news off the planet.

This is Part 3of 3, and features news on the the WISE Spacecraft Launch, the rollout of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, new images from the recently refurbished Hubble Space Telescope, Butterflies in Space, and an interview with astronaut Nicole Stott – just back from the ISS.

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It's a "Curiosity" alright…

May 27, 2009
Curiosity (indeed). From NASA

Curiosity (indeed). From NASA

Now please do not take this the wrong way, because I think it is noble and good that NASA is involving schoolkids in the process of naming its Mars Rovers. But Curiosity? Can’t we do better than that?

Imagine if kids had named the Apollo spacecraft…would the “The Curiosity has landed” have the same ring to it? Or, if one of the Mercury guys had named their capsule the Sobriety-7 or the Kindness-7, wouldn’t they have been laughed out of the Right Stuff Corps? Those are just a few other traits from the List of Virtues I found on the interweb.

Given what I hear about the Mars Science Laboratory, Complexity, Corpulence or Extravagance might be more apt. OK, maybe I am being something less than virtuous here…But what about naming this one after some towering figures in exploration of the Red Planet – like Schiaperelli, Lowell (or my favorite) Sagan? Or how about some of the great science fiction writers? Wells, Burroughs or Bradbury would all be great names.

Anyway, as my kids say: just sayin’…no offense. If you have a good idea for the name for MSL, let me know…By the way, my friends at are running a poll on this – click here if you are…er..curious.

First there was Sojourner, then there were Spirit and Opportunity, and in a few years there will be . . . Curiosity. That’s the official name given to NASA’s next Mars rover, formerly called the Mars Science Laboratory, or MSL.

via “Curiosity” rover to explore Red Planet – Short Sharp Science – New Scientist.