Philae Found! Rosetta Spies Dead Comet Lander

Now, in photographs taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera as the spacecraft zoomed within 2.7 kilometers (1.6 miles) of the comet’s surface on Sept. 2, the guesswork of Philae’s fate can be put to rest. The lander really did end up on its side, with two of its three legs awkwardly poking upwards. It seems to be jammed in a dark crack, proving why it was so hard to maintain contact with the robot after landing.

Source: Philae Found! Rosetta Spies Dead Comet Lander

NanoRacks To Catalyze Concepts for Deep Space Habitats

The Ixion Team is a new addition to NASA’s NextSTEP effort, and will begin by conducting a comprehensive feasibility study evaluating the conversion of rocket upper stages into habitats. This innovative approach offers a pathway that is more affordable and involves less risk than fabricating modules on the ground and subsequently launching them into orbit.

Source: NanoRacks To Catalyze Concepts for Deep Space Habitats

More than 1,200 new planets confirmed using new technique for verifying Kepler data

The Vespa technique works by comparing the details of a transiting planet signal — specifically its duration, depth and shape — against simulated planetary and false positive signals to indicate the type of signal the candidate most likely is. At the same time, Vespa factors in the projected distribution and frequency of star types in the galaxy from which the signal originated to determine the chances that a planet with the characteristics being analyzed would exist.

Source: Princeton University – More than 1,200 new planets confirmed using new technique for verifying Kepler data

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

If JWST works as expected, it’s carrying enough fuel on-board that it should operate from 2018 through 2028, and although it’s never been done, the potential exists for a robotic (or crewed, if the technology gets developed by then) re-fueling mission to L2, which could increase the telescope’s lifetime by another decade. Just as Hubble’s been in operation for 25 years and counting, JWST could give us a generation of revolutionary science if things work out as well as they could. It’s the future of astronomy, and after more than a decade of hard work, it’s almost time to come to fruition. The future of space telescopes is almost here!

Source: The Future Of Astronomy: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope – Forbes

NASA releases first images of Cassini’s dive through the geyser of Enceladus

The reason scientists are excited about the data being returned from the geyser is that it may include elements of life beneath the surface of Enceladus. Cassini is not designed to detect life directly. However, it could pick up its building blocks.

Source: NASA releases first images of Cassini’s dive through the geyser of Enceladus | Examiner.com

NASA’s New Horizons Plans July 7 Return to Normal Science Operations

Preparations are ongoing to resume the originally planned science operations on July 7 and to conduct the entire close flyby sequence as planned. The mission science team and principal investigator have concluded that the science observations lost during the anomaly recovery do not affect any primary objectives of the mission, with a minimal effect on lesser objectives.

Source: NASA’s New Horizons Plans July 7 Return to Normal Science Operations

Rosetta’s lander Philae wakes up from hibernation

For 85 seconds Philae “spoke” with its team on ground, via Rosetta, in the first contact since going into hibernation in November.

Source: Rosetta’s lander Philae wakes up from hibernation | Rosetta – ESA’s comet chaser

Now the scientists are waiting for the next contact.  There are still more than 8000 data packets in Philae’s mass memory which will give the DLR team information on what happened to the lander in the past few days on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Short recap:  Philae is the craft that landed on the comet and Rosetta is circling about being the direct link to the lander kind of like how Apollo missions operated for manned moon landings.  Both Philae and Rosetta travelled to the comet together and then 211 days ago Rosetta launched Philae onto the surface of the comet where it bounced funny landing next to a cliff that blocked sunlight to its solar panels.  Apparently it now has gathered enough juice to be somewhat operational.  This is quite an amazing feat involving every STEM discipline from mathematics to rocket science.

I wonder if they’ll reconsider shutting down this program as mentioned here.

xkcd has been all over this story from the landing;  From: http://xkcd.com/1446/

Rosetta team propose ending mission by landing on comet

The mission is currently set to end in December 2015, after which Rosetta could simply be switched off as it continues to orbit the comet, and the mission team disperse to work on new projects. But for several months now a plan has been quietly hatched to see the craft go out with a bang by being brought down to a collision with 67P.

Source: Rosetta team propose ending mission by landing on comet – Sen.com

It would see the spacecraft brought gradually closer to the comet in a slowly spiralling orbit that would allow its cameras and instruments to gain ever more detailed views and measurements of the twin-lobed icy body. Then eventually—probably in September 2016—it would collide with the comet, bringing the mission to an end.