The European Space Agency declared the death of its massive Earth-observing satellite Envisat on May 9 after a month of mysterious silence from the school bus-size spacecraft. Envisat is the world’s largest Earth-watching satellite for civilian use, with ESA officials touting its 10th anniversary in space earlier this year. The $2.9 billion satellite was originally designed to snap high-resolution photos of Earth for five years, but managed to last 10 years during its successful mission.
The Biological Oxidant and Life Detection mission, or BOLD, would send six small spacecraft to Mars to seek out extinct or extant life in the planet’s red dirt. As said researchers the mission, if it’s ever approved, might be ready to go by 2018 and would likely cost less than $300 million. If BOLD gets off the ground, it would be the first dedicated life-detection mission to Mars since NASA’s twin Viking landers blasted off in 1975, ultimately returning inconclusive results.
As said alien solar systems that are home to so-called Hot Jupiters are unlikely homes for Earth-like planets. Hot Jupiters get their name from the fact that they are approximately Jupiter’s size, but extraordinarily near their stars, at about a tenth of the distance from Mercury to our sun. These roaster planets are among the alien worlds that astronomers have discovered most often since their size and proximity to their parent stars mean they exert large gravitational tugs on their hosts that scientists can readily spot.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will be flying within about 46 miles (74 kilometers) of Saturn’s moon Enceladus (Enceladus is the sixth-largest of the moons of Saturn, it was discovered in 1789 by William Herschel) on May 2, aiming primarily to learn more about the moon’s internal structure. The flyby is the third part of a trilogy of flybys, the other two took place on April 28, 2010, and November 30, 2010, for Cassini’s radio science experiment.
A Russian space capsule touched down on the steppes of Kazakhstan in Central Asia on April 27, safely returning a joint U.S.-Russian crew to Earth after months aboard the International Space Station. The Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft landed at 7:45 a.m. EDT (1145 GMT), less than four hours after undocking from the space station. Riding home aboard the space capsule were NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, who were reintroduced to the strong tug of Earth’s gravity after spending 165 days, or nearly 5 1/2 months, in orbit.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft reveal new details about the giant asteroid Vesta, including its varied surface composition, sharp temperature changes and clues to its internal structure. Images from Dawn’s framing camera and visible and infrared mapping spectrometer, taken 420 miles (680 kilometers) and 130 miles (210 kilometers) above the surface of the asteroid, show a variety of surface mineral and rock patterns.
Scientists working with images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have discovered strange half-mile-sized (kilometer-sized) objects punching through parts of Saturn’s F ring, leaving glittering trails behind them. These trails in the rings, which scientists are calling “mini-jets,” fill in a missing link in our story of the curious behavior of the F ring. As said Carl Murray, a Cassini imaging team member based at Queen Mary University of London, England he think the F ring is Saturn’s weirdest ring, and these latest Cassini results go to show how the F ring is even more dynamic than they ever thought.
The subtle yet surprisingly varied colors of Mercury are revealed in the latest images from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft (the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging (MESSENGER) space probe).The 485 kg (1,070 lb) MESSENGER spacecraft was launched aboard a Delta II rocket in August 2004 to study Mercury’s chemical composition, its geology, and its magnetic field. It became the second mission after 1975’s Mariner 10 to reach Mercury successfully when it made a flyby in January 2008, followed by a second flyby in October 2008, and a third flyby in September 2009.
The giant Envisat satellite, which is the world’s largest imaging satellite for civilian use, was photographed in stunning detail by a French spacecraft that is also designed to snap high-resolution images of Earth. The photo of Envisat in space reveals that the $2.9 billion spacecraft is intact and that its huge solar array is deployed. Envisat is a huge satellite that weighs about 17,600 pounds (8,000 kilograms).