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Here is a replay of the Atlas V launch with the AEHF-4 satellite going into orbit.

The AEHF-4 (Advanced Extremely High Frequency) is one of the US Air Force’s communications satellites.

Coming up: BEPICOLUMBO! Very early tomorrow or tonight for North American viewers and points west.

Coverage set to begin at 01:45 UTC on 20 Oct // 21:45 EST on Oct 19 for North America

Here is an accompaniment to the previous post – it’s short, only a minute or so.

This should be the week we find out where the Mars2020 rover will land when it gets to Mars. Not a secret, the final decision has not been made, more about that in a second. Have a look at this artists concept (thanks NASA) – NOW THAT’S A ROVER!

NASA: Hundreds of scientists and Mars-exploration enthusiasts will convene in a hotel ballroom just north of Los Angeles later this week to present, discuss and deliberate the future landing site for NASA’s next Red Planet rover – Mars 2020. The three-day workshop is the fourth and final in a series designed to ensure NASA receives the broadest range of data and opinion from the scientific community before the agency chooses where to send the new rover.

The Mars 2020 mission is tasked with not only seeking signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, but also searching for signs of past microbial life. The landing site for Mars 2020 is of great interest to the planetary community because, among the rover’s new medley of science gear for surface exploration, it carries a sample system that will collect rock and soil samples and set them aside in a “cache” on the surface of Mars. A future mission could potentially return these samples to Earth. The next Mars landing, after Mars 2020, could very well be a vehicle that would retrieve these Mars 2020 samples.

“The Mars 2020 landing site could set the stage for Mars exploration for the next decade,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “I’m looking forward to the spirited debate and critical input from the science and engineering community. Whichever landing site is ultimately chosen, it may hold the very first batch of Mars soil that humans touch.”

The workshop begins with an opening address by the lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, Michael Meyer. After project status, engineering constraints, and site-assessment criteria are discussed come the presentations. Fair warning: Expect plenty of technical jargon as terms like biosignatures, geochemical conditions, impact deformation, biogenetic potential, olivine lithologies, and serpentinization and its astrobiological potential roll off presenters’ tongues.

Continue reading

Another space telescope went into safe-mode due to a gyroscope issue. In this case the Chandra X-ray Observatory went into safe-mode on 10 October, 5-days after Hubble.

Unlike Hubble this particular problem as been resolved and the telescope was put back into normal operation.

Image: Chandra / NASA


The NASA press release included the process on going into safe-mode in this particular case.

From NASA:   The cause of Chandra’s safe mode on October 10 has now been understood and the Operations team has successfully returned the spacecraft to its normal pointing mode. The safe mode was caused by a glitch in one of Chandra’s gyroscopes resulting in a 3-second period of bad data that in turn led the on-board computer to calculate an incorrect value for the spacecraft momentum. The erroneous momentum indication then triggered the safe mode.

We are only a week away from one of those missions I have been patiently waiting for and it’s finally happening.

It’s fun to watch a mission unfold from the very beginning evolve to launch and deployment.

Hopefully I won’t be in the middle of another regional internet outage like a couple of days ago – grrr.

Launch Date: 20 October 2018
Launch Time: 01:45 UTC / 21:45 ET