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Space Science

Homing In On Opportunity From Orbit 48

An anonymous reader writes "Finding its lander inside a 20-meter crater, NASA has further homed in its latest lander's location and a major science target for the Opportunity rover using high resolution orbital cameras from 400 km overhead. The lander's parachute even casted a shadow nearby this target [another 150 meter crater] during descent. Earlier, each bounce of the Spirit rover could be imaged, along with its backshell, heatshield and parachute debris. Even with dust and weathering, this method could find Pathfinder and Viking [barely], and a technical discussion with pictures is at Malin Space Systems, which designed the Mars Orbital Camera. Because of uncertainties in location, however, it would take 60 years to find the lost Mars Polar Lander, but they may look for Beagle if conditions aren't too dusty."
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Homing In On Opportunity From Orbit

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  • by 5, egregious ( 737758 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @06:40AM (#8086632)

    The cool thing about space exploration at the moment is a lot of that stuff you mention is being done now or about to be done.

    It's a bit easier to land on Venus than Mars as the atmosphere is so thick - apparently the landers didn't use the parachutes that much to slow down. On the flipside - existing in -25 degrees is easier than +500 degrees.
    The Messenger [jhuapl.edu] spacecraft will be on its way to Mercury via Venus soon.

    The Galileo Atmospheric entry probe [nasa.gov] hit the atmosphere of Jupiter in '95. In the future we may see the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter [nasa.gov] and possibly a Europa lander and submarine - depending on whether the sub surface ocean exists.

    The Huyghens probe attached to the Cassini (Saturn orbiter) [nasa.gov] will analyse the atmosphere of Titan for about 2.5 hours and may work on the surface for 5 minutes or so (arriving July 2004).


  • by linoleo ( 718385 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @09:39AM (#8087142) Journal
    I thought we never landed on Venus

    Depends on your concept of "we". The Russians had an extensive Venus orbiter/lander [dynip.com] program - absolutely thrilling stuff considering the difficulties Venus presents. These guys were pioneers, the first to land a probe on another planet. The moon [nasa.gov] as well.

    I guess its time to look forward to either landing people on Mars, or pushing spacecraft further to Mercury.

    Why adopt Dubya's limited vision? The really juicy planetary science targets are Jupiter's icy moons, and Saturn's Titan. As has been pointed out, all of these, along with Mercury, are underway [nasa.gov].

    Alas, it looks like Dubya's "mars or bust" program will drain the funding from many of the most exciting future space science missions, just as the "look mom, I'm (barely) in space" ISS did before, and the space shuttle (the Swiss army knife of spaceflight: does everything, but nothing well) before that. I'm so glad for those missions whose probes have been launched already - harder (though not unheard of) to axe those.

    to try and land/splash on Jupiter

    Been done. [nasa.gov]

    Jupiter is just a (humungous) ball of gas, there is no land to land on, nor sea to splash in.

    There are certainly going to be phase transitions to liquid and solid (aka "sea" and "land") somewhere in that humongous ball of gas. Operative question is how to design a probe to withstand the enormous pressure at the depth at which these phase transitions occur.


    - nic
  • by morton2002 ( 200597 ) on Monday January 26, 2004 @12:25PM (#8088508)
    Jupiter is just a (humungous) ball of gas, there is no land to land on, nor sea to splash in. Just lots and lots of atmosphere to fly through.

    Jupiter's core is under such intense heat and pressure that it is speculated that it consists of metallic hydrogen, in either liquid or solid form. This theory [nasa.gov] helps explain its powerful magnetic field.

Basic is a high level languish. APL is a high level anguish.