NASA’s intrepid Mercury observer, the Messenger satellite, is about to become the first spacecraft ever to orbit the first planet. The probe, which has already flown past the planet three times, will fire its thrusters March 17 so it can enter orbit and embark on a year-long science mission. Scientists hope the probe will explain several mysteries of Mercury’s past.
When it enters orbit, Messenger will be 96.35 million miles from Earth, according to NASA.
A Japanese probe bound for Venus has missed its orbit and been seized by the sun’s gravitational pull, in a major setback for Japan’s shoestring space program. The probe, called Akatsuki, isn’t necessarily lost however. JAXA officials are still in contact with the probe and may try to insert it into orbit around Venus when it passes near the planet again – in six years.
India has officially given up on its lunar probe Chandrayaan-1, which launched in 2008 and stayed alive for ten months before mission controllers lost radio contact. But officials are already looking forward to sending a robotic explorer to the red planet.
The nation's state-run space agency announced today a mission to Mars between 2013 and 2015. Xinhua reports that the planning will become reality after India launches its Chandrayaan-2 lunar rover in 2011.
Right now, thousands of satellites are circling the Earth. They're a diverse bunch. Some relay telephone calls, some spy on North Korea, some monitor the weather. But they all have one thing in common: each can only do one thing. A spy satellite can't suddenly start forecasting storms, and a communications satellite can't study asteroids.
Well, that's all about to change.
Like no other modern endeavor, the space program inspires all mankind by pushing the edge of the possible. At least, when it works it does. Often, the casual integration of satellite technology into nearly all modern electronics combines with imagery of brave astronauts going forth for all mankind to obscure the basic fact that sending something into space is damn hard, and often fails.
So, inspired by the recent loss of NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite, Popsci.com is taking a look back at the Top 10 missions that didn't slip the surly bonds of Earth, failed to trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space, and most certainly did not touch the face of God.
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By Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL/University of ArizonaPosted 05.24.2005 at 4:00 pm 0 Comments
This short animation is made up from a sequence of images taken by the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR) instrument on board ESA's Huygens probe, during its successful descent to Titan on Jan. 14, 2005.