Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Space Highlights - December 30, 2015

December 30, 2015

China launched its most sophisticated Earth-observation satellite yet into orbit this past week, aboard a Long March 3B booster.  The satellite, Gaofen-4 is an optical imaging satellite that is intended to cover most of Asia.

Russia launched the Express-AMU1 communications satellite aboard a Proton-M booster this past week.  The Express-AMU1 is intended to provide coverage for Russia, Eastern Europe and Africa.

Europe's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter arrived at its launch site in Kazkhastan this past week, in preparation for launch in the spring.

The Curiosity rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument has made the first detection of biologically accessible Nitrogen on the surface of Mars.  Nitrogen, in the form of biologically accessible nitrates, is one of the building blocks for the complex proteins on which life on Earth depends.

The Dawn space probe has continued to beam back close-up photographs of the surface of Ceres, after having transitioned into a new, lower orbit.

NASA continues to download images from Cassini's last close flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus.

NASA released a series of false-color, "stained glass" images of Pluto, as captured by the New Horizons spacecraft's infrared spectrometer.

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