Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Space Highlights - March 8, 2017

March 8, 2017

The European Space Agency expects to launch its Sentinel-2B Earth observation satellite later this week.

Space launch start-up Blue Origin has signed its first commercial launch customer, to launch a communications satellite for Eutelsat Communications.  Blue Origin has been funded for the past 16 years by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, but has yet to launch a satellite into orbit.

Brazil expects to launch its first independently developed satellite later this month: a communications satellite that is expected to serve both military and civilian customers.

China launched an experimental satellite, labeled KT-2, into a polar orbit this past week aboard a newly developed small solid rocket booster.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has provided another close-up view of Saturn's moon Enceladus, detailing the icy grooved surface of the frozen moon.

A new study suggests that the ancient surface of Mars once harbored more water than was previously believed, based upon chemical weathering observed in meteorites recovered from Mars.

NASA's Opportunity Mars rover has reached the top edge of the crater rim at Endeavour Crater.  Opportunity has now been operating for fourteen years on the surface of the red planet.

The recent discovery of microfossils on Earth, dating back some 3.7 billion years, has bolstered the case that Mars may once have independently developed microbial life.  At the time that these same microfossils - the oldest yet discovered on Earth - would have been deposited, conditions on Mars were much more similar to Earth than they are today, with lakes and seas on the Martian surface.

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter narrowly missed a collision with the Martian moon Phobos this past week.  A last-minute orbital correction succeeded in diverting the spacecraft out of harm's way - a mere seven seconds before a likely collision would have occurred.

Following an energy surge, Japan's space agency has had to shut down two of the cameras on Japan's Venus orbiter.  The problem is believed to be related to exposure to excessive radiation, which has degraded some of the spacecraft's systems.

NASA has released a new set of close-up images of Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere, as captured by the Juno spacecraft.

Researchers have concluded that the bright regions observed by the Dawn spacecraft on the surface of Ceres are most likely the remains of cryovolcanoes that once spewed a salty, water brine onto the surface of the dwarf planet.  The water ice has long since evaporated into space, but the salt deposits remained as markers of where eruptions once occurred.  Estimates suggest that some of these cryovolcanoes must have erupted as recently as four million years ago.

Utilizing data from NASA's Kepler spacecraft, astronomers have identified five new exoplanets, including two in orbit around a star on its way towards becoming a red giant.

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