A Few Classics from Mars Express

Images credit & copyright: ESA/Mars Express.

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express mission entered Martian orbit on December 25, 2003 with its lander, Beagle 2 (RIP). Although Beagle 2 landed successfully, only two of its four solar panels deployed which blocked its communication antenna; rendering that part of the mission null.  Luckily Charles Darwin’s HMS Beagle was much more successful.

In the end, it’s easy to be light hearted about that because the mission’s orbiter has been delivering data and images the entire time and some of them have been nothing short of spectacular.

The above first image is the largest of the two moons of Mars; Phobos as it quietly orbits 6,000 km (3,700 mi.) above its surface. Its 11 km (7 mi.) in diameter and orbits Mars every 7 hours and 40 minutes which means if you were on the Martian surface it would rise in the west where it would be up for just over four hours before setting in the east twice per sol (day on Mars). This image was taken by Mars Express High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on March 26, 2010 while on orbit 7892.

In this next image we see Phobos yet again, but this time Mars Express caught a wonderful alignment (conjunction) with Jupiter and any time I see two or more planetary bodies in close proximity some perspective is in order. When this image was taken on June 1, 2011, Mars Express was 11,400 km (7,084 mi.) away from Phobos which is pretty damn far but how about Jupiter? Mars next door neighbor was amazing 529 million km (329 million mi.) away if you can even successfully visualize that stretch.

This third image is actually pretty incredible as were looking at the shadow of Phobos race across the Martian surface. What about that large crater, the one with the long tail?  That’s Gusev crater, the home and final resting place of Mars rover, Spirit.

I hope you enjoy these images and hit the links below so check out hundreds more.

ESA Mars Express: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Mars_Express

ESA Mars Express Gallery: http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Missions/Mars_Express

Planetary Society Mars Express Gallery: http://www.planetary.org/multimedia/space-images/mars/?keywords=mars-express

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Expedition 54/55 Crew Ready for Flight

Image credit & copyright: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

Launch Alert! Sunday, December 17, 2017 at 02:21 EST (07:21 UTC & 13:21 Baikonur time) a Soyuz-FG rocket; MS-07 (ISS 53S or Soyuz 55) will lift off from Launch Pad 1/Launcher 5 (LC 1/5) at the legendary Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz spacecraft will carry three crew members of Expedition 54/55 on a two-day, 34 orbit trip to the International Space Station (ISS) vs. the usual six-hour, four-orbit “fast-track” launch to docking.   This change isn’t spacecraft related as the original December 27 launch date would have allowed for the fast-track docking but the holidays moved the launch up 10 days to accommodate. This will be the 7th flight of the upgraded Soyuz which replaced the TMA series.

Soyuz MS-07 will dock to the nadir, (Earth facing) port of the Russian Mini Research Module-2 (MRM-2) Poisk “Search” module 34 orbits later and that capsule will remain there for approximately 6 months as a crew escape vehicle should they need it and ultimately a return vehicle.

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Ariane 5 to Launch 4 Galileo Navigation Satellites

Image credit & copyright: ESA/Arianespace.

LAUNCH ALERT: Tuesday, December 12 2017 at 1836 UTC (13:36 EST) Arianespace will launch their massive heavy lift, Ariane 5 ECA rocket, designated VA240 carrying four Galileo navigation satellites (19, 20, 21 & 22) from Launch Site, Ensemble de Lancement Ariane-3 (ELA-3) at the Arianespace Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. This will be Arianespace’s 11 launch of 2017, the 96th launch of the Ariane 5 and its 5th launch in 2017.

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Milky Mouse

Image credit & copyright: Mark Gee.

Looking almost like a bolt of lightning, the Milky Way seems to strike this lone African tree; showering the air with glowing embers in the form a few thousand stars on an otherwise blackened sky. What a great image, as we have come to expect from Mark.  We can also use this image as a Rorschach (ink blot) test.  Have a look at that tree and tell me what you see.  As the title of the image alludes, that looks like a pretty solid mouse if you ask me.  What do you see?

I hope you all enjoy this image and check out more of Mark’s work.

Mark Gee Photography: http://theartofnight.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/markgphoto

Twitter: https://twitter.com/theartofnight

Instagram: http://instagram.com/theartofnight

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+MarkGee

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gfilm/

500px: http://500px.com/markg

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/markg

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December’s Geminids are Getting Warmed Up

Image Credit & Copyright: Wally Pacholka of a 2011 Geminid.

Basics: The night of Wednesday, December 13 and the morning of Thursday, December 14, 2017 the annual Geminids meteor shower will reach its peak.  As with all meteor showers there’s an estimated viewing window or, “active dates” which in this case runs the middle weeks in December.  Peak viewing however is usually narrowed down to a few days or even a single night through the following morning.

This year’s peak hourly rates will reach upwards of 100 per hour and you will want to be looking in the general direction of Gemini in the north.  This is a worldwide show and this year that big floodlight in the night sky (the Moon) will still be in its waxing crescent phase so it will have no impact at all.  My “Just the Facts” section is below if you don’t feel like reading the whole thing.

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SpaceX to Fly Used Booster & Dragon on CRS-13 ISS Resupply

Images credit & copyright: SpaceX. Live streaming links and mission information at the bottom. Check back for updates.

LAUNCH ALERT! Friday, December 15, 2017 at 10:36 EST (15:36 UTC), a previously flown SpaceX Falcon 9 (core 1035.2) will rise from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) as part of Commercial Resupply Service 13 (CRS-13 or SPX-13) to resupply the International Space Station (ISS). Dragon will be captured and berthed to the nadir (Earth facing) side of Station’s Harmony module (Node-2) where it will remain for approximately one month before returning to Earth around January 6.

Stats: This will be SpaceX’s 17th launch of 2017, the 45th Falcon 9 flight overall, the 4th reuse of a Falcon 9 booster and the 2nd reuse of a Dragon spacecraft. The parameters of this mission will allow for a Return To Launch Site (RTLS) where the first stage of the Falcon 9 will return to, and land back at Cape Canaveral at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) (former LC-13) allowing them to forego landing on their East Coast Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY) or losing the booster to the sea.  If successful this will be SpaceX’s 20th landing overall; 12 on drone ships and 8 on land.

The Falcon 9 first stage will be a previously used booster (1035.2) which was first used on their CRS-11 mission. This will also be the second reuse of a Dragon spacecraft as CRS-13’s Dragon was previously used on CRS-6. CRS-11 also used a previously flown Dragon spacecraft (#C106) which first flew on CRS-4. All Dragon spacecraft from here on will likely be refurbished so SpaceX can shift focus to development to Dragon 2.

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Soyuz to Launch Russian Lotos Spy Satellite

Images credit & copyright: Roscosmos.

Launch Alert! Friday, December 2, 2017 at 10:30 UTC (05:30 EST) a Soyuz 2-1B will lift off from Pad 4/Site 43 at Russia’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome carrying the Lotos Spy Satellite.

Plesetsk Cosmodrome: Plesetsk Cosmodrome is one of Russia’s “Big 3” cosmodrome’s along with the legendary Baikounr and the new Vostochny. It’s located in Mirny, Arkhangelsk Oblast, about 800 km (497 mi.) north of Moscow and its history dates back to 1957 as an R-7 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) site.

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