Monday, December 08, 2014

A Good Week in Space

During the first week in December:

On December 1, NASA's Dawn spacecraft captured an image of Ceres. It does not yet rival images from Hubble, but wait for it. Dawn did a spectacular job mapping Vesta, and will do the same for Ceres, if all goes according to plan.

On December 2, (EST) Japan launched their Hayabusa 2 spacecraft to visit an asteroid, drop off landers, and return with a sample.

On December 5, NASA launched their unmanned test flight of an Orion spacecraft on an almost flawless mission to a apogee of 3,600 miles. A spacecraft capable of carrying humans hasn't been this far from Earth since Apollo 17 in 1972.

As a taxpayer, I appreciated the live transmission of images of the receding earth and parachute deployment from inside the spacecraft, and capsule reentry and parachute deployment from a circling drone. I didn't get this during Apollo. This is good policy. I like to see what I am paying for. If I can, I will pay more cheerfully.

On December 6, New Horizons awoke from hibernation on Pluto's doorstep.  Given the vast scale of our Solar System, awaking on Pluto's doorstep means the closest approach will be in July.

We will see amazing things, if we are patient.

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