Eagle-Eyed NASA Mars Probe Celebrates 10 Years at Red Planet

A NASA Mars spacecraft celebrates a major milestone today — a decade circling the Red Planet.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) arrived at the Red Planet on March 10, 2006 and has done yeoman’s work in the decade since.

Read the full article here.

Fly by Pluto and its moon with us?

The Women Behind the New Horizons Mission and New Pluto Map

Penn State alumna Katie Bechtold (first row center with blue hair) operated the New Horizons’ space probe flyby of Pluto and its moon. How cool is that? 

Katie studied computer science and engineering before graduating from our Schreyer Honors College, here at Penn State

A Day on Pluto

July 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured images of Pluto rotating over the course of a full “Pluto day.” The best available images have been combined to create this view.

“We’re the ones who make contact with the spacecraft, sending commands and information to it, and receiving science and ‘housekeeping’ data,” explained Katie. “We use the largest antennas of NASA’s Deep Space Network for these contacts, so in some ways we’re the liaisons between the science operations staff, who decide exactly what they want each instrument onboard to do and when, and the Deep Space Network.”

A Day on Charon

July 2015, New Horizons captured images of the largest of Pluto’s five moons, Charon, rotating over the course of a full day. The best available images have been combined to create this view.

Full Trajectory: Side View

New Horizons is now on a trajectory toward a Kuiper Belt Object, which it should reach in January of 2019. Katie’s team just completed a series of thruster burns to point it toward that region.


Photo Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

The Cassini spacecraft captures a rare family photo of three of Saturn’s moons that couldn’t be more different from each other! As the largest of the three, Tethys (image center) is round and has a variety of terrains across its surface. Meanwhile, Hyperion (to the upper-left of Tethys) is the “wild one” with a chaotic spin and Prometheus (lower-left) is a tiny moon that busies itself sculpting the F ring.

To learn more about the surface of Tethys (660 miles, or 1,062 kilometers across), see PIA17164. More on the chaotic spin of Hyperion (168 miles, or 270 kilometers across) can be found at PIA07683. And discover more about the role of Prometheus (53 miles, or 86 kilometers across) in shaping the F ring in PIA12786.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 1 degree above the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 14, 2014.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.2 million miles (1.9 million kilometers) from Tethys and at a Sun-Tethys-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 22 degrees. Image scale is 7 miles (11 kilometers) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

Review: Monsters (movie)

Genre: sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, thriller

Year: 2010

Directed by: Gareth Edwards

Cast: Scoot McNairy, Whitney Able

A deep-space probe is sent to recover what could be traces of alien life. During its return, it crash lands in northern Mexico, and the life forms it contained spread out. They now thrive in an “infected Zone” at the border between Mexico and USA. Walls and bombings seem uncapable of containing these polyp/squid shaped creatures.

After months, possibly years, the situation is no better. Andrew Kaulder is a   photojournalist currently operating in Mexico, and is asked to find his boss’ daughter, Samantha Wynden, injured in what appears to be a creature attack. He has to take her back home before air and sea travel gets blocked for months in an attempt to control the situation. Things don’t go as planned, and the two have to walk through the Infected Zone to get home. During their adventure they learn more about the Zone (why is it considered “infected”) and about the creatures.

Monsters plays with the trope of the Zone in a not fully original but still interesting way, dealing with important themes as it shows us how life goes on at the border - not exactly the most safe border, since creatures get in and out as they please, apparently. Some people try to get away, but it’s super expensive. Some others have resigned to live there. Despite the horrors, life goes on. And the rest of the world doesn’t seem to care (not even the rest of the USA, is implied). The movie is relatively low-budget, but that is not the worst problem. It shows, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the two actors aren’t super good, and the personal problems of their characters could have been handled better. Also, what starts the adventure properly (why they specifically have to walk through the zone) is a bit lame, compared to the other elements. The setting and the world that surrounds them are more interesting than the characters. More specifically, the creatures: they’re more like alien animals than monsters, after all, and it’s clear that some great care was put behind their simple but effective design. Oh, and watch out for the ending. The real one, I mean.

Overall it’s not a masterpiece, but if you’re into the trope of the Zone, it’s recommended. You will not regret it, because it has some interesting elements and details that you’ll still enjoy.

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