Blog about NASA activities

The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity's shadow (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA announced the end of the existing possibilities to re-establish contacts with its Mars Rover Opportunity and consequently declared the end of its mission. Oppy, as it’s affectionately called, interrupted communications after June 10, 2018 following the global storm that covered the planet Mars with a blanket of dust that prevented it from obtaining energy from its solar panels. This extraordinary mission ends in this sad way because caused by an extrnal cause after over 15 Earth’s years in which it collected a wealth of information on Mars.

Ultima Thule has a shape even stranger than expected

NASA and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory have published new images of the Kuiper belt Object cataloged as 2014 MU69 and nicknamed Ultima Thule along with animations that show new details of its shape. A sequence of 14 images captured by the New Horizons space probe during its January 1, 2019 flyby shows that the this object’s two lobes are not vaguely spherical as it seemed but in particular the larger one is definitely flat, to the point that it was compared to a pancake, and it’s not clear why it has that shape.

Mars Rover Curiosity and the Apollo 17's Moon Rover (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An article published in the journal “Science” reports a clever use of the Mars Rover Curiosity’s accelerometers and gyroscopes to estimate the density of rocks under Gale Crater. A team of scientists examined the data collected over the years by those instruments to evaluate the gravity force where Curiosity passed, obtaining lower than expected measurements. This suggests that in that area the rocks are very porous and less compact than scientists thought.

Some details on the geology of Ultima Thule

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, which collaborates with NASA at the New Horizons mission, has published a new image of the Kuiper Belt Object cataloged as 2014 MU69 and nicknamed Ultima Thule which offers more details of its geological features. Various pits, the great depression on the smallest lobe, the “collar” that joins the two lobes, clear and dark features will be studied to get answers to the many questions posed after receiving the first images taken by the space probe in its New Year’s Day 2019 flyby.

The Dragon cargo spacecraft departing the International Space Station to end its CRS-16 mission (Image NASA TV)

A little while ago the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft ended its CRS-16 (Cargo Resupply Service 16) mission for NASA splashing down smoothly in the Pacific Ocean a little more than 420 kilometers (about 326 miles) off the coast of California. The Dragon left the International Space Station a few hours earlier.

Shortly after landing, SpaceX boats went to retrieve the Dragon to transport it to the coast. The cargo brought back to Earth will be delivered to NASA soon, probably tomorrow. The Dragon spacecraft reached the International Space Station on December 8, 2018.