A few hours ago the Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and after almost exactly six hours reached the International Space Station carrying Kjell Lindgren, Oleg Kononenko and Kimiya Yui. The Soyuz traveled on the fast path normally used. There were a couple of little problems because one of the spacecraft’s solar panels didn’t deploy and after the arrival it took longer than expected to balance the air pressure with the Station but in the end everything went well.
NASA’s Dawn space probe resumed its activities moving down to an altitude of about 3.900 kilometers (about 2,400 miles) over the dwarf planet Ceres in order to proceed with the mapping operations that will provide images at unprecedented resolution. This task was supposed to start at the end of June but due to an anomaly the spacecraft entered the “safe mode” in which it stops its activities awaiting instructions.
NASA’s STEREO-A (Solar TErrestrial Relations Observatory Ahead) space probe has resumed contact with the Earth a few days ago after more than three months and on July 15 sent new photographs of the other side of the Sun from the Earth. Its EUVI (Extreme UltraViolet Imager) instrument was used to take photographs at a wavelength of 171 angstroms, invisible the human eye, then colorized in blue to allow us to appreciate them.
NASA unveiled the first of the long-awaited photographs taken by the New Horizons spacecraft during its Pluto flyby that took place on July 14. They reveal among other things the presence of mountains even 3,500 meters (11,000 feet) high. A photo of Charon taken on July 13 was also released and it shows several fractures on its crust. These close-up images show geological activity on both Pluto and Charon, an unexpected fact.
Today, NASA’s New Horizons space probe will carry out the much anticipated Pluto flyby. When at NASA’s mission control center it’s early morning, it will pass at a distance that will reach a minimum of 12,500 kilometers (about 7,800 miles) from the dwarf planet. All New Horizons’ instruments will be used to analyze Pluto as ever before but some time will be devoted also to its moons, particularly Charon.