Space exploration certainly has a lot of “hurry up and wait” to it, no? Decades of slow travel, followed by frantic activity, followed by weeks and months of data crunching. It’s not the way Hollywood shows it!
This summer we are following three robot probes, “New Horizons” (closing in on Pluto for a dramatic flyby), “Rosetta” (riding comet 67P/CG around the sun), and “Dawn” (orbiting Ceres).
Lot’s will happen this summer.
We are waiting patiently for a 14 July Plutopalooza. The imagery and data isn’t exciting yet, though we are getting the closest views ever, and finding moons. I’m sure we’ll know a lot more real soon now.
Rosetta is clucking away, sucking in unprecedented close up data as 67P/CG heats up and spews gas. It is now just visible from Earth, showing the beginnings of the class comet tail we all love to see.
(Amateurs are invited to participate and contribute in the ground observations.)
As a reminder of why the Rosetta expedition is significant can be seen by comparing the image above (a pretty good view from Earth) with the imagery from Rosetta, such as:
There really is no comparison.
And Rosetta is gathering lots of other data from many instruments.
As Dawn gets down to business, the current interest is the now famous bright spots. This week we have an even clearer image from NASA:
Dawn will collect more data and then move to a lower orbit and collect even better imagery.