September 24th, 2014

Mars Robotic Spacecraft Population Reaches New High IEEE Spectrum

September has shaped up to be a very exciting month in the annals of Mars exploration. Two new spacecraft, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission and India’s first interplanetary mission, the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), have now entered orbit around the Red Planet.
The new arrivals bring the population of active Mars missions to seven—a record high, confirms Bruce Betts of The Planetary Society, a space advocacy organization. On the ground now are Opportunity, which landed in 2004, and NASA’s Curiosity rover, which recently entered its third year of operation.
MAVEN and MOM join a complement of three orbiters: NASA’s 13-year-old Mars Odyssey spacecraft, the European Space Agency’s 11-year-old Mars Express spacecraft, and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which arrived in 2006.

February 22nd, 2006

New orbiter will provide future missions with high data rates IEEE Spectrum

When NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reaches the Red Planet next month, it will immediately seek out areas where water once flowed, try to identify habitats where ancient life might have thrived, and start mapping the entire planet in unprecedented detail. But the orbiter’s arrival at Mars will also set the stage for a new epoch in spacecraft telecommunications. Its onboard Electra UHF relay transceiver [see photo, “Relay”] will serve as an engineering test bed for new communications and navigation technology that will be required for all future orbiters, landers, and rovers, to provide the faster data rates required for transfer of information from rovers and landers on the Martian surface to orbiters circling above.

April 18th, 2005

Apollo 13, We Have a Solution IEEE Spectrum

Rather than hurried improvisation, saving the crew of Apollo 13 took years of preparation. “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” Thirty-five years ago today, these words marked the start of a crisis that nearly killed three astronauts in outer space. In the four days that followed, the world was transfixed as the crew of Apollo 13