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8 December 2010

Akatsuki and Arsenic and AGU

Hi folks. Sorry for the lack of activity here lately. The AGU is throwing a little get-together next week, which means I have been working on overdrive to finish a paper before putting together my poster. In the meantime, the plot has thickened for the “arsenic life” story from last week. It is looking more and more like the results of the study were not as revolutionary as they claimed, …

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4 November 2010

First EPOXI Images!

The flyby of Hartley 2 was a success and the first images are coming down! Check them out at the EPOXI site. In the highest-res images so far you can see that the comet has a distinct peanut-like shape and is very smooth around the narrow point.

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17 October 2010

Outpost Tavern and the End of an Era

The Outpost Tavern burned down Friday night. The Outpost was a rickety little tavern in Houston a couple miles from Johnson Space Center, famous as a hang-out for astronauts and other NASA folks. It went out of business earlier this year and it has apparently now met its fiery demise. I first visited the Outpost when I was in the 2006 Goddard NASA Academy. 20 of us showed up without …

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2 October 2010

The 4th MSL Landing Site Workshop: Day 3 – Final Discussion

We wrapped up the landing site workshop on wednesday afternoon by revisiting each of the four sites and discussing them in turn. Unfortunately, the way that we did this was very disappointing, and made for a frustrating afternoon. The discussion was centered around a word document that was projected up on the screen in the room. Over lunch, the meeting leaders had conferred and listed what they thought were the …

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30 September 2010

The 4th MSL Landing Site Workshop: Day 3 – Engineering and Safety

With the details of all four landing sites on the table, we started day 3 of the meeting by hearing from the engineers and several scientists about the properties of the ellipses, the risks for landing and the capabilities of the landing system. First on the schedule was Mike Watkins, who explained why MSL is so unique in terms of assessing the risk for the landing site because the landing …

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29 September 2010

The 4th MSL Landing Site Workshop: Day 2 – Eberswalde Crater

The final site of the four that we discussed yesterday was Eberswalde, which of course is interesting because of the big delta that is preserved in the western part of the crater.The first presentation on Eberswalde was an impassioned and really interesting talk by terrestrial geomorphologist Bill Dietrich. Bill talked about how Eberswalde is an excellent site for going beyond just making qualitative statements about water on Mars and actually …

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The 4th MSL Landing Site Workshop: Day 2 – Holden Crater

The second site that we discussed yesterday was Holden Crater. Ross Irwin gave the first, overview presentation. Holden is a 155 kilometer crater that formed right in the middle of a huge drainage system that spans from the Argyre basin to the northern plains, and at Holden you would land on a bunch of coalescing alluvial fans on the western crater floor and then drive southeast to access some nice …

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The 4th MSL Landing Site Workshop: Day 2 – Mawrth

Holy cow. Today was jam-packed with interesting stuff about Mawrth Vallis, Holden Crater and Eberswalde Crater! I took tons of notes, and I will try to use those to assemble a coherent picture of what was presented and discussed today. But if you’re too impatient to wait for me to work through those and post the more coherent summary, here are the notes in their raw and unedited form. Read …

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28 September 2010

4th MSL Landing Site Workshop: Day 1

It has begun! Today was the first of a three day workshop in which the Mars science community (not just those directly involved in the MSL mission) gathers together and hashes out what we know and what we don’t know about the four finalist MSL landing sites. For me the week actually started yesterday at the MSL team meeting, where we got lots of updates on the various aspects of …

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24 September 2010

The 4th MSL Landing Site Workshop

Well folks, I’m off to Pasadena to help the Mars community decide where to send its next rover. Long-time readers will recall that i’ve been to a couple of these things before and they’re always fascinating. I was going to post a reminder of what the four finalist sites are, with pros and cons and all that, but it turns out I don’t have to! My friend Lisa Grossman, a …

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