Thursday, June 16, 2005

OPAG Meeting Part II: New Horizons 2

One of the items discussed at the OPAG meeting in Boulder was the proposed New Horizons 2 mission. This mission would use a clone of the New Horizons spacecraft, a mission is preparation for a Pluto/Charon flyby as well as a pass by a smaller Kuiper Belt object. New Horizons 2, if launched in 2008 or 2009, would flyby Jupiter and Uranus on its way to a large KBO. The Uranus aspect is time critical given its setting during the Uranian equinox. This would provide excellent global coverage of Uranus' mid-sized icy satellites (like the oddity Miranda), as well as study Uranus' magnetosphere and atmosphere at this juncture.

For more in-depth information on this proposal, check out a power point file over at the New Horizons website.

From my understanding, the reaction to the proposal was mixed. The issue came down to the lack of ability to propose a New Frontiers mission outside of the 5 recommendations in the Decadal Survey. This certainly needs to be changed if new discoveries or targets of opportunity (like a flyby of Uranus at equinox) are found.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

OPAG Meeting has an article on last week's OPAG meeting in Boulder, Colorado. OPAG is a group set up by NASA to provide input on future outer planetary exploration. Among the mission concepts highlighted at the meeting was the Europa orbiter and a Titan blimp. Such missions may provide critical information on the geology and internal structure of both satellites. Unfortunately, I was not there in person (I could have been though thanks to the Io meeting shortly before it), but this gives a decent summary. Also discussed, from those who attended, was providing the capabilities on the Europa Orbiter to perform Io observations, but this would require a camera, which isn't guaranteed to be on the payload of EO.

Hyperion Sequences and Stereo Pairs

There are some stereo pairs and image sequences prepared by users dilo and Phil Stooke on the forum website. I don't see a lot of stereo in the Hyperion images (except near the lower right of dilo's first pair) but it is rather interesting never the less. The image sequence by Phil Stooke nicely illustrates Hyperion's fun-house rotation (combined with Cassini's approach of the satellite). I still can't figure out how it is rotating, but the hamburger (or hockey puck) shape of Hyperion is nicely illustrated.

Monday, June 13, 2005

New Hyperion Images online

The next set of Hyperion images from near close approach on Friday and Saturday are now available. Cassini flew within 166,000 km of this relatively small satellite capturing spectacular images of the Giant Space Sponge. Many of the images appear saturated though the UV3 filter images appear to still be good. For your viewing convienence, Phil Stooke has a composite of many of the best UV3 filter images on the Unmanned forum.

UPDATE: 06/13/2005 04:26 pm: The last set of images are now up. These are higher phase angle images that show the side of Hyperion viewed by Voyager.

New Titan Image: Titan Beyond the Rings

CICLOPS has released this clear filter view of Titan taken on March 25, a few days before the T4 flyby. Since this is a clear filter view, surface features are barely resolvable due to the haze. In addition to Titan, this view shows the rings system, nearly edge-on.