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harvey leifert

Rosetta mission ends with a bang: But the discoveries will continue

Rosetta crashed onto the surface of a comet on Sept. 30, bringing its mission to an end, though the scientific analysis and discoveries will continue for decades. We examine a few of the biggest surprises and highlights of Rosetta’s scientific journey so far.

30 Sep 2016

What's in a name: Rosetta, Philae, and 67P?

All of the names associated with the Rosetta mission, including the orbiter itself, the lander and all of the place names coined by mission scientists on 67P, refer to ancient Egyptian sites or deities, in homage to the Egyptian origin of the Rosetta Stone and Philae obelisk.

30 Sep 2016

Philae: Achievement and disappointment

Rosetta’s Philae lander made the first landing on the surface of a comet when it touched down on Nov. 12, 2014, three months after Rosetta began orbiting 67P. The landing, though historic, did not go as planned, and Philae was unable to accomplish much of the scientific program that had been scheduled for its 10 instruments.

30 Sep 2016

Rosetta's journey

Launch date: March 2, 2004

Launch place: French Guiana

Launch mass: Rosetta: 2,900 kilograms; Philae: 100 kilograms

Rosetta dimensions: 2.8 x 2.1 x 2.0 meters, plus two 14-meter solar panels

30 Sep 2016

Lunar atmosphere more active than we thought

LADEE — pronounced “laddie” and short for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer — was among the shortest-lived of NASA’s successful satellites. Launched on Sept. 7, 2013, it crashed onto the moon’s surface, as intended, on April 17, 2014, after six months orbiting the moon. Data collected by LADEE have already greatly expanded our understanding of the atmosphere of the moon and other bodies in the solar system; the spacecraft also made a number of unexpected discoveries, some of which were presented at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco last December.

28 Mar 2016

Did three convicts survive their escape from Alcatraz? Modern modeling adds to a decades-old mystery

What is known about the caper is that three inmates — brothers Clarence and John Anglin, along with Frank Morris — dug their way out of the supposedly escape-proof federal penitentiary, located in San Francisco Bay, on the night of June 11, 1962. Leaving realistic-looking heads sculpted from papier maché, complete with real hair, in their bunks as dummies, the convicts made their way to the shoreline with a makeshift raft assembled mostly from several dozen rubber raincoats. They slipped off the island into dense fog and were never seen or heard from again.

14 Jan 2015

New satellite maps carbon dioxide sources and sinks in high definition

A recently launched satellite is now measuring atmospheric carbon dioxide with greater precision than ever before. Launched on July 2, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) is already mapping levels of carbon dioxide, the presence of which in the air constantly varies by region and over time. It has also validated a new technique of analysis that was not even contemplated when the mission was planned, according to scientists who discussed the mission at a press conference during the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco.

23 Dec 2014

Hazard lingers after South Napa earthquake

The magnitude-6 earthquake that shook buildings and rattled wineries in California’s Napa Valley on Aug. 24, 2014, continues to affect homes in at least one neighborhood in the city of Napa more than three months later. The quake’s epicenter was about 6 kilometers south of the city, but post-quake movement, or afterslip, along the principal fault line to the north of the epicenter is ongoing, according to a fast-track report prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Scientists involved in producing the 51-page report — released to the public on Tuesday — discussed it at a press conference at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

17 Dec 2014

Students send experiments to the International Space Station

As Orb-2, the latest mission to resupply the International Space Station (ISS), lifted off on July 13, no one at NASA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Va., was more thrilled than 16 elementary and high school students whose scientific experiments were on board the Cygnus spacecraft. The fifth through 12th graders represented 15 teams totaling 99 students from across the United States whose proposals had survived a rigorous screening program.

19 Sep 2014

Oso landslide report yields some answers

Early on March 22, 2014, the most damaging landslide in U.S. history devastated the community of Oso, Washington. Forty-three people perished, most inside their homes, when a saturated hillside nearby gave way and a massive mudflow swept over their neighborhood. On July 22, a search crew recovered the last of the 43 bodies, exactly four months after the landslide, and coincidentally on the same day, a team of scientists and engineers released an exhaustive report detailing the event and its implications.

01 Aug 2014