Rosetta at Mars

Rosetta at MarsESA’s unmanned Rosetta space probe, carrying the Philae lander bound for a 2014 rendezvous with Comet 67/P Churyumov–Gerasimenko, makes a gravity-assist flyby of planet Mars to alter its trajectory. As Rosetta will be only 160 miles from the Martian surface at its closest approach, the spacecraft is put into a safe mode for this critical part of its trip, and emerges unscathed. Its next gravity assist will come from Earth itself later in the year.

New Horizons at Jupiter

IoNASA’s New Horizons probe, on a one-way trip to become the first probe to swing past distant Pluto, picks up speed dramatically as it slingshots past Jupiter. New Horizons sensors are trained on the giant planet to get the first look at Jupiter since Galileo swan-dived into its crushing atmosphere. New Horizons gains nearly 9,000 miles per hour as it swings past Jupiter, which will put it at Pluto in July 2015. New Horizons’ camera catches an erupting volcano on Jupiter’s moon Io, spewing material 200 miles above the surface.

NASA rethinks Dawn cancellation

DawnNASA reverses a decision made earlier in the month to cancel the asteroid-hopping Dawn mission, following appeals and assurances from the mission managers. Intended to use ion propulsion to visit to of the asteroid belt’s largest bodies, Dawn’s cancellation does have the effect of sliding the mission from a 2006 launch to a 2007 launch. The budget for the mission is expanded from $373,000,000 to $446,000,000, and arrival at its first target, the large asteroid Vesta, is still scheduled for 2011.

Soyuz TMA-10 / ISS Expedition 15

Soyuz TMA-10The fifteenth full-time crew of the International Space Station lifts off from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard Soyuz TMA-10. Oleg Kotov and Fyodor Yurchikhin take up residence on the ISS for 196 days. Arriving with them on the ISS for an 11-day stay is space tourist Charles Simonyi, a Microsoft software engineer (whose successes included such widely-used software as Microsoft Word and Excel), who returns to Earth aboard Soyuz TMA-9 with the Expedition 14 crew. Like other “space tourists” before him, he has paid for his own Soyuz seat and mission training. When Kotov and Yurchikhin return in October 2007, the Soyuz suffers a dangerous malfunction, failing to jettison its service module; the result is an off-balance spacecraft that re-enters the atmosphere nose-first, exposing under-insulated portions of the vehicle to the heat of re-entry. The crew manages a survivable landing, but news of the incident is kept quiet by the Russian space program until a similar mishap occurs aboard the next Soyuz flight.