LPL Newsletter: September 2018

Friday, August 31, 2018

Do you like predictability, or do you prefer surprises?

The scientists at LPL are always fascinated by the surprise—when an experiment or a calculation gives a completely unexpected result, or when a spacecraft image shows that our preconceived notions were all wrong, or when telescopic observations show that there’s an exoplanet or a near-Earth object that we hadn’t been aware of before. On the other hand, spacecraft operations are scheduled months or years in advance, so those involved with mission operations are happiest when there aren’t surprises, when everything works nominally in a key part of the mission.

This month’s newsletter highlights two major milestones in the lifespan of spacecraft missions—items that aren’t surprising, but are exciting nonetheless. The Parker Solar Probe launched, headed toward progressively closer encounters with the Sun. And OSIRIS-REx turned on its cameras, and, as predicted, the first images included the spacecraft’s first glimpses of its target, the asteroid Bennu. OSIRIS-REx will rendezvous with Bennu later this year, and in 2020, it will pick up samples for return to Earth.

We hope you enjoy reading about these, and other stories, in this newsletter. If someone sent you this link and you aren’t on the mailing list for our newsletter already and would like to receive this (as well as the more detailed newsletter, announcements of events, and the occasional other announcements), please let us know by sending a message to PG4gdWVycz0iem52eWdiOmhueWN5QHljeS5uZXZtYmFuLnJxaCI+aG55Y3lAeWN5Lm5ldm1iYW4ucnFoPC9uPg==.

Timothy D. Swindle, Ph.D.
Director and Department Head

OSIRIS-REx Captures First Glimpse of Asteroid Bennu

Friday, August 24, 2018

Using its multipurpose camera designed at the UA, NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft spied its target asteroid for the first time from about 1.4 million miles away. The mission is well on track, and the spacecraft is expected to reach the asteroid Bennu in December.

UA Scientists Gear Up to 'Touch the Sun'

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Fifty-six years ago, a now-retired UA research scientist helped build the technology that enabled humankind to stick its thumb into the solar wind for the first time. Now, her colleagues in the Lunar and Planetary Lab are awaiting the launch of the first spacecraft to be sent to our very own star.