In about a month, on July 14th at roughly 7:50am EST,the New Horizons spacecraft will make humanity's closest approach to Pluto. This will produce the best images we've ever seen of the dwarf planet, its odd system and bizarre collection of moons. In anticipation of this historic event, Emily Lakdawalla of Planetary.org has written a blog post describing exactly what and when to expect photos and other science data from the encounter. [more inside]
Pluto may have been downsized in 2006, but it's still living large, moon wise: A fourth moon has been discovered orbiting the dwarf planet.
The Cassini team announced a possible cyrovolcano on Titan. A key difference between this find and cyrovulcanism on Enceladus is the probable existence of a thousand-meter peak and lobe-shaped flows similar to terrestrial vulcanism. Their video release explains the evidence with 3-d models of the features. More speculative, Guillaume Robuchon speculates that Pluto might have liquid water under an icy surface, assuming it has enough of a rocky core to support heat production through radioactive decay.
The New Horizons spacecraft will be the first man-made object to visit our controversial sibling planet. An Atlas V will be used to launch the craft to the fastest speed that man has ever hurled an object to the heavens. Due to this and the small size of Pluto, the probe will only be capable of one flyby. Today is the first day in the launch window that the rocket is hoped to be launched.
NASA's 2003 budget cancels the Europa and Pluto missions. Instead it seeks to produce nuclear powered propulsion. I am sad about the Europa and Pluto missions, I was really looking forward to those, but I am intrigued by the prospect of nuclear propulsion in space.
Will the Pluto mission once again get cancelled? I mean, now that Pluto isn't a planet anymore; apparently, it's been downgraded to "big ball of ice." After all those years of service, of faithful rotation, that steadfast revolve, how can they just kick a planet out like that?! It's a travesty, I tell you -- a travesty!