China Launch Surge Left U.S., Russia Behind in 2018

Long March 2F rocket in flight carrying Shenzhou-11. (Credit: CCTV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The year 2018 was the busiest one for launches in decades. There were a total of 111 completely successful launches out of 114 attempts. It was the highest total since 1990, when 124 launches were conducted.

China set a new record for launches in 2018. The nation launched 39 times with 38 successes in a year that saw a private Chinese company fail in the country’s first ever orbital launch attempt.

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NASA’s Push to Save the Mars InSight Lander’s Heat Probe

NASA’s InSight lander on Mars is trying to use its robotic arm to get the mission’s heat flow probe, or mole, digging again. InSight team engineer Ashitey Trebbi-Ollennu, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, explains what has been attempted and the game plan for the coming weeks. The next tactic they’ll try will be “pinning” the mole against the hole it’s in. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s InSight lander, which is on a mission to explore the deep interior of Mars, positioned its robotic arm this past weekend to assist the spacecraft’s self-hammering heat probe. Known as “the mole,” the probe has been unable to dig more than about 14 inches (35 centimeters) since it began burying itself into the ground on Feb. 28, 2019.

The maneuver is in preparation for a tactic, to be tried over several weeks, called “pinning.”

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NASA’s InSight ‘Hears’ Peculiar Sounds on Mars

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Put an ear to the ground on Mars and you’ll be rewarded with a symphony of sounds. Granted, you’ll need superhuman hearing, but NASA’s InSight lander comes equipped with a very special “ear.”

The spacecraft’s exquisitely sensitive seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), can pick up vibrations as subtle as a breeze. The instrument was provided by the French space agency, Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), and its partners.

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NASA Racks Up Two Emmy Nominations for Mission Coverage, Shares One with SpaceX

The Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC), located on the robotic arm of NASA’s InSight lander, took this picture of the Martian surface on Nov. 26, 2018, the same day the spacecraft touched down on the Red Planet. The camera’s transparent dust cover is still on in this image, to prevent particulates kicked up during landing from settling on the camera’s lens. This image was relayed from InSight to Earth via NASA’s Odyssey spacecraft, currently orbiting Mars. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

UPDATE: NASA has won an Emmy for interactive programming for its coverage of the SpaceX Demonstration Mission-1. Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted, “Congrats to all involved and those who help tell the @NASA story every day!”

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced July 16 two award nominations for NASA for its coverage of a Mars mission and the agency’s first test of a spacecraft that will help bring crewed launches to the International Space Station back to U.S. soil.

The nominations for the 71st Emmy Awards went to:

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NASA-JPL Names ‘Rolling Stones Rock’ on Mars

The Rolling Stones took the stage at the Rose Bowl on Aug. 22, 2019. NASA’s Mars InSight lander team named a Martian rock “Rolling Stones Rock.” (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — For decades, the music of The Rolling Stones has had a global reach here on Earth. Now, the band’s influence extends all the way to Mars. The team behind NASA’s InSight lander has named a Martian rock after the band: ‘Rolling Stones Rock.’

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JPL’s MarCO Wins the ‘Oscar’ for Tiny Spacecraft

Mars as seen from the MarCO-B satellite. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — The first briefcase-size CubeSats to journey to another planet have been honored for their role in NASA InSight’s successful Mars landing. The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) bestowed their Small Satellite Mission of the Year award to Mars Cube One, or MarCO, Aug. 8, 2019, at the annual Small Satellite Conference in Logan, Utah.

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NASA’s InSight Uncovers the ‘Mole’

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — Behold the “mole”: The heat-sensing spike that NASA’s InSight lander deployed on the Martian surface is now visible.

Last week, the spacecraft’s robotic arm successfully removed the support structure of the mole, which has been unable to dig, and placed it to the side. Getting the structure out of the way gives the mission team a view of the mole — and maybe a way to help it dig.

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InSight’s Team Tries New Strategy to Help the ‘Mole’

Engineers in a Mars-like test area at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory try possible strategies to aid the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) on NASA’s InSight lander, using engineering models of the lander, robotic arm and instrument. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA-JPL/Caltech PR) — Scientists and engineers have a new plan for getting NASA InSight’s heat probe, also known as the “mole,” digging again on Mars. Part of an instrument called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), the mole is a self-hammering spike designed to dig as much as 16 feet (5 meters) below the surface and record temperature.

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Common Questions about InSight’s ‘Mole’

Signs of the Heat Probe Shifting on Mars: The support structure of the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument moved slightly during hammering, as indicated by the circular “footprints” around the instrument’s footpads. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — There’s a new plan to get InSight’s “mole” moving again. The following Q&As with two members of the team answer some of the most common questions about the burrowing device, part of a science instrument called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3).

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Mars InSight Lander’s ‘Mole’ Pauses Digging

NASA’s InSight lander set its heat probe, called the Heat and Physical Properties Package (HP3), on the Martian surface on Feb. 12, 2019. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DLR)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — NASA’s Mars InSight lander has a probe designed to dig up to 16 feet (5 meters) below the surface and measure heat coming from inside the planet. After beginning to hammer itself into the soil on Thursday, Feb. 28, the 16-inch-long (40-centimeter-long) probe — part of an instrument called the Heat and Physical Properties Package, or HP3 — got about three-fourths of the way out of its housing structure before stopping. No significant progress was seen after a second bout of hammering on Saturday, March 2. Data suggests the probe, known as a “mole,” is at a 15-degree tilt.

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NASA InSight Lander Deploys DLR ‘Mole’ on Surface of Mars

DLR Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP³) on the surface of Mars. (Credit: NASA)

  • HP³ experiment is now in a stable position approximately 1.5 metres away from the lander
  • Heat flow from the interior of Mars will be investigated
  • Operational planning for the DLR instrument is currently underway

COLOGNE (DLR PR) — It stands vertically on flat ground, ready for its historic mission. At 19:18 CET on 12 February 2019, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP³) or ‘Mole’ was deployed on the Martian surface using the NASA InSight mission’s robotic arm. In the coming weeks, the remote controlled penetrometer is expected to make space history by becoming the first probe to reach a depth of up to five metres in the Martian subsurface. Its goal is to measure the temperature and thermal conductivity of the subsurface and thus determine the heat flow from the interior of Mars. The heat flow gives researchers indications about the thermal activity of the Red Planet. This can provide insights into the evolution of the Martian interior, whether it still has a hot liquid core, and what makes Earth so special in comparison.

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InSight Is the Newest Mars Weather Service

The white east- and west-facing booms — called Temperature and Wind for InSight, or TWINS — on the deck of NASA’s InSight lander belong to its suite of weather sensors. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — No matter how cold your winter has been, it’s probably not as chilly as Mars. Check for yourself: Starting today, the public can get a daily weather report from NASA’s InSight lander.

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NASA’s InSight Prepares to Take Mars’ Temperature

NASA’s InSight lander set its heat probe, called the Heat and Physical Properties Package (HP3), on the Martian surface on Feb. 12. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DLR)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — NASA’s InSight lander has placed its second instrument on the Martian surface. New images confirm that the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, or HP3, was successfully deployed on Feb. 12 about 3 feet (1 meter) from InSight’s seismometer, which the lander recently covered with a protective shield. HP3measures heat moving through Mars’ subsurface and can help scientists figure out how much energy it takes to build a rocky world.

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Beyond Mars, the Mini MarCO Spacecraft Fall Silent

Mars as seen from the MarCO-B satellite. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — Before the pair of briefcase-sized spacecraft known collectively as MarCO launched last year, their success was measured by survival: If they were able to operate in deep space at all, they would be pushing the limits of experimental technology.

Now well past Mars, the daring twins seem to have reached their limit. It’s been over a month since engineers have heard from MarCO, which followed NASA’s InSight to the Red Planet. At this time, the mission team considers it unlikely they’ll be heard from again.

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