ColdWetDog writes: The Mars Science Laboratory (AKA Curiosity) seems adept at finding curious items on the Martian surface. Not withstanding the little incident with the Madi Gras beads, there are been a couple of other unidentified objects found in the rover's path. The latest object appears as a small, half centimeter metallic bit sitting up in a rock. Part of an ancient Martian civilization? Part of Curiosity? Part of the sound stage in Arizona?
ColdWetDog writes: Forget the scary bits in Prometheus. JPL has it's own planetside terror trailer. 7 Minutes of Terror is a well done video short describing the difficulty of landing the Curiosity Lander on Mars.
Watching this thing, you have to be impressed with JPL's risk taking. Certainly a step beyond the usual NASA conservative thinking.
ColdWetDog writes: A brief note in the Atlantic notes that Congress has failed to supply funds to continue Plutonium-238 production, needed for radioisotope generators for NASA's interplanetary probe programs. No PU-238 means no more missions like Cassini-Huygens and pretty much anywhere that the sun doesn't shine enough to power the satellite via solar cells.
The article notes that the only other source of PU-238 is Russia — either through the government or through trolling through Siberia and the Russian coastline looking for old Soviet Era lighthouses and power stations.