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Shuttle history: STS-3
This retrospective remembers the third voyage of space shuttle Columbia. The March 1982 mission served as another developmental test flight for the reusable spacecraft, examining performance of its systems while also conducting a limited science agenda. STS-3 is distiguished by making the first landing at Northrup Strip in White Sands, New Mexico.
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Planet discovery
Astronomers announce major findings about planets outside our solar system at this Spitzer Space Telescope science news conference on March 22 from NASA Headquarters. (21min 22sec file)

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Story of NASA-Ames
The storied history and achievements of NASA's Ames Research Center are remembered in this narrated movie about the California facility. (23min 40sec file)
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Delta 4 pad camera 1
The first Boeing Delta 4-Heavy rocket ignites and lifts off from pad 37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on its demonstration test flight as seen through this sequence of images from a sound-activated still camera.
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Delta 4 pad camera 2
A second sound-activated still camera placed at pad 37B by Spaceflight Now photographer Ben Cooper provides a different view of the Delta 4-Heavy rocket launch.
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Atlas 5 soars
This sequence of images from a sound-activated still camera fitted with a fisheye lens was stitched together to provide a unique perspective of the Lockheed Martin Atlas 5 rocket blasting off from Complex 41 with the Inmarsat spacecraft.
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Launch of Atlas 5!
The fifth Lockheed Martin Atlas 5 rocket blasts off to deploy the Inmarsat 4-F1 mobile communications spacecraft into orbit. (2min 35sec file)
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Extended launch movie
An extended length clip follows the Atlas 5 launch from T-minus 1 minute through ignition of the Centaur upper stage and jettison of the nose cone. (6min 43sec file)
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Onboard camera
An onboard video camera mounted to the Atlas 5 rocket's first stage captures this view of the spent solid-fuel boosters separating.
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Press site view
This view of the Atlas 5 launch was recorded from the Kennedy Space Center Press Site. (1min 27sec file)
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Next Delta 4 rolls out
The Boeing Delta 4 rocket to launch the next GOES geostationary U.S. weather satellite is rolled to Cape Canaveral's pad 37B for its spring blastoff. (2min 08sec file)
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Rocket goes vertical
The pad erector arm lifts the Delta 4 rocket upright, standing the vehicle onto the launch table. (4min 00sec file)
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Checking their ride
The STS-114 return-to-flight space shuttle astronauts inspect Discovery's thermal tiles and wing leading edge panels during the Crew Equipment Interface Test activities at Kennedy Space Center. (2min 26sec file)
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In the payload bay
The astronauts don coveralls and go into space shuttle Discovery's payload bay for further examinations during the Crew Equipment Interface Test in the orbiter hangar. (1min 25sec file)
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Shuttle simulation
A long mission simulation is underway to rehearse the launch of space shuttle Discovery, the uncovering of impact damage and the decision-making process of the flight controllers and management team. (14min 31sec file)

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X-rays signal presence of elusive black hole
Posted: March 23, 2005

Peculiar outbursts of X-rays coming from a black hole have provided evidence that it has a mass of about 10,000 Suns, which would place it in a possible new class of black holes. The timing and regularity of these outbursts, observed with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, make the object one of the best candidates yet for a so-called intermediate-mass black hole.

This composite X-ray (red)/optical (blue & white) image of the spiral galaxy M74 highlights an ultraluminous X-ray source (ULX) shown in the box. ULX sources are distinctive because they radiate 10 to 1000 times more X-ray power than neutron stars and stellar mass black holes. Chandra observations of this ULX have provided evidence that its X-radiation is produced by a disk of hot gas swirling around a black hole with a mass of about 10,000 Suns. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/U. of Michigan/J.Liu et al.; Optical: NOAO/AURA/NSF/T.Boroson
Scientists have strong evidence for the existence of stellar black holes that are about 10 times as massive as the Sun. They have also discovered that supermassive black holes with masses as large as billions of Suns exist in the centers of most galaxies. Recent evidence has suggested that a new class of black holes may exist between these extremes -- intermediate-mass black holes with masses equal to thousands of Suns.

"It is important to verify the existence of intermediate-mass black holes, because they would bridge the gap between stellar-mass black holes and supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies," said Jifeng Liu of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and lead author on a paper describing their discoveries that appeared in the March 1 issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters. "Our observations don't settle the debate, but the behavior of this object is strong evidence in favor of their existence."

Liu and his colleagues used Chandra to observe a black hole in the galaxy Messier 74 (M74), which is about 32 million light years from Earth. They found that this source exhibits strong, nearly periodic variations in its X-ray brightness every two hours, providing an important clue to the black holes' mass. The black hole also fell into a class of sources called ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs) because they radiate 10 to 1000 times more x-ray power than neutron stars and stellar mass black holes.

Some astronomers believe these mysterious ULXs are more powerful because they are intermediate mass black holes. Others think ULXs are regular stellar-mass black holes that appear to be much more powerful in X-rays because their radiation is beamed in a jet toward Earth.

Chandra's discovery of the persistence and long time period of the X-ray variations (called quasi-periodic oscillations, because they are not strictly periodic) of the ULX in M74 is an argument against a beamed jet. These variations are likely produced by changes in a disk of hot gas around the black hole. More massive black holes have larger disks, which in turn are expected to vary over longer periods.

Independent observations of a wide range of black hole X-ray sources with masses ranging from ten to tens of millions solar masses have revealed a relationship between the time scale of quasi-periodic oscillations and the mass of the underlying black hole. Using this technique, the observed two-hour variation implies that this ULX has a mass of about 10,000 Suns.

Such a large mass would place this black hole well above the stellar-mass black hole limit of a few dozen solar masses. How then did it form? The leading theories under consideration are that intermediate-mass black holes form as dozens or even hundreds of black holes merge in the center of a dense star cluster, or that they are the remnant nuclei of small galaxies that are in the process of being absorbed by a larger galaxy.

Chandra observed M74, which is in the constellation of Pisces, twice: once in June 2001 and again in October 2001. The European Space Agency's XMM-Newton satellite also observed this object in February 2002 and January 2003. Other authors on the research paper are Joel Bregman, Ed Lloyd-Davies, Jimmy Irwin, Catherine Espaillat, and Patrick Seitzer, all of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Miriam Krauss (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Roy Kilgard (Univ. of Leicester and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory) and their colleagues have also reported extreme variability and the presence of QPOs for this object.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Northrop Grumman of Redondo Beach, Calif., was the prime development contractor for the observatory. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.
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Apollo 12 tribute DVD set

New! Featuring the jovial crew of Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon and Alan Bean, the Apollo 12 mission was struck by lightning shortly after liftoff but proceeded on the second successful exploration voyage to the lunar surface. This three-disc DVD brings the mission to life with extraordinary detail.
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Fallen Heroes special patch
This special 12-inch embroidered patch commemorates the U.S. astronauts who made the ultimate sacrifice, honoring the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia.
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Women in Space
Women of Space: Cool Careers on the Final Frontier is for girls, young women, and anyone else interested in learning about exciting careers in space exploration. Includes CD-ROM.
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Mars rover poster
This new poster features some of the best pictures from NASA's amazing Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
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Apollo 11 Mission Report
Apollo 11 - The NASA Mission Reports Vol. 3 is the first comprehensive study of man's first mission to another world is revealed in all of its startling complexity. Includes DVD!
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Columbia Report
The official accident investigation report into the loss of the space shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven. Includes CD-ROM.
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