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STS-4: Last test flight
The developmental test flights of the space shuttle concluded with Columbia's STS-4 mission. Commander Ken Mattingly and pilot Henry Hartsfield spent a week in space examining orbiter systems and running science experiments. The 1982 flight ended on the Fourth of July with President Reagan at the landing site to witness Columbia's return and the new orbiter Challenger leaving for Kennedy Space Center. Watch this STS-4 post-flight crew presentation film.

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STS-3: Unique landing
Columbia's STS-3 mission is best remembered in the history books for its conclusion -- the first and so far only landing at the picturesque Northrup Strip at White Sands, New Mexico. In this post-flight presentation film, the crew describes the highlights of the March 1982 mission and shows some of the fun they had in orbit. The commander also tells how he accidentally "popped a wheelie" before bringing the nose gear down to the runway surface.

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STS-2: Columbia is a reusable spaceship
Seven months after the successful maiden voyage of space shuttle Columbia, astronauts Joe Engle and Richard Truly took the orbiter back into space on mission STS-2. The November 12, 1981 launch demonstrated that the space shuttle was the world's first reusable manned spacecraft. Although their mission would be cut short, Engle and Truly performed the first tests of the shuttle's Canadian-made robotic arm. The crew tells the story of the mission in this post-flight presentation.

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STS-1: America's first space shuttle mission
The space shuttle era was born on April 12, 1981 when astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen rode Columbia into Earth orbit from Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A. The two-day flight proved the shuttle could get into space as a rocket and return safely with a runway landing. Following the voyage of STS-1, the two astronauts narrated this film of the mission highlights and told some of their personal thoughts on the flight.

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NASA's 2007 budget
NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, along with his science, spaceflight, exploration and aeronautics chiefs, hold this news conference in Washington on February 6 to discuss the agency's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2007. The budget would give NASA a slight increase in funding over 2006, but it features cuts in some projects to pay for funding shortfalls in the shuttle program.

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Suit tossed overboard
The Expedition 12 crew tosses overboard an old Russian spacesuit loaded with ham radio gear during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. The eery view of the lifeless suit tumbling into the darkness of space was captured by station cameras.

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STS-95: John Glenn's return to space
The flight of shuttle Discovery in October 1998 captured the public's attention with the triumphant return to space by John Glenn. The legendary astronaut became the first American to orbit the Earth some 36 years earlier. His 9-day shuttle mission focused on science experiments about aging. This post-flight presentation of highlights from the STS-95 mission is narrated by the astronauts.

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Launch of New Horizons
The New Horizons spacecraft begins a voyage across the solar system to explore Pluto and beyond with its successful launch January 19 aboard a Lockheed Martin Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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Violent galaxies found smothered in 'crushed glass'
NASA/JPL NEWS RELEASE
Posted: February 15, 2006

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has observed a rare population of colliding galaxies whose entangled hearts are wrapped in tiny crystals resembling crushed glass.


This artist's concept shows delicate greenish crystals sprinkled throughout the violent core of a pair of colliding galaxies. The white spots represent a thriving population of stars of all sizes and ages. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope detected more than 20 bright and dusty galactic mergers like the one depicted here, all teeming with the tiny gem-like crystals. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
 
The crystals are essentially sand, or silicate, grains that were formed like glass, probably in the stellar equivalent of furnaces. This is the first time silicate crystals have been detected in a galaxy outside of our own.

"We were surprised to find such delicate, little crystals in the centers of some of the most violent places in the universe," said Dr. Henrik Spoon of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. He is first author of a paper on the research appearing in the Feb. 20 issue of the Astrophysical Journal. "Crystals like these are easily destroyed, but in this case, they are probably being churned out by massive, dying stars faster than they are disappearing."

The discovery will ultimately help astronomers better understand the evolution of galaxies, including our Milky Way, which will merge with the nearby Andromeda galaxy billions of years from now.

"It's as though there's a huge dust storm taking place at the center of merging galaxies," said Dr. Lee Armus, a co-author of the paper from NASA's Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "The silicates get kicked up and wrap the galaxies' nuclei in giant, dusty glass blankets."

Silicates, like glass, require heat to transform into crystals. The gem-like particles can be found in the Milky Way in limited quantities around certain types of stars, such as our sun. On Earth, they sparkle in sandy beaches, and at night, they can be seen smashing into our atmosphere with other dust particles as shooting stars. Recently, the crystals were also observed by Spitzer inside comet Tempel 1, which was hit by NASA's Deep Impact probe.

The crystal-coated galaxies observed by Spitzer are quite different from our Milky Way. These bright and dusty galaxies, called ultraluminous infrared galaxies, or "Ulirgs," are swimming in silicate crystals. While a small fraction of the Ulirgs cannot be seen clearly enough to characterize, most consist of two spiral-shaped galaxies in the process of merging into one. Their jumbled cores are hectic places, often bursting with massive, newborn stars. Some Ulirgs are dominated by central supermassive black holes.

So, where are all the crystals coming from? Astronomers believe the massive stars at the galaxies' centers are the main manufacturers. According to Spoon and his team, these stars probably shed the crystals both before and as they blow apart in fiery explosions called supernovae. But the delicate crystals won't be around for long. The scientists say that particles from supernova blasts will bombard and convert the crystals back to a shapeless form. This whole process is thought to be relatively short-lived.

"Imagine two flour trucks crashing into each other and kicking up a temporary white cloud," said Spoon. "With Spitzer, we're seeing a temporary cloud of crystallized silicates created when two galaxies smashed together."

Spitzer's infrared spectrograph spotted the silicate crystals in 21 of 77 Ulirgs studied. The 21 galaxies range from 240 million to 5.9 billion light-years away and are scattered across the sky. Spoon said the galaxies were most likely caught at just the right time to see the crystals. The other 56 galaxies might be about to kick up the substance, or the substance could have already settled.

Others authors of this work include Drs. A.G.G.M. Tielens and J. Cami of NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.; Drs. G.C. Sloan and Jim R. Houck of Cornell; B. Sargent of the University of Rochester, N.Y.; Dr. V. Charmandaris of the University of Crete, Greece; and Dr. B.T. Soifer of the Spitzer Science Center.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center. JPL is a division of Caltech. Spitzer's infrared spectrograph was built by Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. Its development was led by Dr. Jim Houck.


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John Glenn Mission Patch

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The historic first orbital flight by an American is marked by this commemorative patch for John Glenn and Friendship 7.
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Final Shuttle Mission Patch

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The crew emblem for the final space shuttle mission is available in our store. Get this piece of history!
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Celebrate the shuttle program

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This special commemorative patch marks the retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle Program. Available in our store!
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Anniversary Shuttle Patch

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This embroidered patch commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Program. The design features the space shuttle Columbia's historic maiden flight of April 12, 1981.
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Mercury anniversary

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Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Alan Shephard's historic Mercury mission with this collectors' item, the official commemorative embroidered patch.
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Fallen Heroes Patch Collection
The official patches from Apollo 1, the shuttle Challenger and Columbia crews are available in the store.
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Ares 1-X Patch
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Apollo Collage
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Expedition 21
The official embroidered patch for the International Space Station Expedition 21 crew is now available from our stores.
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Hubble Patch
The official embroidered patch for mission STS-125, the space shuttle's last planned service call to the Hubble Space Telescope, is available for purchase.
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