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STS-5: Commercial era
With the four test flights complete, NASA declared the space shuttle a fully operational program. The crews were expanded, commercial payloads were welcomed aboard and the mission plans became much more hectic. This new era began with Columbia's STS-5 flight that launched the ANIK-C3 and SBS-C commercial communications satellites from the shuttle's payload bay. Commander Vance Brand, pilot Bob Overmyer and mission specialists Joe Allen and Bill Lenoir narrate highlights from their November 1982 mission in this post-flight presentation.

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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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Solving a cosmic ray mystery
SOUTHWEST RESEARCH INSTITUTE NEWS RELEASE
Posted: February 19, 2006

When Voyager 1 finally crossed the "termination shock" at the edge of interstellar space in December 2004, space physicists anticipated the long-sought discovery of the source of anomalous cosmic rays. These cosmic rays, among the most energetic particle radiation in the solar system, are thought to be produced at the termination shock - the boundary at the edge of the solar system where the million-mile-per-hour solar wind abruptly slows. A mystery unfolded instead when Voyager data showed 20 years of predictions to be wrong.

A new theory published in the February 17 issue of the Geophysical Research Letters by Dr. David McComas of Southwest Research Institute and Dr. Nathan Schwadron of Boston University explains why the energization of anomalous cosmic rays is almost entirely absent where Voyager passed through the blunt nose of the termination shock. While the shape of the shock was formerly thought to be unimportant, the new theory explains how this shape is the major factor in particle energization.

McComas and Schwadron say that understanding the role of the termination shock's shape in the energization of anomalous cosmic rays may be a stepping stone to understanding the influence of shock shapes for energization of particle radiation throughout the cosmos. Shocks energize many forms of this dangerous particle radiation, which pose significant hazards to astronauts on space missions, such as future manned missions to the Moon and Mars. "Models showed we should see the source energy spectrum of anomalous cosmic rays at the termination shock," says McComas, senior executive director of the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division. "We were pretty sure we knew what we'd see, but when we got there it wasn't what we expected and it clearly was not the source of the anomalous cosmic rays."

Researchers were uncertain where the termination shock would even be found, but they knew there would be a jump in magnetic fields, a deceleration of plasma and other signs. "It's like walking across a field when you don't know where the edge of the property is," says McComas. "You know you're at the boundary when you finally see the fence."

The shape of the termination shock wasn't thought to be important, so most researchers treated it as being circular, with the magnetic field from the solar wind spiraling out and piercing through it at a single point. McComas and Schwadron showed that acceleration of anomalous cosmic rays can be easily explained by including a more realistic termination shock shape. "In fact, the termination shock couldn't be circular because the solar system is moving through the galaxy, which would create more of a flattened egg shape," says Schwadron. "A flattening of the nose of the termination shock leads to a time dependant acceleration process."

The production of anomalous cosmic rays requires a connection to the termination shock (the point where it's pierced by the magnetic field line) and the ability for energetic particles to reside near that connection for up to about a year. Using the new model, simple calculations showed particles could remain at a connection point for about 300 days, further evidence of a valid model.

Voyager 1 didn't see the energetic anomalous cosmic rays when it crossed the termination shock. "The 20-million-electron-volts-per-particle helium that we saw was less than 10 percent of what was predicted. Similarly, we saw only 5 percent of what was predicted for 4-million-electron-volts-per-particle oxygen," says McComas. "We weren’t off by 5 or 10 percent, we were off by factors of 10 and 20."

The new model shows that particles can indeed be accelerated at the termination shock, but not at the nose where Voyager crossed it. "The particles don't get accelerated up to the highest energies until the field line has moved a long way out and its 'feet' have moved back along the sides of the termination shock," says McComas. "This means the source of the energetic anomalous cosmic rays must be on the flanks."

The Voyager 2 spacecraft is also moving out of the solar system, making single-point measurements as it travels. It is expected to pass the termination shock, farther back from the nose, within the next 2–3 years. "The explanation given here provides predictions that Voyager 2 should observe a larger jump in energetic particle fluxes and a more unfolded anomalous cosmic ray spectrum as it crosses the termination shock," says Schwadron.

The Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft, scheduled to launch in the summer of 2008, will be the first to make global images of the interactions around the termination shock. At that time, researchers will be able to view global interactions at the termination shock's nose, flanks and tail. Combined with data from Voyagers 1 and 2, these observations will enable researchers to understand the global interaction of the solar system with the galaxy for the first time. "Even without IBEX, this is a big step in understanding what's going on at the termination shock," says McComas. "We really feel that our answer to this mystery is just too simple to be wrong."

SwRI leads the IBEX science mission for NASA. The Goddard Space Flight Center manages the Explorer Program for the Science Mission Directorate.

The paper, "An Explanation of the Voyager Paradox: Particle Acceleration at a Blunt Termination Shock," is available in the February 17 issue of the Geophysical Research Letters.

SwRI is an independent, nonprofit, applied research and development organization based in San Antonio, Texas, with more than 3,000 employees and an annual research volume of more than $435 million.

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 30,000 students, it is the fourth largest independent university in the United States. BU contains 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school's research and teaching mission.

The American Geophysical Union is a nonprofit scientific organization focused on the dissemination of scientific information in the interdisciplinary and international field of geophysics. Its membership includes more than 41,000 scientists from 130 countries.


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John Glenn Mission Patch

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Final Shuttle Mission Patch

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Celebrate the shuttle program

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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
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Ares 1-X Patch
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Apollo Collage
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Expedition 21
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Hubble Patch
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