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STS-7: America's first woman astronaut
The seventh flight of the space shuttle is remembered for breaking the gender barrier for U.S. spaceflight. Sally Ride flew into space and the history books with her historic June 1983 mission, becoming America's first woman astronaut. STS-7 also launched a pair of commercial communications spacecraft, then deployed a small platform fitted with experiments and camera package that captured iconic pictures of Challenger flying above the blue Earth and black void of space. The crew members narrate highlights from the mission in this post-flight film presentation.

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STS-6: Challenger debut
The space shuttle program became a two-orbiter fleet on April 4, 1983 when Challenger launched on its maiden voyage from Kennedy Space Center. The STS-6 mission featured the first ever spacewalk from a space shuttle and the deployment of NASA's first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite. The four astronauts narrate a movie of highlights from their five-day mission in this post-flight presentation.

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STS-121 crew press chat
Commander Steve Lindsey and his crew, the astronauts set to fly the second post-Columbia test flight, hold an informal news conference with reporters at Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 17. The crew is in Florida to examine hardware and equipment that will be carried on the STS-121 flight of shuttle Discovery.

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House hearing on NASA
NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and his No. 2, Shana Dale, appear before the House Science Committee on Feb. 16 to defend President Bush's proposed 2007 budget for the space agency. Congressmen grill Griffin and Dale about the budget's plans to cut funding for some science programs.

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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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New Hubble images offer best view of Pluto and moons
JHU APPLIED PHYSICS LAB NEWS RELEASE
Posted: February 23, 2006

In the Feb. 23 issue of the journal Nature, a team led by Dr. Hal Weaver of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., describes its discovery of two new moons around Pluto - a finding that made the ninth planet the first Kuiper Belt object known to have multiple satellites.


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In a companion paper, also in the Feb. 23 Nature, discovery team members led by Dr. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo., conclude that the two small moons were very likely born in the same giant impact that gave birth to Charon. They also argue that large binary Kuiper Belt objects like Pluto-Charon may also have small moons accompanying them, and that Pluto's small moons may generate debris rings that orbit the planet.

The Kuiper Belt is a band of icy, rocky objects and dwarf planets that orbit the Sun in the outer region of our solar system, beyond the orbit of Neptune. It has been known since 1992; Pluto is its most prominent member.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys, the team originally discovered the moons in two sets of Pluto observations in May 2005. Their discovery was confirmed in new Hubble images taken Feb. 15 and released this week.

"We used Hubble's exceptional resolution to peer close to Pluto and pick out two small moons that had eluded detection for more than 75 years," says Weaver, who also serves as project scientist for NASA's New Horizons mission, which is on track to make the first close-up reconnaissance of the Pluto system in 2015.

Pluto's previously known moon, Charon, was discovered in 1978, nearly half a century after Pluto's discovery in 1930. With diameters estimated to lie between 35 and 100 miles, the new moons, provisionally designated S/2005 P1 and S/2005 P2, are roughly 10 times smaller than Charon. They're also about 600 times fainter than Charon and 4,000 times fainter than Pluto, and hidden in the glare of nearby Pluto and Charon when viewed by ground-based optical telescopes. The scientists say this is the reason the moons evaded detection before Hubble looked for them.

The Weaver team writes in Nature that the satellites were easy to see in the Hubble pictures. "That was somewhat surprising because ground-based observers had been trying for more than a decade to find new satellites around Pluto," says Max Mutchler, from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and the first person to spot the moons in the May 2005 images. "But I felt almost certain even when I first saw them that they were real objects - not any sort of artifact - and that they were exhibiting orbital motion around Pluto."

That orbital motion - inferred from the different locations of the moons in pictures taken May 15 and May 18 - is what convinced scientists that they were indeed looking at moons and not stray light, cosmic rays or other Kuiper Belt objects that happened to be passing by.

"If we assumed the orbits were circular and in the same orbit plane as Charon, we could predict the exact positions of the objects on the second day," says Dr. William Merline, a co-author and discovery team member from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). "When the objects on the second day appeared almost exactly where we predicted, we were convinced - no two artifacts could follow the rules of orbital physics that Śreal' objects must obey."

"The presence of the new moons in orbits with so many similarities to Charon's sheds light on the formation and evolution of the Pluto system, as well as on the process by which satellites are formed in the Kuiper Belt," says SwRI's Stern, who is principal investigator of the New Horizons mission.

The new moons will be important targets of New Horizons, which was launched Jan. 19 to provide the first detailed reconnaissance of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. The New Horizons spacecraft will fly within several thousand miles of Pluto and its moons in July 2015.

Weaver says the APL-built Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) telescopic camera on New Horizons should be able to probe the new moons and resolve surface features down to 600 yards wide. These observations build on primary mission science plans to characterize the global geology and geomorphology of Pluto and Charon, map their surface compositions and temperatures, and examine Pluto's atmospheric composition and structure. New Horizons also will map the two smaller satellites in color and black-and white, and map their surface compositions and temperatures.

"We're getting four fascinating targets for the price of two," says Weaver. "The opportunity to explore the Śbookends' of Kuiper Belt object size distribution, with Pluto and Charon at one end and P1 and P2 at the other, is an unexpected treat."

The team is already analyzing the new Hubble images, which confirm the results published in the Nature paper and provide the most detailed view yet of this fascinating mini solar system. Hubble is scheduled to take another set of Pluto images in early March.

"The more we learn about the orbits and physical properties of P1 and P2, the better we can fine-tune our spacecraft investigation and focus on the objectives that are impossible to achieve from Earth-based observations," says Stern.

The Hubble Pluto companion search team also includes Dr. Marc Buie of Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Ariz., and Dr. John Spencer, Dr. Eliot Young, Dr. Leslie Young and Dr. Andrew Steffl of Southwest Research Institute, Boulder.

New Horizons is the first mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program of medium-class spacecraft exploration projects. Stern leads the mission and science team as principal investigator. APL manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate and is operating the spacecraft in flight.


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STS-134 Patch

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The final planned flight of space shuttle Endeavour is symbolized in the official embroidered crew patch for STS-134. Available in our store!
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Final Shuttle Mission Patch

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The crew emblem for the final space shuttle mission is now available in our store. Get this piece of history!
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Apollo Collage
This beautiful one piece set features the Apollo program emblem surrounded by the individual mission logos.
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STS-133 Patch

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The final planned flight of space shuttle Discovery is symbolized in the official embroidered crew patch for STS-133. 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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Ares 1-X Patch
The official embroidered patch for the Ares 1-X rocket test flight, is available for purchase.
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Apollo Collage
This beautiful one piece set features the Apollo program emblem surrounded by the individual mission logos.
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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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