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Exploring Enceladus
The Cassini spacecraft orbiting the planet Saturn has found evidence indicating pockets of liquid water may exist near the surface on the icy moon Enceladus, raising the question of whether the small world could support life. This movie includes stunning images of Enceladus taken by Cassini and animation of geysers seen erupting from the moon.

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MRO's orbit insertion explained
The make-or-break engine firing by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to enter orbit around Mars and the subsequent aerobraking to reach the low-altitude perch for science observations are explained by project manager Jim Graf in this narrated animation package.

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MRO overview briefing
Fuk Li, Mars program manager at JPL, Jim Graf, MRO project manager, Rich Zurek, MRO project scientist, and Dan McCleese, the principal investigator for the Mars Climate Sounder instrument, provide an overview on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on March 8, about 48 hours before arrival at Mars.

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STS-9: Spacelab opens
Spacelab was an orbiting laboratory tucked in the payload bay of the space shuttle for scientists to conduct a range of experiments. The joint European/NASA program flew multiple times aboard shuttle missions starting with STS-9 in November 1983. In this post-flight film presentation, the astronauts from that Columbia mission narrate the highlights from Spacelab-1.

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Progress undocking
The Russian Progress M-54 cargo freighter undocks from the International Space Station's Zvezda service module aft port on March 3, as viewed by onboard and ISS cameras. Known in the station's assembly sequence as Progress 19P, the craft was launched last September with food, water, equipment and fuel. It was filled with trash before the undocking to burn up in the atmosphere.

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ISS technical briefing
Mike Suffredini, NASA's program manager for the International Space Station, updates reporters on the technical aspects of implimenting the revised assembly sequence and configuration for the orbiting outpost in this teleconference held March 3.

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New ISS assembly plans
Leaders from the U.S., Russian, European, Japanese and Canadian space agencies hold this press conference at Kennedy Space Center on March 2 following meetings to approve a revised assembly sequence for the International Space Station using 16 space shuttle flights.

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Space shuttle update
A status report on the space shuttle program's efforts to fly the second post-Columbia test flight, including changes to the external fuel tank, is provided in this news conference from Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 28. The participants are Wayne Hale, shuttle program manager, Mike Leinbach, shuttle launch director, and Tim Wilson, external tank tiger team lead.

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Lockheed's CEV plans
As part of Lockheed Martin's plans for the Crew Exploration Vehicle, the company has announced that final assembly and testing of the capsules will be performed at the Kennedy Space Center's Operations and Checkout Building. Lockheed Martin officials, Florida's lieutenant governor, the local congressman and a county economic development leader held this press conference Feb. 22 to unveil the plans.

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Comet from the cold has material from hottest places
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON NEWS RELEASE
Posted: March 13, 2006

Scientists analyzing recent samples of comet dust have discovered minerals that formed near the sun or other stars. That means materials from the innermost part of the solar system could have traveled to the outer reaches, where comets formed.


This two-micrometer comet particle, collected by the Stardust spacecraft, is made up of the silicate mineral forsterite, which can found on Earth in gemstones called peridot. Credit: NASA/JPL
 
"The interesting thing is we are finding these high-temperature minerals in materials from the coldest place in the solar system," said Donald Brownlee, a University of Washington astronomer who is principal investigator, or lead scientist, for NASA's Stardust mission.

Among the finds in material brought back by Stardust is olivine, a mineral that is the primary component of the green sand found on some Hawaiian beaches. It is among the most common minerals in the universe, but finding it in comet Wild 2 could challenge a common view of how such crystalline materials form.

Olivine is a compound of iron, magnesium and other elements, in which the iron-magnesium mixture ranges from being nearly all iron to nearly all magnesium. The Stardust sample is primarily magnesium.

Many astronomers believe olivine crystals form from glass when it is heated close to stars, Brownlee said. One puzzle is why such crystals came from Wild 2, a comet that formed beyond the orbit of Neptune when the solar system began some 4.6 billion years ago.

"It's certain such materials never formed inside this icy, cold body," Brownlee said.

The comet traveled the frigid environs of deep space until 1974, when a close encounter with Jupiter brought it to the inner solar system. Besides olivine, the dust from Wild 2 also contains exotic, high-temperature minerals rich in calcium, aluminum and titanium.

"I would say these materials came from the inner, warmest parts of the solar system or from hot regions around other stars," Brownlee said.

"The issue of the origin of these crystalline silicates still must be resolved. With our advanced tools, we can examine the crystal structure, the trace element composition and the isotope composition, so I expect we will determine the origin and history of these materials that we recovered from Wild 2."

Brownlee is among scientists presenting the first concrete findings from the Stardust sample this week at the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in League City, Texas.

Stardust's captured dust from comet Wild 2 in January 2004, and the sample-return capsule parachuted to the Utah desert on Jan. 15 to complete the seven-year mission. The samples from Wild 2 were taken to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and from there they have been sent to about 150 scientists around the world, who are using a variety of techniques to determine the properties of the comet grains.

The grains are very tiny, most much smaller than a hair's width. But there appear to be thousands of them embedded in the unique glassy substance called aerogel that was used to snare the particles propelled from the body of the comet. A grain of 10 microns -- one-hundredth of a millimeter -- can be sliced into hundreds of samples for scientists to study.

"It's not much, but still it's so much that we're almost overwhelmed," Brownlee said, noting that his lab has only worked on two particles so far. "The first grain we worked on, we haven't even cut into the main part of the particle yet."

The material, which came from the very outer edges of the solar system, has been preserved since the start of the solar system in the deep freeze of space 50 times farther away from the sun than Earth is. Brownlee believes the material will provide key information about how the solar system was formed.

"A fundamental question is how much of the comet material came from outside the solar system and how much of it came from the solar nebula, from which the planets were formed," he said. "We should be able to answer that question eventually."

Besides the UW, other major partners for the $212 million Stardust project are NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, The Boeing Co., Germany's Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, NASA Ames Research Center, the University of Chicago, The Open University in England and Johnson Space Center.

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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
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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