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Shuttle program update
Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for space operations, discusses the latest space shuttle program news, including the decision to remove the PAL foam ramp from future external fuel tanks, during this December 15 teleconference with reporters.

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Remembering Gemini 6
The Gemini 6 mission launched from the Cape at 8:37 a.m. December 15, 1965 to rendezvous with the orbiting Gemini 7 spacecraft. The rendezvous occurred and Gemini 6 safely returned to Earth.

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New views of icy moons
NASA's Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn is wrapping up a phenomenally successful year of observing the mysterious icy moons, including Enceladus, Dione, Rhea, Hyperion and Iapetus.

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First ISS spacewalkers
Mission Control remembers the spacewalking efforts by astronaut Jerry Ross and Jim Newman from this week in 1998. The duo worked to connect the first two pieces of the International Space Station -- the Russian-made Zarya control module and the U.S Unity node.

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Mars rover panoramas
New panoramas from NASA's long-lasting Mars Exploration Rovers show the view from the Columbia Hills where Spirit continues its adventure and the strange landscape at Meridiani Planum where Opportunity is driving southward.

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Hubble Space Telescope
Scientists marvel at the achievements made by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope in this produced movie looking at the crown jewel observatory that has served as our window on the universe.

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Chandra picture shows hot supernova remains
Posted: December 17, 2005

Credit: NASA/CXC/Rutgers/J.Hughes et al.
This false-color Chandra image of a supernova remnant shows X-rays produced by high-energy particles (blue) and multimillion degree gas (red/green). In 1006 AD, what was thought to be a "new star" suddenly appeared in the sky and over the course of a few days became brighter than the planet Venus.

The supernova of 1006, or SN 1006, may have been the brightest supernova on record.

We now know that SN 1006 heralded not the appearance of a new star, but the cataclysmic death of an old one located about 7,000 light years from Earth. It was likely a white dwarf star that had been pulling matter off an orbiting companion star. When the white dwarf mass exceeded the stability limit (known as the Chandrasekhar limit), it exploded.

The supernova ejected material at millions of miles per hour, generating a forward shock wave that raced ahead of the ejecta. Particles accelerated to extremely high energies by this shock wave produce the bright blue filaments seen in the upper left and lower right of the image. Why the bright filaments occur only in the observed locations and do not encircle the remnant is not understood. One possibility is that they are due to the orientation of the interstellar magnetic field which may be roughly perpendicular to the filaments.

High pressure behind the forward shock wave pushes back on the supernova ejecta, causing a reverse shock that heats the ejecta to millions of degrees. The fluffy red features seen throughout the interior of the remnant are from gas heated by the reverse shock. The X-ray spectrum of this gas indicates that it is enriched in oxygen and other elements synthesized by nuclear reactions during the stellar explosion.