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Two shuttles sighted

Stunning aerial views of shuttles Atlantis and Endeavour perched atop launch pads 39A and 39B on Sept. 20.

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Endeavour to pad 39B

Space shuttle Endeavour made the journey from Kennedy Space Center to pad 39B in the predawn hours of Sept. 19.

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MAVEN to Mars

NASA has selected the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft, or MAVEN, for launch to the Red Planet.


Endeavour to the VAB

For its role as a rescue craft during the Hubble servicing mission and the scheduled November logistics run to the space station, Endeavour is moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building.


STS-125: The mission

A detailed step-by-step preview of space shuttle Atlantis' STS-125 mission to extend the life and vision of the Hubble Space Telescope.


STS-125: The EVAs

The lead spacewalk officer provides indepth explanations of the five EVAs to service Hubble during Atlantis' flight.


STS-125: The crew

The seven shuttle Atlantis astronauts hold a press conference one month before their planned launch to Hubble.


STS-125: NASA leaders

The leaders of NASA's Space Operations and Science directorates give their insights into the upcoming shuttle mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.


STS-125: Shuttle boss

The head of NASA's space shuttle program discusses the risks and plans for Atlantis' trek to Hubble.


The Hubble program

An overview of the Hubble Space Telescope program and the planning that has gone into the final servicing mission.


Hubble's future science

The new instruments to be installed into Hubble and the future science objectives for the observatory are previewed.


Atlantis on the pad

Shuttle Atlantis makes the slow journey from the Vehicle Assembly Building to launch pad 39A for the STS-125 mission to service Hubble.


Meet the Hubble crew

Meet the crew launching on Atlantis' STS-125 mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope and learn how each became an astronaut in this special biography movie.


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House passes waiver to buy more Soyuz flights
Posted: September 24, 2008

The U.S. House of Representatives today, as part of a continuing resolution needed to fund government operations past the upcoming elections and into 2009, extended a waiver to the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act that would allow NASA to purchase seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft after the current waiver expires at the end of 2011.

"I'm thrilled! Couldn't be more pleased. Now, the Senate..." NASA Administrator Mike Griffin said in an email exchange with CBS News.

Because it takes three years to build a new Soyuz, an INKSNA waiver extension is required for NASA to avoid unmanning the station starting in 2012. If the Senate goes along and the extension becomes law, NASA would be able to maintain an uninterrupted presence on the lab complex and bridge the gap between the end of shuttle operations in 2010 and the debut of its replacement in 2014 or 2015.

The extension would go into effect Jan. 1, 2012, and run to July 1, 2016. It is intended to "allow NASA to continue to purchase needed ISS-related goods and services from the Russians and ensure that U.S. astronauts will continue to have access to the ISS after the current waiver expires," according to a statement released by the Committee on Science and Technology. "The House passed the CR by a vote of 370 to 58."

"While I regret that it is necessary, passage of the waiver helps ensure uninterrupted access for U.S. astronauts to the international space station until our new American crew transfer and rescue systems are developed, by allowing us to contract with Russia," committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) said in the statement.

The Iran, North Korea, Syria Nonproliferation Act forbids U.S. purchase of high technology goods from Russia, primarily because of Russia's past support of nuclear power initiatives in Iran. NASA has been able to buy Soyuz seats for U.S. and international astronauts under waivers granted by Congress.

NASA relies on the three-seat Russian spacecraft to occasionally carry U.S. and international astronauts to and from the space station and to provide emergency return capability between shuttle visits. NASA also is counting on using Soyuz seats to bridge the five-year gap between the end of shuttle operations in 2010 and the debut of the shuttle's replacement.

In recent weeks, an extension to the waiver appeared stalled, thanks in large part to Russia's conflict with Georgia. In an interview earlier this month, Griffin told CBS News he was not optimistic legislation could be passed before lawmakers adjourned for the fall elections.

Without a waiver, Griffin said "the first and most obvious possibility is there won't be any American or international partners on the space station after Dec. 31 of 2011. That's a possibility. Another possibility is that we will be told to continue flying shuttle and we would be given extra money to do so, in which case our Ares and Orion could be kept on track and we would no longer have a dependence on Russia.

"A third possibility is we could be told to keep flying shuttle, not be given any extra money, in which case we don't get Ares and Orion anytime soon and we still have a gap, it's just further out in time. And all of these things ignore the fact that flying shuttle does not ameliorate in truth our dependence upon the Russians because we still need them for crew rescue."

But in a statement today, Gordon said "the American taxpayers have made a significant investment in the ISS. It is important that we be able to use it productively once it is assembled, and for that we needed to have the INKSNA waiver extended."