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New lunar mission
During this NASA news conference on April 10, agency officials unveil the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, that will launch piggyback with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft in October 2008. LCROSS will use the launch vehicle's spent upper stage to crash into the moon's south pole in an explosive search for water.

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LCROSS mission plan
Daniel Andrews, the LCROSS project manager from NASA's Ames Research Center, narrates this animation depicting the mission from launch through impact on the lunar surface.

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STS-1 crew looks back
In this highly entertaining program, commander John Young and pilot Bob Crippen of the first space shuttle crew tell stories and memories from STS-1. The two respected astronauts visited Kennedy Space Center on April 6 to mark the upcoming 25th anniversary of Columbia's maiden voyage.

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STS-41G crew film
The October 1984 flight of space shuttle Challenger featured a diverse set of accomplishments. The Earth Radiation Budget Satellite environmental spacecraft was deployed and a planet-mapping radar was tested. The seven-person crew was led by Bob Crippen and included the first Canadian in space, Marc Garneau, and the first time two women, Sally Ride and Kathryn Sullivan, had flown aboard one flight. Sullivan and Dave Leestma also conducted a spacewalk to demonstrate techniques for refueling satellites. The crew narrates this post-flight film of STS-41G.

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STS-37 anniversary
On April 5, 1991, space shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Kennedy Space Center carrying the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory -- NASA's second Great Observatory. Launch occurred at 9:23 a.m. from pad 39B.

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Crew news conference
The combined Expedition 12 and 13 crews, along with visiting Brazilian astronaut Marcos Pontes, hold this in-flight news conference with reporters in Houston, Cape Canaveral and Moscow on April 3. The crews are handing over duties during this week-long handover before Expedition 12 returns to Earth from the space station.

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Soyuz docking
The Russian Soyuz TMA-8 spacecraft carrying the Expedition 13 resident crew successfully docks to the Zarya module of the International Space Station under automated control.

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Next station crew
Full coverage of the Expedition 13 crew's launch aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to begin a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station.

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Solar eclipse from ISS
External cameras on the International Space Station captured this incredible footage of the March 29 solar eclipse. The station flew through the eclipse over the Middle East as the moon passed in front of the sun and cast its shadow on the Earth.

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Total solar eclipse
A total solar eclipse occurred March 29. This video from Side, Turkey shows the period of totality when the moon slid between the Earth and Sun. The eclipse revealed the Sun's glowing outer halo of million-degree gas, called the solar corona.

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Mars cameras debut as NASA craft adjusts orbit
MISSION STATUS REPORT
Posted: April 13, 2006


The Mars Color Imager test view looks northward and includes the large Argyre Basin in Mars' southern hemisphere. Image courtesy: NASA/JPL/MSSS
 
Researchers today released the first Mars images from two of the three science cameras on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Images taken by the orbiter's Context Camera and Mars Color Imager during the first tests of those instruments at Mars confirm the performance capability of the cameras. The test images were taken from nearly 10 times as far from the planet as the spacecraft will be once it finishes reshaping its orbit. Test images from the third camera of the science payload were released previously.

"The test images show that both cameras will meet or exceed their performance requirements once they're in the low-altitude science orbit. We're looking forward to that time with great anticipation," said Dr. Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. Malin is team leader for the context camera and principal investigator for the Mars Color Imager.

The cameras took the test images two weeks after the orbiter's March 10 arrival at Mars and before the start of "aerobraking," a process of reshaping the orbit by using controlled contact with Mars' atmosphere. This week, the spacecraft is dipping into Mars' upper atmosphere as it approaches the altitude range that it will use for shrinking its orbit gradually over the next six months.

The orbiter is currently flying in very elongated loops around Mars. Each circuit lasts about 35 hours and takes the spacecraft about 27,000 miles (43,000 kilometers) away from the planet before swinging back in close.

On Wednesday, a short burn of intermediate sized thrusters while the orbiter was at the most distant point nudged the spacecraft to pass from approximately 70 miles (112 kilometers) to within 66 miles (107 kilometers) of Mars' surface.

"This brings us well into Mars' upper atmosphere for the drag pass and will enable the mission to start reducing the orbit to its final science altitude," said Dan Johnston of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., deputy mission manager.

After hundreds of passes through the upper atmosphere, the drag will gradually reduce the far point of the orbit until the spacecraft is in a nearly circular orbit every two hours.

After the spacecraft gets into the proper orbit for its primary science phase, the six science instruments on board will begin their systematic examination of Mars. The Mars Color Imager will view the planet's entire atmosphere and surface every day to monitor changes in clouds, wind-blown dust, polar caps and other variable features.

Images from the Context Camera will have a resolution of 20 feet (6 meters) per pixel, allowing surface features as small as a basketball court to be discerned. The images will cover swaths 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) wide.

The Context Camera will show how smaller areas examined by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera -- which will have the best resolution ever achieved from Mars orbit -- and by the mineral-identifying Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer fit into the broader landscape. It will also allow scientists to watch for small-scale changes, such as newly cut gullies, in the broader coverage area.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is managed by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor.

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