Spaceflight Now

Spaceflight Now +

Premium video content for our Spaceflight Now Plus subscribers.

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.

 Small | Medium | Large

STS-2: First 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.

 Small | Medium | Large

STS-1: America's first space shuttle mission
The space shuttle era was born on April 12, 1981 when astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen rode Columbia into Earth orbit from Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A. The two-day flight proved the shuttle could get into space as a rocket and return safely with a runway landing. Following the voyage of STS-1, the two astronauts narrated this film of the mission highlights and told some of their personal thoughts on the flight.

 Small | Medium | Large

NASA's 2007 budget
NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, along with his science, spaceflight, exploration and aeronautics chiefs, hold this news conference in Washington on February 6 to discuss the agency's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2007. The budget would give NASA a slight increase in funding over 2006, but it features cuts in some projects to pay for funding shortfalls in the shuttle program.

 Play video

Suit tossed overboard
The Expedition 12 crew tosses overboard an old Russian spacesuit loaded with ham radio gear during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. The eery view of the lifeless suit tumbling into the darkness of space was captured by station cameras.

 Play video

STS-95: John Glenn's return to space
The flight of shuttle Discovery in October 1998 captured the public's attention with the triumphant return to space by John Glenn. The legendary astronaut became the first American to orbit the Earth some 36 years earlier. His 9-day shuttle mission focused on science experiments about aging. This post-flight presentation of highlights from the STS-95 mission is narrated by the astronauts.

 Small | Medium | Large

Launch of New Horizons
The New Horizons spacecraft begins a voyage across the solar system to explore Pluto and beyond with its successful launch January 19 aboard a Lockheed Martin Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

 Full coverage

Become a subscriber
More video

Cassini orbiter listens to lightning storm on Saturn
Posted: February 14, 2006

Imagine an electrical storm larger than the continental United States in which the lightning bolts are more than 1,000 times stronger than conventional lightning, and you'll have a good idea of the lightning storm -- the strongest of its kind ever seen -- that University of Iowa space scientists and their colleagues currently are tracking at Saturn with the Cassini spacecraft.

This artist concept shows how Cassini is able to detect radio signals from lightning on Saturn. Lightning strokes emit electromagnetic energy across a broad range of wavelengths, including the visual wavelengths we see and long radio wavelengths that cause static on an AM radio during a thunderstorm. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Iowa
UI Professor Donald Gurnett, principal investigator for the Radio and Plasma Wave Science investigation (RPWS), along with UI researchers William Kurth and Georg Fischer, have been tracking the storm since Jan. 23.

"It is clear that this is the strongest lightning activity that we've seen yet with Cassini since it has arrived at Saturn. In fact, the flash rate even exceeds the rate observed by Voyager 1 back in 1980 and the intensities are at least as large, if not larger," Gurnett says. "Since Cassini was over the night side of Saturn and in a difficult position to image clouds, amateur astronomers were asked if they had seen evidence of a storm cloud recently."

He adds that within hours, two amateurs near Paris had posted a beautiful image of a white cloud at southern latitudes on Saturn that they had obtained early on Jan. 25, at a location consistent with the source of the lightning radio emissions being observed by Cassini. Cassini has now imaged the storm that RPWS and the Earth-based amateurs have seen.

Kurth notes that the Iowa-built RPWS instrument detects radio emissions the same way that a car radio picks up the crackle and pop of a summer thunderstorm on Earth.

"With Cassini we have learned that lightning storms can emerge suddenly and last for several weeks or even a month", says Fischer, a UI postdoctoral research scholar. "On the other hand, we have only observed a single smaller lightning storm throughout 2005, which is remarkably different compared to what we know about terrestrial thunderstorms."

RPWS team member and UI alumnus Michael Kaiser of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., suggests that the storm has varied in intensity, but continued with some 25 episodes occurring since he first noticed the storm on Jan. 23.

The researchers say that the origin of such storms is unknown, but may be related to Saturn's warm interior. Gurnett says that scientists hope to locate the storm with greater precision in the coming weeks when Cassini is scheduled to fly closer to the planet.

Gurnett's RPWS team colleagues, in addition to Fischer, Kurth, and Kaiser, are Philippe Zarka and Alain Lecacheux of the Observatory of Paris, Meudon, France; and Bill Farrell of Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

The radio sounds of Saturn's lightning can be heard here.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Cassini mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL.