Spaceflight Now: Breaking News
Top Ten Stories of 1999
Spaceflight Now and its sister-site Astronomy Now have chronicled the ups and downs of the space program in 1999. Here is our selection of the top stories of the year.

Tomorrow we will attempt to predict the top stories of 2000. If you have an opinion about what will be making space news in the New Year send us an e-mail. Please include your name and location.
Historic pad comes tumbling down
Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Station, the pad used to launch Viking and Voyager probes to other planets and top-secret spy satellites for the U.S. military, was toppled in October. Lockheed Martin destroyed the old pad structures to make way for the complex it is building for the next generation Atlas 5 rocket.
Launch pad explosion
New rockets join the scene
Two heavy-lift commercial rockets became operational in 1999. The international Sea Launch consortium completed two successful flights of its Zenit 3SL rocket in 1999, proving the concept of conducting commercial satellite launches from a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean. In December, the Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket made its first commercial flight. Ariane 5 will eventually replace the aging Ariane 4 over the next few years.
Sea Launch
Station construction stalled
The infant International Space Station, started last year, had just one visitor in 1999. NASA's shuttle Discovery completed a supply delivery to the outpost in May. The multiple shuttle assembly missions planned to ISS this year were postponed to 2000 because of continued delays with the next station segment -- the Russian-built Zvezda service module. In all, NASA only flew the shuttles three times counting Chandra's launch and the Hubble servicing.
First woman commander
For the first time in the near 40 years of spaceflight, a woman led a mission into Earth orbit. Eileen Collins commanded space shuttle Columbia's flight in July that launched the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Collins was named to the historic post in a White House ceremony last year.
Prospector fails to splash
Having completed its mission to study the moon, NASA's Lunar Prospector was sent crashing into a crater to search for water ice on July 31. But the dramatic experiment failed when telescopes on Earth and in space did not detect any signs of water thrown up from the lunar south pole.
Lunar Prospector crash
New trouble for Hubble fixed by astronauts
NASA officials in early 1999 scheduled an emergency mission to install new gyroscopes to keep the Hubble Space Telescope aimed properly. The precision pointing system broke down in November, halting Hubble's observations into the cosmos. Spacewalking astronauts from shuttle Discovery came to the rescue in late December, replacing the faulty parts.
Continuous human presence in space ends
The Russians space station Mir was abandoned on August 27, ending mankind's decade-long occupation of space. Financial troubles in Russia forced the station to be uninhabited and prepared for deorbiting in 2000. Scarce Russian space program money now will be spent on the International Space Station.
China prepares for human spaceflight
The Chinese successfully launched and recovered an experimental capsule in November in what some believe was a test for future manned space missions. If the country can launch a person into orbit, it would become only the third to do so behind Russian and the U.S.
Chinese launch
A bad year for rockets
Expendable rockets faced a tough 1999 with a series of costly failures. In the U.S., two Air Force Titan 4 rockets left their military satellite payloads stranded in useless orbits, Boeing's second Delta 3 suffered a mishap with its upper stage and Lockheed Martin's Athena failed to jettison its nose cone and crashed back to Earth. In Russia, a pair of Proton rockets crashed due to second stage engine troubles. Elsewhere, Japan's H-2 and Brazil's VLS rockets misfired during botched launches.
NASA's Martian bust
A pair of NASA robotic space probes destined to study the Red Planet were lost this year. The Mars Climate Orbiter was destroyed due to a metrics conversion error and the Mars Polar Lander and Deep Space 2 penatrators were never heard from after their scheduled touchdown near the south pole. The high-profile failures called into question the space agency's cheaper missions, and threatens to scuttle future Mars exploration.

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