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Shuttle simulation
A long mission simulation is underway to rehearse the launch of space shuttle Discovery, the uncovering of impact damage and the decision-making process of the flight controllers and management team. (14min 31sec file)

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Space rendezvous
After a two-day journey from Baikonur Cosmodrome, the Russian Progress 17P mission and International Space Station rendezvous in Earth orbit. Cameras on both craft provide scenes in this highlights movie. (4min 02sec file)
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Station flyaround
The Progress vehicle performs an automated flyaround of the International Space Station to align with the docking port. (3min 42sec file)
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ISS cargo ship docking
The Russian Progress M-52 resupply ship docks to the International Space Station as seen by the nose-mounted camera on the delivery freighter. (1min 30sec file)
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Approach and docking
This extended length clip shows the Russian Progress cargo ship's final approach and docking to the International Space Station. (10min 00sec file)
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Shuttle tank mating
The external tank for the return-to-flight space shuttle mission is moved into position and mated with the twin solid rockets boosters at Kennedy Space Center. (4min 30sec file)
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Cassini update
Go inside the Cassini-Huygens mission to explore Saturn, its rings and moons with this lecture from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (81min 05sec file)

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Shuttle testing
Testing to support the space shuttle return to flight is being performed at NASA's Ames Research Center. This footage shows wind tunnel testing using a shuttle mockup and thermal protection system tests in the arc jet facility. (5min 02sec file)
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NASA budget
NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, in his final press conference appearance, presents the 2006 budget information and answers reporters' questions on Hubble, the exploration plan and shuttle return-to-flight. (86min 37sec file)
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Meet the next ISS crew
Expedition 11 commander Sergei Krikalev, flight engineer John Phillips and Soyuz taxi crewmember Roberto Vittori hold a pre-flight news conference in Houston. Topics included problems with the shuttle safe haven concept. (42min 23sec file)

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European probe slings past Earth on long trip to comet

Posted: March 5, 2005

The one-year old Rosetta comet chaser made a return visit to Earth Friday, flying by the planet to receive a boost to begin the long process of eventually sending the spacecraft on a trajectory to intercept the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014.

While approaching Earth for the first of a series of fly-bys, Rosetta turned its navigation camera to the Moon, half lit by the Sun. This image was taken at 1510 GMT Friday when Rosetta was 265,997 miles from the surface of the Moon. Credits: European Space Agency, ESA/ESOC
Launched last March 2, Rosetta has now completed one revolution around the Sun in an orbit similar to that of Earth. Over the past year, European controllers have put the craft through a number of tests to verify the function of key systems and instruments, and no major problems were reported.

Rosetta made its closet approach to Earth at 2209 GMT (5:09 p.m. EST) as it passed 1900 kilometers above Mexico. The fly-by will send the spacecraft into a larger solar orbit that will take it past Mars for another one of these "sling-shot" gravity boost maneuvers in February 2007, followed by two more passes by Earth.

These planetary fly-by's save fuel that would otherwise have to be spent to propel the spacecraft toward its target comet.

Controllers switched on some of Rosetta's scientific instruments in advance of the close approach to carry out calibration measurements of the Earth and Moon. Navigation cameras were also successfully tracked the Moon during the fly-by to test their ability to track objects in space. These cameras will be responsible for the rendezvous with Churyumov-Gerasimenko and for tracking as the probe passes by a pair of asteroids later in the mission.

Rosetta also captured images of the Earth and Moon near the point of closest approach, but those pictures will likely not be available for a few more days.

The European Space Agency also sponsored a contest for amateur astronomers to take pictures of Rosetta as it passed close to Earth. It was expected that small telescopes could distinguish the craft's 100-foot solar panels, and possibly its high-gain antenna.

The fly-by also put Rosetta in position to be able to observe NASA's Deep Impact probe as it fires a small projectile into comet Tempel 1. The impact will reveal the comet's inner structure, and Rosetta will turn its instruments toward the comet to make additional observations.

Rosetta is planned to be the first spacecraft to rendezvous with and enter orbit around a comet. These primordial relics from the formation of the solar system are believed to harbor materials dating back as far as 4.5 billion years. Rosetta will also release a lander to explore the comet at the surface.