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Apollo-era transporter
In the predawn hours, the Apollo-era crawler-transporter is driven beneath shuttle Discovery's mobile launch platform at pad 39B in preparation for the rollback to the Vehicle Assembly Building. (2min 37sec QuickTime file)
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Unplugging the shuttle
Workers disconnect a vast number of umbilicals running between launch pad 39B and Discovery's mobile launch platform for the rollback. The cabling route electrical power, data and communications to the shuttle. (2min 32sec file)
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Shuttle rollback
The crawler-transporter begins rolling space shuttle Discovery off launch pad 39B at 6:44 a.m. EDT May 26 for the 4.2-mile trip back to the Vehicle Assembly Building. (7min 28sec file)
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Voyager adventures
This animation shows the Voyager spacecraft heading into the solar system's final frontier and the edge of interstellar space. (1min 24sec file)
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Mike Griffin at KSC
NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and Kennedy Space Center Director Jim Kennedy chat with reporters at the Cape on a wide range of topics. The press event was held during Griffin's tour of the spaceport. (27min 48sec file)
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Delta rocket blasts off
The NOAA-N weather satellite is launched aboard a Boeing Delta 2 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

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NOAA pre-launch
Officials from NASA, NOAA, the Air Force and Boeing hold the pre-launch news conference at Vandenberg Air Force Base to preview the mission of a Delta 2 rocket and the NOAA-N weather satellite. (29min 54sec file)

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Countdown culmination
Watch shuttle Discovery's countdown dress rehearsal that ends with a simulated main engine shutdown and post-abort safing practice. (13min 19sec file)
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Training at KSC
As part of their training at Kennedy Space Center, the Discovery astronauts learn to drive an armored tank that would be used to escape the launch pad and receive briefings on the escape baskets on the pad 39B tower. (5min 19sec file)
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Discovery's crew
Shuttle Discovery's astronauts pause their training at launch pad 39B to hold an informal news conference near the emergency evacuation bunker. (26min 11sec file)

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NASA's Chandra finds Saturn reflects X-rays from sun
Posted: May 26, 2005

When it comes to mysterious X-rays from Saturn, the ringed planet may act as a mirror, reflecting explosive activity from the sun, according to scientists using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The findings stem from the first observation of an X-ray flare reflected from Saturn's low-latitudes, the region that correlates to Earth's equator and tropics.

Dr. Anil Bhardwaj, a planetary scientist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Huntsville, Ala., led the study team. The study revealed Saturn acts as a diffuse mirror for solar X-rays.

Counting photons, particles that carry electromagnetic energy including X-rays, was critical to this discovery. Previous studies revealed Jupiter, with a diameter 11 times that of Earth, behaves in a similar fashion. Saturn is about 9.5 times larger than Earth. It is twice as far from Earth as Jupiter.

"The bigger the planet and nearer to the sun, the more solar photons it will intercept; resulting in more reflected X-rays." Bhardwaj said. "These results imply we could use giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn as remote-sensing tools. By reflecting solar activity back to us, they could help us monitor X-ray flaring on portions of the sun facing away from Earth's space satellites."

Massive solar explosions called flares often accompany coronal mass ejections, which emit solar material and a magnetic field. When directed toward Earth, these ejections can wreak havoc on communications' systems from cell phones to satellites.

Even as the research appeared to solve one mystery, the source of Saturn's X- rays, it fueled long standing questions about magnetic fields. Of the three magnetic planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Earth emit two general types of X rays, auroral emissions from polar regions and disk emissions from low latitudes. No research has observed unambiguous signatures of auroral X-ray emissions on Saturn.

"We were surprised to find no clear evidence of auroral X-ray emissions during our observations," Bhardwaj said. "It is interesting to note that even as research solves some mysteries, it confirms there is much more we have to learn."

The research appeared in the May 10, 2005 issue of Astrophysical J. Letters. the research team also included Ron Elsner of MSFC; Hunter Waite of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Randy Gladstone of the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas; Thomas Cravens of the University of Kansas, Lawrence; and Peter Ford from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge.

Bhardwaj is working at MSFC as a National Research Council scholar. MSFC manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Northrop Grumman of Redondo Beach, Calif., was the prime development contractor for the observatory. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.