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Hill-climbing Mars rover
The Mars Exploration Rover Spirit has reached the summit of Husband Hill, returning a spectacular panorama from the hilltop in the vast Gusev Crater. Scientists held a news conference Sept. 1 to reveal the panorama and give an update on the twin rover mission.

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Planes track Discovery
To gain a new perspective on space shuttle Discovery's ascent and gather additional imagery for the return to flight mission, NASA dispatched a pair of high-flying WB-57 aircraft equipped with sharp video cameras in their noses.

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Rocket booster cams
When space shuttle Discovery launched its two solid-fuel booster rockets were equipped with video cameras, providing dazzling footage of separation from the external fuel tank, their free fall and splashdown in the sea.

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Discovery ferried home
Mounted atop a modified Boeing 747, space shuttle Discovery was ferried across the country from Edwards Air Force Base, California, to Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

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Shuttle tank returned
Shuttle fuel tank ET-119 is loaded onto a barge at Kennedy Space Center for the trip back to Lockheed Martin's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The tank will be used in the investigation to determine why foam peeled away from Discovery's tank on STS-114 in July.

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Russia scores success in its 1,700th Soyuz launch

Posted: September 2, 2005

Russia's oldest rocket family passed another milestone Friday in a space delivery mission to haul a military satellite into orbit for the Russian defense ministry.

The Soyuz rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and flew into low Earth orbit in under ten minutes carrying a top secret Russian satellite for the nation's space forces. The 0950 GMT (5:50 a.m. EDT) launch was the 34th successful space mission thus far in 2005, and the seventh use of the Soyuz this year.

It also marked the 1,700th flight of the Soyuz rocket, which has transformed from a Cold War nuclear-tipped missile into countless variants used for human spaceflight, international scientific missions, and military launches. The nearly 50-year history of the vehicle saw its heritage configuration carry Sputnik into orbit, followed a few years later by the launch of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

Like all Russian military spacecraft, the cargo was given an official name in the government's numbering sequence -- now becoming Kosmos 2415.

It is thought that the three-stage booster delivered the classified payload into the correct targeted location in space. Tracking data indicates Kosmos 2415 is in an initial orbit with an apogee, or high point, of about 177 miles, a perigee, or low point, of approximately 122 miles, and an inclination of around 64.9 degrees.

Experts and industry insiders believe Kosmos 2415 is part of a family of reconnaissance craft that can take high resolution pictures to be physically returned to Earth aboard entry capsules for recovery by intelligence officials.

The next launch of a Soyuz rocket is less than a week away when another flight originating from the Baikonur Cosmodrome will set the Progress M-54 resupply ship on course for the International Space Station on September 8.

Unique plans call for another launch of a Proton booster with a Canadian communications satellite to follow from the spaceport less than seven hours later.