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Science of New Horizons
The first robotic space mission to visit the distant planet Pluto and frozen objects in the Kuiper Belt is explained by the project's managers and scientists in this NASA news conference from the agency's Washington headquarters on Dec. 19.

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Shuttle program update
Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for space operations, discusses the latest space shuttle program news, including the decision to remove the PAL foam ramp from future external fuel tanks, during this December 15 teleconference with reporters.

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Remembering Gemini 6
The Gemini 6 mission launched from the Cape at 8:37 a.m. December 15, 1965 to rendezvous with the orbiting Gemini 7 spacecraft. The rendezvous occurred and Gemini 6 safely returned to Earth.

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New views of icy moons
NASA's Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn is wrapping up a phenomenally successful year of observing the mysterious icy moons, including Enceladus, Dione, Rhea, Hyperion and Iapetus.

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First ISS spacewalkers
Mission Control remembers the spacewalking efforts by astronaut Jerry Ross and Jim Newman from this week in 1998. The duo worked to connect the first two pieces of the International Space Station -- the Russian-made Zarya control module and the U.S Unity node.

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Mars rover panoramas
New panoramas from NASA's long-lasting Mars Exploration Rovers show the view from the Columbia Hills where Spirit continues its adventure and the strange landscape at Meridiani Planum where Opportunity is driving southward.

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Hubble Space Telescope
Scientists marvel at the achievements made by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope in this produced movie looking at the crown jewel observatory that has served as our window on the universe.

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Atlas to launch DMSP-18 weather satellite
Posted: December 20, 2005

International Launch Services (ILS), a Lockheed Martin joint venture, has received authorization from the U.S. Air Force to proceed with the launch of a military weather satellite on an Atlas V vehicle from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

File image of an Atlas 5 rocket in the 401 vehicle configuration that will launch DMSP-18. Photo: Lockheed Martin
The launch is scheduled for late 2007 with a spacecraft built for the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program. Both the Atlas vehicle and the satellite, known as DMSP-18, are built by Lockheed Martin.

This mission was assigned to Lockheed Martin through ILS under the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. This is the ninth of 16 assignments to be placed under a firm contract with go-ahead for launch.

ILS President Mark Albrecht said, "This will be the first flight of DMSP on Atlas V. We look forward to partnering again with our Air Force customer on an important mission that will aid and protect the men and women serving our country in all branches of the military."

The Atlas V vehicle will launch in the "401" configuration, standing 57 meters (188 feet) tall with a 4-meter-diameter (13.75-foot) payload fairing. Atlas V vehicles in this configuration flew successfully in August 2002, May 2003 and August 2005.

DMSP spacecraft are used for strategic and tactical weather prediction to aid the U.S. military in planning operations at sea, on land and in the air. Equipped with sophisticated sensors that operate in both the visible and infrared spectra to peer through cloud cover, the satellite collects specialized meteorological, oceanographic and solar-geophysical information in all weather conditions. Since 1965, 43 Lockheed Martin-built DMSP satellites have been launched successfully by the Air Force.

Lockheed Martin has refurbished Space Launch Complex (SLC) 3-East at Vandenberg to accommodate the Atlas V vehicle. The first launch scheduled from the new pad is a mission for the National Reconnaissance Office in 2006. Launches from Vandenberg are used primarily to place satellites into low-earth, high-inclination orbits, such as polar and sun-synchronous orbits.

ILS markets and manages government and commercial missions on the Atlas V vehicle to customers worldwide. The company is headquartered in McLean, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin employs about 135,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture and integration of advanced technology systems, products and services. The corporation reported 2004 sales of $35.5 billion.