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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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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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Kosmos rocket launched

Posted: December 21, 2005

Two Russian government satellites were delivered to space by a Kosmos-3M rocket flown from the country's northern space base on Wednesday, in the midst of a day that included three orbital launches after launch pads around the world were silent for over a month.

Liftoff of the 48th space mission of the year was at 1934 GMT (2:34 p.m. EST), reports from the Russian news agency Itar-Tass said. The two-stage booster delivered the dual payloads into a circular high-inclination orbit about 900 miles high just short of an hour later to complete the flight.

The launch was postponed for 24 hours after a Tuesday attempt was scrubbed when engineers noticed a failure in the second stage power supply system. News agencies quoted an official as saying workers had to replace batteries in the system before the launch could proceed.

Aboard the rocket was the first in a modernized series of Gonets civil security communications satellites that will operate for a longer period of time than its predecessors. Called Gonets-D1M, the new generation of spacecraft will continue services provided by older members of the constellation.

Those duties include communications relays for over 30 Russian agencies, according to Itar-Tass. Variants of Gonets satellites - translated in English as "messenger" - have been in space since 1992, scattered in groups throughout different orbital planes to ensure reliable and consistent communications with users across Russia.

The 500-pound satellite will primarily work to rapidly transmit and collect information such as short messages like e-mail, and can follow the path of various objects fitted with tracking devices, details from RIA Novosti indicated.

Also sent into orbit on the Kosmos-3M was a defense ministry craft known as Rodnik, but it is expected to be renamed in the Russian military identification scheme as Kosmos 2416. Experts believe the craft could be similar to Gonets, but a version to instead be used by military forces.

Kosmos 2416 also carried notes written by Russian children describing their dreams for the New Year. Winners of a contest had their messages hauled into the final frontier where they will stay for many generations to come.