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Suit tossed overboard
The Expedition 12 crew tosses overboard an old Russian spacesuit loaded with ham radio gear during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. The eery view of the lifeless suit tumbling into the darkness of space was captured by station cameras.

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STS-95: John Glenn's return to space
The flight of shuttle Discovery in October 1998 captured the public's attention with the triumphant return to space by John Glenn. The legendary astronaut became the first American to orbit the Earth some 36 years earlier. His 9-day shuttle mission focused on science experiments about aging. This post-flight presentation of highlights from the STS-95 mission is narrated by the astronauts.

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STS-71: First Mir docking
Space shuttle Atlantis and a multinational crew flew to the Russian space station Mir in June 1995 for the first in a series of joint docking missions, launching a new era of cooperation in space between the United States and Russia that would pave the way for the International Space Station. This post-flight presentation of highlights from the historic STS-71 mission is narrated by the astronauts.

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Future Mars rover
NASA's next mobile rover that will be sent to the Red Planet is Mars Science Laboratory. Roughly the size of a Mini Cooper car and designed to operate on the Martian surface for two Earth years, this large rover is scheduled for launch in 2009. Project manager Richard Cook unveils a model of the rover and talks about the mission in this video clip.

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Mars rover anniversary
The remarkable rovers Spirit and Opportunity remain alive and well on the surface of the Red Planet, far outlasting their planned 90-day missions. On Jan. 24, the second anniversary of Opportunity's landing, project officials and scientists held this celebration event at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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Launch of New Horizons
The New Horizons spacecraft begins a voyage across the solar system to explore Pluto and beyond with its successful launch January 19 aboard a Lockheed Martin Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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Detection of hot halo gets theory out of hot water
Posted: February 6, 2006

Scientists using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have detected an extensive halo of hot gas around a quiescent spiral galaxy. This discovery is evidence that galaxies like our Milky Way are still accumulating matter from the gradual inflow of intergalactic gas.

Chandra observations of the massive spiral galaxy NGC 5746 revealed a large halo of hot gas (blue) surrounding the optical disk of the galaxy (white). The halo extends more than 60,000 light years on either side of the disk of the galaxy, which is viewed edge-on. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/U. Copenhagen/K.Pedersen et al; Optical: Palomar DSS
"What we are likely witnessing here is the ongoing galaxy formation process," said Kristian Pedersen of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and lead author of a report on the discovery.

Chandra observations show that the hot halo extends more than 60,000 light years on either side of the disk of the galaxy known as NGC 5746. The detection of such a large halo alleviates a long-standing problem for the theory of galaxy formation. Spiral galaxies are thought to form from enormous clouds of intergalactic gas that collapse to form giant, spinning disks of stars and gas.

One prediction of this theory is that large spiral galaxies should be immersed in halos of hot gas left over from the galaxy formation process. Hot gas has been detected around spiral galaxies in which vigorous star formation is ejecting matter from the galaxy, but until now hot halos due to infall of intergalactic matter have not been detected.

"Our observations solve the mystery of the missing hot halos around spiral galaxies," said Pedersen. "The halos exist, but are so faint that an extremely sensitive telescope such as Chandra is needed to detect them."

NGC 5746 is a massive spiral galaxy about a 100 million light years from Earth. Its disk of stars and gas is viewed almost edge-on. The galaxy shows no signs of unusual star formation, or energetic activity from its nuclear region, making it unlikely that the hot halo is produced by gas flowing out of the galaxy.

"We targeted NGC 5746 because we thought its distance and orientation would give us the best chance to detect a hot halo caused by the infall of intergalactic gas," said Jesper Rasmussen of the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom and a coauthor of the report. "What we found is in good agreement with computer simulations in which galaxies are built up gradually from the merger of smaller clouds of hot gas and dark matter."

The computer simulations were done by Jesper Sommer-Larsen (also a coauthor of the report) and collaborators at the University of Copenhagen. The paper describing these results will be published in the April issue of the journal New Astronomy. Other researchers on this project were Sune Toff, Yale University; Andrew Benson, University of Oxford, United Kingdom; and Richard Bower, University of Durham, United Kingdom.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for the agency's Science Mission Directorate. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.