Spaceflight Now: Breaking News
Sunday: February 4, 2001  0203 GMT
Sand dunes look like sharks' teeth in Mars crater
Sometimes, pictures received from Mars Global Surveyor's Mars Orbiter Camera are "just plain pretty." This image, taken in early September 2000, shows a group of sand dunes at the edge of a much larger field of dark-toned dunes in Proctor Crater.
Countdown set to begin for Atlantis launch
The five-person crew of space shuttle Atlantis are due to arrive at Kennedy Space Center around 1:30 p.m. EST Sunday in preparation for Wednesday's sunset launch. Countdown clocks will begin ticking at 10 p.m. EST. Watch the status center for updates on Sunday.
Huygens relay link mystery fully unravelled
A special calibration test is being conducted with the Huygens receivers on board the Saturn-bound Cassini spacecraft. The test results will provide a solid engineering basis for the design of new mission scenarios which can recover the Huygens relay link performance following a problem uncovered previously.
NASA opens space station science command post
The command and control center for scientific research aboard the international space station is open for business. The science command post linking Earth-bound researchers with their experiments and astronauts in orbit was commissioned Friday during ceremonies at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.
Saturday: February 3, 2001  0341 GMT
Spacesuit concern arises as Atlantis nears launch
Two EVA spacesuits packed aboard space shuttle Atlantis will have to be replaced before launch next week after concerns were raised about their integrity. Officials are expected to meet today to determine what, if any, impact the suit swap will have on starting the countdown Sunday.
Take a peek at the Red Planet's fretted terrain
Martian "fretted terrain" occurs in regions of buttes and mesas that stand at the erosional margin where northern low-lying plains meet the higher-standing cratered uplands. Found mostly in the mid-northern latitudes, some of the best examples of fretted terrain occur in Deuteronilus Mensae, as seen here.
Comet collisions: Only the strong survived?
Recurring collisions between comets during the solar system's formation may have ground smaller comets to bits, leaving only big comets larger than 20 kilometers (12 miles) to survive.
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Cluster 2 cleared for scientific work -- Cluster's unique mission formally got under way this week when the European Space Agency Commissioning Review Board gave unanimous approval for the start of scientific operations. Cluster's mission is to explore the magnetosphere - the region of space dominated by Earth's magnetic field.
Friday: February 2, 2001  0326 GMT
What's that? Probe sees strange surfaces on Mars
Sometimes Mars Global Surveyor images show things that look very bizarre. Unique among the images is a suite of pictures from northwestern Hellas Planitia, such as the example shown here.
NASA space observatory goes silent
A chapter in the history of astrophysics quietly came to an end this week when NASA shut down the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE) spacecraft, a mission that gave astronomers their first glimpse of the universe at a key chapter of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Space station Alpha crew gears up for shuttle visit
An instrument used to measure the electrical charge that builds up on the international space station as it plows through the tenuous extreme upper atmosphere indicates spacewalking construction workers need not fear potentially dangerous discharges.
Mir's natural decay makes controlled reentry tricky
The Russian Mir space station is slowly loosing its orbital altitude as ground controllers prepare for the abandoned outpost's de-orbiting this March. Space officials say the wild fluctuations in the density of Earth's atmosphere make it more difficult to predict the exact reentry date.
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European mission to Mars on schedule for 2003 launch -- Initial assembly on Europe's Mars Express mission is complete, leaving the craft's basic structure ready for a barrage of tests through the next month. Mars Express is due for a June 2003 launch toward Mars, where it will enter orbit around the red planet.
Thursday: February 1, 2001  0601 GMT
Ant-like space structure previews death of our Sun
This dramatic Hubble Space Telescope image, showing 10 times more detail than ground-based views, reveals the "ant nebula" -- a dying, Sun-like star. Hubble directly challenges old ideas about the last stages in the lives of stars.
Menzel 3
Jupiters may be critical in forming habitable worlds
If you're looking for solar systems with Earth-like planets that could harbor life, one scientist believes you should first look for planets with the mass and orbit of Jupiter that could nurture smaller worlds.
Mars Global Surveyor completes prime mission
NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft, which has collected more information about the red planet than all previous missions combined, completed its primary science mission Wednesday and now begins a new era of continued exploration.
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Solid rocket booster makers merge as Alliant buys Thiokol -- Rocket motor maker Alliant Techsystems announced Wednesday it had reached an agreement to purchase Thiokol Propulsion for $685 million in cash. Alliant builds the solid-fueled boosters for Delta, Titan 4B, Pegasus and Taurus rockets; Thiokol manufactures the space shuttle solid rocket boosters.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory gets new leader -- Dr. Charles Elachi has been named the new director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, replacing Dr. Edward C. Stone effective May 1. Elachi has served in a variety of research and management positions at JPL since 1971. Most recently, he has been director for space and Earth science programs.
Wednesday: January 31, 2001  0618 GMT
Pin-pointing black holes in distant galaxies
The most detailed images ever made of faint, distant radio galaxies, located billions of light years from Earth, reveal that many of them harbor central massive black holes. It adds further support to the belief that super-massive black holes are inextricably linked with the way galaxies formed in the early universe.
Black holes
Astronomers take the pulse of a Sun-like star
A team of astronomers has precisely measured the 'throbbing' of a Sun-like star that lies 24 light-years away. The slow 'pulse rate' of the star confirms ideas of what the Sun will be like a few billion years from now.
Pulsating star
Cassini uncovers Jupiter's magnetic bubble
NASA's Cassini space probe had made the huge magnetosphere surrounding Jupiter visible in a way no previous spacecraft has been able to do. The magnetosphere is a bubble of charged particles trapped within the magnetic environment of the planet.
X-ray view into a starburst
Luminous starburst galaxies are where a lot of young stars are currently forming. They come in different varieties including those where creation is concentrated at its nucleus and activity at the center is so intense that fantastic 'bubbles' are created giving rise to streams of hot gas, or 'superwinds'.
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The first 'ringed molecule' found around stars -- Life as we know it is based on the ability of the carbon atom to form ring-shaped molecules. But rings of carbon are not exclusive to Earth, as experts in space chemistry now know.
Tuesday: January 30, 2001  1040 GMT
Boeing Delta 2 rocket lofts another GPS satellite
Exactly ten years after the U.S. military troops reaped the benefits from the Global Positioning System while fighting the Gulf War in featureless deserts, a new satellite was launched into orbit today to keep the constellation going.
Delta 2
Building blocks for life may have come from outer space
The chemical building blocks necessary for the formation of life on Earth, as well as rudimentary structures that could have been the basis for the first cells, may have come from outer space, one group of scientists has concluded.
Chandra sees multitude of new stars forming nearby
NGC 3603 is a bustling region of star birth in the Carina spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy, about 20,000 light-years from Earth. For the first time, this Chandra image resolves the multitude of individual X-ray sources in this star-forming region.
NGC 3603
Mir in stable mode as discarded freighter reenters
The Progress M43 cargo spacecraft, which undocked from Russia's space station Mir last week, reentered Earth's atmosphere Monday where it burned up. The supply ship was replaced with a fresh craft over the weekend that carries the fuel needed to deorbit Mir in March.
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Galileo wrapping up Jovian magnetosphere study -- This week, Galileo winds down on its 14-week-long successful collaboration with the Cassini spacecraft to study the influence of the solar wind on the Jovian magnetosphere.

NASA names STS-108 shuttle mission astronauts -- Astronauts have begun training for the STS-108/Utilization Flight-1 mission to rotate International Space Station crews and to deliver experiments and scientific racks for the station's U.S. Laboratory, Destiny.
Monday: January 29, 2001  0100 GMT
Delta 2 rocket poised to carry GPS satellite
A Boeing Delta 2 rocket stands ready for an overnight liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Tuesday with a replacement NAVSTAR Global Positioning System military navigation spacecraft. We will have live coverage including a streaming video broadcast!
Delta 2
Virtual rains herald dawn of new climate understanding
Weather prediction is hard enough. But what are the possibilities for predicting events related to weather? With new tools being developed at Goddard Space Flight Center, and NASA's ever increasing suite of Earth observations, scientists just might be on the road to estimating future weather-related incidents.
Virtual rain
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Next Ariane 4 rocket is on the launch pad -- A pair of European military communications satellites are almost ready to take to the skies aboard an Ariane 4 launch vehicle that is currently undergoing final tests at its South American launch pad.

'PseudoGyro' can save satellites from failure -- Software developed by The Aerospace Corporation can save satellites from failure, extend the on-orbit life of satellites with ailing hardware gyros, and save large sums of money in insurance costs, among other benefits.

Hubble poster
The Hubble Space Telescope's majestic view of the Eskimo Nebula. This spectacular poster is available now from the Astronomy Now Store.

Earlier news
Jan. 22-28: World's largest human gathering seen from space; Deorbiting tug arrives at space station Mir; Titan 2 and weather satellite grounded; Cassini sees Jovian lightning storms, moons; New shuttle launch schedule; Challenger 15th anniversary.

Jan. 15-21: Must see new views of Orion Nebula; Nuclear engine promises to slash travel times to Mars; Shuttle Atlantis, Titan 2 and Soyuz rocket launches delayed; Ice may have formed Martian channels; Cassini probe fails to find lightning on Venus.

Jan. 8-14: Bizarre new planets puzzle astronomers; Hubble finally may have proof black holes do exist; Chinese capsule launched on second unmanned test; More moons found around Jupiter; Report: U.S. needs stronger defense role in space; Sea Launch aborts liftoff; Ariane 4 success.

More news  See our weekly archive of space news.

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