Saturn Moon Methone

Cassini Made Its Closest Approach to Saturn Moon Methone

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its closest approach to Saturn’s tiny moon Methone as part of a trajectory that will take it on a close flyby of another of Saturn’s moons, Titan. The Titan flyby will put the spacecraft in an orbit around Saturn that is inclined, or tilted, relative to the plane of the planet’s equator. The flyby of Methone took place on May 20 at a distance of about 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers).

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Soyuz TMA 04M Rocket

US-Russian Crew Arrives at International Space Station

An American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station early on May 17, kicking off a four-month stay aboard the orbiting laboratory. A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin docked with the space station at 12:36 a.m. EDT (0436 GMT) Thursday as the two spacecraft soared 249 miles above the border between Mongolia and Kazakhstan.

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NASA Powered Down Endeavor

NASA shut down space shuttle Endeavour for the final time on May 11, 2012. Space shuttle technicians working inside Orbiter Processing Facility-2 (OPF-2) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida powered down Endeavour, the youngest of the retired fleet’s orbiters, at 9:58 a.m. EDT (1358 GMT) as they moved forward with preparations for the winged spacecraft’s museum display. This September, NASA will mount Endeavour on top of a modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft and ferry it to Los Angeles for its exhibit at the California Science Center.

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Solar Flare

Monster Sunspot Fires is Unleashing Powerful Solar Flares

According to NASA scientists huge sunspot that dwarfs the Earth is unleashing a series of powerful solar flares as it moves across the surface of the sun. The sunspot AR 1476 was detected by space telescopes on May 5. The huge sunspot is 60,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) across, so large that when it was first seen in views from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft, mission scientists dubbed it a “monster sunspot.”

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Asteroid Vesta

Vesta is Actually an Ancient Protoplanet

New observations from a NASA Dawn spacecraft show that the huge asteroid Vesta is a battered protoplanet left over from the solar system’s early days, with a unique mix of characteristics unknown from any other space rock. Scientists had thought that Vesta, the second-largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, probably started down a planet-forming path shortly after the solar system’s birth. Many other Vesta-like objects were incorporated into rocky worlds such as Earth, but Vesta’s development along this path was halted.

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Envisat Satellite Failure

The European Space Agency declared the death of its massive Earth-observing satellite Envisat on May 9 after a month of mysterious silence from the school bus-size spacecraft. Envisat is the world’s largest Earth-watching satellite for civilian use, with ESA officials touting its 10th anniversary in space earlier this year. The $2.9 billion satellite was originally designed to snap high-resolution photos of Earth for five years, but managed to last 10 years during its successful mission.

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BOLD Space Probe Would Search for Mars Life

The Biological Oxidant and Life Detection mission, or BOLD, would send six small spacecraft to Mars to seek out extinct or extant life in the planet’s red dirt. As said researchers the mission, if it’s ever approved, might be ready to go by 2018 and would likely cost less than $300 million. If BOLD gets off the ground, it would be the first dedicated life-detection mission to Mars since NASA’s twin Viking landers blasted off in 1975, ultimately returning inconclusive results.

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Alien Solar Systems Unlikely Homes for Earth-Like Planets

As said alien solar systems that are home to so-called Hot Jupiters are unlikely homes for Earth-like planets. Hot Jupiters get their name from the fact that they are approximately Jupiter’s size, but extraordinarily near their stars, at about a tenth of the distance from Mercury to our sun. These roaster planets are among the alien worlds that astronomers have discovered most often since their size and proximity to their parent stars mean they exert large gravitational tugs on their hosts that scientists can readily spot.

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Cassini Enceladus Flyby 2012

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will be flying within about 46 miles (74 kilometers) of Saturn’s moon Enceladus (Enceladus is the sixth-largest of the moons of Saturn, it was discovered in 1789 by William Herschel) on May 2, aiming primarily to learn more about the moon’s internal structure. The flyby is the third part of a trilogy of flybys, the other two took place on April 28, 2010, and November 30, 2010, for Cassini’s radio science experiment.

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