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Watch NASA’s celebrations of the Apollo 11 landing

NASA’s APOLLO 11 CREW landed on the Moon July 20, 1969 (July 21 in Australia). The world watched 45 years ago as astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set their lunar module Eagle down in the Sea of Tranquility, while crewmate Michael Collins orbited above in the command module Columbia.

The agency is commemorating Armstrong’s “one giant leap for mankind” through a number of events, as well as on the agency’s website and NASA Television.

Buzz Aldrin stands next the lunar module Eagle on the surface of the Moon, July 1969.

Buzz Aldrin stands next the lunar module Eagle on the surface of the Moon, July 1969.

On July 21 at 12:39pm Monday, Eastern Australian time, (Sunday at 10:39pm, US EDT), which was the time 45 years ago when Armstrong opened the spacecraft hatch to begin the first spacewalk on the Moon, NASA TV will replay the restored footage of Armstrong and Aldrin’s historic steps on the lunar surface.

LIVE COVERAGE OF EVENTS: Watch NASA Television

On Tuesday at 12:15am, Eastern Australian time (Monday, July 21 at 10:15am, US EDT), from the agency’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, NASA TV will air live coverage of the renaming of the centre’s Operations and Checkout Building in honour of Armstrong, who passed away in 2012.

The renaming ceremony will include NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Kennedy Centre Director and former space shuttle pilot Robert Cabana, as well as Apollo 11’s remaining crewmembers, Collins and Aldrin, and astronaut Jim Lovell, who was the mission’s back-up commander.

International Space Station NASA astronauts Steve Swanson, who is the current Station commander, and Reid Wiseman, also will take part in the ceremony from their orbiting laboratory 415 kilometres above Earth.

Launch of Apollo 11.

Launch of Apollo 11.

The Apollo 11 crew: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin.

The Apollo 11 crew: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin.

Armstrong and Aldrin on the Moon.

Armstrong and Aldrin on the Moon.

Kennedy’s Operations and Checkout Building has played a vital role in NASA’s spaceflight history. It was used during the Apollo program to process and test the command, service and lunar modules. Today, the facility is being used to process and assemble NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which the agency will use to send astronauts to an asteroid in the 2020s and Mars in the 2030s.

On Friday at 8:00am, Eastern Australian time (Thursday, July 24 at 6:00pm US EDT), which is the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11’s return to Earth, the agency will host a panel discussion – called NASA’s Next Giant Leap – from the Comic-Con International in San Diego, California.

Moderated by actor Seth Green, the panel will include Aldrin, NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green, JPL systems engineer Bobak Ferdowsi (the man seen with the unique haircut in mission control during the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars), and NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, who will talk about Orion and the Space Launch System rocket, which will carry humans on America’s next great adventure in space.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

Weekly space gallery for January 18, 2014

WELCOME TO THE FIRST of our weekly collections of the best astronomy and space exploration images taken by observatories around the world and in space. Each week we’ll bring you a selection of our favourite recent images – if you like them (and we hope you do), please share them with your friends. And don’t forget you can elect to have this and other stories emailed direct to your inbox, just by signing up to our free email service – see the Subscribe box in the column at right.

So, let’s get started on this week’s images.

1. The Orion Nebula

Orion Nebula

An infrared view of the Orion Nebula.

One of the most famous sights in the sky, the Orion Nebula is a huge cloud of gas and dust about 1,500 light-years from Earth. Astronomers call it a ‘stellar nursery’ because many stars have been born, or are in the process of being born, out of all that gas and dust. See all the tiny red dots? Those are newly born stars. This false-colour image was taken by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which views the universe at infrared wavelengths. Courtesy NASA.

2. The Coma Cluster

Coma Cluster

The Coma Cluster of galaxies.

Galaxies tend to clump together in groups, or clusters. Some clusters comprise only a handful of galaxies, others have more than a thousand. The Coma Cluster – so-called because it is seen in the direction of the constellation Coma Berenices, which means ‘Berenice’s Hair’ (named after an ancient Egyptian queen) – is located about 350 million light years from Earth. Most of its 1,000-plus galaxies are elliptical (one of the two main galaxy shapes, the other being spiral). Pretty much all of the dots and blobs of light you can see in this Hubble Space Telescope image are galaxies; the three main ones are called IC 4041 (left), IC 4042 (middle) and GP 236 (right). The Coma Cluster is itself part of a larger grouping that also contains the Leo Cluster, and is called the Coma Supercluster. Courtesy ESA / Hubble & NASA; D. Carter (LJMU).

3. The Topsy Turvy galaxy

Topsy Turvy galaxy

The Topsy Turvy galaxy, with X-ray emission from regions surrounding two black holes shown in purple.

The Topsy Turvy galaxy (also known by its catalogue number, NGC 1313) is located about 13 million light years from Earth. Hidden within it are two black holes, whose presence is given away – where the purple patches are (false colour) – by energetic X-rays coming from gas being siphoned from companion stars. The X-ray data comes from NASA’s NuSTAR space telescope, while the background image is from the Digitised Sky Survey (made from pictures taken by ground-based telescopes). Courtesy NASA / JPL-Caltech / IRAP.

4. Planets in the dust

Dust ring around the star HD 142527

Dust around the star HD 142527 could be giving birth to planets.

Japanese astronomers have been studying a star called HD 142527, about 450 light years Earth. HD 142527 is a young star, surrounded by a huge, slightly lop-sided ring of gas and dust. The astronomers say that a dense spot in the ring is where planets could be forming. (Due to the wavelength used, the star is not visible in this image.) Courtesy ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), NAOJ.

5. The Tarantula Nebula

The Tarantula Nebula

The Tarantula Nebula

The Tarantula Nebula is a huge cloud of gas and dust in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighbouring galaxy to our Milky Way. This Hubble Space Telescope infrared view shows cloudy whisps and many thousands of sparkling stars. Just to the left of centre is a tight group of stars known as R136. In early photographs, R136 seemed to be a single, giant star, and no one could work out how a star could grow to be so big. But eventually better imaging revealed it to be a cluster of stars – so many and so bright, that the light the emit is the main reason why the Tarantula’s gas and dust is all lit up. Courtesy NASA, ESA, E. Sabbi (STScI).

6. Looking down on Venus

South pole view of Venus.

The view looking down on Venus’ southern polar regions.

This black and white image of Venus was taken by the European Space Agency’s Venus Express spacecraft, which has been orbiting the planet since April 2006. The viewpoint is looking down on the south pole from an altitude of 50,000 kilometres. Venus is perpetually covered by thick clouds, but Venus Express’ instruments can pick out bands within those clouds, which are being blown by the prevailing winds from east to west (the opposite to winds here on Earth). The small black blobs are not real; they are artefacts of the imaging equipment. Courtesy ESA / MPS / DLR / IDA.

7. Rima Marius

Rima Marius

Rima Marius stretches 280 kilometres across the Moon.

Rima Marius is a lunar ‘rille’ or channel. Such channels are thought to form when a tunnel through which lava once flowed, collapses in on itself. Rima Marius is 280 kilometres long, winding its way across a flat plain known as the Oceanus Procellarum, or Ocean of Storms. This image was taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. Courtesy NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University.

8. Tracks on Mars

Orbital shot showing tracks left by the Curiosity rover

An orbital shot showing tracks left by the Curiosity rover on Mars.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped this image of the martian surface on December 11, 2013. It clearly shows the tracks left by the Curiosity rover as it slowly makes it way across the floor of Gale Crater (the rover itself is out of frame). The rover has six wheels, three on each side; the distance between left and right wheels is about 3 metres. See if you can follow the tracks all the way from top right to bottom left. Courtesy NASA / JPL-Caltech / Univ. of Arizona.

9. Shadows on Saturn

Saturn

The shadows of Saturn’s rings cast upon the planet’s cloud tops.

Shadows cast by Saturn’s rings make the planet look like it has been painted with Indian ink while spinning on a potter’s wheel. The rings themselves are out of view in this image, taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004. Courtesy NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute.

10. Docking at the Station

Cgynus craft docked at the International Space Station

Cgynus cargo craft docked at the International Space Station

Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Cygnus commercial cargo spacecraft is seen docked to the Harmony module of the International Space Station. Attached is the Station’s robot arm, called Canadarm2 (being the second generation of robot arm supplied by Canada). The Cygnus craft was launched aboard an Antares rocket on January 9. Courtesy NASA.

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Olympic torch to go on a spacewalk

TWO RUSSIAN COSMONAUTS will carry the Olympic torch when they venture outside the International Space Station Saturday, November 9, for a six-hour spacewalk to perform maintenance work on the orbiting laboratory.

NASA Television will provide live coverage of the spacewalk beginning at 1:00am Australian Eastern Summer Time.

Expedition 37 Flight Engineers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) will open the hatch to the Pirs docking compartment airlock at 1:30am and float outside for a brief photo opportunity with the unlit torch. They then will stow it back inside the airlock before they begin their chores 420 kilometres above Earth.

Expedition 38 flight members holding the Olympic torch

Expedition 38 Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, left, Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA, hold an Olympic torch that will be flown with them to the International Space Station, during a press conference held Wednesday, November 6, at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The torch, an icon of international co-operation through sports competition, arrived at the space station Thursday aboard a Soyuz spacecraft carrying three crew members Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, Rick Mastracchio of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. It will return to Earth on Sunday, November 10, aboard another Soyuz spacecraft vehicle along with crew members Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos, Karen Nyberg of NASA, and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency.

The spacewalk is a high-flying extension of a relay that began in Olympia, Greece, in October. The relay will culminate with the torch being used to light the Olympic flame at the February 7 opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

This is not the first time that an Olympic torch has been carried into space, but it will be the first time in which one has been taken on a spacewalk.

After the photo opportunity, Kotov and Ryazanskiy will prepare a pointing platform on the hull of the station’s Zvezda service module for the installation of a high resolution camera system in December, relocate of a foot restraint for use on future spacewalks and deactivate an experiment package.

The spacewalk will be the 174th in support of space station assembly and maintenance, the fourth in Kotov’s career and the first for Ryazanskiy. This will be the eighth spacewalk conducted at the station this year. In December, Tyurin will accompany Kotov on his fifth spacewalk.

All the times of International Space Station programming, key Soyuz event coverage and other NASA Television programming can be found at: nasa.gov/stationnews

Space Station to test inflatable module

NASA HAS ANNOUNCED PLANS for an addition to the International Space Station… one that will use the orbiting laboratory to test expandable space habitat technology.

NASA has awarded a US$17.8 million contract to Bigelow Aerospace to provide a Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), which is scheduled to arrive at the space station in 2015 for a two-year technology demonstration.

The BEAM is scheduled to launch aboard the eighth SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the station contracted by NASA, currently planned for 2015.

Following the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft carrying the BEAM to the station, astronauts will use the station’s robotic arm to install the module on the aft port of the Tranquility node.

After the module is berthed to the Tranquility node, the station crew will activate a pressurisation system to expand the structure to its full size using air stored within the packed module.

Garver and Bigelow next to the Bigelow BEAM

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and President and founder of Bigelow Aerospace Robert T. Bigelow, talk while standing next to the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) during a media briefing.

A unique test bed

During the two-year test period, station crewmembers and ground-based engineers will gather performance data on the module, including its structural integrity and leak rate.

An assortment of instruments embedded within module also will provide important insights on its response to the space environment. This includes radiation and temperature changes compared with traditional aluminium modules.

“The International Space Station is a uniquely suited test bed to demonstrate innovative exploration technologies like the BEAM,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

“As we venture deeper into space on the path to Mars, habitats that allow for long-duration stays in space will be a critical capability. Using the station’s resources, we’ll learn how humans can work effectively with this technology in space, as we continue to advance our understanding in all aspects for long-duration spaceflight aboard the orbiting laboratory.”

Astronauts periodically will enter the module to gather performance data and perform inspections. Following the test period, the module will be jettisoned from the station, burning up on re-entry.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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Videos – Around the globe

HERE ARE SOME MORE fantastic short videos of Earth at night, taken by cameras aboard the International Space Station. Visible in many of them are the aurora and lightning below. Enjoy!

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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VIDEO: Another trip around the Earth

HERE ARE SOME MORE fantastic short videos taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in Earth orbit. The ISS circles the globe every 92.5 minutes at a speed of about 27,745 kilometres per hour. This unique vantage points enables us to see the planet spinning below, with numerous countries, cities and landscapes passing underneath.

A couple of the videos show a point of view looking out the main window of the Station’s “Cupola“. The multi-window observation post attached to the side of the ISS gives astronauts and cosmonauts not only the ability to get great views of the Earth, but also to keep an eye on activities—such as spacewalks and spacecraft movements—outside the station.

Story by Jonathan Nally. Videos courtesy NASA.

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Cargo capsule set for launch

Artist's impression of the Dragon spacecraft in orbit.

Artist's impression of the Dragon spacecraft in orbit.

AT THE CAPE CANAVERAL Air Force Station (adjacent to the Kennedy Space Centre) in Florida, final preparations are being made for a historic launch at the end of this month.

The unmanned Dragon capsule and its Falcon 9 rocket, both privately developed by the SpaceX corporation, are due for launch on April 30 (USA time) on a combined test flight and cargo flight to the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA is providing seed money to SpaceX and a second company, Orbital Sciences, to develop and operate unmanned craft that can keep the ISS resupplied in the post-shuttle era.

SpaceX is intending to field a manned version of Dragon later this decade, capable of taking seven astronauts into low Earth orbit.

More information: NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation System

Dragon capsule is placed atop its cargo ring

Dragon capsule is mated to a "ring" that will sit on top of the Falcon 9 rocket.

Falcon 9 rocket in inside a processing hangar at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Falcon 9 rocket in inside a processing hangar at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

Falcon 9 rocket with Dragon capsule attached on top sits fully fuelled on Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida during a launch dress rehearsal.

Story by Jonathan Nally. Images courtesy NASA / Gianni Woods / Jim Grossmann / Kim Shiflett.

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VIDEO: Two amazing views of Planet Earth

THESE TWO AMAZING NASA VIDEOS were taken by the astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The one above was made in mid March, and shows the view looking down as the Station sailed across Brazil and out into the Atlantic Ocean and across the Earth’s “terminator”. The terminator is the line dividing the half of the planet lit by the Sun and the half in shadow. The camera view also shows Soyuz (manned) and Progress (unmanned) spacecraft docked with the Station.

The video below was taken a little later in March and shows what it’s like to see an aurora from above. The Station was flying over the southern part of the Indian Ocean at the time. Toward the end of the video we can see daylight beginning to break across the horizon in the right-hand half of the screen.

Story by Jonathan Nally. Videos courtesy NASA.

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Earth from Space: Sideways view of Antarctica

Oblique ISS view of Livingston Island and Deception Island

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photo at a highly oblique angle. It shows a small part of the Antarctic coastline.

THE INCLINED EQUATORIAL ORBIT of the International Space Station (ISS) limits astronauts to nadir views of Earth—looking straight down from the spacecraft—between approximately 52 degrees North latitude and 52 degrees South.

However, when viewing conditions are ideal, the crew can obtain detailed oblique images—looking outwards at an angle—of features at higher latitudes, such as Greenland or, in this image, Antarctica.

While the bulk of the continent of Antarctica sits over the South Pole, the narrow Antarctic Peninsula extends like a finger towards the tip of South America. The northernmost part of the Peninsula is known as Graham Land, a small portion of which (located at approximately 64 degrees South latitude) is visible at the top left in this astronaut photograph.

Off the coast of Graham Land to the north-northwest, two of the South Shetland Islands—Livingston Island and Deception Island—are visible. Both have volcanic origins, and active volcanism at Deception Island has been recorded since 1800. (The last verified eruptive activity occurred in 1970.)

Closer to the coastline of Graham Land, Brabant Island (not part of the South Shetlands) also includes numerous outcrops of volcanic rock, attesting to the complex tectonic history of the region.

The ISS was located over the South Atlantic Ocean, approximately 1,800 kilometres to the northeast when this image was taken. This long viewing distance, combined with the highly oblique angle, accentuates the shadowing of the ground and provides a sense of the topography similar to the view you get from an airplane.

It also causes foreshortening of features in the image, making them appear closer to each other than they actually are. For example, the distance between Livingston and Deception Islands is approximately 20 kilometres.

Astronaut photograph provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Centre. Text adapted from information issued by William L. Stefanov, Jacobs/ESCG at NASA-JSC.

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Relive the Soyuz landing

THE EXPEDITION 29 CREW from the International Space Station returned to Earth today, having spent five-and-a-half months in orbit.

Sergei Volkov, Satoshi Furukawa and Mike Fossum rode the Soyuz TMA-02M capsule back to Earth, landing on the icy cold steppes of Kazakhstan.

This video shows remarkable footage of the re-entry, taken from the Space Station, plus post-landing activities as the astron/cosmonauts were removed from the capsule.

Towards the end of the video we get a good view of just how small the Soyuz is. With three people crammed inside, there’s almost no room to move.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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