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After NASA shut down the Space Shuttle Program, the remaining shuttles and replicas were divided among several cities, as museum displays. Over the past few weeks, two shuttles that never flew to space were transported by barge to their new homes. The Enterprise was sailed up the Hudson River to its new position aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid, part of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, and the shuttle replica named Explorer sailed from Florida to Houston, Texas, where it will be displayed at the Johnson Space Center. Images of these two journeys by sea are collected below. [22 photos]

Space Shuttle Enterprise is carried by barge underneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City, on June 3, 2012. Enterprise was on its way to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, where it will put on permanent display. (Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

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The Second Copernican Revolution: Our Changing View of Our Place in the Universe

Abstract: Five hundred years ago, Copernicus advanced the theory that the Earth was not the center of the Solar System. That theory revolutionized our understanding of the Universe. It was initially met with great opposition because of what it meant about our own significance. Today there is a second Copernican revolution underway that will once again alter our significance. Advances in technologies and techniques are enabling the detection, observation and study of Earth-like planets around other stars. And several deep-space missions are currently exploring potentially-habitable worlds within our Solar System as possible abodes for life beyond the Earth. As one such mission, the two intrepid robotic explorers, Spirit and Opportunity, have been exploring the surface of Mars for evidence of past habitable environments that could have supported life. The rovers have traversed great plains, climbed mountains, descended into deep craters and survived rover-killing dust storms and frigid winters. Both rovers have found clues that Mars was once Earth-like with a potential for life. Soon they will be joined by another larger, more capable rover on the surface. Within the next few years, we may be poised to answering that central question, "Are we alone in the Universe?" Speaker Info: John L. Callas, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has been project manager of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover project since March 2006. Previously, as science manager and then <b>...</b>
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ALMOST…THERE
ALMOST…THERE: Australia’s Georgia Nanscawen, in yellow, and American Rachel Dawson reached for the ball during the Four Nations tournament at the North Harbor Hockey Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday. (Phil Walter/Getty Images)

RESPECTING THEIR ELDERS
RESPECTING THEIR ELDERS: Holy men stepped over children during a ritual to bless them amid a procession to mark the Gajan Hindu festival in Kolkata Thursday. (Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters)

POWER-WASHED
POWER-WASHED: A municipal worker washed a statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, in Moscow’s Gagarin Square Wednesday. Russia celebrated Aviation and Cosmonautics Day Thursday. (Andrey Smirnov/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

TEMPLE TIME
TEMPLE TIME: A man took a dip in the waters of the Sikh Shrine Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, Thursday. (Narinder Nanu/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

ROLE PLAYING
ROLE PLAYING: A man wore an astronaut costume as he celebrated Aviation and Cosmonautics Day in Moscow Thursday. (Mikhail Metzel/Associated Press)

A BLIND BOY
A BLIND BOY: A blind Palestinian student used the Braille system to read during an English lesson at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency-run al-Nour (Light) School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Children in Gaza City Thursday. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

DELAYED
DELAYED: A passenger looked out a bus window while police officer stood guard during a strike in Athens Thursday. A group of long-distance bus drivers on strike tried to block buses from leaving the main terminal in the capital. (John Kolesidis/Reuters)

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Starting next month, NASA will begin delivering its four Space Shuttle orbiters to their final destinations. After an extensive decommissioning process, the fleet -- which includes three former working spacecraft and one test orbiter -- is nearly ready for public display. On April 17, the shuttle Discovery will be attached to a modified 747 Jumbo Jet for transport to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Virginia. Endeavour will go to Los Angeles in mid-September, and in early 2013, Atlantis will take its place on permanent display at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. Test orbiter Enterprise will fly to New York City next month. Gathered here are images of NASA's final days spent processing the Space Shuttle fleet. [35 photos]

In Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the flight deck of space shuttle Atlantis is illuminated one last time during preparations to power down Atlantis during Space Shuttle Program transition and retirement activities, on December 22, 2011. Atlantis is being prepared for public display in 2013 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. (NASA/Jim Grossmann)

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The Remote Agent Experiment: Debugging Code from 60 Million Miles Away

Google Tech Talk February 14, 2012 Presented by Ron Garret. ABSTRACT The Remote Agent Experiment: Debugging Code from 60 Million Miles Away The Remote Agent Experiment (RAX) was an autonomous control system for an unmanned interplanetary spacecraft called New Millennium Deep Space 1 (DS1). In May, 1999, control of the DS1 spacecraft, a $150-million asset, was handed over to the Remote Agent software for three days. It was the first -- and, to date, the last -- time that an interplanetary spacecraft has been under fully autonomous control. RAX was a resounding technological success, but a political disaster. Instead of paving the way for future autonomous missions, RAX is the reason that NASA has not flown an autonomous mission since. This talk is about the lessons learned from an ambitious but ultimately failed attempt to introduce technological change into a large, bureaucratic organization, the limitations of static code analysis, and the unique challenges of debugging code when the round-trip ping time is 45 minutes. Slides available at www.flownet.com Dr. Ron Garret is a software engineer turned entrepreneur and angel investor. He has co-founded three startups and invested in a dozen others. In a previous life he was an AI and robotics researcher at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab where he led the development of one of the four major components of the Remote Agent. In 2000 he went to work for what was at the time an obscure little Silicon Valley startup called Google <b>...</b>
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99luftballon writes "The head of NASA Ames Research Center has said that he expects any colonization of Mars, the Moon or asteroids to be done by private companies rather than by NASA. There's some interesting parallels with the East India Company, although that was hardly a triumph of capitalism. From the article: 'Dr. Simon Worden, director at NASA Ames Research Center, told The Register that the agency was firmly enmeshing itself with the private sector, citing cooperation on the Dragon capsule being developed by Elon Musk's SpaceX team as a good example. NASA developed a heat shield material called PICA (Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator), capable of withstanding 1850 degrees Celsius (3360 degrees Fahrenheit), and gave it to SpaceX, who manufactured it.' The article also mentions Google's head of space projects, who has 'Intergalactic Federation King Almighty and Commander of the Universe' on her business cards."


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Right at this moment, robotic probes launched by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and others are gathering information all across the solar system. We currently have spacecraft in orbit around the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Saturn. Several others are on their way to smaller bodies, and a few are heading out of the solar system entirely. Although the Space Shuttle no longer flies, astronauts are still at work aboard the International Space Station, performing experiments and sending back amazing photos. With all these eyes in the sky, I'd like to take another opportunity to put together a recent photo album of our solar system -- a set of family portraits, of sorts -- as seen by our astronauts and mechanical emissaries. This time, we have some closer views of the asteroid Vesta, a visit to the durable (if dusty) Mars rover Opportunity, some glimpses of Saturn's moons, and lovely images of our home, planet Earth. [34 photos]

A view of the Sun on March 7, 2012, seen in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly aboard NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Looping lines reveal solar plasma that is rising and falling along magnetic field lines in the solar atmosphere, or corona. The brighter prominence at upper left is named solar active region 1429, which has already released several large solar flares, some accompanied by large explosions of solar plasma known as coronal mass ejections. (NASA/SDO)

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Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War, a milestone commemorated by The Atlantic in a special issue (now available online). Although photography was still in its infancy, war correspondents produced thousands of images, bringing the harsh realities of the frontlines to those on the home front in a new and visceral way. Photographers also made extensive use of stereo photography, bringing images to the public in three dimensions, for those with access to a stereoscopic viewer. The images collected here are stereo pairs, which will animate when clicked (starting with photo #2), adding a new dimension, and further bringing home the reality of the moment. (Be sure to see part 1 and part 2 as well.) Keep in mind, as you view these photographs, that they were taken 150 years ago -- providing a glimpse of a United States that was only 85 years old at the time. [20 stereo pairs]

Photographer Timothy H. O'Sullivan took this photo, one half of a stereo view of Alfred R. Waud, artist of Harper's Weekly, while he sketched on the battlefield near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in July of 1863. To see this animate in 3-D, click through to photo #2 in the full entry. (Timothy H. O'Sullivan/LOC)

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There were a lot of things that launched the environmental movement 40-some years ago—the pea-soup shroud of smog that used to hang over L.A., the sight of Ohio’s Cuyahoga River on fire. But nothing quite matched the power of the pictures beamed back to Earth by the Apollo astronauts on their way to the moon. We’d been seeing our home planet from low-Earth orbit for a number of years by then. What was always missing were human eyes that got far enough away so that the planet’s entire, 360-degree face fit into frame. Once we had that perspective, we saw our world anew: a tiny, fragile bauble in an infinity of blackness, something manifestly worth taking better care of.

Of all the pictures shot on all the moon trips, it was an image from the final one—Apollo 17—that made the greatest cultural impression. Dubbed ”Blue Marble,” the picture which mission records suggest was taken by lunar module pilot Jack Schmitt) shows Africa and the Middle East, largely unobscured by clouds, from a distance of 28,000 miles (45,000 km).

Now, NASA has recreated the picture, without getting any farther than 581 miles (931 km) away, thanks to the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Satellite (Suomi NPP), which orbits the planet pole-to-pole rather than east to west. The relatively low altitude (compared to the Apollos at least) would make a full planetary profile impossible, but the ship was able to capture different high-def swatches of the planet and knit them together
into a single image. To capture that shot for real, a spacecraft would have to be 7,918 miles (12,743 km) away. While the satellite has never journeyed nearly so far, it did do Apollo 17 one better, taking portrait-quality images of both Earthly hemispheres, including North America. Somewhere down there, too tiny to see, is an L.A. with relatively clear skies and a Cuyahoga River now largely free of filth—and entirely free of flame. Sometimes it just takes a good look at ourselves to make us behave a whole lot better.

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