Space Exploration
Sunday, October 24, 2021

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The docking of the Shenzhou 8 capsule with the Tiangong 1 module was broadcast live on national television on November 3rd, 2011, bringing the country one step closer to its four-decade quest for manned space exploration. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao watched from the control center in Beijing, and thousands of citizens expressed their pride through Internet postings in what many referred to as the country's first "space kiss," remarking how far China had come since its more impoverished days. 

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In the coming year, officials plan to repeat the unmanned exercise with astronauts as part of its mission to reach the moon and to launch its own space station by 2020. If all goes according to plan, China's floating laboratory would become airborne around the same time the aging International Space Station goes into retirement. 

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After multiple delays, NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission successfully launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida shortly after 9 a.m. on Saturday September 10, 2011.  The $496 million Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission will map the moon's gravity in unprecedented detail. 

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NASA's GRAIL Liftoff 

GRAIL's twin spececraft are tasked for a nine-month mission to explore Earth's nearest neighbor in unprecedented detail  They will determine the structure of the lunar interior from crust to core and advance our understanding of the thermal evolution of the moon. 

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A planet made entirely of diamond was newly discovered in our Milky Way Neighborhood, orbiting around a tiny star, lying around 4,000 light years away from Earth in the constellation Serpens. A team of astronomers from Australia, Germany, Italy, the UK and the U.S. discovered the exotic diamond planet during their search for a pulsar, using the Parkes 64-meter radio telescope in western New South Wales.

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The diamond planet is estimated as 34,175 miles across, which is about five times Earth's diameter.  As the planet largely consists of carbon, scientists speculate that the carbon within it has the right conditions to be crystallized, and believe it to be completely made of diamond. That would make it the universe's largest diamond of 1031 carats worth.

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 Commander Chris Ferguson eased Atlantis onto the runway at 5:57 a.m. EDT (0957 GMT), ending a 5.2 million-mile (8.4 million-km) journey and closing a key chapter in human space flight history.Atlantis is the last of NASA's three space shuttles to be retired.  After this final mission, the Shuttle Atlantis will go on display at the Kennedy Center's visitor's complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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"Mission complete, Houston," Ferguson Radioed to Mission Control.

The shuttle's primary payload was an Italian-built cargo hauler named Raffaello, which was loaded with 8,640 pounds (3,920 kg) of food, clothing, supplies and science equipment for the space station. Additional gear was packed in the shuttle's crew cabin.  One spacewalk took place during Atlantis' mission, although it was conducted by NASA's two resident space station astronauts, rather than the shuttle crew.

 

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CAPE CANAVERAL - Space shuttle Endeavour swooped in from the darkness and landed at Kennedy Space Center early Wednesday June 1, 2011, rolling to a stop at its home port for the final time. "It's sad to see her land for the last time, but she really has a great legacy," Commander Mark Kelly radioed after easing Endeavour onto the runway. The relatively rare overnight landing capped a two-week mission that included the delivery of a $2-billion particle physics experiment to the international space station. But the mission objectives were largely relegated to the background for the high-profile flight.

Endeavour's Final Mission

 

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NASA: Docked Endeavour at ISS Through a Fish-Eye Lens

"We got the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer installed, which is really a remarkable thing for physics and for science," said Kelly. "That sensor's already collecting massive amounts of data and we're looking forward to hearing what those discoveries are."