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NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe announced on Tuesday that they plan to name the Spirit landing site in honour of the Columbia astronauts who lost their lives nearly a year ago. The place where Spirit landed in Gusev Crater will be called the Columbia Memorial Station. One image sent back by the rover shows a memorial plaque attached to Spirit's high-gain antenna - the plaque is aluminum and approximately 15 cm across.
The European Space Agency's SMART-1 spacecraft has completed its 176th orbit around the Earth, finally reaching the outer limits of our planet's Van Allen radiation belts. After weeks in the intense radiation, it looks like everything on SMART-1 is functioning normally. The spacecraft has fired its ion thruster for a total of 1,500 hours and only consumed 24 kg of Xenon fuel. SMART-1 is taking the slow road to the Moon, where it will map the surface and search for deposits of ice.
The Chandra X-Ray Observatory has found rich deposits of neon, magnesium and silicon in a pair of colliding Galaxies called The Antennae, located 30 million light-years away. When these hot clouds eventually cool, they'll serve as enormous nurseries for newborn stars. Astronomers are interested in this collision because it's very similar to what will happen when the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies collide in about 3 billion years.
Now that it's survived its dangerous journey through the tail of Comet Wild-2, NASA's Stardust spacecraft is heading for home. On board is its precious cargo of Comet fragments that will be returned to Earth in 2006 for analysis by scientists. Even though the spacecraft's camera was only really designed for navigation, it took 72 photographs which are some of the best images of a Comet ever taken. scientists hope that the cometary particles will help answer questions about the earliest history of our solar system.
The first opportunity for Mars Express to hear from Beagle 2 has come and gone, and so far, there's just silence. The spacecraft passed over the anticipated landing area Tuesday, at 1213 UTC (7:13 am EST) and attempted to make contact with the lander. Several more attempts are planned for the coming days, and now that Mars Express has reached its operational orbit, there should be plenty of opportunities to hear from Beagle 2 if it's still intact on the surface of Mars.
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