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Mars Express spacecraft has deployed.
The reentry module of the European Space Agency's unmanned Foton-M2 mission has returned to Earth, landing in Kazakhstan, close to the Russian border. The Foton-M2 contained 39 space experiments, including fluid physics, biology, crystal growth, meteoritics, radiation and exobiology. It remained in space for 16 days, and then was de-orbited and landed safely. The spacecraft is being returned to Europe so the various experiments can be returned to the investigators.
The European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft has successfully deployed its second MARSIS 20-metre (66 foot) radar boom; without a hitch this time. Learning their lesson from the first boom, which partially locked up during deployment, ESA controllers put Mars Express into a slow spin so that the boom and its hinges would be evenly warmed by the Sun as it extended. The shorter third and final boom will be deployed on June 17. Once the three booms are extended, Mars Express will be able to scan underneath the surface of Mars for deposits of water and ice.
Transformational Space Corp. successfully tested a scale model of its new booster design that should make launching humans into space less expensive and safer. A 1/5th scale mockup of the booster was flown aloft by Scaled Composite's Proteus aircraft and then dropped. The booster tilts itself vertically in midair so that it's pointing upward, without requiring any kind of wings. t/Space is one of eight companies chosen by NASA to develop techologies for the Crew Exploration Vehicle, which will return humans to the Moon as early as 2015.
The Space Shuttle Discovery has returned to launch pad 39B at Florida's Cape Canaveral to continue preparations for its July launch. The shuttle recently had its external fuel tank replaced with one that would minimize ice buildup. NASA is planning to launch Discovery during its July 15 - 31 flight window. During the 12-day mission, seven astronauts will test new hardware and techniques designed to improve the safety of the space shuttles, and they will also dock with the International Space Station and deliver supplies.
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