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Pluto's Atmosphere is Expanding.


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Pluto's Atmosphere is Expanding

Jul 9, 2003 - A team of Astronomers from MIT reported today that Pluto's atmosphere is expanding, even as the planet is getting further away from the Sun on its elliptical orbit. The team made their findings by watching the dimming of a star as Pluto passed in front. Astronomers were expecting to find the opposite situation; that its atmosphere would shrink as it gets further from the Sun, but it's similar to the Earth, where early afternoon is hotter than noon, when the Sun is at its brightest. If all goes well, NASA will launch its New Horizons mission by 2006 to reach Pluto in 2015.

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Image credit: ESA
Beagle 2 Tests Complete

Jul 9, 2003 - The European Space Agency has been testing all aspects of the Mars Express spacecraft to ensure that it's ready for its encounter with Mars. This week they put the UK-built Beagle 2 lander through its paces. The tests included uploading software and turning various instruments on and off, and everything seems to be working properly. A final series of tests will be done in mid-July. Mars Express is expected to reach the Red planet on December 19 - Beagle 2 will land on the surface on December 25.

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Image credit: NASA
Hot Gases Breached a Shuttle Back in 2000

Jul 9, 2003 - NASA has released photographs that show how the Space Shuttle Atlantis suffered damage from hot gases back in May 2000 when it returned through the atmosphere on a mission. The damage wasn't permanent and repaired in time for its next mission four months later. NASA blamed the damage on improper installation of a seal between protective panels on the shuttle's left wing. Atlantis is expected to be the first shuttle to return to space when NASA begins launches again in early 2004.

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