Mars Odyssey orbiter working overtime

NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter begins working overtime today after completing a prime mission that discovered vast supplies of frozen water, ran a safety check for future astronauts, and mapped surface textures and minerals all over Mars, among other feats.

“Odyssey has accomplished all of its mission-success criteria,” said Dr. Philip Varghese, project manager for Odyssey at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The spacecraft has been examining Mars in detail since February 2002, more than a full Mars year of about 23 Earth months. NASA has approved an extended mission through September 2006.
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Radar tracking data gathered during the Delta II launch of the MESSENGER spacecraft earlier this month has provided promising results that may benefit NASA’s Space Shuttle Program and Discovery’s Return to Flight.

A pair of radars installed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla., tracked the launch of the Delta II. They tracked separation of the nine solid rocket boosters and jettison of the first stage and the payload fairing, the “nose” of the rocket that protected the MESSENGER spacecraft during launch.
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A spectacular new image of Cassiopeia A released today from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has nearly 200 times more data than the “First Light” Chandra image of this object made five years ago. The new image reveals clues that the initial explosion, caused by the collapse of a massive star, was far more complicated than suspected.

“Although this young supernova remnant has been intensely studied for years, this deep observation is the most detailed ever made of the remains of an exploded star,” said Martin Laming of the Naval Research Laboratory, Washington. Laming is part of a team of scientists led by Una Hwang of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. “It is a gold mine of data that astronomers will be panning through for years to come,” he added.
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Engineers at NASA’s Stennis Space Center (SSC) in Mississippi have successfully tested what’s expected to be the last of three Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) that will carry the next Space Shuttle into orbit.

The engine tested Thursday will be shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla., for installation on Space Shuttle Discovery for its Return to Flight mission, designated STS-114. NASA plans to launch Discovery to the International Space Station no earlier than March 2005.
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Four months into a six-month tour of duty aboard the International Space Station, astronaut Mike Fincke, KE5AIT, says he’s developed a craving for fried chicken. Fincke spoke August 16 via Amateur Radio with youngsters gathered at the Challenger Learning Center at Prairie Aviation Museum in Bloomington, Illinois.

The direct 2-meter contact between W9AML on Earth and NA1SS in space was arranged by the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program. Fincke told the students that although he misses his family–he has a baby daughter whom he has not yet seen–and his home, there are some foods that he misses as well.
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AMSAT Lab building is Hurricane Charley victim

Structural damage to the airport hangar housing the AMSAT Laboratory in Orlando–caused when Hurricane Charley made its way across Florida August 13–has led authorities to condemn the building.

The storm, with winds of 100 MPH or greater, passed directly over the Orlando Executive Airport, which is home to the Lab. AMSAT now must begin a search for a new facility to support development of the Eagle satellite project.
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The Space Shuttle fleet is housed and processed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla. The order the Space Shuttles are listed in this report does not necessarily reflect the chronological order of future missions.

Discovery (OV-103)

Discovery is making significant progress for its Return to Flight mission to the International Space Station planned for next March. Prior to the arrival of Hurricane Charley last week, workers in the Orbiter Processing Facility prepared Discovery for the impending storm by closing the payload bay doors and powering down the vehicle.
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The International Space Station (ISS) crew is focusing this week on the new equipment and supplies that arrived last Saturday aboard a Russian cargo spacecraft.

Expedition 9 Commander Gennady Padalka and NASA ISS Science Officer Mike Fincke unloaded most of the two-and-a-half tons of cargo this week. They then shifted their attention to cataloguing and stowing the material using the Station’s computerized, bar code-based Inventory Management System. The ISS Progress (15) docked to the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module at 1:01 a.m. EDT Saturday, bringing fuel, water, oxygen, air, spare parts and other supplies.
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