The Space Shuttle Discovery is at the launch pad. Following more than two years of safety modifications and vehicle upgrades, Discovery arrived at Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla., around 12:30 a.m. EDT April 7.

“This is a big milestone,” said William Readdy, NASA associate administrator for Space Operations, “and what a welcome sight to see Discovery at the pad, especially knowing the work we’re doing to make it a stronger vehicle. But we’re not finished yet. There are still some important milestones we’re working toward before we’re ready to fly,” he added.
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Ariane 5 takes shape at the Spaceport

Arianespace is preparing for an active period of launches in the coming months, with an Ariane 5 Generic vehicle now taking form at the Spaceport for Flight 166. This will be followed by the build-up of an increased-lift Ariane 5 ECA, providing two launchers at the ready for customer satellite payloads.

A total of four Ariane 5 missions are planned during the upcoming months, with three to be performed by Ariane 5 Generic vehicles and the fourth with an Ariane 5 ECA.

See the Mission Update on Arianespace’s Website for additional details:

Explosions in Space

Scientists at NASA and the University of Kansas say that a mass extinction on Earth hundreds of millions of years ago could have been triggered by a star explosion called a gamma-ray burst. The scientists do not have direct evidence that such a burst activated the ancient extinction. The strength of their work is their atmospheric modeling — essentially a “what if” scenario.

The scientists calculated that gamma-ray radiation from a relatively nearby star explosion, hitting the Earth for only ten seconds, could deplete up to half of the atmosphere’s protective ozone layer. Recovery could take at least five years. With the ozone layer damaged, ultraviolet radiation from the Sun could kill much of the life on land and near the surface of oceans and lakes, and disrupt the food chain.
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Earth’s Auroras

Scientists looking at the Earth’s northern and southern auroras were surprised to find they are not mirror images of each other, as was once thought. The main cause behind the differences appears to be the interaction between the Sun’s outer atmosphere and the Earth’s magnetic field.

Analysis of the images from NASA’s Polar spacecraft and the Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) spacecraft showed how the auroras move and change, based on the “tilt” of the Earth’s magnetic field toward the Sun and conditions in the solar wind.
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World Amateur Radio Day

World Amateur Radio Day 2005 is Monday, April 18

The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) and its member-societies representing more than 150 countries around the globe celebrate World Amateur Radio Day each year on April 18 to mark the anniversary of the IARU’s founding in 1925. The theme for this year’s 80th anniversary celebration is “Expanding the World of Wireless Communications.”

Amateur Radio operators have been the leaders in developing many of today’s electronic and communication marvels.
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Mars Rovers Work Overtime

NASA has approved up to 18 more months of operations for Spirit and Opportunity, the twin Mars rovers that have already surprised engineers and scientists by continuing active exploration for more than 14 months.

“The rovers have proven their value with major discoveries about ancient watery environments on Mars that might have harbored life,” said Dr. Ghassem Asrar, deputy associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “We are extending their mission through September 2006 to take advantage of having such capable resources still healthy and in excellent position to continue their adventures.”
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