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Submission + - Atlantis blasts off on final mission (theregister.co.uk) 1

shuz writes: Space shuttle Atlantis lifted off today on its STS-132 mission to the International Space Station — the final flight for the venerable vehicle.

The mission involves three spacewalks over 12 days, during which the team will replace six batteries on the port truss which store energy from solar panels on that truss, bolt on a spare space-to-ground Ku-band antenna and attach a new tool platform to Canada's Dextre robotic arm.

Moon

NASA Vets & Administration Clash Over Moon Plans 158

mattnyc99 writes "There's a serious feud brewing this week over the Bush administration's plan for a manned mission to the Moon as an eventual stepping stone to Mars. The Planetary Society, a top group of former mission managers, space-based scientists and NASA astronauts argues, is set to rebuke the Moon plan at a conference next month in favor of hopskotching an asteroid on the way to the Red Planet. Agency chief Michael Griffin issued an abnormally strong response to the society, calling it an overly political criticism of Bush for a plan that he says was 'the best legislative guidance NASA has ever had.' Either way, it's clear that the stars are aligning for the whole space race to be reconsidered as a new administration steps into the White House. So far Clinton and Obama (who just added his) are the only contenders with space proposals."
Space

Solar Cycle 24 Has Started 258

radioweather writes "Solar physicists have been waiting for the appearance of a reversed-polarity sunspot to signal the start of the next solar cycle. As of Friday, that wait is over. A magnetically reversed, high-latitude sunspot emerged on the surface of the sun. Just a few months ago, an 'All Quiet Alert' had been issued for the sun. This reversed-polarity sunspot marks the beginning of the sun's return back to Solar Maximum. Solar Cycle 24 has been the subject of much speculation due to competing forecasts on whether it will be a highly active or a quiet low cycle. If it is a low cycle, it may very well be a test of validity for some CO2 based global warming theories. Only time will tell."
Mars

NASA's Instrument For Detecting Life On Mars 88

Roland Piquepaille writes "With the financial help of NASA, American and European researchers have developed a new sensor to check for life on Mars. It should also be able to determine if traces of life's molecular building blocks have been produced by anything that was once alive. The device has been tested in the Atacama Desert in Chile. It should be part of the science payload for the ExoMars rover planned for launch in 2013."

New Clues for Antikythera Mechanism 183

fuzzybunny writes "The Register reports that British and Dutch scientists located a previously undetected word on the Antikythera Mechanism which seems to confirm its nature as a tool for astronomical prediction. This device is one of the world's first known geared devices; while its purpose is still not 100% clear, according to the article, 'Athens university researcher Xenophon Moussas is reported as saying the "newly discovered text seems to confirm that the mechanism was used to track planetary bodies."'"

HomeStar - 21st Century Home Planetarium Review 98

Jeff writes "Direct from Japan, the SegaToys HomeStar is a unique home projector that turns any room into a planetarium, giving a clear view of the night sky. Using interchangeable plates, it's capable of displaying up to 10,000 stars of either northern or southern hemisphere, as well as their constellations. The starfield can move on a timer to simulate the earth's rotation. Also comes with a meteor generating function and sleep timer. Makes a great gift for the dad who has everything, or people who live in light-polluted areas." Check out Jeff's review of the unit.
NASA

NASA Plans Three More Shuttle Flights This Year 167

Lonesome Squash writes "The BBC are reporting that a new fuel tank is due to arrive on Wednesday that fixes the well-known problems with insulation loss. According to the article, administrators are hopeful that they will be able to "squeeze in three launches" this year. I guess they've lowered the bar enough that even the Shuttle program can slither over it. I can only be grateful that I'm not the poor chump who has to write their press releases."

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