Atlantis Returns, Pluto finds a friend and John Glenn turns 90
This week we saw Atlantis return from the last flight of the shuttle era, found out Pluto has another moon and got a glimpse of where the Mars rover will land in the more unique events around the cosmos.
<p>Vote for your favorite space story this week:
Happy Birthday, John Glenn! First American to Orbit Earth Turns 90
John Glenn, one of NASA's original seven astronauts and the first American to orbit Earth, joined another exclusive club today (July 18) — the nonagenarians. Glenn is celebrating his 90th birthday after a long and storied career as an American spaceflight icon. [<a href="http://www.space.com/12328-astronaut-john-glenn-90th-birthday-american-orbit.html">Read More</a>]
NASA Spacecraft Snaps First Close-Up Photo of Huge Asteroid Vesta
NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned its first close-up photos of the huge asteroid Vesta, which it began orbiting late Friday night. [<a href="http://www.space.com/12332-giant-asteroid-vesta-nasa-spacecraft-photos.html">Read More</a>]
Shuttle Bids Historic Farewell to Space Station
NASA's last space shuttle ever to visit the International Space Station cast off from the orbiting lab early Tuesday (July 19) to begin one final trip back to Earth. It was the last time a shuttle would ever visit the orbiting lab. [<a href="http://www.space.com/12338-final-shuttle-astronauts-final-farewell-space-station.html">Read More</a>]
Pluto Has Another Moon, Hubble Photos Reveal
A tiny new moon has been discovered around Pluto, the fourth and smallest one yet found orbiting the dwarf planet, photos from the Hubble Space Telescope reveal. [<a href="http://www.space.com/12356-pluto-fourth-moon-discovery-hubble-photo.html">Read More</a>]
Space Shuttle Makes Last Landing in Bittersweet Finale
After 13 days in space, NASA's space shuttle Atlantis has returned to Earth for the last time, marking the end of the 30-year shuttle era. [<a href="http://www.space.com/12379-final-space-shuttle-mission-landing-atlantis-shuttle-era.html">Read More</a>]
Private Space Race Heats Up
Long after the United States and the Soviet Union put their Cold War space race to bed, another cosmic competition is heating up.
<p>This one is taking place in the private sector. A handful of companies are vying for the right to carry American astronauts into orbit — a capability the nation temporarily lacks, now that NASA's space shuttle fleet has seen its last launch. [<a href="http://www.space.com/12350-private-space-race-nasa-shuttle-retirement.html">Read More</a>]
NASA's Next Mars Rover to Land at Huge Gale Crater
It's official! NASA's next Mars rover has a landing site and it's a giant to crater called Gale. [<a href="http://www.space.com/12394-nasa-mars-rover-landing-site-unveiled.html">Read More</a>]
NASA First Invaded Red Planet with Viking Mars Landing
On Mars Day every year, people celebrate the first spacecraft to successfully land on Mars — NASA's Viking 1, which touched down on the Red Planet 35 years ago.
<p>The craft that landed July 20, 1976, the first of many visitors to Mars, had been designed to work for 90 days, but it continued gathering data for more than six years. In doing so, Viking 1 helped answer many questions about the nature of Earth's neighbor, but it also left behind a mystery that remains tantalizingly unsolved to this very day: Is there evidence of life on Mars? [<a href="http://www.space.com/12390-mars-day-nasa-viking-landing-red-planet.html">Read More</a>]
Vast Water Cloud Around Black Hole
Astronomers have discovered the largest and oldest mass of water ever detected in the universe — a gigantic, 12-billion-year-old cloud harboring 140 trillion times more water than all of Earth's oceans combined.
<p>The cloud of water vapor surrounds a supermassive black hole called a quasar located 12 billion light-years from Earth. The discovery shows that water has been prevalent in the universe for nearly its entire existence, researchers said. [<a href="http://www.space.com/12400-universe-biggest-oldest-cloud-water.html">Read More</a>]
Yes, Virginia, You Can Still Be an Astronaut
When the space shuttle Atlantis came to a halt Thursday, so did the dreams of all who had fantasized of riding on a space shuttle someday.
<p>That doesn't mean, however, that astronaut hopefuls should give up the goal of flying in space. They just have to adjust their idea of how they plan to get there. [<a href="http://www.space.com/12392-space-shuttle-retirement-kids-astronauts-nasa.html">Read More</a>]