Vote Now! Top Space Stories of the Week - Jan. 1, 2012
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2012 Brings New Space YearThe arrival of 2012 ended with a busy holiday weekend in space as two NASA probes arrived at the moon. The the Grail moon probes' lunar arrival was just one several big stories in space for the week.
Take a look back at the biggest space stores of the last week of 2011, and vote now for your favorite of the bunch!
FIRST STOP: NASA's New Year's Moon Mission
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NASA's New Year's Moon MissionA NASA spacecraft is circling the moon, with another closing in today (Jan. 1) in back-to-back lunar arrivals to ring in the New Year at Earth's nearest neighbor.
The two washing machine-sized spacecraft began their tag-team lunar arrival on Saturday afternoon (Dec. 31) with the New Year's Eve approach by one of the probes. If all goes well, the second probe will fire its rocket engine today at 5:05 p.m. EST (2205 GMT) in a 39-minute maneuver to enter lunar orbit. [Full Story]
NEXT: 2012 Doomsday Scenarios Debunked
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2012 Doomsday Scenarios DebunkedOn Dec. 21, 2012, many doomsday believers fear the apocalypse — anything from a rogue planet smashing into us to our world spinning end over end. However, the world should expect nothing more next year than the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, NASA says.
Take a look at some crazy 2012 doomsday predictions and NASA's science rebuttals here. [Full Story]
NEXT: Slow-Spinning Star a Space Oddity
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Slow-Spinning Star a Space OddityAstronomers have discovered a strange spinning star that appears to be older than the explosion that gave birth to it, scientists say.
The star is a pulsar, a rotating, super-dense core left behind after a massive star goes supernova. This pulsar, known as SXP 1062, is spinning quite slowly, suggesting an advanced age. [Full Story]
NEXT: Transition Year for Human Spaceflight
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Transition Year for SpaceflightHuman spaceflight turned 50 this year, but 2011 was less about drawing inspiration from the past than about transitioning to an uncertain future.
The year marking the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's historic first spaceflight also saw NASA ground its storied space shuttle fleet after three decades of service. The United States now has no vehicle capable of lofting astronauts to Earth orbit or beyond, although NASA and several private aerospace companies are working to change that. [Full Story]
NEXT: Bright Venus & Moon Thrill Skywatchers
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Bright Venus & Moon Thrill SkywatchersThe planet Venus paired up with the moon Monday (Dec. 26) in an eye-catching sky show that dazzled skywatchers across the United States. And there's still time to catch the celestial display. This sky map shows how the moon and Venus will appear on Dec. 27, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. local time in the southwestern sky. This sky map shows how the moon and Venus will appear on Dec. 27, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. local time in the southwestern sky. CREDIT: Starry Night Software View full size image
Venus and the moon appeared near each other in the Monday evening sky in a cosmic alignment known as a conjunction. At sunset, Venus and the crescent moon could be seen shining brightly about 7 degrees apart in the southwestern sky (closer than your fist held at arm's length). [Full Story]
NEXT: 12 Most Anticipated Space Missions of 2012
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12 Most Anticipated Space Missions of 2012The space shuttle program is over, but that won't mean a lack of launches in 2012. Between commercial and government spaceflight, manned and robotic, there's a lot on next year's spaceflight docket. For NASA, this year will bring the first private space cargo missions to the International Space Station, while China plans to launch its first crew to a brand-new space laboratory in orbit.
Here's a look at the 12 most anticipated space missions of 2012. [Full Story]
NEXT: Parts of Doomed Russian Mars Probe to Hit Earth
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Parts of Doomed Russian Mars Probe to Hit EarthRussia's marooned Mars probe Phobos-Grunt, currently stuck in orbit, is headed for a mid-January plunge into Earth's atmosphere, and more than two dozen pieces of the huge spacecraft could survive the fall, scientists say.
Current re-entry forecasts have the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft falling Jan. 14 or 15, plus or minus five days, according to space junk expert Heiner Klinkrad. [Full Story]
NEXT: China Unveils Space Mission Plans Through 2016
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China Unveils Space Mission Plans Through 2016The Chinese government on Thursday (Dec. 29) issued a broad statement on its five-year space program, saying top priorities include developing three new launch vehicles — including a rapid-response launch system — and mitigating its contribution to space debris.
The 17-page white paper, "China's Space Activities in 2011," reiterates China's focus on lunar exploration, with robotic lunar landers and a lunar sample-return mission slated for launch by 2016. The country's well-publicized development of its manned space station in low Earth orbit is also a priority. [Full Story]
NEXT: World's Largest Telescope Moves Ahead
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World's Largest Telescope Moves AheadThe European Southern Observatory's plan to begin construction of the world's largest telescope — the European Extremely Large Telescope — will take a big step forward in 2012 now that early funding for the project has been secured.
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) governing body approved the 2012 budget, which paves the way for preparatory work to begin at the planned site of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) at the Cerro Armazones mountain in the central part of Chile's Atacama Desert. [Full Story]
NEXT: Russia Bounces Back From Rocket Crash
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Russia Bounces Back From Rocket CrashA Russian Soyuz rocket launched a pack of communications satellites into orbit Wednesday (Dec. 28) in a successful flight that comes less than a week after a similar rocket crashed somewhere in Siberia.
The Soyuz 2 rocket launched six new satellites for Louisiana-based communications provider Globalstar at 12:09 p.m. EST (1709 GMT) in an apparently smooth liftoff from the snow-covered central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The rocket lifted off from the same site used by another Soyuz 2 booster on Friday (Dec. 23), but that earlier launch met with disaster when it crashed in Siberia, destroying a Russian military communications satellite. [Full Story]
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