Vote Now! Best Space Stories of the Week - July 10, 2011

Atlantis' Solid Rocket Boosters Separate
One of Atlantis' solid rocket boosters can be seen at lower left falling back to Earth, July 8, 2011.
(Image: © NASA TV)

Busy Week in Space

NASA TV

Mars landing sites, monster Saturn storms and NASA's last space shuttle mission all made news over the last week. Which story do you think rose above the rest? Take a look here and vote for your favorite:

Last Space Shuttle Launch

Roger Guillemette for SPACE.com

The final launch of NASA's storied space shuttle program left seasoned flight engineers scrambling for the right words — and wiping away tears.

The shuttle Atlantis' spectacular ascent through the clouds on Friday, July 8, was "awesome," "special" and "truly amazing," mission team members told reporters at a post-launch press conference here at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. [More Photos of Last Shuttle Launch]

Nibiru Believers Await Earth's End

gilderm | sxc.hu

The waxing obsession with Nibiru, which conspiracy theorists say is a planet swinging in from the outskirts of our solar system that is going to crash into Earth and wipe out humanity in 2012 — or, in some opinions, 2011 — shows that an astonishing number of people "are watching YouTube videos and visiting slick websites with nothing in their skeptical toolkit," in the words of David Morrison, a planetary astronomer at NASA Ames Research Center and senior scientist at the NASA Astrobiology Institute. [Read More]

Astronauts May Use Exoskeleton Arm for Robot

ESA - J. v. Haarlem

When human space travelers arrive above an alien world, it's likely that they would send down the robotic explorers first. Now astronauts aboard the International Space Station can remotely control rovers and androids on Earth as practice for future missions to the moon, Mars and asteroids. [Read More]

Secret Souvenir Stash on Shuttle

collectSPACE/NASA

The final astronaut crew to fly on a space shuttle has a secret in store for everyone watching when the astronauts pause during their mission to offer a tribute to NASA's 30-year shuttle program.

The four crewmembers have some special souvenirs packed on shuttle Atlantis, but what they are, they aren't saying. [Read More]

Saturn's Great White Storm

Carolyn Porco and CICLOPS; NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

The Great White Spot on Saturn has been imaged in unprecedented detail and is now yielding clues to how this titanic storm may have formed far earlier than scientists expected.

The staggeringly powerful thunderstorm is approximately 6,200 miles (10,000 kilometers) wide, nearly as wide as Earth, and has a tail of white clouds that encircles all of Saturn. [Read More]

NASA Narrows Choices for Next Mars Rover's Landing Site

NASA/JPL-Caltech

This week, NASA officials revealed that they have whittled the possible landing sites for its next Mars rover down to two. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission will drop a car-size rover named Curiosity down to the Red Planet's surface at one of two craters: Gale or Eberswalde.

Mission scientists revealed the decision on July 6 during a briefing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the shuttle Atlantis was preparing to launch on the final shuttle mission. [Read More]

Obama Says NASA Needs Tech Breakthrough

whitehouse.gov

Answering a question in a Twitter town hall meeting today, President Obama suggested spaceflight is stuck in the Apollo-era mode and said NASA needs a technological breakthrough to allow faster, longer spaceflight with a goal of getting astronauts to Mars. [Read More]

Private Suborbital Spaceship Builders Forge Ahead

Masten Space Systems

Private entrepreneurial rocket firms are throttling up efforts to create a new breed of reusable hardware capable of hauling payloads to the edge of space and returning them softly to solid ground. [Read More]

Moon Camera Debate: U.S. vs Apollo 14 Astronaut

Bonhams

If the government throws a camera away on the moon and an astronaut then picks it up and saves it, does it become his to own and sell?

That's more or less the question to which the U.S. government is seeking a federal court answer in the case "United States of America vs. Edgar Mitchell," which was filed in Miami last Wednesday (June 29). [Read More]

U.S. Not Pulling Out of Human Spaceflight

NASA/Paul E. Alers

Even though NASA's iconic space shuttle program is ending in a matter of weeks, the future of American human spaceflight remains bright, according to NASA chief Charlie Bolden. [Read More]

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