Best Space Photos of the Week - Nov. 12, 2011

Space Photos From the Final Frontier

ESO/G. Hüdepohl (www.atacamaphoto.com)

From a huge asteroid and a NASA rocket engine test to Saturn's moons, there was no shortage of amazing space photos this week.

Take a look at some of the most amazing images from the week of Nov. 12, 2011.

This image, posted Nov. 8, shows a laser beaming out of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile with the Milky Way overhead. The laser is part of the telescope's adaptive optics system.

NASA Wants 2014 Test Flight for Deep Space Capsule

NASA

NASA's new spaceship to carry astronauts off the planet may launch on an unmanned test flight by 2014, three years earlier than planned, to mimic a return from deep space, agency officials said Tuesday (Nov. 8).

The proposed test flight, called the Exploration Flight Test 1, would launch a robotic version of NASA's Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle on a two-orbit spaceflight. [Read More]

Mind the Gap

Cassini Imaging Team, ISS, JPL, ESA, NASA

Saturn's moon Titan hangs dimly in the background of this photograph, which also shows the bright moon Dione in the foreground. Pandora, another moon, floats at the right, just outside the narrow sliver of Saturn's rings visible in this image. A fourth moon, Pan, almost imperceptibly makes it into this image in the dark Encke Gap of Saturn's A ring at left. This image was posted on Nov. 9, 2011. [See more stunning photos from space]

First & Last Space Shuttle Crews Meet

NASA / Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool

The first and last astronauts to fly on NASA's space shuttles met Nov. 2 in Houston to pose for a series of historic photographs. The two-man crew of STS-1, John Yung and Bob Crippen, ushered in the space shuttle age on April 12, 1981. The four-person crew of NASA's STS-135 mission - commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim - closed the program out with a July 2011 mission. [Read More]

Veteran's Day Salute

Missile Defense Agency/U.S. Department of Defense

SPACE.com saluted the men and women of the US military on Veterans Day Nov. 11.

This photograph captures the launch of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii on October 5, 2011. The test was conducted by the Ballistic Missile Defense System Operational Test Agency with the support of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. THAAD is a mobile interceptor missile designed to intercept short to medium range ballistic missiles inside or just outside the earth's atmosphere. [See more stunning photos from space]

Big Asteroid Approaching Earth Spotted by NASA Radar

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA captured a new radar image of 2005 YU55, the huge asteroid that made a close approach to Earth tomorrow (Nov. 8). The image was taken on Nov. 7 and showed the 1,300-foot asteroid as it appeared while flying about 860,000 miles, or 1.38 million kilometers, from Earth. [Read More]

Rock Found by Missouri Farmer Is Rare Meteorite

DAVE GHEESLING

In 2006, a farmer found a meteorite buried in a hillside in the Missouri town of Conception Junction (population 202). But only now has the true value of the space rock discovery come to light.

Geochemist Randy Korotev of Washington University in St. Louis and his colleagues have identified the space rock as a rare type of pallasite meteorite, the researchers said today (Nov. 10). Only 19 other pallasites had ever been found in the United States before. [Read More]

'Space Tourists' Documentary Shows Reality of Space Fantasy

Documentary Channel

What is the price that we pay to go to space?

Filmmaker Christian Frei explores this question in his documentary "Space Tourists," which deftly weaves together stories from 245 miles (394 kilometers) above Earth on the International Space Station, where one woman - American Anousheh Ansari - lives out her dream of flying in space, to inside the walls of the legendary Baikonour Cosmodrome, the launch site for the Russian space agency since the late 1950s, to the parched and desolate steppes of Kazakhstan in Central Asia, where unsuspecting lives are also touched by space travel. [Read More]

NASA Test Fires Engine for Giant New Rocket

NASA TV

NASA successfully test-fired a key component of its next-generation heavy-lift rocket today (Nov. 9), putting through its paces a rocket engine that could help propel astronauts to the moon and Mars.

The space agency fired up the huge J-2X engine for more than eight minutes at its Stennis Space Center in Mississippi during the afternoon test, which began at 4:04 p.m. EST (2104 GMT). [Read More]

Battered Asteroid Lutetia a Rare Relic of Earth's Birth

ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

The oddball asteroid Lutetia is a rocky remnant of the material that formed Earth, Venus and Mercury about 4.5 billion years ago, a new study found this week. Asteroid Lutetia is a battered space rock pitted with craters. Its composition suggests it likely formed close to the sun in the same cloud of material that eventually coalesced into the inner solar system's rocky planets.

The European Space Agency's Rosetta comet probe snapped this view of Lutetia during a July 2010 flyby. The new study was released Friday, Nov. 11. [Read More]

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