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On this day September 25, 2008

China launches the spacecraft Shenzhou 7, the third human spaceflight mission of the Chinese space program. The mission, which included an extra-vehicular activity (EVA) carried out by crewmembers Zhai Zhigang and Liu Boming, marked the commencement of the second phase of the Chinese government’s Project 921.

Shenzhou 7 Launch

Shenzhou 7 Launch

The Shenzhou spacecraft carrying the three crewmembers was launched 25 September 2008, by a Long March 2F (CZ-2F) rocket which lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 21:10 CST.

The mission lasted three days, after which the craft landed safely in Siziwang Banner in central Inner Mongolia on 28 September 2008, at 17:37 CST. The EVA carried out during the flight makes China the third country to have conducted an EVA, after the Soviet Union and the United States. Read More…

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On this day July 31, 1999

NASA’s Lunar Prospector was deliberately crashed into the Shoemaker crater near the moon’s south pole in an unsuccessful attempt to detect the presence of water.

Lunar Prospector probe

Lunar Prospector probe

The mission was the third selected by NASA for full development and construction as part of the Discovery Program.

At a cost of $62.8 million, the 19-month mission was designed for a low polar orbit investigation of the Moon, including mapping of surface composition and possible polar ice deposits, measurements of magnetic and gravity fields, and study of lunar outgassing events.

The mission ended July 31, 1999 when the orbiter was deliberately crashed into a crater near the lunar south pole in an unsuccessful attempt to detect the presence of water.

Data from the mission allowed the construction of a detailed map of the surface composition of the Moon, and helped to improve understanding of the origin, evolution, current state, and resources of the Moon. A series of articles on the scientific results were published in the journal Science.[1]

On this day July 16, 1994

Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collides with Jupiter, impacts continue until July 22nd, providing the first direct observation of an extraterrestrial collision of solar system objects. This generated a large amount of coverage in the popular media, and SL9 was closely observed by astronomers worldwide. The collision provided new information about Jupiter and highlighted its role in reducing space debris in the inner solar system.

The discovery that the comet was likely to collide with Jupiter caused great excitement within the astronomical community and beyond, as astronomers had never before seen two significant solar system bodies collide. Intense studies of the comet were undertaken, and as its orbit became more accurately established, the possibility of a collision became a certainty. The collision would provide a unique opportunity for scientists to look inside Jupiter’s atmosphere, as the collisions were expected to cause eruptions of material from the layers normally hidden beneath the clouds. Read More…

Fireball slams into Jupiter

A large object, possibly an asteroid or a meteor, hit the planet Jupiter Thursday, resulting in a large fireball.

The fireball was seen on June 3 at 2031 UTC by two independent amateur astronomers, Christopher Go in the Philippines and Anthony Wesley in Australia. Wesley, who posted the news onto an Internet forum, is known for having also spotted last July’s Jupiter impact event.

Go caught Thursday’s impact on video, which showed a fireball the size of Earth after the object hit. It could be the first time someone has recorded a meteor crashing into a planet.

This latest strike came only hours after a team from the Space Science Institute, led by astronomer Heidi Hammel, announced that last year’s event was the result of an asteroid 1,640 feet (500 metres) wide. That asteroid caused a scar the size of the Pacific Ocean when it hit Jupiter with the force of several thousand nuclear bombs on July 19, 2009. Read More…

On this day Juanuary 27, 1967

More than sixty nations sign the Outer Space Treaty banning nuclear weapons in space, opened for signature in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union on January 27, 1967, and entered into force on October 10, 1967.

As of January 2008, 99 countries are states-parties to the treaty, while another 26 have signed the treaty but have not yet completed ratification.

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Green signed and ratified Yellow signed only

The Outer Space Treaty represents the basic legal framework of international space law.

Among its principles, it bars States Parties to the Treaty from placing nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction in orbit of Earth, installing them on the Moon or any other celestial body, or to otherwise station them in outer space. Read More…

NASA’s spacecraft successfully impacts the Moon

The Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) was a robotic spacecraft operated by NASA. It was launched together with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) on June 18, 2009, as part of the shared Lunar Precursor Robotic Program.

LCROSS spacecraft, artist's rendering

LCROSS spacecraft, artist's rendering

Together, LCROSS and LRO form the vanguard of NASA’s return to the Moon, and are expected to influence United States government decisions on whether or not to colonize the Moon.

Lunar impact, after approximately three orbits, occurred on October 9, 2009, at 11:31 UTC.

In its final approach, the Shepherding Spacecraft and Centaur separated Oct. 8, 2009 at 21:50 EDT. The Centaur upper stage acted as a heavy impactor to create a debris plume that rose above the lunar surface. Read More…

Giant ring discovered around Saturn

The discovery of the Phoebe ring of Saturn, hundreds of times larger than the planet’s diameter is announced.

This ring is tilted 27 degrees from Saturn’s equatorial plane (and the other rings). It extends from 128 to 207 times the radius of Saturn; Phoebe orbits the planet at an average distance of 215 Saturn radii. The ring is about 20 times as thick as the diameter of the planet. Read More…