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Mars ‘Marathon Valley’ Overlook

This view from NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows part of “Marathon Valley,” a destination on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, as seen from an overlook north of the valley.

The scene spans from east, at left, to southeast. It combines four pointings of the rover’s panoramic camera (Pancam) on March 13, 2015, during the 3,958th Martian day, or sol, of Opportunity’s work on Mars.

The rover team selected Marathon Valley as a science destination because observations of this location using the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter yielded evidence of clay minerals, a clue to ancient wet environments. By the time Opportunity explores Marathon Valley, the rover will have exceeded a total driving distance equivalent to an Olympic marathon. Opportunity has been exploring the Meridiani Planum region of Mars since January 2004.

This version of the image is presented in approximate true color by combining exposures taken through three of the Pancam’s color filters at each of the four camera pointings, using filters centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near-infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet).

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ. via NASA

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March 23, 1965 Launch of First Crewed Gemini Flight

In a span of 20 months from March 1965 to November 1966, NASA developed, tested and flew transformative capabilities and cutting-edge technologies in the Gemini program that paved the way for not only Apollo, but the achievements of the space shuttle, building the International Space Station and setting the stage for human exploration of Mars.

The first crewed Gemini flight, Gemini III, lifted off Launch Pad 19 at 9:24 a.m. EST on March 23, 1965. The spacecraft “Molly Brown” carried astronauts Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, command pilot, and John W. Young, pilot, on three orbits of Earth.

NASA’s two-man Gemini spaceflights demonstrated that astronauts could change their capsule’s orbit, remain in space for at least two weeks and work outside their spacecraft. They also pioneered rendezvous and docking with other spacecraft. All were essential skills to land on the moon and return safely to Earth.

Veteran Mercury astronaut Grissom was selected as command pilot of Gemini III, making him the first person traveling into space twice. Joining Grissom was Young, the first member of the second group of NASA pilots to fly in space. Young would go on to become the first person to make six spaceflights, including commanding Apollo 16 during which he walked on the moon. He also commanded STS-1, the first shuttle mission.

Gemini III’s primary goal was to test the new, maneuverable spacecraft. In space, the crew members fired thrusters to change the shape of their orbit, shift their orbital plane slightly, and drop to a lower altitude. The revolutionary orbital maneuvering technology paved the way for rendezvous missions later in the Gemini Program and proved it was possible for a lunar module to lift off the moon and dock with the lunar orbiting command module for the trip home to Earth. It also meant spacecraft could be launched to rendezvous and dock with an orbiting space station.

> More: Gemini Pioneered the Technology Driving Today’s Exploration

Image Credit: NASA via NASA

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Cuomo Fights Rating System in Which Few Teachers Are Bad by KATE TAYLOR


Less than 1 percent of teachers in New York State were rated ineffective over all, and principals’ evaluations are often responsible for the high scores.

Published: March 22, 2015 at 08:00PM

from NYT N.Y. / Region

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Solar Eclipse From the International Space Station

Expedition 43 Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti took a series of photographs of the March 20, 2015 solar eclipse from the International Space Station. Cristoforetti wrote, “Orbital sunrise and the #SolarEclipse… could it go any better?”

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between Earth and the sun, casting a shadow over Earth. The moon’s shadow masks the solar surface and blocks sunlight from reaching Earth directly – but the amount of sunlight blocked depends on location.

Image Credit: ESA/NASA via NASA

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Astronaut Spacesuit Testing for Orion Spacecraft

Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston are testing the spacesuit astronauts will wear in the agency’s Orion spacecraft on trips to deep space. On March 17, members of the Johnson team participated in a Vacuum Pressure Integrated Suit Test to verify enhancements to the suit will meet test and design standards for the Orion spacecraft.  During this test, the suit is connected to life support systems and then air is removed from Johnson’s 11-foot thermal vacuum chamber to evaluate the performance of the suits in conditions similar to a spacecraft. The suit, known as the Modified Advanced Crew Escape Suit, is a closed-loop version of the launch and entry suits worn by space shuttle astronauts. The suit will contain all the necessary functions to support life and is being designed to enable spacewalks and sustain the crew in the unlikely event the spacecraft loses pressure.

This is the first in a series of four tests with people in the suits to evaluate the performance of the spacesuit systems in an environment similar to a spacecraft. Learn more about where the suits are tested or track all of the latest news at

Image Credit: NASA/ Bill Stafford via NASA

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“Mini Supernova” Explosion Could Have Big Impact

In Hollywood blockbusters, explosions are often among the stars of the show. In space, explosions of actual stars are a focus for scientists who hope to better understand their births, lives, and deaths and how they interact with their surroundings.

Using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have studied one particular explosion that may provide clues to the dynamics of other, much larger stellar eruptions.  

A team of researchers pointed the telescope at GK Persei, an object that became a sensation in the astronomical world in 1901 when it suddenly appeared as one of the brightest stars in the sky for a few days, before gradually fading away in brightness. Today, astronomers cite GK Persei as an example of a “classical nova,” an outburst produced by a thermonuclear explosion on the surface of a white dwarf star, the dense remnant of a Sun-like star.

A nova can occur if the strong gravity of a white dwarf pulls material from its orbiting companion star.  If enough material, mostly in the form of hydrogen gas, accumulates on the surface of the white dwarf, nuclear fusion reactions can occur and intensify, culminating into a  cosmic-sized hydrogen bomb blast. The outer layers of the white dwarf are  blown away, producing a nova outburst that can be observed for a period of months to years as the material expands into space.

Classical novas can be considered to be “miniature” versions of supernova explosions. Supernovas signal the destruction of an entire star and can be so bright that they outshine the whole galaxy where they are found. Supernovas are extremely important for cosmic ecology because they inject huge amounts of energy into the interstellar gas, and are responsible for dispersing elements such as iron, calcium and oxygen into space where they may be incorporated into future generations of stars and planets.

Although the remnants of supernovas are much more massive and energetic than classical novas, some of the fundamental physics is the same. Both involve an explosion and creation of a shock wave that travels at supersonic speeds through the surrounding gas.  

The more modest energies and masses associated with classical novas means that the remnants evolve more quickly. This, plus the much higher frequency of their occurrence compared to supenovas, makes classical novas important targets for studying cosmic explosions.

Chandra first observed GK Persei in February 2000 and then again in November 2013. This 13-year baseline provides astronomers with enough time to notice important differences in the X-ray emission and its properties.

This new image of GK Persei contains X-rays from Chandra (blue), optical data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (yellow), and radio data from the National Science Foundation’s Very Large Array (pink). The X-ray data show hot gas and the radio data show emission from electrons that have been accelerated to high energies by the nova shock wave. The optical data reveal clumps of material that were ejected in the explosion. The nature of the point-like source on the lower left is unknown.

Over the years that the Chandra data span, the nova debris expanded at a speed of about 700,000 miles per hour. This translates to the blast wave moving about 90 billion miles during that period.

One intriguing discovery illustrates how the study of nova remnants can provide important clues about the environment of the explosion. The X-ray luminosity of the GK Persei remnant decreased by about 40% over the 13 years between the Chandra observations, whereas the temperature of the gas in the remnant has essentially remained constant, at about one million degrees Celsius. As the shock wave expanded and heated an increasing amount of matter, the temperature behind the wave of energy should have decreased. The observed fading and constant temperature suggests that the wave of energy has swept up a negligible amount of gas in the environment around the star over the past 13 years. This suggests that the wave must currently be expanding into a region of much lower density than before, giving clues to stellar neighborhood in which GK Persei resides.

A paper describing these results appeared in the March 10th issue of The Astrophysical Journal. The authors were Dai Takei (RIKEN, Spring-8 Center Japan), Jeremy Drake (Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory), Hiroya Yamaguichi (Goddard Space Flight Center), Patrick Slane (Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory), Yasunobu Uchimaya (Rikkyo University, Japan), Satoru Katsuda (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency).

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.

› Read More from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory

Image Credit: NASA/CXC/RIKEN/D.Takei et al

Janet Anderson
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Megan Watzke
Chandra X-ray Center, Cambridge, Mass.
617-496-7998 via NASA

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Vanguard Satellite, 1958

One of the Vanguard satellites is checked out at Cape Canaveral, Florida in 1958. Vanguard 1, the world’s first solar-powered satellite, launched on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) 1958. It was designed to test the launch capabilities of a three-stage launch vehicle and the effects of the environment on a satellite and its systems in Earth orbit. Vanguard 1 was the second U.S. satellite in orbit, following Explorer 1, and remains the oldest artificial object orbiting Earth to this day. Vanguard began as a program at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington and transferred over to NASA (along with many of its personnel) after the agency was founded by the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958.

Image Credit: NASA via NASA

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The Views of Israelis Voting in Tuesday’s Election by REUTERS


Israelis turned out in large numbers for a parliamentary election on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu seeking a fourth term but facing a strong challenge from the center-left opposition.

Published: March 17, 2015 at 07:05AM

from NYT World

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Ex-Gym Teacher Testifies for Defense in Running Death Case by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


A retired physical education teacher says an Alabama girl liked to run and was trying to win an award before her grandmother allegedly ran her to death three years ago.

Published: March 16, 2015 at 03:30AM

from NYT U.S.