It’s the safest place for space agencies to let their old and defunct machines fall to Earth, including Russia’s Mir Space Station.

The majority of each craft is torn to pieces and incinerated upon reentry to the atmosphere. Only the biggest pieces remain.

The International Space Station will end up here someday as well.


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Sharpless 308: Star Bubble : Blown by fast winds from a hot, massive star, this cosmic bubble is huge. Cataloged as Sharpless 2-308 it lies some 5,200 light-years away toward the constellation of the Big Dog and covers slightly more of the sky than a Full Moon. That corresponds to a diameter of 60 light-years at its estimated distance. The massive star that created the bubble, a Wolf-Rayet star, is the bright one near the center of the nebula. Wolf-Rayet stars have over 20 times the mass of the Sun and are thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova phase of massive star evolution. Fast winds from this Wolf-Rayet star create the bubble-shaped nebula as they sweep up slower moving material from an earlier phase of evolution. The windblown nebula has an age of about 70,000 years. Relatively faint emission captured in the expansive image is dominated by the glow of ionized oxygen atoms mapped to a blue hue. via NASA

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InSight Mission to Mars

Our InSight mission will place a fixed science outpost on Mars to study its deep interior. Findings and research from this project will address one of the most fundamental questions we have about planetary and solar system science – How in the world did these rocky planets form?

By investigating the interior structure and processes of Mars, the InSight mission will gain a better understanding of the evolutionary formation of planets, including Earth.

InSight will record Mars’ vital signs to learn more about the planet, including:

Seismic Activity:

A seismometer will be used to record the seismic activity on Mars. This will give us information on the crust, mantel and core; and the relationship between them.

Temperature:

A heat flow probe will be used to take Mars’ temperature and determine the change over the course of a full Martian year.

Reflexes:

By looking at how the rotation of Mars wobbles, we will better understand what the core size may be and its composition.

Launch for the InSight mission is scheduled for March 2016, and even though you can’t physically travel with the lander, you can send your name to the Red Planet onboard. Make sure to submit your name before Sept. 8!

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

kickstarter

80 bucks gets you a reissue of the 1975 NASA Graphics Standards Manual through this massively popular Kickstarter campaign.

(via The Verge)

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    The NF-15B ACTIVE is the most maneuverable of any F-15 variant, but she didn’t start out that way. This airframe, originally designated the TF-15B (USAF serial number 71-0290), looked much like a typical F-15. She took her first flight on July 7, 1973, as the first two-seat F-15 in history and the sixth F-15 to roll off the assembly line.

    On September 7, 1988, she would have her “second first flight” following major modifications as the STOL/MTD (Short Takeoff and Landing/Maneuver Technology Demonstrator). Modified F-18 stabilators were put in place forward of the wing as canards. Thrust vectoring in the pitch axis was also implemented, allowing takeoff rotation at only 39 knots and drastically shorter landing distances.

    In 1991, the STOL/MTD test program ended, and the USAF loaned the airframe to NASA, who modified it into the NF-15B ACTIVE (Advanced Control Technology for Integrated Vehicles). The pitch thrust vectoring was traded for nozzles that could be vectored in pitch and yaw. This allowed for incredible maneuverability. The bird could perform yawing maneuvers while flying at 30 degrees angle of attack.

    Although never implemented, there were plans to further modify this airframe by removing the vertical tail planes, allowing thrust vectoring to be wholly responsible for yawing maneuvers. This would have been called the F-15 MANX, named after the naturally tailless cat.

    After decades of serving NASA Dryden Flight Research Center (now NASA Armstrong) as a successful experimental testbed for many different test programs, the NF-15 ACTIVE took its final flight in January 2009. On this last flight, she was the oldest still flying F-15. In July of 2015, she was put on static display at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base, California.

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SpaceX has released renderings of what Launch Complex 39A will look like once they have finished renovating it early next year.

Ever since the company took control of the pad in 2014, they have been performing extensive modifications to the pad infrastructure. This will accommodate future commercial crew launched of Crew Dragon as well as Falcon Heavy. A Horizontal Integration Facility broke ground in early 2015, and is currently in final stages of interior construction.

The Mobile Service Structure is still being disassembled, and the Fixed Service Structure - which will remain on the pad with more protection, as seen above - is currently being stripped of excess hardware.

SpaceX hopes to have modifications complete by Early 2016, just in time for their Falcon 9 v1.2 rocket to return to flight. Once it does, processing for the first demonstration mission of Falcon Heavy will resume.

Arp 159 and NGC 4725

(via APOD; Image Credit & Copyright: Stephen Leshin )

Pointy stars and peculiar galaxies span this cosmic snapshot, a telescopic view toward the well-groomed constellation Coma Berenices. Bright enough to show off diffraction spikes, the stars are in the foreground of the scene, well within our own Milky Way. But the two prominent galaxies lie far beyond our own, some 41 million light-years distant. Also known as NGC 4747, the smaller distorted galaxy at left is the 159th entry in the Arp Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies, with extensive tidal tails indicative of strong gravitational interactions in its past. At about a 100,000 light-years across, its likely companion on the right is the much larger NGC 4725. At first glance NGC 4725 appears to be a normal spiral galaxy, its central region dominated by the yellowish light of cool, older stars giving way to younger hot blue star clusters along dusty spiral outskirts. Still, NGC 4725 does look a little odd with only one main spiral arm.