NASA Ground team stands by for Pluto fly-by confirmation signal from New Horizons

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is expected to radio home any minute now. We're watching on NASA TV. The moment will end a nearly 22-hour radio blackout as the probe focused on a series of close-up observations of Pluto and its moons.

From SpaceFlight Now:

Engineers expect to lock on to a carrier signal, then start receiving housekeeping data on the status of the New Horizons spacecraft. No science data will come down during Tuesday night’s pass.

“The reason why you’re not seeing more things immediately is because the spacecraft is spending all its time making the observations of the Pluto system,” says Hal Weaver, New Horizons’ project sciences from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “That’s what we wanted to do. Of course, you want to optimize the scientific return from the mission.

A signal from New Horizons will be a celebratory moment for the hundreds of engineers and scientists working on the mission. The cessation of communications was part of the plan going into the flyby because New Horizons carries a fixed antenna, meaning mission managers have to choose between contacting Earth and conducting scientific work at Pluto.

Watch live: Ground team standing by for New Horizons signal

Clyde William Tombaugh (February 4, 1906 – January 17, 1997) was an American astronomer. Although he is best known for discovering the dwarf planet Pluto in 1930. Read the rest

Pluto and other known “not-planets” in our solar system mapped in scale image montage

“Their non-planetary status is a handicap because these are the worlds that we need to get Earthlings excited about exploring.”

Let's build a Moon village, says European Space Agency's new director

"I propose a Moon village on the far side of the Moon," says Johann-Dietrich Woerner who has been in the role of Director General of the European Space Agency (Esa) for just a week.

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Watch: NASA celebrates 50 years of planetary science awesomeness

On July 14, 2015, New Horizons will take the first close-up pictures of Pluto, exactly 50 years to the day after Mariner 4 flew by Mars and took the first close-up pictures ever of another planet.

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Awesome 5-star solar system with two contacting pairs found

Will you live long enough to watch the setting suns?

"This is a truly exotic star system. In principle there's no reason why it couldn't have planets in orbit around each of the pairs of stars. Any inhabitants would have a sky that would put the makers of Star Wars to shame," Dr Lohr said. "There could sometimes be no fewer than five Suns of different brightnesses lighting up the landscape."

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Time-lapse: 11 years of the Opportunity Mars Rover's collision-avoidance camera

The brave little robot's covered 42.2km on its suicide mission to the Red Planet; this footage spans Jan 2004 to Apr 2015. (Thanks, Robbo!)

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Epic photo of the International Space Station passing in front of the moon

A stunning capture of the ISS in front of Earth's moon, by Dylan O'Donnell.

Jack Fusco's remarkable night photography

Night photography specialist Jack Fusco has a special love for framing his images of the Milky Way using sea caves, like this one in Malibu. Read the rest

New York from space towel

From Schönstaub, who make the amazing sized-to-order celestial rugs, comes the NYC from space beach-towel. Read the rest

Fascinating guide to antique space maps (Also, the Earth is square)

Above, a map of the "Square and Stationary Earth" (1893) by a Professor Orlando Ferguson of Hot Springs, South Dakota. Read the rest

Magna Carta of Space (1966), new laws for the final frontier

In 1966, only five years after the first human went to space, aviation lawyer William A. Hyman published the Magna Carta of Space, a serious text proposing a new kind of Space Law. From the British Library:

As outer space exploration was unprecedented, it was unclear what issues lawyers might face when legislating for the ‘final frontier’ and what, if any, jurisdiction they had for imposing an intergalactic law code. Furthermore, as so little was known about space, it was largely up to the legislators’ imagination as to what might be legislated for, forcing them to consider unique questions in the history of jurisprudence.

* Do aliens have legal rights? * Who owns the stars, planets and moons? * Where does Space begin and a nation’s airspace end? * What is the role of private industry in Space? *Who will allocate radio frequencies and set standard time?...

Hyman’s book explicitly attempted to restrict the misuse of Space by belligerent nations, with articles 7 and 19 making provisions to ban ‘nuclear experiments in Outer Space’ and the prosecution of ‘War, in, by, or through space … forever’. As Hyman stated in his introduction, it was his expressed wish to create a Magna Carta of Space that was so ‘powerful’ it would ‘compel the proper use of space --- for peace’.

Magna Carta of Space (Amazon)

See more at "Space: The Final Frontier" (British Library, via @arielwaldman)

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NASA: We're headed for Jupiter's moon Europa

Europa is considered one of the most promising places in the solar system to search for signs of present-day life.

Cool gifs reveal the orbital period of each planet

NPR’s Science Tumblr “Skunk Bear” shared these awesome gifs that demonstrate how long it takes each planet in our solar system to travel around the sun.

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Space in ultra-high def: NASA releases 4K video from International Space Station

An unprecedented look at what it's like to live and work aboard the ISS.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft to do close fly-by of Saturn's moon Dione on June 16

Cassini will get as close as 321 miles (516 kilometers) of Dione's surface if all goes as planned.

SpaceX launches Hyperloop pod design competition geared for students and indie engineering teams

The high-speed ground transport system was first described by Elon Musk in a 2013 white paper, and its first route would connect Los Angeles and San Francisco with an expected journey time of 35 minutes.

Astronaut Terry Virts's photo of the Great Pyramids

Tweet by Astronaut Terry Virts, who returned to Earth a few days after 200 days on the International Space Station: "It took me until my last day in space to get a good picture of these!" Read the rest

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