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With all the excitement over NASA's recent success (and plans for future missions) on Mars, people sometimes overlook the Agency's other deep space missions. And there are many. One of our favorites of these lesser-known (but still remarkable) missions is Dawn.

The Dawn mission revolves around the exploration of Vesta and Ceres, the two largest known asteroids in our solar system. The Dawn spacecraft entered orbit around Vesta in July of 2011, departed in September 2012, and has been making its way for Ceres ever since, with a scheduled orbital insertion date of February 2015. In doing so, Dawn will become the first spacecraft to orbit two different solar system bodies (excepting Earth, of course). In this great little video, Leonard Nimoy joins NASA researchers in explaining what kind of science is underway aboard the Dawn spacecraft, and what lies ahead for the intrepid little ion-thrusting orbiter. Oh, did I forget to mention? Dawn is also also the first purely exploratory mission in history to make use of ion propulsion. Yes, Dawn has ION PROPULSION ENGINES. Three of them, to be exact. To reiterate: Dawn brings the awesome.

Lindsey, Boe and their crewmates - Nicole Stott, Michael Barratt and spacewalkers Stephen Bowen and Alvin Drew - got in the proper spirit for undocking with a 3:23 a.m. wakeup song from Houston that was voted the second most popular in a NASA contest: the Alexander Courage theme from the 1960s television series "Star Trek."
As with the original, Shatner began with the familiar phrase "Space... the final frontier." But the rest was a tribute to Discovery, making its 39th and final flight since its maiden launch in 1984.

"Space... the final frontier," Shatner said as the music played. "These have been the voyages of the space shuttle Discovery. Her 30-year mission: to seek out new science, to build new outposts, to bring nations together on the final frontier, to boldly go and do what no spacecraft has done before."

"And good morning, Houston," Lindsey replied when the music faded. "And that was, I believe, the second most popular selection from the song contest for the space shuttle program and I'd like to thank William Shatner for taking the time to record that special introduction for us."


Star Trek: the Exhibition

So since things have been a little slow around here, and since I've been lucky enough to check out the Star Trek exhibition that's come to the Louisville Science Center, I thought I'd give a little review and fill those of you in that haven't seen it!

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I just discovered this rarely seen tribute program to Trek on youtube, in all of it's UPN 90's glory. I hadn't seen it posted here, so I thought I'd share.

If you haven't seen it before, it's a must watch, just for the assemblage of celebrity Trekkies and Trek stars alone. To say nothing of the neat little clips and tidbits about the various series, up through Voyager.

The entire show is beneath the cut.Collapse )

Tribute to Lost Astronauts

Not specifically Trek, but it sort of is, because where would Star Trek and NASA be without each other, seriously?

Since today is the anniversary of Apollo 1, tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, and we're a few days off from the anniversary of the loss of Columbia (dear NASA, stop having missions at the end of January), NASA has posted this:

Interactive Day of Remembrance

(There's no text to c/p, or I would--it's a photo montage to music, mostly, showing the lost crew of each of those missions.)

It's very touching and hopeful and sad.

Discussing the Prime Directive

The below video is really awesome.

A man went into thorough detail discussing the various moral/ethical issues involving the Prime Directive. This guy really gets into talking about this subject. At one point, I was watching this and thinking: "Dude, chill", but I understand the reason behind the enthusiasm: that while Star Trek may be "fake", it's steeped in real world symbolism. He uses all sorts of valid real world comparisons - from McCarthyism to Hitler to Vietnam to colonialism. Definitely an interesting discussion.

Warning: it is looooong. Like, 15 minutes long.

The actress who played Charlene Masters died on Oct. 17. She had a small guest role in "The Alternative Factor," but, wow, did she ever make an impression on me and many others.

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From Discovery:

Yesterday marked the 44th anniversary of the classic science fiction TV series Star Trek. On September 8, 1966, the first episode of Captain Kirk's adventures aired, and over the decades some of the imagined future technologies in the Star Trek universe have actually come to life in some way, shape or form.

Now, it appears we may be a step closer to seeing another Star Trek tech come to life: the tractor beam. But don't expect to capture a Romulan Warbird with it any time soon.

"Is Star Trek"s Tractor Beam Possible?" Article + Pic ("Cause it happened) Under the CutCollapse )

NASA uses more Star Trek science

How Capt. Kirk Changed the World

May 4, 2010: "Standard orbit, Mr. Sulu." Captain Kirk barks out the order with such confidence. He knows the USS Enterprise can slip in and out of planetary orbits with ease. But it's only easy in the realm of science fiction. In the real world, such maneuvers have been impossible --until now.

Enter Dawn, NASA"s cutting edge mission to the asteroid belt.Collapse )

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