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NASA Makes Unprecedented Return To Mars, Advances Commercial Spaceflight And Adds To Its Amazing Research And Discoveries In 2012

Several new facilities delivered to the space station this year allow for an array of new research projects. The Japanese Experiment Module Small Satellite Orbital Deployer changes the way mini satellites now can be deployed to their optimal orbit, allowing for greater flexibility, operational control and significant monetary savings. The Aquatic Habitat received its first inhabitants, translucent Medaka fish, allowing for easy observation of their skeletal systems, which gives more insight into bone and muscle atrophy, which are medical issues for astronauts and the aging population, and radiation effects. A Gravitational Biology Lab also was delivered to station. The centrifuge allows for biological experimentation in artificial gravity -- from zero gravity to twice Earth's normal gravity -- for prolonged periods of time. This facility provides environmental control, lighting, data transfer, commanding and observation of experiments in Mars and moon gravity conditions, as well as mimicking Earth's gravity. The centrifuge is useful for biological organism research and could lead to advances in medications and vaccines, agricultural controls and discoveries in genetics -- all beneficial to people on Earth.

http://www.nasa.gov/station

WORK UNDER WAY FOR FIRST LAUNCHES OF NASA'S NEW SPACECRAFT AND ROCKET

In July, NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida welcomed the arrival of the agency's first space-bound Orion capsule, marking a major milestone in the construction of the spacecraft that will carry astronauts farther into space than ever before. Orion will be the most advanced spacecraft ever designed, sustaining astronauts during space travel, providing safe re-entry from deep space and emergency abort capability.

The Orion at Kennedy will launch on Exploration Flight Test-1, an uncrewed mission planned for 2014. The spacecraft will travel 3,600 miles above the Earth's surface, 15 times farther than the International Space Station's orbital position. The primary flight objective is to understand Orion's heat shield performance at speeds generated during a return from deep space.

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