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Satellites are used for a large number of purposes. Common types include military (spy) and civilian Earth observation satellites, communication satellites, navigation satellites, weather satellites, and research satellites.

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NASA Probe Sees Solar Wind Decline

The 33-year odyssey of NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has reached a distant point at the edge of our solar system where there is no outward motion of solar wind. Now hurtling toward interstellar space some 17.4 billion...

Super-Earth Atmosphere

A team of astronomers, including two NASA Sagan Fellows, has made the first characterizations of a super-Earth's atmosphere, by using a ground-based telescope...

Kepler Discovers

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered the first confirmed planetary system with more than one planet crossing in front of, or transiting, the same star...

Pulverized Planet

Tight double-star systems might not be the best places for life to spring up, according to a new study using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope....

Dark Asteroids

NASA is set to launch a sensitive new infrared telescope to seek out sneaky things in the night sky -- among them, dark asteroids that could pose a threat to Earth....

Neil Armstrong was supposed to be asleep. The moon walking was done. The moon rocks were stowed away. His ship was ready for departure. In just a few hours, the Eagle's ascent module would blast off the Moon, something no ship had ever attempted before, and Neil needed his wits about him. He curled up on the Eagle's engine cover and closed his eyes.

But he could not sleep.

Neither could Buzz Aldrin. In the cramped lander, Buzz had the sweet spot, the floor. He stretched out as much as he could in his spacesuit and closed his eyes. Nothing happened. On a day like this, what else could you expect...?

July 20, 1969: The day began on the farside of the Moon. Armstrong, Aldrin and crewmate Mike Collins flew their spaceship 60 miles above the cratered wasteland. No one on Earth can see the Moon's farside. Even today it remains a land of considerable mystery, but the astronauts had no time for sight-seeing. Collins pressed a button, activating a set of springs, and the spaceship split in two. The half named Columbia, with Collins on board, would remain in orbit. The other half, the Eagle, spiraled over the horizon toward the Sea of Tranquillity.

"You are Go for powered descent," Houston radioed, and the Eagle's engine fired mightily. The bug-shaped Eagle was so fragile a child could poke a hole through its gold foil exterior. Jagged moonrocks could do much worse. So when Armstrong saw that the computer was guiding them into a boulder field, he quickly took control. The Eagle pitched forward and sailed over the rocks.

Meanwhile, alarms were ringing in the background.

"Program alarm," announced Armstrong. "It's a 1202." The code was so obscure, almost no one knew what it meant. Should they abort? Should they land? "What is it?" he insisted.

Scrambling back in Houston, a young engineer named Steve Bales produced the answer: The radar guidance system was pestering the computer with too many interruptions. No problem. "We've got you..." radioed Houston. "We're Go on that alarm."

And on they went. Things, however, were not going exactly as planned. The Sea of Tranquillity was supposed to be smooth, but it didn't look so smooth from the cockpit of the Eagle. Armstrong scanned the jumbled mare for a safe place to land. "60 seconds," radioed Houston. "30 seconds." Mission control was hushed as the telemetry came in. Soon, too soon, the ship would run out of fuel.

Capcom later claimed the "boys in mission control were turning blue" when Armstrong announced "I [found] a good spot." As for Armstrong, his heart was thumping 156 beats per minute according to bio-sensors. The fuel gauge read only 5.6% when the Eagle finally settled onto the floor of the Sea of Tranquillity.

Houston (relieved): "We copy you down, Eagle."

Armstrong (coolly): "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

Immediately, they prepared to leave. This was NASA being cautious. No one had ever landed on the Moon before. What if a footpad started sinking into the moondust, or the Eagle sprung a leak? While Neil and Buzz made ready to blast off, Houston read the telemetry looking for signs of trouble. There were none, and three hours after touchdown, finally, Houston gave the "okay." The moonwalk was on.

At 9:56 p.m. EDT, Neil descended the ladder and took "one small step" (left foot first) into history. From the shadow of the Eagle, he looked around: "It has a stark beauty all its own--like the high desert of the United States." Houston reminded him to gather the "contingency sample," and Neil put some rocks and soil in his pocket. If, for any reason, the astronauts had to take off in a hurry, scientists back on Earth would get at least a pocketful of the Moon for their experiments.More..

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