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The Space Portal

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Space (or outer space) describes the vast empty regions between and around planets and stars. The study of these, and other, astronomical objects is called astronomy, one of the oldest sciences. It is often said that space exploration began with the launch of Sputnik 1, the first man-made object to orbit the Earth. Then, in an almost unbelievable feat of human achievement, in 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin travelled to the Moon and set foot on the surface during the Apollo 11 mission. Recently, it has become clear that the possibility of space colonization may no longer be exclusively reserved for science-fiction stories, and many controversial issues surrounding space have come to light, including commercial spaceflight, space laws and space weapons.

Selected article

The official NASA patch for the Shuttle-Mir Program, showing a docked to the Russian ', flying above a stylised Earth. The patch is bordered by the colours of the flags of Russia and the USA.

The Shuttle–Mir Program was a collaborative space program between Russia and the United States, which involved American Space Shuttles visiting the Russian space station Mir, Russian cosmonauts flying on the shuttle and American astronauts engaging in long-duration expeditions aboard Mir. The program, under the code name 'Phase One', was intended to allow the United States to learn from Russian experience into long-duration spaceflight and to foster a spirit of cooperation between the two nations and their respective space agencies, NASA and RKA, in preparation for further cooperative space ventures. Announced in 1993 with the first mission occurring in 1994, the program continued until its scheduled completion in 1998, and consisted of eleven shuttle missions, a joint Soyuz flight and almost 1000 days in space for American astronauts over seven expeditions. The program was, however, marred by various concerns, notably the safety of Mir following a fire and collision on board the station, financial issues with the cash-strapped Russian Space Program and worries from astronauts about the attitudes of the program administrators. Nevertheless, a large amount of science, expertise in space station construction and knowledge in working in a cooperative space venture was gained from the combined operations, allowing 'Phase Two' of the joint project, the construction of the International Space Station, to proceed much more smoothly than otherwise possible.

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Pioneer plaque
Credit: Carl Sagan, Frank Drake, Linda Salzman Sagan

The Pioneer plaque, which was included on both Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 unmanned spacecraft, the first man-made objects to leave our solar system. Made from gold-anodised aluminium, the plaque shows the figures of a man and a woman along with several symbols that are designed to provide information about the origin of the spacecraft. However, the mean time for the spacecraft to come within 30 astronomical units of a star is longer than the current age of our galaxy.

Astronomical events

7 February, 01:24 Mercury at greatest western elongation
8 February, 14:39 New moon
11 February, 02:33 Moon at perigee
22 February, 18:20 Full moon
27 February, 03:21 Moon at apogee
28 February Neptune in conjunction

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