China plans to put laboratories in space, collect samples from the moon and prepare to build space stations over the next five years, according to an ambitious plan released this week aimed at putting the country on the global map for space exploration.
China also plans to launch manned-vessels and freighters into space during the coming half-decade, according to a government white paper. The country's eventual goal in the longer term is a manned lunar landing.
"With economic progress, also comes the need for scientific development and exploration," said Jiao Weixin, a professor at the School of Earth and Space Sciences at Beijing University. "By investing in space exploration, China wants to contribute and be a major player in the world on more than one level."
We say goodbye this weekend to 2011, the year that marked the close of NASA's space shuttle program.
The Georgia Institute of Technology recently honored alumni who have participated in the space program at its annual football game against the University of Georgia. CNN Light Years caught up with four Tech alumni astronauts, who reflected on their space experiences:
Imagine a future in which you always know the date of baseball's opening day. Or that your birthday is always on a Tuesday (sorry). Or that New Year's Eve is always on a Saturday.
As the people of the world prepare to hang their 2012 calendars, two professors at Johns Hopkins University are proposing one you can keep forever, as each date falls on the same day of the week as it did the year before.
Christmas might always be celebrated on a Sunday, for instance, and Memorial Day Monday could always be on May 28.
Astrophysicist Richard Conn Henry and applied economist Steve Hanke devised the new calendar after years of research and planning. They say their calendar would make it easy to plan annual activities, from holidays to academic schedules to financial calculations.
NASA is kicking off the new year by getting twin spacecraft into lunar orbit this weekend.
GRAIL, which stands for Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory, is a set of two orbiters that launched on September 10. GRAIL-A will get to its destination of circling the moon on the afternoon of December 31, with GRAIL-B following the next day at 5:05 p.m. ET.
They will arrive about 25 hours apart, giving breathing room in between these important milestones, says GRAIL project manager David Lehman.
You might call it an idea factory for space exploration. A unique program at the University of Southern California asks students at the Graduate Space Concepts Studio of the Department of Astronautical Engineering to dream up humanity’s next big space adventure.
Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin joined graduates this month to unveil their amazing ideas. Here are just a few:
This spring, development of the lunar research park idea will be shared with USC’s School of Architecture in a special graduate study topic called “Moon Studio.”
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"The Soyuz TMA-03M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011, carrying Expedition 30 Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko of Russia, NASA Flight Engineer Don Pettit and European Space Agency astronaut and Flight Engineer Andre Kuipers to the International Space Station."Source: NASA
It's been a big year for both manned and unmanned rocket launches.
NASA marked the end of the space shuttle program while launching several probes to study Jupiter, the moon and Mars.
There was the possibility that the International Space Station would have to be left unmanned after the Russian space agency lost a cargo craft, but that fear was unrealized as the agency, Roscosmos, launched not one, but two manned Soyuz rockets to the International Space Station.
Check out our gallery of some of the most memorable launches of 2011.
On December 21, 1968, Apollo 8 launched for the Moon. Apollo 8 was crewed by commander Frank Borman, command module pilot James Lovell (who would also fly aboard Apollo 13), and lunar module pilot William Anders. They were the first humans to leave low-Earth orbit and see the dark side of the Moon.
The crew of Apollo 8 were also the first humans to look upon Earth as a whole planet. The crew took the famous Earthrise photo, seen above, on December 24.
The successful completion of Apollo 8 was an important milestone in the journey to land on the Moon.
More on Apollo 8.
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NASA scientists today announced the discovery of two Earth sized planets, named Kepler 20E and 20F. The planets were discovered by the Kepler space telescope team. "The first of the two planets has a diameter just 3 percent larger than the Earth, which makes it the closest object to Earth, in terms of size in the known universe," said Francois Fressin, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, during a conference call to announce the major discovery.
The two planets are believed to be too close to their sun and thus too hot to be habitable with temperatures ranging from 800 to 14
hundred degrees. Scientists speculate that Kepler 20F might have had liquid water at one time in its history and could have been habitable.
The Kepler science team says this is the first time humanity has been able to detect planets of Earth size in the Universe.
"The Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft is rolled out by train on its way to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Monday, Dec. 19, 2011. The launch of the Soyuz spacecraft with Expedition 30 Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko of Russia, NASA Flight Engineer Don Pettit and European Space Agency astronaut and Flight Engineer Andre Kuipers is scheduled for 8:16 a.m. EST on Wednesday, Dec. 21."Source: NASA