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Europe's star-hunter enters orbit

A billion-dollar star-hunting telescope slotted into its operational orbit Wednesday prior to harvesting data for the most detailed map yet of the Milky Way, the European Space Agency (ESA) said. The telescope, Gaia, was launched from ESA's base in French Guiana three weeks ago, then journeyed towards L2, a gravitationally stable point in space some 1.5 million kilometres (900,000 miles) from Earth. After a final manoeuvre Wednesday, Gaia settled into a 180-day orbit around L2, the ESA statement said.

Europe launches Milky Way-mapping telescope

Kourou, French Guiana, Dec 19 (EFE).- The European Space Agency's Gaia orbital observatory was launched here Thursday with a mission to map the Milky Way. Equipped with a billion-pixel camera, the satellite rode into space atop a Russian Soyuz rocket that blasted off before dawn from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou. Gaia will not reach its permanent orbit for several weeks and must undergo four months of commissioning before embarking on its five-year mission.

Europe launches billion-dollar Milky Way telescope

The European Space Agency (ESA) on Thursday launched an advanced telescope designed to detect a billion stars and provide the most detailed map yet of the Milky Way. The Gaia telescope was successfully hoisted by a Soyuz-STB-Fregat rocket from ESA's space base in Kourou, French Guiana, the agency reported in a webcast. "All is fonctioning normally," an ESA commentator said. The satellite was to be deployed 42 minutes after launch.

Europe launches billion-dollar Milky Way telescope

The most sophisticated space telescope ever built by Europe, aims at building an "astronomical census" of a billion stars.

NASA says spacewalks needed to fix space station pump

Washington, Dec 18 (EFE).- Repairing a faulty cooling pump on the International Space Station will require three spacewalks, NASA said. The two NASA astronauts among ISS Expedition 38's six-person crew, Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins, are scheduled to spend around 6 1/2 hours in space over the course of three separate excursions on Dec. 21, 23 and 25. One of the ISS' two external cooling pumps shut itself down Dec. 11 after sensors detected a temperature anomaly.

NASA rolls out rocket for Thursday's ISS cargo launch

With the space station cooling system hobbled and a commercial cargo launch waiting in the wings, NASA Tuesday prepared all options but said no decision had yet been made on whether spacewalk repairs would be needed. Instead, Orbital Sciences rolled its Antares rocket out to the launch pad at Wallops Island, Virginia in preparation for a Thursday launch of its Cygnus supply ship at 9:19 pm (0219 GMT).

Billion-dollar 'discovery machine' set for launch

Europe on Thursday will place a billion-dollar bet on a space telescope designed to provide the biggest and most detailed 3-D map of the Milky Way. If all goes well, a Soyuz-STB-Fregat rocket will lift off from Kourou, French Guiana, hoisting the observatory Gaia on a five-year exploration that may sweep away notions of our place in the galaxy. The most sophisticated space telescope ever built by Europe, the 740-million-euro ($1.02-billion) gadget goes by the unofficial epithet of "discovery machine".

China's Chang'e-3 space probe makes 1st soft moon landing in 37 years

Beijing, Dec 14 (EFE).- China's unmanned space probe Chang'e-3 landed Saturday in the lunar crater Sinus Iridum, or Bay of Rainbows, making the Asian giant the third country after the United States and the now-defunct Soviet Union to have a spacecraft make a soft moon landing, exactly 37 years and four months after the last one. The last controlled moon landing of a spaceship was that of the Soviet probe Luna 24 on Aug. 18, 1976.

Chinese space probe makes soft moon landing, 1st since 1976

China succeeded on Saturday in the world's first soft landing of a lunar probe on the moon in nearly 40 years, official media said. China became the third country to achieve a soft landing on the moon, after the United States and the former Soviet Union. The last mission was in 1976 by the Soviet Union's Luna-24.

China's first lunar rover lands on moon: State TV

A space module carrying China's first lunar rover landed on the moon Saturday, state television showed, the first soft landing on the moon in nearly four decades and a major step for the emerging superpower's ambitious space programme. Scientists burst into applause as a computer generated image representing the spacecraft was seen landing on the moon's surface via screens at a Beijing control centre, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) showed, 12 days after Chang'e-3 blasted off on a Long March-3B carrier rocket.
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