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Yearlong spacemen embrace fresh, frigid air back on Earth

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Ah, there’s nothing like a blast of fresh, frigid air to welcome you back to the planet after nearly a year cooped up in space. That’s the word from astronaut Scott Kelly, NASA’s space-endurance champ who returned to bitterly cold Kazakhstan on Wednesday, along with his roommate for the past year, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko. In a NASA interview before heading home to Houston, where he arrived early Thursday, Kelly said it was “amazing” to feel the cold air when…

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FPL breaks ground on new solar power plants

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At the site of the future Manatee Solar Energy Center in Parrish, Florida Power & Light executives, environmentalists, state and local officials cheered as a groundbreaking ceremony significantly changed the dynamics of solar power in the Sunshine State. At 10:50 a.m. Thursday, FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy and Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam flipped the switches on dual Tuchi pile drivers to start the next phase of a 10-plus-year vision for innovation by the Sunshine State’s largest energy provider. The…

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NASA, Space Coast remember Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia disasters

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The end of January to the first day of February — starting Wednesday and running through Monday — is always a most somber time for NASA and America’s space program. Those dates mark anniversaries of three of the nation’s most visible tragedies: Apollo 1, the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia disasters. It also reminds us of the resilience of space agency and Florida’s Space Coast, where people took each setback personally. Every time, NASA faced fierce criticism that American heroes…

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New evidence points to giant 9th planet on solar system edge

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The solar system may have a ninth planet after all. This one is 5,000 times bigger than outcast Pluto and billions of miles farther away, say scientists who presented “good evidence” for a long-hypothesized Planet X on Wednesday. The gas giant is thought to be almost as big as its nearest planetary neighbor Neptune, quite possibly with rings and moons. It’s so distant that it would take a mind-blowing 10,000 to 20,000 years to circle the sun. Planet 9, as…

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SpaceX launches may resume Dec. 19, 6 months after accident

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SpaceX says it’s close to launching rockets again six months after an accident. Chief executive Elon Musk announced via Twitter on Thursday a rocket test-firing for next Wednesday in Florida. A satellite launch for Orbcomm could come three days later – Dec. 19th. SpaceX has been stuck on Earth since June, when a broken strut doomed its Falcon rocket during liftoff. The accident left NASA without a viable U.S. supplier for the International Space Station. NASA’s other commercial shipper, Orbital…

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Challenger, Columbia wreckage on public display for 1st time

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NASA is offering up wreckage from the Challenger and Columbia for public view after hiding it from the world for decades. A new exhibit at Kennedy Space Center features two pieces of debris, one from each lost shuttle, as well as poignant, personal reminders of the 14 astronauts killed in flight. It is an unprecedented collection of artifacts – the first time, in fact, that any Challenger or Columbia remains have been openly displayed. NASA’s intent is to show how…

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Astronaut mementoes: Cowboy boots, prayer beads, lunch box

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The 14 display cases at Kennedy Space Center contain intensely personal mementoes and other items representing the astronauts who perished in the Challenger and Columbia accidents. They are part of NASA’s new “Forever Remembered” exhibit, which includes the first public display of pieces from each lost space shuttle. NASA’s Michael Ciannilli began contacting the astronauts’ families in 2012, gently consulting with them and collecting belongings. Every encounter, he said, left him ever more humbled. A few families were reluctant to…

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