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1998--The Year in Review... - Windows to the Universe

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This is a collage of the mission patches from the five shuttle missions of 1998.
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1998--The Year in Review...
News story originally written on December 31, 1998

1998 was a very full year when it came to space exploration and history making.

In the blast-from-the-past department, John Glenn received another go for a launch aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. After becoming the first American to orbit the Earth, Glenn never returned to space--until he was part of a study aboard STS-95.

In the better-late-than-never department, the assembly phase of the Internation Space Station began in late 1998 with the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour. The initial assembly was delayed when the first Russian-built laboratory module wasn't ready on time. It also appears that a problem with the construction of the service module will push back the date when the first crew will be able to occupy the station.

In the related all-good-things-must-end department, the Shuttle-Mir program came to an end. Before the program ended, David Wolf and Andy Thomas were the two U.S. astronauts who maintained the final part of the 812-day American presence aboard Mir. While on the station, the astronauts studied the effects of the space environment on Mir and took in the sights.

The were some things going down in the sky-is-falling department. August saw the peak of the Perseids meteor shower and November saw the peak of the Leonids meteor shower. The Leonids was expected to reach a 33-year peak either this year or next and people were worried about the meteors causing damage to spacecraft. For a future look, astronomers discovered a new asteroid that will pass near Earth 30 years from now.

There was also some activity in the number-one-sun department. The ACE spacecraft studied both large and small solar events. The Polar spacecraft discovered that the solar wind pushes part of the Earth's atmosphere into space. The SOHO spacecraft discovered tornadoes on the sun before the spacecraft ran away. (It came back after six weeks.)

The Hubble Space Telescope stayed focused on its mission, as you can see in the out-of-this-world department. The HST has looked farther into space using a new instrument; it has been used to find massive new galactic clusters; and it has been used to take a new core sample of the sky. On a smaller scale, Hubble images may contain a picture of a planet outside our solar system. Closer to Earth, the HST was used to determine that global warming affects more than just the Earth.

In the not-so-high-and-dry department, NASA demonstrated that it isn't wet behind the ears with the Lunar Prospector spacecraft, which reached the moon in January. Prospector discovered water (in the form of ice) at the north and south lunar poles. It was actually the presence of hydrogen at the poles that lead scientists to estimate that there is up to six billion metric tons of ice on the moon.

If you've had all the news recap you can handle, then take a break with two new games--our Solar Word Search and our Weather Crossword.

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