Juno spacecraft bound for Jupiter

On Friday at 12:25 a.m. EDT, NASA’s newest spacecraft, Juno, launched into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on its way to Jupiter. Juno will engage in an analysis of the planet from an orbit around it.

Juno Spacecraft in front of jupiter.

Researchers hope that the spacecraft and its myriad of instruments will shed light on the origins of Jupiter. Furthermore, being the largest and oldest planet in the solar system, scientists believe that Jupiter may also hold clues to the formation and evolution of the early solar system. Additionally, the data gathered from Juno may help scientists to understand early planetary processes occurring in other star systems beyond our own.

Juno will travel roughly 1,740 million miles (2,800 million kilometers) over the course of its five-year journey.

Space Shuttle Discovery launches on final mission

At 4:53 p.m. (EDT), Space Shuttle Discovery took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on its final mission, STS-133. Its mission is to deliver and install onto the International Space Station (ISS), the Permanent Multipurpose Module Leonardo, the ExPRESS Logistics Carrier-4 and provide critical spare components for the station. Six astronauts, Steve Lindsey, Eric Boe, Alvin Drew, Nicole Stott, Michael Barratt and Steve Bowen, are participating in the mission. The shuttle is also carrying Robonaut2, the first dexterous humanoid robot to be in space. Although its first priority will be to test its operation in microgravity, upgrades could eventually allow it to fulfill its ultimate purpose of becoming an astronaut helper on boring or dangerous tasks.

The Space Shuttle Discovery launched on its final mission, STS-133 (crew pictured), today. Image: NASA.

The launch of Discovery, which was supposed to occur at 4:50 p.m., was delayed for three minutes due to a technical problem in the shuttle’s command system and a chipped heat shield tile near the crew hatch which needed to be patched. The launch was also repeatedly postponed since November 1 due to various technical problems with the shuttle’s systems and a hydrogen leak in the fuel tank along with cracks and bad weather. A small piece of foam broke off during the launch but NASA has reported that it is unlikely to cause problems.

Discovery and the crew of STS-133 are scheduled to spend just under two weeks in space and aboard the ISS, logging 4.5 million additional miles of flight.

Space Shuttle Discovery launches on the STS-133 mission. Image: JoshuaZ.

The launch comes just hours after an unmanned automated European cargo spacecraft, ATV-2, docked with the orbiting outpost to deliver supplies and equipment to the crew.

STS-133 is scheduled to be the final mission of Discovery, with its first being STS-41-D in 1984. Discovery flew 39 flights in its operational history, including the current mission, delivering several payloads to space including the Hubble Space Telescope and visiting two different space stations: Mir and the ISS. STS-133 is the 133rd shuttle mission and the 35th mission to the ISS. Discovery is the oldest surviving shuttle, and has flown more missions than any other shuttle. It was also the first shuttle to fly after the Challenger disaster and was the first shuttle to fly after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. Later, Discovery became the first shuttle to fly a Russian cosmonaut.

After the current mission, there will be at most two remaining shuttle flights. Endeavor has one more mission remaining, and if an emergency rescue is needed or more funding is secured, Atlantis will also fly once more before the entire fleet is retired.

“The shuttle has provided an amazing capacity for this country to gather data. I think we’re still sorting through a lot of it, trying to figure out what all we’ve learned from it. This chapter in our space history known as the space shuttle has been incredible,” said Bryan Lunney, lead space shuttle flight director for the mission.

NASCAR: Trevor Bayne wins the 2011 Daytona 500

Wood Brothers Racing driver Trevor Bayne, who qualified thirty-second, won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2011 Daytona 500 held on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, United States. This became his first win of his career, and his first at Daytona International Speedway. Throughout the course of the race there were 16 cautions and 74 lead changes among 22 different drivers.

File photo of Trevor Bayne. Image: Royalbroil.

Bayne had only one start in the series before the race, and by winning it, became the youngest winner of the Daytona 500 in history at age 20. The win also gave Wood Brothers Racing their second Daytona 500 win, which their first was in the 1976 Daytona 500. Following Bayne, Carl Edwards finished in the second position, ahead of David Gilliland, Bobby Labonte, and Kurt Busch. Juan Pablo Montoya followed Busch in sixth, while Regan Smith could only manage seventh.

Kyle Busch, Paul Menard, and Mark Martin rounded out the top ten finishers in the race. Ryan Newman led the most laps during the race with 37, but finished 22nd. Following the race, Bayne described his enjoyment of winning the race, “I keep thinking I’m dreaming. Our first 500 — are you kidding me? To win our first one in our second-ever Cup race, I mean this is just incredible. Wow, this is unbelievable. How cool is it to see the Wood Brothers back in Victory Lane? It’s crazy to get my first win before a Nationwide win — I didn’t know how to get to Victory Lane.”

Afterward, second placed Edwards said, “Look, right now this is going to be a long night for me. I’m going to go back to the motor home, I’m going to watch the replay, think about a hundred things I could have done, think about, ‘Man, what would it have been like to [win] the race?” Following the race, Edwards was the Drivers’ Championship leader with 42 points. Next, Gilliland and Labonte was tied for second, only one point behind Edwards. Kurt Busch was placed fourth with 40 points, ahead of Montoya and Smith in fifth and sixth. Kyle Busch, Menard, Martin, and A. J. Allmendinger rounded out the top-ten point positions.

The 2011 season will continue on February 27, 2011 at Phoenix International Raceway for the 2011 Subway Fresh Fit 500. The race will be televised on Fox at 3:00 p.m. EST.

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