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The Hubble Space Telescope has celebrated its 25th birthday by issuing a spectacular picture.

The picture features a spectacular vista of young stars blazing across a dense cloud of gas and dust.

Photo NASA

Photo NASA

The “Westerlund 2” cluster of stars is located about 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina.

Hubble was launched on Space Shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990.

Engineers expect the observatory to keep operating for at least another five years.


Image by Jim Linwood, used under Creative Commons license.

New York City has its fair share of big-name attractions, from the Statue of Liberty to Times Square, but any traveller attempting to ‘do’ NYC should put something else on their list: The Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum. Sitting on the Hudson River at Pier 86, not only does it contain some stunning artefacts and exhibits, but its location offers fantastic city views and a different perspective on US military history.

The history of the Museum

The museum was established in 1982 and provides visitors the opportunity to check out the 912 foot long aircraft carrier USS Intrepid in all its glory, the USS Growler and the retired Enterprise OV-101, the first Space Shuttle Orbiter. The USS Intrepid enjoyed a rich military history including being operational throughout World War II and the Vietnam War, before being used as a recovery vessel for NASA. On the flight deck you will get up close to lots of commercial and military aircraft from modern supersonic jets through to WWII fighters. It is also home to the A-12 Blackbord spy plane and the British Airways Concorde – two of the fastest planes ever built.

Main exhibits

The Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum has several main exhibit areas. Exploreum Hall is a 13,000 square foot fully interactive exhibition space in the hangar deck. These exhibits are designed around the themes of water, air, space and life at sea, so you can play space pinball, climb inside a Bell 47 helicopter or into a lifeboat. Visitors can also access hidden areas of the ship, including the anchor chain room, the machine shop and the crews cramped sleeping quarters – imagining what it would be like to sleep there for weeks on end!

The USS Growler is a diesel powered submarine that dates back to 1958. it is one of the few publically accessible submarines that ever fired a nuclear weapon. Visitors can get to see its once top secret missile command center.

The OV 101 space shuttle was unveiled in 1976. Used as a test shuttle because it was incapable of space flight it was originally to be called Constitution until the president at the time Gerald Ford intervened and expressed a wish that it be called Enterprise – after his favourite show Star Trek. Enterprise was duly launched used until 1979, paving the way for many other shuttle missions into space.

If you wish to feel the force of the US military and not just witness it, then there’s a choice of two simulators included in the $42 dollar ticket. Choose from the GForce Encounter, which recreates the sensation of flying in a supersonic jet plane, or the Transporter FX flight simulator – akin to flying a fighter jet.

Practical information and tickets

If you’re an adult, a $24 ticket ($19 if you’re aged between 7-17) grants you access to the USS Intrepid, the USS Growler submarine and the ‘Story of Intrepid’ movie. For $31 ($24 if you’re 7-17), you can check out the Space Shuttle Pavilion too. $42 for adults ($35 if you’re 7-17) grants you admission to all three plus a simulator ride and an audio tour. There’s also a range of yearly membership offers, for example a student membership with unlimited visits is just $40. In addition, a range of discount vouchers can be found online if you book in advance, so it’s worth searching around for best prices before paying on the day.

Colin Payne writes for a number of travel and lifestyle blogs, and is currently in the process of setting up his own website. He works from his home office in Boston.


X-37B, a notoriously mysterious military space plane operated by the US Air Force, has launched from Florida, the third flight in a secretive test programme.

The reusable, unmanned craft is designed to operate in Earth orbit for extended periods. Its prior missions in 2010 and 2011 lasted 224 and 469 days.

The US government kept the timing of Tuesday’s launch secret and has not said how long the mission will last.

That has prompted fevered speculation as to the craft’s ultimate purpose.

Tuesday’s launch had been pushed back from October, delayed by two satellite launches. Patrick Air Force Base in Florida gave notice of a hazard from a launch in a window between 10:45 to 17:15 local time.

The X-37B craft, designed by aerospace giant Boeing, shares more than just a passing similarity to the now-retired space shuttle.

It is just a quarter the size of the shuttle, but is launched on a rocket – the Atlas V. It is coated in thermal tiles to withstand the heat of re-entry, after which it lands on its own gear autonomously.

X-37B, a notoriously mysterious military space plane operated by the US Air Force, has launched from Florida, the third flight in a secretive test programme

X-37B, a notoriously mysterious military space plane operated by the US Air Force, has launched from Florida, the third flight in a secretive test programme

The stated mission of the craft, according to the US Air Force, is an “experimental test program to demonstrate technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform”.

But the latest mission in particular sparked speculation that the craft was spying on the Chinese space lab Tiangong-1 – an idea that has since been largely discredited.

When it returned from its second mission in June, programme manager Lt. Col. Tom McIntyre said: “We knew from post-flight assessments from the first mission that OTV-1 could have stayed in orbit longer. So one of the goals of this mission was to see how much farther we could push the on-orbit duration.”

But any official mission objectives seems set once again to remain secret.

X-37B – military spaceplane

  • Mission: Described as a re-usable testbed for new sensors and other space technologies
  • Length: 9 m Wingspan: 4.5 m Height: 3 m Mass: 5,000 kg
  • Origins: Started as a NASA project in 1999 before being handed to the military in 2006
  • Operating altitude: 180 – 800 km
  • Cost: The budget line for the X-37B programme continues to be classified information

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