On January 27, 1967, spacecraft 012 was mated to its service module and Saturn IB rocket, and the whole stack was on the launch pad. At one o'clock in the afternoon, the spacecraft's crew, Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee climbed inside the spacecraft for the plugs out test, a routine test NASA ran before all its missions that ran a simulated countdown with the spacecraft running on its own internal power. The hatch was closed, the cabin was pressurized, and the crew and launch teams and flight controllers took their stations at the Cape and in Mission Control in Houston.
NASA's Dawn mission has beamed back the best-ever view of a 'planet' between Mars and Jupiter. The spacecraft is just 147,000 miles and a few months shy of reaching Ceres, the largest unexplored rock between the Sun and Pluto. (Though the 590-mile-wide rock is officially classified as both a dwarf planet and the largest asteroid in the asteroid belt, Dawn's operators consider it a real planet.)
While NASA's Dawn mission is hot on the tail of the biggest rock in the asteroid belt, researchers are still finding new things within the treasure trove of data the spacecraft collected in 2011 and 2012. Back then Dawn was visiting Vesta, the second-largest object in the asteroid belt, which scientists thought would be bone-dry.
The Rosetta mission made history last year, by being the first manmade spacecraft to ever orbit or land on a comet. Things didn't go exactly as planned, though. The lander Philae bounced around and got lost somewhere on the comet's surface. Wherever it is, it's not getting enough sunlight on its solar panels to keep it fully charged, so ESA has shut it down until the springtime, when the comet will be closer to the Sun. Meanwhile, the orbiter has been busy collecting data. The journal Science just published a boatload of new findings from the duck-shaped Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Here are some of our favorites.