Image of the Day
Above:NASA successfully launched its Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) — a flying saucer-shaped vehicle that could one day be used to help humans land on Mars — on Saturday (June 28) over the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range in Hawaii.
The flight was designed to test equipment — including a massive 100-foot-wide (30.5 meters) parachute — that could be used to slow a heavy spacecraft as it descends through Mars' atmosphere. During the weekend test, a high-altitude balloon carried the LDSD vehicle to an altitude of 23 miles (37 kilometers), before dropping it. The vehicle's onboard rocket motor fired according to plan, but NASA engineers say the chute inflated but did not deploy correctly.
Still, agency officials say the test flight was a success. "The test vehicle worked beautifully, and we met all of our flight objectives," Mark Adler, project manager for LDSD at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. "We have recovered all the vehicle hardware and data records and will be able to apply all of the lessons learned from this information to our future flights."
In this photo, the saucer-shaped test vehicle is being lifted aboard the Kahana recovery vessel in the Pacific Ocean. [Related: 7 Everyday Things that Happen Strangely In Space]
Red Panda Party!
Red panda litters typically consist of one to four cubs, and the babies usually remain in the nest for about 90 days, sticking close to their mothers.
This photo shows two cubs, born May 27, to female Yanhua and male Sherman. It was the first litter for both animals. [Related Gallery: World's Cutest Baby Wild Animals]
Today, Americans celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, which, on July 4, 1776, announced the intention of the 13 colonies to break free from British rule. The famous document, signed by 56 delegates, changed the course of American history.
Visitors to the U.S. National Archives in Washington, D.C. can see the Declaration of Independence on display, within a special bulletproof glass case designed to preserve the precious document.
These days, the Fourth of July is characterized by patriotic displays, and Americans commonly spend the federal holiday enjoying barbecues, parades and fireworks. [Related: 50 Fabulous Fourth of July Facts]
Dog Rescued From Kenai Fjords Cliffs
Early last week, staff members at Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska received a report of a dog stranded on a cliff ledge near the edge of Exit Glacier. After gaining the dog’s trust, park rangers pulled the dog to safety and carried her out to the trailhead.
Kenai Fjords National Park lies at the edge of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. It's a land where the ice age lingers and nearly 40 glaciers flow from the Harding Icefield, Kenai Fjords' crowning feature. Wildlife thrives in icy waters and lush forests around this vast expanse of ice.
The area is a tough place to survive, and even tougher if you're a runaway Labradoodle, like Sadie (pictured above). Park rangers say Sadie was at least 20 miles (32 kilometers) from home when she was rescued. Now that she's off the cliffs and back home, the dog is reportedly recovering well, reported the Associated Press. [Related: 8 Amazing National Park Structures]
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Space Station After Hours
The photo was reportedly taken while the rest of the space station's Expedition 40 crew was asleep. The view looks into the Destiny Laboratory, with the Harmony Node (or Node 2) visible in the background. The Destiny lab is the primary research laboratory for American experiments aboard the space station. [Related: World's Most Extreme Laboratories]
Some astrophysicists have suggested that supermassive black holes form when hefty stars — those that are more than 10,000 times as massive as the sun — collapse into black holes. Understanding this process could help scientists determine how structures, such as supermassive black holes, formed in the early universe. [Related: The 9 Biggest Unsolved Mysteries in Physics]
Fuzzy Flamingo Chicks
Since flamingo chicks have a higher survival rate if they are hand-reared, zookeepers are keeping the babies out of the spotlight for now. When they are older, the birds will join the zoo's flock of flamingoes outside, according to Smithsonian officials. [Related Gallery: World's Cutest Baby Wild Animals]
The Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge spans 43 square miles (111 square kilometers) in southwestern Wyoming. The shrubs and wetlands are located along 36 miles (58 kilometers) of the Green River, which is an important migration route and nesting area for a variety of bird species.
According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the refuge lands were once well-traveled trails used by nomadic Indian tribes, fur trappers and early pioneers. [Related: Stunning Images of Lightning]
Wiseman posted the photo on Twitter and called it his favorite to date. The American spaceflyer is one of six crewmembers currently living aboard the International Space Station. [Related Gallery: Stunning Images from Orbit]
Blasting Off Into History Books
Apollo 11 was the first mission to land humans on the moon, and on July 20, 1969, Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the lunar surface. This incredible view of the Apollo 11 liftoff was captured by a launch tower camera. [Related Gallery: Mysterious Objects Spotted on the Moon]
Arches National Park is located north of Moab, Utah. As the park's name suggests, the region is characterized by more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches. [Related Gallery: The Most Awe-Inspiring Natural Wonders in America]
This lubber grasshopper was part of the National Zoo's Invertebrate House, which closed to the public on June 22. [Related: Dazzling Photos of Dew-Covered Insects]
Eastern screech owls can be found throughout eastern North American. These small owls typically live in forests and woodlands, and can be found in many national parks and wildlife refuges across the United States. [Related: Images of Amazing Owls]
One of Yellowstone's most well-known features is a geyser known as Old Faithful. The geyser erupts roughly every 50 to 90 minutes, spewing steam and hot water in a spectacular display. [Related: 8 Amazing National Park Structures]
The study, known as the Integrated Precipitation and Hydrology Experiment (IPHEx), was a six-week campaign that combined measurements from the ER-2 aircraft with data from rain gauges and ground radar stations across western North Carolina. [Related Gallery: Hurricanes from Above – See Nature's Biggest Storms]
According to the National Park Service, Great Basin has some of the darkest night skies, and is a popular destination for skywatchers seeking solitude and spectacular views. [Related: 6 Stellar Places for Skywatching in the US]
Pride of the Zoo
So far, only four of the new lions have been named, but Smithsonian officials said the other two cubs will soon be named by the zoo's board of directors. [Related: The Wild Cats of Kruger National Park]