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NASA's Space Shuttle program continues to wind down, with only two more launches planned -- the final one taking place in June (if funded). NASA Administrator Charles Bolden recently announced four facilities where shuttle orbiters will be displayed permanently in New York, California, Florida, and Washington, D.C. At Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Launch Pad 39B, originally designed for the Apollo program and later customized to support the Space Shuttle, is currently being taken apart in preparation for future missions with new, post-shuttle launch systems. Space Shuttle Discovery -- which landed for the final time last month after having flown 39 missions, traveling 148,221,675 miles -- now sits inside Orbiter Processing Facility-2, as it's inspected, disassembled, and prepared for its new life as a public exhibit. Collected here are some images of the 29-year old program's last days. Red spray paint marks the spot where the nose landing gear of space shuttle Discovery stopped after it landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Wednesday, March 9, 2011. A marker will be placed in the runway to mark the final spot where Discovery ended its career as the world's most flown spaceship. A large crane dismantles a level of the fixed service structure (FSS) on Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The structure was designed to support the unique needs of the Space Shuttle Program. The new design will feature a "clean pad" for rockets to come with their own launcher, making it more versatile for a number of vehicles. Shuttle Atlantis' three main engines take center stage to the banners commemorating the orbiters that served the Space Shuttle Program.

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view Dismantling the Space Shuttle Program as presented by: The Atlantic


Los Angeles city firefighters battle a massive fire at a seven-story downtown apartment complex under construction in Los Angeles, California December 8, 2014. Over 250 firefighters battled the early morning blaze. The fire shutdown two major freeways, according to The Los Angeles Fire Department and California Highway Patrol. Because the building was under construction, no injuries were reported. The intense heat of the blaze melted nearby highway signs and burst windows of surrounding buildings, the Los Angeles Times reported. Flames could be seen for miles from the fire that started about 1:20 a.m.The fire was extinguished, but firefighters were still on the scene monitoring hot spots.

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view Massive fire in downtown Los Angeles as presented by: Boston Big Picture


One in five people in the UK suffer from hay fever every year - but even the worst affected could appreciate the beauty of pollen grains blown up by a million times. This gallery features false-colour scanning electron microscope pictures of the causes of hay fever. The number one culprit according to scientists is grass pollen - which close-up looks like a bundle of knobbly peas. The second biggest cause of hay fever is birch pollen. Steve Gschmeissner, a retired scientific photographer from Bedford who has access to a scanning electron microscope, says: "A single birch catkin can contain five and half million pollen grains. Since a birch tree may carry several thousand catkins, the amount of pollen produced by several thousand trees in whole birch woods boggles the mind." A false-colour scanning electron micrograph of a pollen grain from a birch tree, which is highly allergic. Birch tree pollen is transported by the wind, and so is light with a smooth, non-sticky surface to aid its dispersal over distances of thousands of kilometres.

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view Scanning Electron Microscope Pictures Of Pollen Grains as presented by: Telegraph Media Group



NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Mission (MER) is an ongoing robotic space mission involving rovers Spirit, Opportunity and now Curiosity, exploring the planet Mars. It began in 2003 with the sending of the two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, to explore the Martian surface and geology and continues today. The mission’s scientific objective was to search for and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity on Mars. The mission is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, which includes three previous successful landers: the two Viking program landers in 1976 and Mars Pathfinder probe in 1997. The total cost of building, launching, landing and operating the rovers on the surface for the initial 90-Martian-day (sol) primary mission was $820 million. Since the rovers have continued to function beyond their initial 90 sol primary mission, they have each received five mission extensions. The fifth mission extension was granted in October 2007, and ran to the end of 2009. The total cost of the first four mission extensions was $104 million, and the fifth mission extension is expected to cost at least $20 million.

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view Photos: Mars Rover Images as presented by: Denver Post


Fall seems to officially be here, based the feverish pace of squirrels preparing for winter. When we went out and about to enjoy autumn, there was one constant other than the beautiful foliage changing colors, and that was the squirrels gathering acorns and other nuts. Everywhere we went, the squirrels were acting squirrelly, running around with nuts in their mouths, performing ninja-like gymnastics in tree branches, or digging to hide their winter stash. There are about 285 species of squirrels and the antics of these furry cute critters are fun to watch and to photograph.

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view Cute, Funny, Hungry Squirrels Say Fall is Here as presented by: Love These Pics


For hundreds of years, a spinal injury meant never walking again. Now researchers know the spine can learn. The paralyzed have hope. Exhausting new therapies teach the spine to have a mind of its own. The Denver Post’s in-depth project “Stepping Toward Hope” chronicles the efforts of remarkable patients suffering spinal-cord injuries taking advantage of new science and locomotor therapy that may allow them to walk again. Intense struggles, aching despair and remarkable effort are all part of their grueling stories explored by Denver Post photographers Craig Walker, AAron Ontiveroz and R.J. Sangosti. Karen Gorden said her daughter, Mackenzie, loved the pool workouts because of the freedom, and the chance to more closely approximate walking at Craig Hospital. "Gravity is not working against her," Karen said. Mackenzie Gorden’s teenage life somersaulted last year when she swerved to avoid a deer near her Iowa hometown and rolled her pickup truck into a ditch. The cheerleader had her neck rebuilt at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic, but Mackenzie has now come to Colorado twice for extensive, intensive therapy sessions aimed at teaching her spine and legs to walk again despite an injured connection to her brain. For James Nall a crawling exercise is his toughest task at Craig Hospital in Englewood, CO. "You gotta crawl before you can walk. I gotta retrain everything. I'm like a giant kid -- a big baby." Nall’s fast-moving life as a restaurant manager, runner and fun-loving friend came to a sharp halt on a routine trip to his basement laundry room a few years ago. Despite the grimacing and pain, James was pleasantly surprised at his first October attempt to walk after a summer break from intensive physical therapy at Craig Hospital. With the aid of therapists and electrical stimulation on his right knee, he took three laps around the gym. "Psychologically and emotionally, that's a huge lift," he said. "It's awesome. It made my freakin' week."

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view Stepping Towards Hope, Photos of Perseverance in Colorado as presented by: Denver Post


Last Wednesday, an eight-story commercial building called Rana Plaza, in Savar, Bangladesh, collapsed suddenly with more than 3,000 garment industry workers inside. In the five days since, rescuers have been digging frantically, searching for survivors, rescuing hundreds. As of today, with the confirmed death toll nearing 400, attempts to locate any more survivors have been halted. Eight people have been arrested so far, including the owner of the illegally-constructed facility, who was apparently caught while trying to flee to India yesterday. In the days since the disaster, families displayed photographs as they gathered around the destroyed building, hundreds of their loved ones still listed as missing. Rescue workers attempt to rescue garment workers from the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building, in Savar, 30 km (19 miles) outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, on April 28, 2013. Hope for survivors under the rubble of a building that collapsed outside the capital of Bangladesh faded on Sunday. With more than 900 people still counted as missing fears grew that the death toll could rise far beyond the latest figures. Bangladeshi garment workers help evacuate a survivor using lengths of textile as a slide to evacuate from the rubble after the building collapsed, on April 24, 2013.

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view Rescue Efforts Halted at Collapsed Bangladesh Building as presented by: The Atlantic


Out in the middle of a hot, dry Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan, along the ancient Silk Road, Soviet-era scientists found a cavern of natural gas and started drilling. But the drill hit another pocket in the cavern, right before the ground collapsed, and the entire drilling rig disappeared into the huge Darvaza Gas Crater. Then poisonous gas started to pour out. So what did the scientists decide to do in order to avoid a potential environmental disaster? Burn it off. Genius! That was in 1971, but the flaming natural gas crater is still burning 42 years later. The locals dubbed it, “The Door to Hell.” Derweze can also be spelled Darvaza and that translates to “gate,” so it is sometimes referred to as “Hell’s Gate” or the “Gates of Hell.” The Door to Hell in the nighttime. The crater goes down to a depth of about 66 feet (20 m).

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view Flaming Door to Hell in the Devil’s Sandbox along Infamous Silk Road as presented by: Love These Pics



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