Solar Probe Plus will plunge directly into the sun’s atmosphere at approximately 4 million miles from the sun’s surface into a region that no other spacecraft has ever encountered. The spacecraft folds its solar panels into the shadows of its protective solar shade, leaving just enough of the specially-angled panels in sunlight to provide power closer to the Sun. JHU/APL/NASA
This image taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope depicts bright, blue, newly formed stars that are blowing a cavity in the center of a star-forming region in the Small Magellanic Cloud. NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team/STScI/AURA
The STS-29 Space Shuttle Discovery mission approaches for a landing at NASA's then Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility, at Edwards Air Force Base, in California in March 1989. NASA
The concept of using a mothership for the space shuttle ferry mission between California and Florida was proposed at Dryden. The Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft evolved from recommendations made by center engineers. The SCA was subsequently used to launch the prototype Enterprise and now serves as one of two ferry vehicles when weather requires an orbiter to land at Edwards and return to Kennedy. In 1977, Dryden hosted approach and landing tests made with the prototype orbiter Enterprise to evaluate the glide and landing characteristics of the 100-ton vehicles. NASA
The Project Mercury space suit included gloves, boots and a helmet. NASA
The Fourmile Canyon Fire continued to burn west of Boulder, Colo., in this image taken on Sept. 7, casting a long line of smoke to the east that was visible from NASA's Aqua satellite in its orbit around the Earth. NASA/MODIS
This picture of Venus was captured by the Mariner 10 spacecraft during its approach to the planet in early 1974. Taken with the spacecraft's imaging system using an ultraviolet filter, the picture has been color enhanced to simulate Venus's natural color as the human eye would see it. NASA/JPL-Caltech
This spaceborne radar image covers a rugged mountainous area of southeast Tibet, 50 miles east of the city of Lhasa. In the lower right corner is a wide valley of the Lhasa River, which is populated with Tibetan farmers and yak herders, and includes the village of Menba. NASA
Ham tries out his combination couch and life support system in preparation for his flight in Mercury Redstone-2 in 1961. The couch is plugged into the circuit that normally would supply the astronaut's full pressure suit. The MR-2 flight was one in a series of flights that led to the manned orbital flights of NASA's Project Mercury program. NASA
The Plane of the Ecliptic is illustrated in this Clementine star tracker camera image which reveals (from right to left) the Moon lit by Earthshine, the Sun's corona rising over the Moon's dark limb, and the planets Saturn, Mars, and Mercury. NASA
Before his late-night Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis called a group of mostly Christian refugees, telling them, 'You're like Jesus on this night,' forced to flee because there was no place for them.
ByNicole Winfield, Associated Press
Pope Francis celebrated Christmas Eve with a late-night Mass Wednesday in St. Peter's Basilica and a phone call to some Iraqi refugees forced to flee their homes by Muslim militants.