Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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By
updated 7/3/2012 11:16:28 AM ET 2012-07-03T15:16:28

NASA officials and astronauts around the world are mourning the death of retired space shuttle commander Alan Poindexter, a two-time space shuttle flier who died Sunday (July 1) in a tragic jet ski accident in Florida.

Poindexter, known as "Dex" at NASA, died while vacationing with his family in Pensacola, Fla. He was jet skiing with his two sons when one of the jet skis unexpectedly hit him, according to media reports.

News of the accident and Poindexter's death stunned NASA's astronaut corps. Poindexter retired from NASA's astronaut ranks in 2010 to serve as dean of students at the U.S. Navy's Naval Postgraduate School.

"We in the astronaut family have lost not only a dear friend, but also a patriot of the United States," said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, in a statement. "He proudly served his country for 26 years as a fighter pilot, test pilot, astronaut and commander of a space shuttle. I am proud to have both flown in space and worked with him for so many years. Dex will be deeply missed by those of us at Johnson and the entire NASA family."

Veteran space shuttle explorer
Hailing from Rockville, Md., Alan Poindexter, 50, was a U.S. Navy Captain selected to join NASA's astronaut corps in 1998. He flew on two space missions, with his first as the pilot of shuttle Atlantis on STS-122 — a 2008 mission that delivered the European Columbus laboratory module to the International Space Station. Later, Poindexter commanded the shuttle Discovery's STS-131 mission to deliver supplies to the station. [ Photos: Discovery's Amazing STS-131 Launch ]

In all, Poindexter logged 28 days in space. He is survived by his wife Lisa and their two grown sons.

"Alan and I joined the astronaut corps in 1998 and flew together on STS-122, which was truly an incredible experience," said NASA Associate Administrator for Education and former astronaut Leland Melvin. "He was a passionate, caring and selfless individual who will be missed by all."

  1. More about Discovery's last mission
    1. collectSPACE/Robert Z. Pearlman
      Discovery's final crew: Experienced and friends

      Six veteran astronauts are flying the space shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station on the final voyage of the orbiter's long and illustrious career.

    2. Shuttle Discovery gets a 'Star Trek' send-off
    3. Robot butler hitching ride to orbit on shuttle
    4. Shuttle payload includes more closet space
    5. By the numbers: Basic facts about the shuttle
    6. Got a great launch picture? Please share it

Poindexter earned an aerospace engineering degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta in 1986 and commissioned in the U.S. Navy after graduation. He became a naval aviator in 1988 and was deployed with Fighter Squadron 124 during Operations Desert Storm and Southern Watch. He became a test pilot in 1995 and joined NASA three years later.

"Dex was a wonderful human being and a pleasure to have in the astronaut office," said astronaut Janet Kavandi, NASA's Director of Flight Crew Operations. "His good-natured demeanor made him approachable to his crews and the many people at Johnson and Kennedy who enabled his missions."

NASA mourns
Soon after the announcement of Poindexter's death, astronauts in the United States and abroad expressed their sympathies online via Twitter:

"He was a talented, courageous Navy veteran with gifts," wrote astronaut Greg H. Johnson, a shuttle pilot, in one post.  "Dex was a lovable guy with a strong work ethic. He was selected to command a space shuttle on his 2nd flight: STS-131," Johnson wrote in another.

Japanese astronaut NaokoYamazaki, who served as a mission specialist on Poindexter's STS-131 mission, said Poindexter was a hero to her.

"Commander Poindexter will be in our prayers forever. So [honored] to be able to fly with him," Yamazaki wrote. "I learned a lot from the great hero."

Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi was living on the space station in 2010 when Poindexter flew Discovery to the outpost to deliver vital supplies.

"RIP, my friend Dex; we spent happy 11 days together on #ISS," Noguchi wrote on Twitter. He posted a photo of himself with Poindexter on the station in memoriam.

Perhaps astronaut Clayton Anderson said it best: "America lost a great hero yesterday; I lost my commander, my colleague and my friend. RIP Captain Poindexter."

You can follow SPACE.com Managing Editor Tariq Malik on Twitter@tariqjmalik. Follow SPACE.com on Twitter @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

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