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A Setback on Mars; A New Lab for the Space Station

On the surface of Mars, the Phoenix lander experienced a soil-sampling glitch on its first attempt late last week, but scientists don't think it's serious. None of the dirt meant for the spacecraft's oven made it into the tiny chamber, so it couldn't be tested for signs of water or organic compounds.

Over the weekend, NASA delayed the launch of the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) until June 11 due to a battery issue. The telescope is designed to send back detailed data on "the most energetic explosions and flare-ups the cosmos has to offer."

A team of astronauts successfully attached a 15-ton Japanese laboratory to the International Space Station last week. The station's biggest room, it will be used for biomedical and material sciences research.

Further from home, a new map of the Milky Way indicates that our spiral galaxy has two fewer main spokes or arms than previously believed. Based on findings about the structural evolution of the Milky Way, the map was presented at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

At the same meeting, scientists said that a newfound planet only three times the size of Earth has fueled expectations that Earth-like planets are orbiting stars elsewhere in the universe. The newly discovered planet is the closest in size to the Earth of any extrasolar planet yet found.

And, finally, NASA's STEREO solar satellites have captured images of giant tornado-like jets twisting near the sun's poles. They are estimated to be a thousand times faster than terrestrial tornadoes.

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