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Illustration of the DART spacecraft with the Roll Out Solar Arrays (ROSA) extended. Each of the two ROSA arrays in 8.6 meters by 2.3 meters. (Credit: NASA)

A NASA mission to deflect an asteroid – it’s been the premise for more than one Hollywood movie – but next month NASA launches its DART mission that aims to do it for real.

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On Sunday, July 11, 2021, Richard Branson became the first person to fly into space on a self-funded ship. (WTTW News via CNN)

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson on Sunday became the first billionaire to ride his own rocket ship to space. But beyond being the ultimate joyride for billionaires, will commercial space travel take off as an industry accessible to the rest of us?

Plus: “Chicago Tonight” gets into the UFO report and its implications

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The image from video provided by the Department of Defense labelled Gimbal, from 2015, an unexplained object is seen at center as it is tracked as it soars high along the clouds, traveling against the wind. (Department of Defense via AP)

The U.S. government has been taking a hard look at unidentified flying objects. A report summarizing what the U.S. knows about “unidentified aerial phenomena” — better known as UFOs — is expected to be made public this month.

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NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used its dual-camera Mastcam-Z imager to capture this image of “Santa Cruz,” a hill about 1.5 miles away from the rover, on April 29, 2021, the 68th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The entire scene is inside of Mars’ Jezero Crater; the crater’s rim can be seen on the horizon line beyond the hill. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU / MSSS)

NASA’S Ingenuity helicopter takes flight on Mars. We get an update on the space agency’s most ambitious mission to date on the Red Planet from local astronomer and space enthusiast Mark Hammergren. 

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This Sept. 21, 2020 image shows the remains of an ancient delta in Mars’ Jezero Crater, which NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover will explore for signs of fossilized microbial life. The image was taken by the high resolution stereo camera aboard the ESA (European Space Agency) Mars Express orbiter. (ESA/DLR/FU-Berlin)

NASA prepares to land a rover on Mars designed specifically to detect signs of ancient life. Local astronomer and space exploration enthusiast Mark Hammergren tells us more about the mission.

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Using the Event Horizon Telescope, scientists obtained an image of the black hole at the center of galaxy M87, outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon. (Credits: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.)

From the first-ever image of a black hole to growing concern over climate change, we review some of the year’s top science stories with three of our regular science contributors.

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A unique view of Earth from the vantage point of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) in orbit around the moon. (Credit: NASA / Goddard / Arizona State University)

Adler Planetarium astronomer Mark Hammergren explains how a space-based sentry can help detect asteroids that will pass near Earth.

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This artist’s concept depicts NASA’s InSight lander after it has deployed its instruments on the Martian surface. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

It took six months, a voyage of 300 million miles and a final “seven minutes of terror,” but NASA’s InSight spacecraft on Monday touched down on Mars in a landing the craft’s chief engineer called “flawless.”

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Vice President Mike Pence: “The space environment is fundamentally changed in the last generation.”

The president proposes a new branch of the military for space defense. Local experts weigh in on Space Force.

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Mars is bright in the summer sky this week. (Credit: NASA / JPL / USGS)

For the next several days, the celestial event calendar includes some stellar highlights for observers in Chicago and around the globe.

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NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered ancient organic molecules on Mars, embedded within sedimentary rocks that are billions of years old. (Credit: NASA / GSFC)

A tantalizing discovery suggests that life could once have existed on Mars – and may still exist today. We get the latest on the red planet with Adler Planetarium astronomer Mark Hammergren.

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An image taken from a video shows a meteor flash on Jan. 16, 2018. (T. Masterson / International Meteor Organization)

A fireball streaked across the Midwestern sky Tuesday night, creating a sonic boom. An Adler Planetarium astronomer tells us more about this rare celestial fireworks display.

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It might sound like an episode of “The X-Files,” but a story reported Saturday by the New York Times sheds light on an official Pentagon program that researched and investigated unidentified flying objects.

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An artist’s impression of what the surface of the planet Proxima b might look like. (M. Kornmesser / European Southern Observatory)

Viewers on four continents will watch a virtual presentation hosted by Adler Planetarium in early November to learn about the possibility of life on other planets.

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is shown during its Sept. 15, 2017, plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere in this artist’s depiction. ( Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

The Cassini mission has completely transformed our understanding of Saturn and identified two moons that could potentially harbor life. On Friday morning, the journey will come to a fiery end. 

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SpaceX's Falcon 9, left, and Blue Origin's New Shepard. (SpaceX / Flickr, Franke360 / Wikimedia)

Tech billionaire Elon Musk wants to create a colony on Mars. Assessing the challenges–and his chances of success.