The U.S. space agency NASA Wednesday launched into space a new telescope to explore high-energy cosmic events in distant galaxies.
The Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, known as GLAST, will detect intense energy emitted from some of the universe's most powerful phenomena.
Scientists say GLAST will aid research into massive black holes as well as neutron stars, which have cores so dense that a spoonful of their matter would weigh over one billion tons.
The mission was developed by NASA in collaboration with institutions in five other countries.
In a separate development, a U.S. company announced today that it has scheduled the first entirely private flight to the International Space Station for 2011.
A co-founder of Internet search giant Google has paid $5 million to be flown on a Russian rocket to the orbiting laboratory.
Meanwhile, the U.S. space shuttle Discovery is returning to Earth, after astronauts successfully attached a new Japanese laboratory to the space station.
Discovery pulled away from the space station today. The shuttle's crew is using a laser-tipped boom to inspect the craft's wings and nose before returning home.
Discovery and its seven-member crew, which includes a Japanese astronaut, is scheduled to land back on Earth Saturday.