On January 15, the sample package from NASA's Stardust spacecraft, containing comet samples, successfully returned to Earth.

NASA launched the New Horizons spacecraft from Cape Canaveral on January 19 and successfully sent this robot probe on its long one-way mission to conduct a scientific encounter with the Pluto system (in 2015) and then to explore portions of the Kuiper belt that lie beyond.

Follow-up observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, reported on February 22, have confirmed the presence of two new moons around the distant planet Pluto. The moons, tentatively called S/2005 P 1 and S/2005 P 2, were first discovered by Hubble in May 2005, but the science team wanted to further examine the Pluto system to characterize the orbits of the new moons and validate the discovery.

NASA scientists announced on March 9 that the Cassini spacecraft may have found evidence of liquid water reservoirs that erupt in Yellowstone Park-like geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus.

On March 10, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter successfully arrived at Mars and began a six-month-long process of adjusting and trimming the shape of its orbit around the Red Planet prior to performing its operational mapping mission.

The Expedition 13 crew (Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Jeff Williams) arrived at the International Space Station on April 1 and replaced the Expedition 12 crew. Joining them for several days before returning back to Earth with the Expedition 12 crew was Brazil's first astronaut, Marcos Pontes.

On August 24, members of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) met for the organization's 2006 General Assembly in Prague, Czech Republic. After much debate, the 2,500 assembled professional astronomers decided (by vote) to demote Pluto from its traditional status as one of the nine major planets and place the object into a new class, called a dwarf planet. The IAU decision now leaves the solar system with eight major planets and three dwarf planets: Pluto (which serves as the prototype dwarf planet), Ceres (the largest asteroid), and the large, distant Kuiper belt object identified as 2003 UB313 (nicknamed "Xena"). Astronomers anticipate the discovery of other dwarf planets in the distant parts of the solar system.

On September 9, NASA successfully launched the space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-115 mission. The shuttle crew delivered and installed the P3/P4 truss structure on the International Space Station. Following its orbital mission, the Atlantis landed on September 21 at the Kennedy Space Center.

The Expedition 14 crew (Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin) arrived at the International Space Station on September 20 and the Expedition 13 crew returned safely to Earth eight days later.

NASA used a spectacular nighttime launch to send the space shuttle Discovery into orbit on December 9. During the STS-116 mission, the crew of Discovery docked with the International Space Station to deliver and install the P5 truss structure.

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