Surveyor Landing Spot to Be Selected
A group of planetary geologists are meeting at a conference in Buffalo to determine suitable landing locations for the Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander, which will test technologies designed to support human life.
Hubble’s Damage Worsening
The Hubble Space Telescope is on its last legs, with only three functioning gyros (down from six), which it requires to change its direction. Although it can still operate with only three, NASA believes there’s a 50% chance any one of the remaining gyros will fail this year. A shuttle repair mission is planned for later this year.
Leonids May Put on a Show
Experts believe that this year’s Leonid meteor shower may be one of the most spectacular. Scheduled to reach their peak around November 17th, the Leonids are caused when the Earth passes through the tail of comet Tempel-Tuttle. It’s may be possible that the shower will reach a full-fledged storm, with thousands of meteors visible per hour.
Space Science News
QuikScat Successfully Deploys
NASA’s QuikScat weather satellite has successful reached its initial elliptical orbit of 800km above the Earth’s surface, and deployed its solar panels. The satellite will fire its thrusters another 25 times to perfect its final orbit, and begin its mission a month from now.
Cosmonaut Spends Longest Time in Space
Russian cosmonaut Sergei Avdeyev has spent more time in space than anyone else – currently 681 days over 6 missions. With Mir due to be destroyed later this year, it’s unlikely his record will be broken any time soon.
Palomar Observatory Searches for Asteroids
A 1.2 meter Oschin telescope at Palomar Observatory is being upgraded to help the search for near-Earth asteroids. The upgrade will cost $500,000 and will involve the installation of an electronic camera capable of detecting asteroids.
FUSE Readied for Launch
Next week will finally bring the launch of NASA’s Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) spacecraft on a Boeing Delta II rocket. FUSE will search the universe for hydrogen and deuterium, and hopefully answer a few questions about the Big Bang.
Oldest Known Galaxy Found
Thanks to the 400-inch Keck Observatory in Hawaii, astronomers have found the farthest known galaxy – over 11 billion light years away, and thought to contain an enormous black hole. It’s expected that even further objects will be discovered by the newly completed, and more powerful, Gemini telescopes.
QuikScat Weather Satellite Launched
Launched from Vandenberg Air Force base on a Titan II rocket, NASA’s QuikScat weather satellite is on its way to a final altitude of 800 kilometers above the Earth. The purpose of the satellite is to map ocean wind speed and direction.
Budget Cuts Could Affect Future NASA Missions
NASA’s 2000 budget could be cut by up to $1 billion, potentially putting two missions in jeopardy. Space Technology 4 (ST4) “Champollion” and the Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander would be abandoned if the proposed budget cuts are approved by the House of Congress.
Space Station Nearly Struck By Debris
NASA controllers attempted to fire the International Space Station’s rockets to move it out of the way of a piece of Russian space junk which was going to pass too close for comfort. Unfortunately, the computer program designed to execute the maneuver crashed the ISS for 90 minutes. Fortunately the debris missed the station by a safe margin.
Mir Will Have One Last Crew
Although they’re still planning for Mir’s fiery destruction later this year, Russian space officials have announced they’ll be sending one final crew to the doomed station. It’s still unknown how the Russians will be able to guide Mir’s 100 tonnes safely back to Earth and crash into an uninhabited area.
Hubble Completes Image of Spiral Galaxy
Hubble finished what it started over four years ago, when it completed imaging of spiral galaxy NGC 4414. The image was obtained by Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera through three different colour filters.
Gemini Demonstrates its Power on Pluto
The new Gemini telescope in Hawaii’s first target was the planet Pluto, which it resolved with a level of quality equal to the Hubble Space Telescope. This telescope, with its Chilean twin has 10 times the resolution power of any telescope on Earth.
Chandra Nears Launch
After nearly a year of delays, NASA managers are aiming for a July 20th launch of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Chandra will launch with the Space Shuttle Columbia, use the same Inertial Upper Stage as recent failed US Air Force rocket launches.
Sea Launch Signs Up Four New Contracts
Bringing the total to 19 confirmed launch contracts, Sea Launch added 4 new launch contracts to its schedule. These new launches will fall between 2001 and 2003.
Consortium Plans Radio Telescope
Europe and the US are developing an array of radio telescopes which will be constructed in Chile. The array will consist of 64 12-meter telescopes spread over an area 10km across. The observatory will be the highest in the world, at an altitude of 5,000 meters.
Mars Express Contract Signed
The contract to develop the Mars Express spacecraft was signed by the European Space Agency and Euro-Russian Starsem. The launch date for the spacecraft is set for June 2003. This is Starsem’s second contract with the ESA.
Twin Telescopes Built
Two new ground-based telescopes have been built for two remote locations – Hawaii and Chile. Named Gemini telescopes, they use large mirrors and sophisticated electronics to be 10 times more powerful than those previously built.
Cosmonauts Try to Raise Money for Mir
Desperate to keep Mir in orbit, two Russian cosmonauts have begun a grassroots effort to find funding for the doomed space station. Vitaly Sevastyanov and Gherman Titov have created the “People’s Charity Foundation” as a way for ordinary Russians to contribute to the station’s funding. They’ll need to raise $100 – $250 million to keep it up another year.
Hubble Glimpses Star Birth
Stellar nurseries are normally obscured by a cloud of dust and gas, but the recent birth of a star in the Papillon Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud was revealed to the Hubble Space Telescope, as its birth was particularly violent, and blew off the obscuring dust.
China Launches US Satellites
Two additions to the Iridium satellite network were launched on a Chinese Long March 2C – the 15th consecutive Chinese launch success. China is contracted to launch 1/3 of Iridium’s 66 satellites.
Japan Delays Moon Mission
Originally slated for launch later this year, Japanese space officials have pushed back the launch of the Lunar-A spacecraft for at least 3 years. The spacecraft is designed to orbit the moon, and deploy penetrator probes into the surface. Upon tests, however, these probes were found to malfunction when they hit the ground, requiring the Japanese to redesign the system from scratch.
QuikScat Ready for Launch
Built in only 12 months, the QuikScat will provide climatologists and meteorologists with daily pictures of winds above the world’s oceans. The satellite will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a Titan II rocked on June 18th.
Team Assigned to Investigate Launch Failures
An independent team of experts are investigating Boeing’s recent launch failures, seperate from the government investigations. The team will review the Delta, Sea Launch, and Upper Intertial Stage, and provide their report by the fall.
Electrical Problem May Have Caused IKONOS Failure
It seems that aerospace companies do nothing but post-mortems these days. Lockheed Martin believes that the IKONOS 1 rocket launched from an Athena II rocket never reached orbit because of an electrical problem, which stopped a protective cover from being ejected at the proper time. With the additional load of the cover, the rocket didn’t have enough energy to reach orbit.
Warp Drive Becomes Theoretically Possible
It’s been quite a controversy: is a warp drive possible? Physicists have taken both sides of this argument, with one stating that it’ll take more energy than available in the Universe, and now, and new paper by Chris Van Den Broeck which states that it might require much less energy.
Globalstar Launch Delayed Again
As predicted, terrible weather in Florida has delayed the latest launch of Globalstar satellites on a Boeing Delta II rocket. The launch has been postponed until Thursday, with two launch windows to improve their chances of actually launching.
Weather Delays Globalstar Launch
The Boeing launch of a Delta II was postponed due to bad weather that covered much of Florida. The rocket was carrying a set of four Globalstar satellites. Although there will be another launch window the next day, the weather outlook looks bleak, and it’s unlikely they’ll be able to launch.
Dust Cloud Found Around Ganymede
Using instruments designed for just this task, Galileo has discovered a dust cloud orbiting Ganymede – Jupiter’s largest moon. It’s believed the cloud was created by high velocity meteorites knocking dust into space when they strike.
Asteroid Search Needs Funding
At the recent International Monitoring Programs for Asteroid and Comet Threat (IMPACT) conference in Torino, Italy, astronomers generally agreed that there was a greater need for funding an international cooperation for the search of Near Earth Objects (NEOs).
Another Asteroid Impact Possibility Discovered
Astronomers have discovered another asteroid that may impact the Earth in the relatively near future. 1998 OX4 will pass extremely close to the Earth in 2046, and there’s a 1-in-10 million chance that it will strike. This is the third announcement of such a close call, and astronomers believe the announcements will continue as an increasing number of asteroids are discovered.
Moon Has a Sodium Tail
Astronomers have discovered a sodium-gas “tail” that stretches away from the moon for at least half a million miles. Unsure exactly what’s causing this tail, astronomers theorize that it might be caused micrometeorites striking the moon, with the sodium pulled into the tail by the Earth’s gravity.
Computer Programmed to Detect Alien Life
NASA is developing a computer program which they believe will assist the search for extraterrestrial life. Designed to recognize every variant of microbial life on Earth, the program would be incorporated into future missions to Mars, such as a rover that searches for life by cracking open rocks.
Recent Solar Ejection Worried Astronomers
For a few hours last Tuesday, astronomers didn’t know if a massive coronal ejection, containing superheated plasma, would strike the Earth. After first witnessing the ejection, astronomers used the Internet to compare current images of the sun from around the world and decided that a worldwide alert wasn’t necessary.
WIRE Failure Caused by Power Glitch
An investigation into the failure of the Wide-Field Infrared Explorer (WIRE) satellite has concluded that a surge in a circuit led to the failure of the satellite. When the satellite was turned on, the surge caused it to prematurely blow the bolts on a sunscreen which protected a hydrogen tank. The unprotected hydrogen sublimated, spinning the satellite out of control.