Note: The links below will
open up in one new browser window. For best viewing, size the two web
browsers so that they don't take up the entire screen - this way, you will be
able to go back and forth to all the stories without losing your place.
Santa Claus, in an exclusive interview
with NASA, describes his plans for interplanetary Christmas
deliveries. (hmmm, I've been trying to get on the Big
Guy's appointment calendar for months - I guess you have to know the
22 December - The orbiting Mars
Global Surveyor is attempting to photograph
the south polar region of the Red Planet, to find
clues to the fate of the still-silent
Mars Polar Lander. The lander
itself is too small to be imaged successfully (it would appear
as a small dot), but scientists are hoping to spot other evidence,
like an impact crater, the jettisoned aeroshell, or its large
21 December - STS-103 crew prepping for Hubble repairs - check the
STS-103 Page for the latest scoop.
Has anyone seen the new Powerstreet commercial with Bob Vila and Buzz
Aldrin? In the TV ad for the on-line brokerage, Buzz is shown floating around the screen
(as if space-walking, but wearing street clothes). As Buzz reaches out and grabs a floating hand-held computer,
he exclaims "Gotcha!" while Bob, in the foreground, discusses their contrasting stock-trading styles. Bob claims that "you don't have to be a
rocket scientist to use" the service, and Buzz (who, with a PhD. from
MIT, actually is a rocket scientist) retorts, "Speak for yourself, Bob!".
18 December - 2:30PM EST - FLASH!! Atlas rocket successfully launched!!
Terra is currently in its first orbit, the solar array is deployed,
and we are awaiting confirmation of its antennas to be deployed. By the way, CNN hasn't even posted this on their site yet. You saw it here first! CNN rocks, anyway.
18 December - Earth Observing System satellite Terra will
launch from California's Vandenberg AFB this morning. High
winds may delay the flight until the end of the launch window -
10:57AM PST (1:57PM EST). Terra will be the first in a series of 10
orbiting spacecraft meant to monitor the Earth's environment.
17 December - 9PM EST - FLASH!! Both of today's scheduled
launches postponed until Saturday!! Terra
satellite going up 1:33PM EST tomorrow. Shuttle
going up 8:21PM tomorrow (see Shuttle page).
16 December - 8PM EST - FLASH!! Shuttle launch delayed one
more day!! (See Shuttle Page).
Both of the "double-header" flights have been pushed
back 24 hours, as the Terra
satellite mission was postponed
due to a safety-related shutdown by onboard computers, just seconds
before liftoff. The new
launch will be Friday at 1:33 PM EST.
16 December - NASA will use the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor
locating evidence of the failed Mars Polar Lander on
the surface. The lander is too small to be seen
from orbit, but scientists are hoping to spot the large
parachute near the target area.
5 December - 12:40AM EST - Still no contact with MPL. Forty-five minutes from now, the orbiting Mars
Global Surveyor will pass over the MPL site and possibly be able to
lock onto a signal. Possible reasons for the silence up to now
include the lander being in "safe mode" with frozen
batteries, or a need to recharge them from the solar panels - which
means that more Martian daylight may wake the lander up (even though
one Martian night/day cycle has already passed). NASA scientists
were planning for several contingencies such as misdirected
antennas, and have not given up hope, and have described the team's
mood as "upbeat". Let's hope that nothing bad happened
during descent (like a parachute malfunction, an improper detachment
of the "cruise ring", or a hazard on the surface - like an
overly steep crater wall or large rocks). We're keeping our fingers
Former astronauts to travel to Antarctica to search
for life at Earth's south
pole. Jim Lovell and
will be part of a team heading south this January (the austral summer) for a project to look for microbial life in
samples of ancient ice. If life can survive under these conditions, could it exist in the frosty cold of
Lunar Prospector smash-up reveals no
water - its moon-mapping
mission was completed, so scientists had a plan: intentionally
crash the probe into the lunar
surface, in an area thought to contain water
deposited by comet impacts over billions of years, and kept frozen
in the perpetual shadow
of craters near the moon's south pole. Mission directors had
hoped that the collision
would eject a plume
of water vapor visible from Earth. There is still the
possibility of water, but a new search would be required. The icy
resource would prove invaluable towards starting a lunar
colony, providing a fuel source and possible drinking water for
colonists. The report on the July 31st crash was presented
ESA (European Space Agency) reports that all the junk
in orbit is a threat
to spacecraft. An unlucky collision with a large- enough
fragment would be enough to destroy the Hubble telescope, or even
the Space Shuttle!