Space News June 2000...Note: The links below will
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Evidence of liquid water flowing on Mars!
27 June 2000 - Finally! Russia
has set a date for the launch of the "Zvezda" component of the
International Space Station. A Proton Rocket will loft the ISS crew quarters
from Baikonur on 12 July 2000. American astronaut Bill Shepherd will command
the first expedition, due in October.
have seasons, too! The NEAR
spacecraft, the first ever to orbit an asteroid, is busily photographing the
Manhattan-sized Eros, as "summer" begins on its southern half.
Break out the barbeque grill! Hit the beach!!
24 June 2000 - More on the discovery
of gullies and channels on the surface
of Mars that could be the result of recent (not ancient) water flowing
on the Red Planet. If confirmed,
it would be the first liquid water discovered off Earth. The atmosphere on Mars
was thought to be too thin and cold for water to remain in liquid state -
though there are icecaps at the poles and clouds in the pinkish red sky. Why
is liquid water a big
deal? Because it is one of the requirements for life
to arise. Don't look for little green men, though - if such a discovery were
made, it would be single-celled
organisms - but it would be one of the greatest
scientific finds of all time. Besides that, it would make a manned
expedition much easier - water that's already there can be used for
drinking, oxygen generation, fuel, etc without being lugged there by
Russia launched a Proton rocket this
morning, carrying a communications satellite.
Boeing and Lockheed won $5 billion (that's Billion with a B!) in launch
contracts from our favorite government agency, NASA.
On TV This Weekend: Tomorrow (Sunday) "MSNBC Investigates the Search for
UFOs," airing at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
20 June 2000 - Today is the Summer Solstice - the
longest day of the year.
Happy Summer! (or if you're reading this
from the Southern Hemisphere, Happy Winter!)
So, just who is this guy who wants to be a
space tourist on
The privately-financed, remote-controlled Lunar Rover due to go up in
2003 will have a familiar
sponsor - Radio Shack! [See also 16
People in Huntsville, Alabama who worked with Wernher von Braun in the
50s and 60s have good
memories of the German rocket team - and defend their reputations
against those who claim that they were just evil scientists doing Hitler's
bidding in the V-2 rocket factories during World War 2.
Did you know that back in the 80s, the Soviet Union copied the
unclassified plans for America's Space Shuttle? Only one of their 4 "Buran"
orbiters ever flew in space (remote-controlled and unmanned - and with
some improvements over NASA's design). One of the
others, which has flown in atmospheric tests, is now in Sydney,
Its fate? A tourist attraction!
14 June 2000 - Liberty
Bell 7 returns home: After 39
years on the ocean floor, Gus
Grissom's Mercury capsule, which sank after
splashdown, has been
restored and is on display at NASA's KSC, where it was launched in 1961.
Who is "Robonaut"? Just the automated
astronaut assistant that we heard about on 9
June 2000. "He" will be controlled remotely, and have cameras for eyes.
The deserts of Nevada are standing in for the surface of Mars, as NASA
researches a 6-wheeled
rover for a possible 2003 mission to the Red
Today In Space History: 25 years ago today (14 June
Soviet Union launched the Venera
10 probe, which would land on the surface of Venus, four months later.
The lander, a twin of the Venera 9 probe launched days
earlier, returned some of the first-ever
images from the Venusian surface, before the planet's corrosive
atmosphere and crushing pressure silenced the spacecraft
little over an hour after touchdown.
11 June 2000 - Australian
meteor hit seen & heard for miles around!
Here's another piece on the destruction
of the Compton
Gamma Ray Observatory.
status report here. NASA states:
With the addition of mission STS-106 to the International Space Station
Assembly sequence, the assignments originally planned for STS-101 were split
between the two missions. While at the International Space Station, the
STS-106 astronauts will conduct at least one space walk to perform tasks
linked to the presence of the service module. Also, they will transfer
various supplies to outfit the station in preparation for the first resident
crew, which is scheduled to launch Oct. 30.
shorts from UPI...
8 June 2000 - U.S. Congress approves $13.7
billion NASA budget, but some programs will still have to be cut.
Latest Shuttle Status Report
here. NASA states:
Workers removed the SPACEHAB module from Atlantis' payload bay on Monday at
Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Workers have also removed the main engine heat
shield. Atlantis' three main engines are scheduled to be removed Thursday
night. Over the weekend, workers will drain residual reactants from the
orbiter maneuvering system and auxiliary power unit lines. Atlantis is
slated to launch no earlier than Sept. 8 on STS-106.
More on the laser gun test that shot
down a missile [See also 7 June 2000].
What are "Ultra High-Energy Cosmic
Rays", and how is one of history's largest
international scientific collaboration finding them?
More on the giant solar
flares and gas cloud which are bombarding
the Earth this week. Better get out the sunscreen lotion!
[See also 7 June 2000].
conference announces 3-D maps of 100,000
French rocket manufacturer Arianespace
has signed the largest
launch services contract in the history of Europe’s space industry.
Astronaut photographs of the Earth
from space can help us here on
the ground track
changes in the Earth's environment.
The NEAR space-probe
had a malfunction this week, as one of its instruments had to be powered
down. The probe's other sensors are
fine, and it continues to orbit an
asteroid named Eros.
Today In Space History: 25 years ago today (8 June
Soviet Union launched the unmanned Venera
9 probe, which would land on the surface of Venus, four months later.
The lander returned the first-ever
image from the Venusian surface, before the planet's corrosive
atmosphere and crushing pressure silenced the spacecraft
less than an hour after touchdown. Venera 9 was the first
spacecraft ever to land on another planet.
6 June 2000 - Scientists from all over the U.S. are meeting at
NASA Huntsville this week to discuss, among other topics, how astronauts on missions to the Moon or Mars
could be more self-sufficient and "live
off the land".
OK skywatchers, this week is your big chance to catch a glimpse of Mercury. The closest planet to our Sun is usually masked by sunlight, making
it difficult to spot. This
article gives tips for viewing planet
Mercury. NASA plans to launch
there in 2004.
Status Report from KSC.
At Kennedy Space Center, technicians begin preparations to remove Space Shuttle
Atlantis' three main engines, which will occur later this week. Also,
post-flight evaluations show that the orbiter's auxiliary power converter
unit No. 1 does not need to be replaced. Atlantis will launch on STS-106 no earlier than Sept. 8.
Workers disconnected the payload from the
shuttle over the weekend, removing the payload yesterday.
Have scientists found a way to move particles faster
than the speed of light???
Hubble bubbles? HST
has detected a super-massive black
hole that is creating giant "bubbles" of heated gas in galaxy
NGC 4438. As you may know, black holes are the remains of certain collapsed
stars, whose matter is so dense that it forms a gravitational field so
powerful that not even light can
escape! Black holes can only be detected by
the "event horizon" around them, where swirling gas heats up and
emits radiation as it is being sucked into the "gravity well".
black holes have been discovered so far, and it appears that larger
black holes seem to get that way by feeding
off of larger galaxies.
More on NASA's
video deal with Dreamtime, who will put the
space agency's extensive library
of images on-line [See also 3 June 2000]...
4 June 2000 - Compton Update - 11:30AM EDT - More
news stories on the controlled
destruction of the 17-ton Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory,
which was de-orbited
with a series of thruster firings designed to reduce its
370-mile altitude and bring
it precisely down in a remote stretch of the Pacific
Ocean. The six tons of the spacecraft that survived reentry rained
down in a shower of molten aluminum, steel, and titanium around 3AM EDT (last
night/this morning). The failure of one more of its 3 gyroscopes would have
meant a potentially dangerous uncontrolled re-entry, so NASA chose to kill
the satellite while it could still direct its course. Neil Gehrels,
project scientist for the observatory at NASA Goddard, explained:
"This is a
painful time for the scientists who have used Compton for nine years...as it
plunges into the atmosphere and flies apart."
We agree that risk to civilians should be minimized - it's just that the spacecraft was
functioning perfectly, aside from the failure of 2 of its 3 stabilizing
gyros. Couldn't NASA have sent up a repair mission - or is the discovery of
black holes, and the violent radiation bursts produced by dying stars, a
harder sell than the spectacular images produced by the Hubble
[See also 3 June, 2 June &
28 May 2000].
4 June 2000 - Compton Update - 3:00AM EDT - SPLASHDOWN! CGRO
up in the Earth's atmosphere, and debris continues to fall harmlessly in
the target area (nice shot, guys!).
There will be a NASA press conference at 6AM EDT (possibly carried on NASA TV).
We're signing off for tonight - check back later today for
4 June 2000 - Compton Update - 2:25AM EDT - The crew at
NASA Goddard are saying their goodbyes and congratulating
themselves, as NORAD confirms that
has re-entered the atmosphere. One software engineer quipped that it was
only the first time that the on-board computer had ever taken a hit!
Astronomers lamented the loss of the satellite, but agreed that safety
factors demanded its destruction.
4 June 2000 - Compton Update - 2:10AM EDT - NASA reports that
is now tumbling in a controlled (???) descent, with the spacecraft heating up from friction with the atmosphere.
It is breaking up, and reentry is expected within 10-20 minutes!
NORAD is monitoring the
falling debris (as well as looking out for incoming nukes!)
4 June 2000 - Compton Update - 1:55AM EDT - NASA reports that the fourth thruster firing ("burn")
is complete, and has exceeded the minimum time required to place the
spacecraft in the target area - the southeastern Pacific Ocean. Florida
Today has links to more CGRO
stories at the Washington
Post, Christian Science Monitor,
and NASA Goddard.
4 June 2000 - Compton Update - 1:00AM EDT - The
splashdown time is now estimated at 3AM EDT, with the fourth and final
de-orbit burn due to begin around 1:20AM EDT. CGRO
is the largest
scientific payload ever launched from a Space Shuttle, having been
deployed from Atlantis in 1991 on the STS-37
mission. In 2005, a satellite called GLAST
will take over observation of gamma-ray bursts, the most violent events in
the universe. Until then, ground-based
dishes will have to suffice.
4 June 2000 - Compton Update - 12:30AM EDT - Engineers at
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
in Greenbelt, Maryland are in the process of sending commands to the 17-ton Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory, so that it may be brought down in a
controlled re-entry. It
is down to its last working gyro, and NASA
officials fear that if the last one fails, the orbiting telescope could
fall uncontrollably, possibly resulting in property damage or loss of life.
The 9-year-old CGRO
is scheduled to come down 2500 miles southeast of Hawaii this morning
between 3AM - 4AM EDT. Six tons of debris is expected to fall into the
ocean, but ships
and planes are warned to be well away from the area. The final
burn is scheduled for 1:22AM EDT. This is the first
time that NASA is destroying a functional satellite.
We feel that the CGRO could still produce valuable science,
especially in parallel with the Chandra
observatory ("sees" X-rays) and the Hubble
Space Telescope ("sees" visible light). Gamma
rays in space rarely penetrate the Earth's atmosphere, and so NASA
should have planned ahead for a repair mission similar to December's
To keep going back in the timeline, check the
Space News Archive for Apr - May 2000, Jan - Feb 2000,
Oct - Dec 1999,