Monday, May 11, 2009

Hubble Service Mission

Today, at 8:01 pm Prague Summer Time, Atlantis the Space Shuttle was smoothly launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida for a service mission to help the Hubble Space Telescope, a gadget that has brought us the most beautiful (see this PowerPoint within your browser) - and sometimes scientifically revealing - pictures from the outer space.

The mission had been scheduled by Mike Griffin in October 2006. A trailer:

They should replace the gyroscopes, batteries, a part of the thermal isolation, and add WFC3 (Wide Field Camera) and COS (Cosmic Origins Spectrograph). The ambitious mission should return life to Hubble until 2014 or so when it becomes obsolete because of the James Webb Space Telescope.
Watch NASA TV (click).
Watch the launch (from NASA TV, YouTube).
Check Google News (click).
Endeavour, another space shuttle, is ready to be launched to help Atlantis if needed. Atlantis faces a 0.5% risk of a collision with the cosmic trash, near the upper bound of tolerance.

Planck and Herschel

On Thursday, ESA will send both Planck and Herschel from French Guiana (South America) to outer space. Update: the launch was flawless; see YouTube videos.

Planck will supersede WMAP (the telescope that has mapped the Cosmic Microwave Background) by having a larger sensitivity (but smaller angular scales!).

Herschel will look into the far infrared and sub-millimeter spectrum and will supersede NASA's Spitzer in doing so.

Much like with the LHC, Europe is getting ahead of America with Planck and Herschel. Unfortunately for the U.S., this process is likely to continue.

The White House is currently giving a hard time to NASA which is not exactly good news for them. "Reviews" are fine and they always find some genuine problems - except that there exist hundreds of places that deserve to be "reviewed" much more than NASA does.

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