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Spaced Out

June 10, 2011

Rheanna Sand

 

What a week for space enthusiasts! There were highs, there were lows, there were moments that inspired goosebumps, and moments that bore some to tears but make me absolutely giddy!

First the lows: avid Ss Blog readers may remember the James Webb Space telescope, a large infrared detector that will peer into the very beginning of time. Sadly, news broke this week that the project is facing a four-fold increase in costs, forcing the developers to consider three unfortunate options. They could "descope" the project, or make the telescope less awesome in its capabilities; they could extend the launch date to the 2020's rather than 2014 (what I call the "tantra" option); or they could scrap it and start over. Personally, I'm hoping they go tantra.

The other low isn't really a low at all when you think about it. Early this month, NASA researchers finally pulled the plug on the Mars Spirit Rover, which has been silent for over a year after bearing a brutal Martian winter. Amazingly, this little robot was supposed to last 90 earth days, but roved for over six years! There is a great NPR blog which talks about the rover and shows some of the more beautiful 360-degree panoramas and the path it took across the red planet. Spirit is survived by its twin, Opportunity, which is ironically on it's way to a place called "Spirit Point" on the other side of the planet.

And now, the highs! Even though it's sad that the Space Shuttle program is ending this year, other vessels are now making a name for themselves. A craft launched in 2007 called "Dawn" is now approaching Vesta, a large protoplanet sitting between Saturn and Jupiter. The "Messenger" craft is also just starting to send back the first detailed images of Mercury. But the crew of Endeavour, on it's last mission to the ISS, made the biggest splash this week. American astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head by a crazed gunman, sent his recovering wife the most romantic, awe-inspiring message I have ever seen. If this doesn't give you shivers, you are not human.

 

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It's a beautiful day, indeed.

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