Tuesday, September 08, 2009

News tidbits

It's telescope proposal time again, so I'm spending much of my day and energy writing short applications to use various telescopes. I'll take an easy path out here and just post some news snippets.

  • Refurbished Hubble pictures come out tomorrow! It's hard to believe that the most recent and final Hubble Space Telescope repair mission was four whole months ago. Tomorrow, NASA will officially release its first pictures from the refurbished telescope (if you don't count those pictures of Jupiter from July). I've been seeing some colleague's new Hubble pictures for several weeks now, despite threats from NASA that they'll never get Hubble time again if they show the pictures. Astronomers can't keep secrets, even when dire threats are made. Anyway, Hubble is now mostly doing science again, with some final calibration and engineering activities filling up the rest of the its time. If you want to see the release of the new images, check out NASA TV at 11am EDT (8am Pacific, 15:00 UT).
  • NASA's Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee's Summary Report is out. This was a committee charged with reviewing NASA's future plans for manned space flight. A description of the committee and a link to the 12-page summary itself can be found on this page. The two major findings are (a) that the shuttle program will have to rush to finish its current launch program by the end of 2010, potentially risking safety, so NASA should be given some funding to allow the schedule to expand into the first half of 2011, and (b) that, at current NASA budget levels, the International Space Station (which isn't even finished being built yet!) will have to be de-orbited in 2015, NASA's newest Ares rockets will not be ready until at least 2016, and that a return to the moon could not happen before 2030. The committee also outlined several options where, for an extra $3 billion / year, the space station can be run to at least 2020, and missions to the moon or other near-Earth places could begin in the early 2020s.
  • Neil Armstrong admits the moon landings were faked. Or not. Last week, the satirical newspaper The Onion published an article claiming that Armstrong had been convinced by a conspiracy theorist that he had not, in fact, landed on the moon (warning: the Onion often contains adult language). Evidently some foreign newspapers, not realizing that the Onion is satirical (i.e., it makes everything up), picked up the story and unknowingly presented it as real. This just goes to show that you shouldn't believe everything you read. Not even on the Internet.

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