Friday, July 1, 2005
A site at Cadarache in the south of France was selected after Japan,
supported by the U.S. and South Korea, graciously withdrew its bid to
locate the $13B research facility at Rokkasho. Does this settle it?
Probably not. It was generally believed in the early `90s that
future mega-science facilities would have to be international
(WN 5 Nov 93). The first three global
mega-science projects, however, have so far been disasters: the
Supercollider, the International Space Station and ITER. The history of
ITER has not been pretty, but maybe the looming energy crisis and global
warming have scared the participating nations into working together.
The NASA Administrator showed he has the right stuff to lead the agency,
deciding to launch in spite of a task force report that said all the
recommended safety measures are not in place. We do not hesitate to put
Americans in harms way if our leaders say it's important. So the issue is
more than safety. Is there something more important to do than delivering
pizzas to the ISS? A repair mission to Hubble would be a good start.
Then we could get started on the difficult task of dismantling the ISS.
In a mission led by the University of Maryland, the NASA Deep Impact
spacecraft observed two massive but short-lived outbursts of material
from comet Tempel 1 on June 14 and 22 as the sun warmed it. Maryland
astronomer Michael A'Hearn, who heads the mission, says these outbursts
may be common on comets, but have rarely been observed. On Sunday, Deep
Impact will launch an 820-pound impactor to collide with the 2.5-mile-wide
comet, ejecting a cloud of ice, dust and gas. Pictures and spectra of
the event will be sent back to Earth by Deep Impact, but it will also
be studied by the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, and the Chandra
X-ray Observatory, as well as by ground observatories.
You've got to understand how important comets are in history.
They foretell all sorts of important events. Nero massacred the Roman
nobility after Halley's comet went by, in case it meant there would
be a coup. It might cause global disasters if these astronomers mess
around with a comet trajectory. Scientists compared the impact to a
mosquito striking a 747. But a Russian spiritualist is suing NASA in
Moscow courts to block this "barbaric interference with the natural
balance of the universe." Her lawyer said that under Russian law she
can recover the cost of any damage that results.