Friday, May 8, 2009
It's been a lesson in overcoming birth defects. The final shuttle mission
to service Hubble is set for launch on Monday. It's more than just a
mission to keep the telescope alive; if all goes well, Hubble will be
reborn as a new telescope with years of exploration ahead of it. NASA's
top priority at Hubble's birth was to justify the shuttle program;
everything that went into space was designed to make work for the shuttle.
Then the Challenger disaster shut down the shuttle, and thus the entire
space program, for three years. Worse, after it finally got into orbit
Hubble's optics was found to be flawed, delaying it another three years to
fit it with glasses. The shuttle, which was at the root of Hubble's
problems, is now offered a chance at redemption. Hubble can be reborn as
an even better telescope, but can NASA be fixed?
Yesterday the Obama administration announced that an independent panel will
take a fresh look at NASA's human spaceflight program. The panel will be
new, but its chairman won't. Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed, has
headed many national committees, including the 1990 report on NASA
priorities (WN 14 Dec 90) that called
for putting space science above space stations, aerospace planes, manned
missions to Mars, and all the other engineering spectaculars on which NASA
has focused. The new panel could not do better than to resubmit the 1990
The 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty eliminated half of all the nuclear
weapons in the world. U.S. and Russian negotiators are meeting in New York
at this moment to talk about the other half. Between them, the U.S. and
Russia hold more than 90 percent of the nuclear weapons in the world.
Unfortunately, that still leaves a lot of nukes.
Even as researchers in the U.S. are looking at record basic research
increases, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government next door plans cut
basic research to help pay for his "stimulus package." According to
Monday's Globe and Mail, one of the worlds leading immunologists, Dr.
Rafick-Pierre Sekaly, is leaving the University of Montreal for Florida and
taking 25 scientists on his team with him.
The minnie emails I got this weak about the first name of the father of the
wave equation were pretty gentile, considering. Bear with me. I've had to
switch to voice recognition. I'm on a learning curve, and so is the Dragon
program. It's an amazing technology, but it's hard to proof your own
stuff. Besides, I find myself worrying about what the little guy inside
thinks about what I say.