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Archive for April, 2007

17-Apr-07 | Einstein was right (or, at least half-right, so far)

Stanford researchers have announced that NASA’s Gravity Probe B has confirmed the geodetic effect (how mass warps spacetime) to within a 1% margin of error. This effect is one of two that were first predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity in 1920. Final results of the frame-dragging prediction (how a spinning mass drags spacetime around with it) are expected to be complete by the end of 2007.

GP-B was launched aboard Delta 304 on 20 April 2004, and spent a two-year tour making precise measurements of the effect Earth’s rotating mass has on the orbit of the spacecraft. (Stanford Press Release, 14-Apr-07)

13-Apr-07 | MGS Review Board releases its prelimiary report

The review board studying the loss of Mars Global Surveyor in November 2006 has released its preliminary report. As expected, the orbiter “appears to have succumbed to battery failure caused by a complex sequence of events involving the onboard computer memory and ground commands.” Recommendations for improved mission procedures and management are forthcoming. (NASA Press Release, 13-Apr-07)

12-Apr-07 | NPP gets a climate sensor back

NASA and NOAA have decided to put an important sensor back on NPP, the NPOESS Preparatory Project. NPOESS is the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, an operational follow-on intended to replace the successful experimental satellites Aqua (Delta 291), Aura (Delta 306), and Terra (launched on an Atlas IIAS). NPP, a risk reduction demonstrator, gets back its Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) Limb sensor, which will measure the vertical distribution of ozone in the atmosphere. The expected launch date is no sooner than 2009 on a two-stage Delta II, while the main NPOESS fleet will begin to fly around 2013. (NASA Press Release, 11-Apr-07)

10-Apr-07 | Dawn arrives in Florida

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arrived today at the Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville, Florida, where it will undergo final preparations for launch. The launch period opens on 30 June. Its launch vehicle, a three-stage Delta II Heavy, will begin stacking at SLC-17B in late May. (NASA KSC Press Release, 10-Apr-07)

Dawn will investigate two of the largest denizens of the Asteroid Belt, Ceres and Vesta, during a mission lasting eight years. The project is back on track after having been cancelled—and then, in an unprecedented move, reinstated—in March 2006. Among Dawn’s JPL handlers is Dr. Marc Rayman, who previously led the project team for the highly successful Deep Space 1 (launched on Delta 261 on 24-Oct-98).



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