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Tuesday, February 6, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the BBC:  Astronaut in ‘love kidnap plot’:

A US astronaut has been charged with trying to kidnap a woman she thought was a rival for the affection of a space shuttle pilot.

Navy Capt Lisa Nowak, 43, who flew to the international space station last July, was charged with attempted kidnapping, battery and other crimes.

She drove from Texas to Florida to confront Colleen Shipman, disguised in a wig and trench coat.

Police said Capt Nowak, who was denied bail, used pepper spray on Ms Shipman.

Most bizarre.

Details at the link.

Update: Dr. Sanity has some interesting commentary on the subject.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the LAT: Popular Hubble camera has quit - Los Angeles Times:

The newest and most heavily used camera on the Hubble Space Telescope shut down over the weekend and appears to be permanently damaged, NASA said Monday.

Though other cameras on Hubble remain operative, the Advanced Camera for Surveys, which is used to peer back to the earliest and most remote galaxies in the universe, appears to be irreparable and will have to be replaced on the next Hubble servicing mission in September 2008.

The camera, installed in 2002, had a five-year designed lifetime, “but it is disappointing that it didn’t last longer,” said Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates the telescope. “I guess our warranty ran out on us.”

I suppose that if it made it almost the alloted time one can’t complain too much.

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Monday, December 4, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the NYT: NASA Says It Will Set Up Polar Moon Camp

NASA announced Monday it will establish an international base camp on one of the moon’s poles, permanently staffing it by 2024, four years after astronauts return to the moon.

It is a sweeping departure from the Apollo moon missions of the 1960s and represents a new phase of space exploration after space shuttles are retired in 2010.

After consulting more than 1,000 experts from 14 different countries, NASA decided on what deputy NASA chief Shana Dale called a ‘’fundamental lunar approach'’ that is sharply different from its previous moon missions in nearly everything but the shape of the ship going there.

Intriguing. I wonder if it will actually happen.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

The new director has decided to fix Hubble after all: NASA says Hubble repair mission is a go

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via Bloomberg: ESPN’s Monday Night Football Has Highest-Ever Cable-TV Rating

The New York Giants’ victory over the Dallas Cowboys on ESPN’s Monday Night Football registered the highest rating ever for a cable network program.

Yesterday’s game had a preliminary rating of 11.4 to edge out a 1993 trade debate between Vice President Al Gore and Ross Perot that aired on CNN’s “Larry King Live,'’ said ESPN spokesman Dave Nagel, citing data from Nielsen Media Research. The debate had an 11.1 rating.

So, Tony Romo can rest assurred that his 3 INTs were seen by lots and lots of people.

A decision on who will start for Dallas is to be made today. I say go with Romo, as it is clear that Bledsoe can’t move and isn’t going to get any better. Romo, at least, can improve (at least theoretically).

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Saturday, September 9, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the AP:  Atlantis on its way to space station

A chunk of the hard foam appeared to hit the shuttle’s belly, but “it didn’t look like there was any damage,” Mission Control told the Atlantis crew. That foam loss, and another, came more than four minutes into the launch, when they pose less of a damage threat, said LeRoy Cain, chairman of the mission management team.

May that assessment be correct.

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Sunday, September 3, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the NYT/ the AP: Europe’s Spacecraft Reaches Moon

The SMART-1 spacecraft slammed into volcanic plain called the Lake of Excellence at 1 1/4 miles per second right on time. The impact was captured by observers on Earth, and scientists hoped the resulting cloud of dust and debris would provide clues to the geologic composition of the site.'’That’s it — we are in the Lake of Excellence,'’ said spacecraft operations chief Octavio Camino as applause broke out in the European Space Agency’s mission control center in Darmstadt, Germany. ‘’We have landed.'’


During its months in orbit around the moon, the spacecraft scanned the lunar surface from orbit and took high-resolution pictures. But its primary mission was testing a new, efficient, ion propulsion system that officials hope to use on future interplanetary missions, including the BepiColombo mission to Mercury slated for 2013.

SMART-1 was launched into Earth’s orbit by an Ariane-5 booster rocket from Kourou, French Guiana, in September 2003. It used its ion engine to slowly raise its orbit over 14 months until the moon’s gravity grabbed it.

The engine, which uses electricity from the craft’s solar panels to produce a stream of charged particles called ions, generates only small amounts of thrust but only needed 176 pounds of xenon fuel.


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Friday, August 25, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the BBC: Pluto vote ‘hijacked’ in revolt

A fierce backlash has begun against the decision by astronomers to strip Pluto of its status as a planet. On Thursday, experts approved a definition of a planet that demoted Pluto to a lesser category of object.

But the lead scientist on Nasa’s robotic mission to Pluto has lambasted the ruling, calling it “embarrassing”.

And the chair of the committee set up to oversee agreement on a definition implied that the vote had effectively been “hijacked”.

As a political scientist, I find all this open, public argument over the status of Pluto to be somewhat amusing, given that the hard sciences usually like to preen about their concise usage of language and the fact that they have empirically superior categories of classification.

The truth of the matter is: smart people like to argue about what words mean, and scientists of all stripes love to categorize things. Indeed, they often treat the definition and categorization of items with a zeal that borders on the religious at times.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via CNN: Pluto gets the boot:

Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930.

Well, I guess the mnemonic I learned for the planets in 3rd grade needs to be updated (My Very Earthly Mother Anna (for the asteroid belt) Just Sold Us Nine Pickles). And I kid thee not: I do remember that still from waaaay back in elementary school.

And the hard science types make fun of us social scientist because we argue about definitions….

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via CNN: Wireless robots may float above the Earth

Jones believes his solar-powered, helium-filled Stratellites _ so named because they would hang in the stratosphere — could replace unsightly cell towers and cost less than satellites. Because of the airship’s altitude according to Jones, its radio equipment can cover an area the size of Texas.

Cell towers are hampered by line-of-sight limitations and limited range. Geostationary satellites suffer from the quarter-second it takes a signal to travel out 22,300 miles and back — insignificant in one-way TV transmissions, but terrible for two-way Internet computer communications.

Jones said his floating platforms will carry radio equipment that uses both licensed and unlicensed airwaves. The company will license spectrum if required and also work with companies that already have licenses, he said.

While Jones dreams of covering whole states with wireless services, Arizona-based Space Data thinks it can fill a cellular void by floating weather balloons in the stratosphere that would bring coverage to remote regions.

Space Data plans to test fly a balloon next month over a remote part of North Dakota to demonstrate the technology. The company, which is negotiating with several unidentified cell phone providers, could launch its first commercial balloon as early as next year over west Texas.

“Someday, you can just get a plan from your cell phone provider and you won’t even know if you’re on the balloon or if you’re on the tower,” said Chief Executive Jerry Knoblach. “You’ll just talk but you’ll have coverage even from the bottom of the Grand Canyon.”

But questions abound about the durability of dirigibles. No vehicle has ever stayed in the stratosphere — located above the jet stream where clouds rarely form and where temperatures hover around freezing — for months at a time. It’s unclear how the environment would affect a dirigible.


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