- News Home
5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
- About Us
More Bad News for X-ray Telescope
28 April 1999 7:00 pm
Like a recurring nightmare, astronomers have learned that the launch of a long-awaited space observatory is on hold once again. Yesterday, NASA officials grounded indefinitely the troubled $2 billion Chandra X-ray Observatory due to a suspect rocket motor.
Scientists have been planning and building the 5-ton telescope--a sister to the Hubble Space Telescope--for 2 decades. Originally slated for launch last summer, Chandra is designed to capture detailed images of galaxies, quasars, and other celestial objects. But costly delays, caused by everything from bug-ridden software to faulty circuit boards, have plagued the craft. Those problems finally seemed settled earlier this year when NASA officials set a 9 July launch date.
A failed military satellite launch on 9 April, however, threw a new wrench into the plans. That's because the $250 million Air Force craft, used to monitor missile launches, uses the same upper-stage rocket motor that will boost Chandra out of the shuttle's cargo bay into orbit. Military officials suspect the motor misfired, leaving their spy bird tumbling in the wrong orbit. NASA officials say they won't launch Chandra, which is sitting at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, until the Air Force figures out what went wrong. No one knows how long that might take.
Although frustrated by the delay, astronomers--knowing that even a minor orbit error could doom their prized instrument--have not criticized NASA's decision to play it safe. Unlike Hubble, Chandra will orbit beyond the shuttle's operating range, meaning astronauts will be unable to come to the rescue if anything goes wrong. Says Fred Wojtalik, Chandra program manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama: "We are going to take all the time that is necessary to ensure that when we do launch Chandra, it will successfully perform."