It is another Thursday, and another day for science. Early in the week we had a very special space event, and later in the week there was a very unusual space event. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
The Hubble Space Telescope turned 25 years old on Friday. Which means that the Hubble is about as old as the Internet. Weird, but true. The telescope was launched on April 24, 1990, by NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery. It was launched with a flawed mirror, unbeknown to the folks at NASA, which led to a bit of a snafu when the brand new space telescope returned blurry images that I could have taken with my point and shoot. This was fixed with the first of five Hubble service missions in 1993. The Hubble has given humanity brilliant images that have helped to solidify our tiny, tiny place in the universe. The next space telescope for NASA, the James Webb Space Telescope, is set to launch in 2018. New estimates have the Hubble continuing operation into 2020.
In Washington, the senate has advanced a bill that would require the EPA to use research that is publicly available to outside experts. The EPA has been criticized for using too much data that is not easily available to outsiders, and as such, can not be verified by them. This really boils down to republicans in congress attacking Obama’s environmental agenda, but any real science that the EPA hopes to do, or not to do, is getting caught up in the crossfire.
The second bit of spacey news this week, launched from Russia. And then, well, didn’t really do much. The Progress 59 freighter experienced a glitch shortly after launch causing it to tumble out of control. The freighter was not near the ISS when the glitch occurred. The spacecraft will not reach the space station, although the astronauts and cosmonauts have enough supplies to last until the next scheduled resupply mission by SpaceX in June. This is the second resupply mission not to reach the ISS in the past 6 months, after the Orbital Sciences mission exploded in October.
On to more things that (probably) exploded, at least a little. NASA’s Messenger spacecraft has officially ended its mission, as of around 3:30 p.m. yesterday. The spacecraft was intentionally crashed into Mercury after more than 10 years of scientific data gathering. The spacecraft, which was only supposed to last a year, ended up lasting much longer.
Finally, we end this week with another bit of exciting space news. A company called Blue Origin, which is a super secret space rocket company, has launched a sub orbital rocket to space. Blue Origin is Amazon.com billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space rocket company, which everyone seems to have forgotten about in light of the press buzz SpaceX has been getting over the past few months. (SpaceX had another successful launch this week, only 13 days after a resupply mission to the ISS.) Blue Origin could be more competition for companies like SpaceX an Virgin Galactic. We’ll hopefully see more of them in the coming months.
That’s it for this weeks edition of Science Thurdsay. Thanks for reading, see you next time.