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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: May 2009
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Penultimate Hubble repair spacewalk
Brute force helps Hubble renewal
(May 18, 2009)


Equipment problems have bedevilled the penultimate space walk to repair the aging Hubble telescope. Two astronauts took eight hours to resurrect a spectrograph used to study black holes, which was disabled by a power failure five years ago. Work ran over by 90 minutes due to a tool running low on battery power and a particularly awkward bolt securing a handrail that needed to be removed.

Read more. Source: BBC

Third spacewalk to upgrade Hubble
Hubble's new spectrograph fitted
(May 17, 2009)


Astronauts upgrading the Hubble Space Telescope have made a third spacewalk in as many days to make repairs deep inside the orbiting observatory. Mission chief mechanic John Grunsfeld delved into the interior of Hubble to replace computer circuitry that was never meant to be repaired in space. He was joined by Andrew Feustel to install a new $88m (58m) spectrograph.

Read more. Source: BBC

Earthlike planet
Telescopes poised to spot air-breathing aliens
(May 17, 2009)


Signs of life on planets beyond our own solar system may soon be in our sights. Experiments and calculations presented at an astrobiology meeting last week reveal how the coming generation of space telescopes will for the first time be capable of detecting "biosignatures" in the light from planets orbiting other stars.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Second spacewalk to upgrade Hubble
Hubble spacewalk hits gyro glitch
(May 16, 2009)


Astronauts have struggled to complete the most critical repair to the Hubble Space Telescope in a second spacewalk. Mission specialists Mike Good and Mike Massimino put a refurbished pair of gyroscopes into the telescope after a new set refused to go in. Besides the gyroscopes – to orient it precisely – Hubble got fresh batteries to ensure five more years of life.

Read more. Source: BBC

removal of Wide Field Planetary Camera 2
Spacewalkers outfit Hubble with a new eye
(May 15, 2009)


Hubble was outfitted with a brand-new camera during a marathon spacewalk on Thursday – one of the top priorities of the space shuttle mission to service the telescope. But the crucial installation did not go off without a hitch – spacewalking astronauts had to struggle to remove a stuck bolt on the telescope's old camera.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Earth-eating black hole
How to catch a black hole before it eats the world
(May 15, 2009)


How do you get rid of a black hole that's threatening to gobble the Earth? It could be as simple as popping it in a box and shooting it into space. A handful of doomsayers have argued that the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator at CERN near Geneva, currently gearing up to start smashing protons together this autumn, could produce Earth-destroying black holes.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Herschel separation
Lift-off for European telescopes
(May 14, 2009)


Europe's Herschel and Planck telescopes have blasted into space on an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou in French Guiana. The satellites are being sent into orbit to gather fundamental new insights into the nature of the cosmos. The Ariane lifted clear of the launch pad at 1312 GMT (1412 BST) on a flight that lasted just under half an hour.

Read more. Source: BBC

RNA
Molecule of life emerges from laboratory slime
(May 14, 2009)


Creating life in the primordial soup may have been easier than we thought. Two essential elements of RNA have finally been made from scratch, under conditions similar to those that likely prevailed during the dawn of life.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Kepler
Let the planet hunt begin
(May 14, 2009)


NASA's Kepler spacecraft has begun its search for other Earth-like worlds. The mission, which launched from Cape Canaveral on March 6, will spend the next three-and-a-half years staring at more than 100,000 stars for telltale signs of planets. Kepler has the unique ability to find planets as small as Earth that orbit sun-like stars at distances where temperatures are right for possible lakes and oceans.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Hubble Space Telescope. Image credit: NASA
Shuttle reaches Hubble telescope
(May 13, 2009)


Space shuttle Atlantis has reached the Hubble telescope, orbiting at a height of 560km (350 miles) over the Earth. The shuttle crew completed a delicate dance of maneuvers intended to align Atlantis' robotic arm with the telescope during their approach. The arm was used to get hold of Hubble and draw it into the shuttle's bay.

Read more. Source: BBC

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