As NASA’s manned space efforts falter in the face of the looming conclusion of the shuttle program and by a finding of the Augustine Committee that projects that government-funded space exploration will be significantly more expensive in coming years, private space ventures are soaring.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has developed the fastest proton accelerator in the history of science — the Hadron Collider, which accelerated its twin beams of protons to an energy of 1.18 TeV on November 30, breaking the previous world record of 0.98 TeV, which had been held by the U.S. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory's Tevatron collider since 2001. The collider used by CERN enables scientists to probe a little closer to the first moments of the universe which should help scientists answer questions which have now remained unanswerable. Although the new collider will help physicists learn more than they know now, experimentally, the fundamental theoretical problems of physics remain as elusive as ever.
Six weeks after the release of the committee’s preliminary report, the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee has released its final report. The 155 page report, which is entitled “Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation,” is the end result of a process which began last May, when the Obama administration announced that the committee, chaired by Norman Augustine (former CEO of Lockheed Martin), would study the state of America’s manned space program and render advice to the administration concerning the future of that program.
Launched in 1997, the Cassini probe to Saturn completed its initial four-year mission in June 2008. The trip from Earth to Saturn took roughly seven years and entailed 2.2 billion miles. Although Cassini's nuclear power supply caused a brief controversy among environmentalists who fretted that the probe would come crashing down, spilling its 72 pounds of plutonium in Earth’s environment, Cassini has quietly gone about its work, rarely drawing much attention from the public except at the more “telegenic” moments of the mission.
With the release of the full report by the Augustine Committee only days away, NASA is making preparations to test a rocket vital to a space program that the Obama administration may be preparing to terminate.