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The proposed Space Infrared Interferometric Telescope.
NASA has had two momentous changes in the last few years. One is the loss of the Columbia shuttle. Two is the replacement of administrator Daniel Goldin by Sean O'Keefe. In their book New Moon Rising, Frank Sietzen and Keith Cowing claim that the consequence of these changes is that NASA finally has things right and will accomplish their new vision; to send humans to live in space. This is a very bold claim and though there is not much factual content to support this, the book does provide good detail on the process by which NASA obtained this vision.
Astronaut Gordon Cooper, who piloted missions in both the Mercury and Gemini programs, died on Monday at his home in Ventura, California; he was 77. Cooper was the youngest of the original 7 Mercury astronauts, and his mission on May 15, 1963 - the final one in the Mercury program - lasted more than 34 hours and 22 orbits. Cooper and Pete Conrad flew the third flight of the Gemini program in 1965, and stayed in space for 191 hours, establishing a new space endurance record.
NASA is considering a new space-based telescope that would be the equivalent of a 40-metre (120 ft) observatory. The proposed Space Infrared Interferometric telescope (SPIRIT) mission would consist of two Infrared Telescopes at opposite sides of a rail that could be positioned perfectly to combine their images into a single, giant telescope. SPIRIT is being considered as part of NASA's Origins program, which is looking to answer fundamental questions about the beginning of the universe. If selected, it would launch in 2014.
A NASA-funded study has predicted 15 of California's 16 largest earthquakes this decade, demonstrating that scientists are finally getting a handle on the warning signs that lead to big quakes. The team looked at historical earthquake data back to 1932, and then used this to build a model that predicts earthquake hotspots in California. One warning sign that a big quake is going to happen is when there's a series of small earthquakes above magnitude 3 which indicate that pressure is building up; another is when the fault appears to stop entirely.
NASA scientists flew a small aircraft equipped with a special Infrared camera above Mount Saint Helens last week to see if this perspective would give any insights into what's happening underneath the surface. Shortly after they took this image, the Volcano spewed out a large blast of steam. The team had actually been planning this mission for quite a while, so it was a complete coincidence that they arrived when the Volcano was about to erupt.
This image was taken by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft on June 4, and it shows a series of parallel fault lines in the western part of Solis Planum. These fault lines can be traced for several hundred kilometres to the northern Tharsis shield volcanoes.
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