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Large Binocular Telescope Mount Graham.
The massive Large Binocular Telescope, mounted atop Mount Graham in Arizona achieved a major milestone on October 12 with its first images - known as first light. The telescope is so powerful because it combines the light from its twin 8.4 metre mirrors to act as a single 11.8 metre observatory. And its adaptive optics system, which compensates for atmospheric disturbance, makes it even more powerful.
Eleven teams competed in two competitions over the weekend to test technologies for space elevators: beam-powered climbers and new ribbon materials. The climbers needed to scale a 61-metre (200 foot) ribbon within a time limit. Although one climber reached 12 metres (40 feet), it wasn't enough to win the $50,000 prize. In the ribbon competition, competitors needed to create a material that was 50% stronger than the house tether. One team came close, but it wasn't enough. Tougher challenges will be back next year with bigger prizes.
Venus Express was all set to launch, but ESA engineers discovered that small particles were contaminating the spacecraft, so the liftoff was pushed back. Engineers removed the spacecraft from its upper stage booster, opened up the fairing, and discovered that insulation material from the fairing had fallen onto the spacecraft. Fortunately, the pieces of material are large enough to see and remove with tweezers and vacuum cleaners. Once removal is complete, the spacecraft and booster will be reassembled and prepped for launch - before its launch window closes on November 24.
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