This week in science news: Space Shuttle, Texas evolution, Pluto, more.
A summary of science news story picks this week.
End of the Space Shuttle Era: Space shuttle Atlantis, the last active winged orbiter from NASA’s 30-year shuttle program, successfully completed its final mission and landed safely at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on July 21, 2011, marking the end of the era of space shuttles. By the numbers: 6 Orbiters (Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavour, Atlantis, and the test vehicle Enterprise); $209 Billion dollars in U.S. funding; 21,030 orbits of Earth; 135 missions, 2 ending catastrophically with 14 astronauts killed on failed Challenger accident in 1986 and Columbia in 2003; 355 different astronauts and cosmonauts flown on the space shuttle, 306 men and 49 women.
Final launch: Space shuttle Atlantis liftoff seen from above
Charles Bolden on the legacy of space shuttle Discovery
Dan Brandenstein on the final flight of space shuttle Endeavour
Bonnie Dunbar on the end of the space shuttle era
Intelligent Design texts rejected by Texas School Board: The Texas State Board of Education rejected inclusion of supplemental texts that included texts on Intelligent Design for use in science classrooms. This is just the latest in a long-standing effort by advocates of creationism, and now Intelligent Design, to have materials that run contrary to evolution included as part of K-12 science curricula.
Pluto’s new moon: A new moon of once-planet, now dwarf planet Pluto was discovered using data from the Hubble Space Telescope. The tiny moon, temporarily dubbed P4, will no doubt be a research target for NASA’s New Horizon’s mission, which will reach the Pluto system by 2015.
NASA’s James Webb Telescope completion threatened: The James Webb Space Telescope, billed as the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, was voted to have its funding eliminated by the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies earlier this month. Nobel prize-winning physicist James Mather, project investigator for Webb, is quoted this week as saying “If we didn’t actually do the project, then we would lose the top priority science mission of NASA.” The project is three-quarters of the way built, with 3 billion dollars spent already of the projected completion cost of 6.8 billion dollars. Cost overruns are given as the reason behind the decision to cut.
Doubt cast on Anthrax case: The U.S. Department of Justice acknowledged in Florida court papers that challenge the laboratory capability of Army scientist Bruce Ivins, accused of the deadly anthrax attacks that killed five people in 2001, according to the non-profit investigative newsroom ProPublica.
First orbit of asteroid in belt: The first-ever orbit by spacecraft of an object in the asteroid belt was announced by NASA. The Dawn mission will orbit and study the asteroid Vesta for one year, before moving to orbit the dwarf planet Ceres.