The Martian Chronicles
Issue 6, July 2000

Space News Update
by David Pinson

The Internation Space Station  
The International Space Station
Compton Gamma Ray Observatory - At the beginning of June, NASA directed the Compton Observatory, the Gamma-Ray equivalent of the Hubble, to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The destruction of the satellite followed NASA’s upper management decision that continued operation of the satellite was too risky, despite internal protests to the contrary. The re-entry capped a successful 9-year mission for the CGRO, which was dropped off in orbit by the shuttle Atlantis in 1991.

Space Station Schedule - The International Space Station’s construction should finally shift into high gear this summer. The coming six months will see seven space station missions - three by the US shuttle and four by Russia - which will bring the station to a manned capability. The long-delayed service module is schedule for launch from Russia in July, another shuttle logistics flight is set for September, a shuttle truss assembly flight also is in September, and the first crew for the space station is set for launch in late October.

Launch Vehicles - The new Lockheed Martin Atlas rocket, the Atlas 3, was successfully launched last month. In addition to carrying a communications satelite, it tested technologies for the new U.S. Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. The Sea Launch venture by Boeing failed on its last launch, though recovery efforts are underway to return it to flight this coming month.

Mars Success? - NASA has announced that the soil scoop robotic arm that was on board the Mars Polar Lander spacecraft last year was a success. Oddly enough, the MPL spacecraft failed last December as it was approaching the red planet, with obviously no data having been returned by the arm. One Congressional leader said that the statement damages NASA’s credibility as a leading institution.