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NASA renames WFIRST space telescope after astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, the ‘Mother of Hubble’ | Space

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NASA renames WFIRST space telescope after astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, the ‘Mother of Hubble’ | Space_5ec5b29e284fb.jpeg

NASA has renamed its Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), a flagship observatory set to launch in 2025, to honor the renowned astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, also known as the “mother of Hubble.”

The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope — or Roman Space Telescope for short — will help astronomers answer some of the biggest questions of cosmology, like why the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. 

By studying how the distribution of galaxies throughout the universe has changed over time, the telescope will reveal how the universe’s expansion is driven by dark energy, a mysterious form of energy that makes up roughly two-thirds of the energy in the universe. The mission will also find and study exoplanets, or worlds orbiting stars beyond our solar system. 

Video: Meet the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope
Related:
WFIRST moves forward as Trump administration tries to scrap it again

With its 7.9-foot (2.4 meters) primary mirror, the Roman Space Telescope is about the same size as the Hubble Space Telescope. It will be able to capture deep-space images with the same resolution as Hubble, but its field of view is 100 times wider, allowing it to image more of the sky in a shorter amount of time. 

Nancy Grace Roman earned the nickname “the mother of Hubble” for her pioneering work on the iconic Hubble telescope, which launched into orbit in 1990. She became NASA’s first chief of astronomy in 1960 and was the first woman to hold an executive position at NASA. She oversaw the planning of Hubble’s mission and led the drive to convince Congress to fund it. 

“It is because of Nancy Grace Roman’s leadership and vision that NASA became a pioneer in astrophysics and launched Hubble, the world’s most powerful and productive space telescope,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. “I can think of no better name for WFIRST, which will be the successor to NASA’s Hubble and Webb Telescopes.” 

An artist’s impression of NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, formerly known as the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). (Image credit: NASA)

Although Roman retired from NASA in 1979, long before the WFIRST mission was even proposed, her work with Hubble laid the foundation for future space telescopes, like the James Webb Space Telescope and the newly named Roman Space Telescope. 

“Dr. Roman really deserves to be permanently associated with this amazing mission that she really helped enable in a direct fashion, and I’m so delighted to have that name there as a lasting legacy to this amazing person,” Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said during a live webcast of the announcement on NASA TV today (May 20). “Nancy Grace Roman deserves a place in the heavens she studied and opened for so many,” he added.

Roman passed away in 2018 at the age of 95. She was immortalized as a minifigure in Lego’s “Women of NASA” building set, which was released in 2017. 

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
 

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Attention Required! | Cloudflare

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What can I do to prevent this in the future?

If you are on a personal connection, like at home, you can run an anti-virus scan on your device to make sure it is not infected with malware.

If you are at an office or shared network, you can ask the network administrator to run a scan across the network looking for misconfigured or infected devices.

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How to see Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn in rare conjunction this weekend – CNET

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How to see Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn in rare conjunction this weekend – CNET_5ffb826727c62.jpeg
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The two largest worlds and the smallest planet in the solar system make an appearance this weekend.


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A trio of planets make an appearance at dusk this weekend when Jupiter and Saturn, still chilling together at the after-party from last month’s rare Great Conjunction, will be joined just above the western to southwestern horizon by the more flighty planet Mercury. The planetary trio is a rare sight that can be witnessed with the naked eye just after sunset over the next several days, though Saturday evening offered perhaps the best opportunity to see the three worlds bunched together. 

Astronomy magazine reports that the planets will all be visible within an area about 2.3 degrees across that evening (that’s about the width of your pinky and ring finger together when they’re held away from your body at arm’s length). Mercury will be the lowest of the three in the sky, Jupiter will be the brightest and Saturn will be the dimmest.

Binoculars might help you get a better view, while even a cheap backyard telescope can offer a chance to glimpse some of the larger moons of Jupiter. This might be a good thing to try when Mercury and Saturn have disappeared below the horizon and it’s a little darker out.

To be sure to catch the entire trio, the key is to get outside right after the sun sets as Mercury and Saturn will be quick to dip below the horizon within an hour. While the planets may be closest Saturday, they will continue to congregate while shifting around over the next several nights, so you have a few shots at catching them all like a kind of cosmic game of Pokemon.

As always, if the amateur astrophotographers among you grab any great images of the celestial gathering, please share them with me on Twitter @EricCMack.

Follow CNET’s 2021 Space Calendar to stay up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.

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NASA’s Europa Clipper has been liberated from the Space Launch System | TheHill

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NASA’s Europa Clipper has been liberated from the Space Launch System | TheHill_5ffb8260e66f4.jpeg

Almost unnoticed, tucked into the 2021 fiscal NASA funding section of the recently passed omnibus spending bill, is a provision that would seem to liberate the upcoming Europa Clipper mission from the Space Launch System (SLS). 

According to Space News, the mandate that the Europa Clipper mission be launched on an SLS remains in place only if the behind-schedule and overpriced heavy lift rocket is available and if concerns about hardware compatibility between the probe and the launcher are resolved. Otherwise, NASA is free to search for commercial alternatives to get the Europa Clipper to Jupiter’s ice-shrouded moon.

Europa Clipper is slated to go into orbit around Jupiter and make multiple flyby maneuvers near Europa, an icy world that many scientists believe has a warm ocean under the ice layer. Life may exist in that ocean, the confirmation of which would be one of the greatest scientific discoveries of this or any other century.

The Europa Clipper being mandated to fly on an SLS to begin with was the result of an unseemly side of congressional budget politics. The space probe was championed by former Rep. John CulbersonJohn Abney CulbersonTexas Republicans sound post-2020 alarm bells 2020 Democratic Party platform endorses Trump’s NASA moon program Bottom line MORE (R-Texas), who at the time was the chair of the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. In order to get support for the Europa Clipper, Culberson added the SLS mandate, which garnered support from Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyRepublican infighting on election intensifies Bipartisan group of senators: The election is over Bottom line MORE ( R-Ala.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Shelby’s state contains a number of aerospace contractors involved in developing the SLS.

Ironically, Culberson lost his seat in 2018, in part, because his opponent, Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas), accused him of being more concerned with space missions than local issues, such as flooding brought on by Hurricane Harvey. Nevertheless, the Europa Clipper continued without its key champion in Congress.

As Ars Technica points out, launching the Europa Clipper on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy saves the mission $1.5 billion. An advantage of using the SLS has been that it allows for a direct path to Jupiter without the time-consuming planetary flyby maneuvers that previous missions to the outer planets have required. The Falcon Heavy alone would not be able to get the Europa Clipper to Jupiter space directly, though it might be able to if equipped with a powerful Centaur kick stage.

Both the economics and physics of getting to Europa change if SpaceX’s Starship, currently under development in Boca Chica, Texas, becomes available to launch the Europa Clipper in the mid-2020s. The Starship is meant to fulfill SpaceX’s CEO Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskWill Axiom Space provide a commercial space station replacement for NASA’s ISS? World’s richest people added .8T to their combined wealth in 2020 Trump ends Obama’s 12-year run as most admired man: Gallup MORE’s dreams of settling Mars. But the massive reusable rocket would be available for other things, presumably including sending probes to the outer planets.

The massive cost savings by using a commercial launcher for the Europa Clipper creates other possibilities. The Europa Lander could be placed back on. A mission to Saturn’s frozen world Enceladus may also be greenlit.

The SLS is the result of a Faustian bargain struck between NASA and Congress in 2010. Congress was enraged by then-President Obama’s cancellation of the Bush-era Constellation deep space exploration program. According to then-NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, NASA agreed to the SLS in return for Congress supporting the Commercial Crew program that recently came to fruition with the launch of astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on a SpaceX Crew Dragon.

The SLS has since been a lead weight on America’s space ambitions. The SLS slated to launch the Artemis 1 uncrewed mission around the moon is currently stuck in a ground-based “green run” series of tests. The SLS is currently using up a great deal of the money allocated to NASA’s Artemis program. The first flight is scheduled for November 2021 at the earliest.

In the meantime, SpaceX has been flying prototypes of the Starship, albeit only in the atmosphere and with occasionally explosive results. NASA is officially disdainful of the idea of replacing the SLS with the Starship. However, a version of the SpaceX massive rocket ship is in the running as a lunar lander for Artemis. It would not be too great a leap to cut out the SLS entirely and go directly with the Starship, if it were not for congressional budget politics.

And that, as Shakespeare would say, is the rub.

Mark Whittington, who writes frequently about space and politics, has published a political study of space exploration entitled Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon? as well as The Moon, Mars and Beyond. He blogs at Curmudgeons Corner.  He is published in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Hill, USA Today, the LA Times, and the Washington Post, among other venues.

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