Posts tagged cooperative space exploration

New NASA Craft, With Infrared Power, Will Map the Unseen Sky

Wide field survey explorer new NASA craft

SEEING STARS The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, which contains a four-million-pixel camera, will photograph the entire sky every six months. Credit: NASA

Most of the light from stars and other objects like planets in the universe is doubly invisible. It comes in the form of infrared, or heat radiation, with wavelengths too long for our eyes to pick up. Moreover, most infrared wavelengths do not penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere to get to our unseeing eyes.

So to take a proper inventory of cosmic shenanigans, astronomers have had to take to space. On Friday, they will get a little more help when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is scheduled to launch the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as early as 9:09 a.m., Eastern time.

Circling the Earth in a polar orbit 300 miles high, the spacecraft, equipped with a 16-inch telescope and infrared detectors, will photograph the entire sky every six months.

WISE is a successor to the Infrared Astronomy Satellite, or IRAS, which was launched in 1983 and made the first heat maps of the sky. And it is a trailblazer for the giant James Webb Space Telescope due in 2014.

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The United States and China play footsie with joint space mission

The United States and China have agreed to step up discussions on cooperative space exploration, as both countries separately pursue ambitious plans to send a manned mission to the Moon by around 2020.

US president Barack Obama and Chinese president Hu Jintaro have agreed during a summit in Beijing this week to formalize joint space talks, beginning with exchange visits of their respective space agency chiefs next year.

“The United States and China look forward to expanding discussions on space science cooperation and starting a dialogue on human space flight and space exploration, based on the principles of transparency, reciprocity and mutual benefit,” a US-China joint statement released Tuesday said. “Both sides welcome reciprocal visits of the NASA Administrator and the appropriate Chinese counterpart in 2010.”

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