Launch of Herschel and Planck

Launch of Herschel and Planck
Launch of Herschel and Planck

The Herschel and Planck spacecraft have been successfully launched from the same rocket. Herschel is the largest infrared and submillimeter space telescope to date and is intended to observe the far infrared portion of the cosmic background, which should reveal details of how galaxies and stars formed in the earliest periods of the universe. Planck will observe the cosmic microwave background in unprecedented detail, which will let us check out several theories for the origin of the universe such as how inflation may have occurred or the shape of our universe.

It's great to see the successful launch of two spacecraft that will both study the early universe. Given that two spacecraft depended on this successful launch by the ESA, it's a huge relief.

Flight of the Falcon 1

Launch of Falcon 1

Via the Bad Astronomer, I learned about the cool music video that SpaceX has released showing footage from their successful launch of the Falcon 1 rocket. I'm going to put it on my iPod. Falcon 1 is the first successful rocket that was privately designed from scratch to reach orbit. It looks like a bargain compared to existing rockets maintained by national governments, with an $8 million price tag for about a half a ton payload.

I'm also looking forward to a successful launch of their planned Falcon 9 rocket with anticipation. If things work out, then we could have manned space flights by a purely private company within a few years. Not to mention that NASA would have a relatively cheap way to put people in space when the Shuttle is retired, without having to rely on Russia.

I do have a secret desire to see Japan's proposed $10 billion project for a space elevator succeed. It's rather far-fetched but within the realm of possibility: I might actually be able to afford to reach orbit within my lifetime.

GLAST launched

GLAST has just been successfully launched into low earth orbit. GLAST is a gamma ray space observatory which you can think of as the Hubble for gamma rays. It should be able to observe a very different universe than what we can see with visible light. Stuff such as active galactic nuclei, thirsty black holes, and large exploding stars are among the things that it should be able to observe. And who knows? It might actually give us a clue on what dark matter is.

The photograph of GLAST at the Naval Research Observatory is from the archives of NASA.