"Let me give it to you straight," says Senator Bill Nelson
(D-FL), a former NASA astronaut. "When the president announced this
last week, I was one of his biggest cheerleaders. Only one week
later, lo and behold, it looks like they dropped it like a hot
Nelson was talking about the president's space iniative -- plans to
establish a colony on the moon and send a manned mission to Mars.
Nelson says, as of now, that plan has been shelved.
And the pictures are stunning. NASA's second rover to land on
Mars this month made it safely to the surface, amid the distant
cheers of ground crew members at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena (CA). It was, to coin a phrase, a "nominal" landing and a
feather in the space agency's cap.
"I am flabbergasted. I am astonished. I am blown away. Opportunity
has touched down in an alien and bizarre landscape," Steven
Squyres, the mission's main scientist, said early Sunday. "I still
don't know what we're looking at."
NASA was set over the weekend to conduct drop testing on
the second of three unpiloted X-43A vehicles the Hyper-X program.
The test is a dress rehearsal for its free flight currently
scheduled for Feb. 21, 2004.
Pending thorough evaluation of all flight data, the captive-carry
test could lead to the February launch of the X-43A stack. The
stack, consisting of the X-43A and its modified Pegasus booster
will be air-launched by NASA's B-52 carrier aircraft at 40,000 feet
altitude. The booster will accelerate the X-43A to Mach 7 at
approximately 95,000 feet altitude. At booster burnout, the X-43
will separate and fly under its own power on a preprogrammed