Cassini Construction Update- The Cassini mission to Saturn is currently on schedule as mission engineers have completed several critical tests. Key software programs have been successfully integrated. Vibration tests on a model of the Huygens atmospheric probe have been completed. Engineers also successfully conducted qualification tests of Cassini's propulsion subsystems. This include a 200 minute test of the spacecraft engines at the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico. Testing, construction, and integration of a number of key components will continue through April 1997 when the spacecraft will be shipped to the Kennedy Space Center for its October 1997 launch.
Space Shuttle External Tank - Testing is to begin on an aluminum lithium super lightweight external tank. The new tank is 7500 pounds lighter than the previous model, allowing for larger payloads on-board the shuttle. The tank is to contain liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants used to fuel the shuttle's three main engines during launch.
Russian Instrument to Monitor Atmospheric Dust - This lightweight Russian laser-ranging device will measure dust and haze in the Martian atmosphere on the 1998 Mars Surveyor Lander mission. The instrument will provide information regarding the relationship between the amount of dust and aerosols in the lower-most part of the Martian atmosphere and the planet's regional weather conditions. This instrument is also the first Russian instrument to be flown on a United States planetary spacecraft.
Windowless Landings with "Synthetic Vision" - A "synthetic vision" concept has been flight tested by NASA on one of their 737 research aircraft. The concept takes advantage of sensors that replace and exceed the capabilities of human vision. Tested sensors have included a digital video camera, three infrared cameras, and two microwave radar systems. These sensors give the pilot "cues" on approaches and landings, and could greatly facilitate flight in low visibility conditions. Synthetic vision could help make supersonic flight a reality for the average air traveler in the long run, and would provide all weather flying capabilities for high speed civil transport and future subsonic transports in the short run.
FIRST SPACE STATION CREW NAMED - U.S. astronaut William M. Shepherd and Russian cosmonaut Sergei K. Krikalev will part of the first team. By May 1998, a three member crew will be able to live and work on the space station.
SHUTTLE-MIR ACTIVITIES EXTENDED - After negotiations between NASA and the Russian Space Agency (RSA), it was decided that activities will progress into 1998. Two missions will be added to Mir by NASA, and Russia will continue working towards delivering key elements used in early assembly of ISS. STS-90 has been designated as a Mir mission, and a second mission was also added for 1998.
MODULES COMPLETED, 1997 GOOD FOR LAUNCH - Over 80 000 pounds of flight hardware have been manufactured for the International Space Station, and all exterior structures of the U.S. components are complete. Currently, the U.S. lab module is being machined, and when it has completed, work will begin on the U.S. habitat module. Everything is going according to schedule, and the hardware will be launched in 1997.
MOST IMPORTANTLY - IT STILL HAS FUNDING!!!!