Space Shuttle Atlantis

NASA managers decided to move Space Shuttle Atlantis off the launch pad on September 4 due to the approach of Hurricane Fran to the southeast coast. Rollback of Atlantis will mean a slip in the launch date of Shuttle Mission STS-79 which had been set for September 14, 1996. On September 5, NASA managers approved the return of Atlantis to the launch pad and set September 16 as the new official launch date for Mission STS-79. The launch window on the 16th opens at 4:54 a.m. EDT. A launch on the 16th will set Atlantis up for a rendezvous and docking with the Russian space station Mir on the fourth day of the flight. The STS-79 mission is scheduled to conclude on September 26 with a landing at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

Hubble Sees Early Building Blocks of Today's Galaxies

New Hubble Space Telescope images reveal what may be galaxies under construction in the early universe, out of a long sought ancient population of "galactic building blocks." Hubble's detailed images, taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, reveal a grouping of 18 gigantic star clusters that appear to be the same distance from Earth, and close enough to each other that they will eventually merge into a few galaxy-sized objects. They are so far away, 11 billion light-years, that they existed during the epoch when it is commonly believed galaxies started to form. These results add weight to a leading theory that galaxies grew by starting out as clumps of stars, which, through a complex series of encounters, consolidated into larger assemblages that we see as fully-formed galaxies today. In some of the deepest exposures of the universe (apart from the Hubble Deep Field) yet obtained by the telescope, astronomers at Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, and the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa found 18 of these cosmic building blocks packed into an area about two million light-years across in the vicinity of a faint radio galaxy they were studying. The researchers used an optical filter precisely tuned to detect the ultraviolet emission from glowing hydrogen gas heated by newborn stars that formed early in the universe, but shifted to longer visual wavelengths by the universal expansion.

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Two 1996 Mars Spacecraft Arrive at Launch Site

The Mars Global Surveyor and the Mars Pathfinder, a pair of NASA spacecraft scheduled to be launched toward the red planet late this year, have arrived at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), FL, to begin their preparations for launch. The Mars Global Surveyor will be placed into orbit around the planet. It carries a set of six science instruments designed to study the planet's surface, atmosphere, and gravitational and magnetic fields. The Mars Pathfinder will be deployed through the Martian atmosphere to land on the planet's surface, where it will deploy a small instrumented rover to investigate the terrain surrounding the spacecraft. Together, the Mars Pathfinder and rover will investigate the geology and elemental composition of the Martian rocks and soil, as well as the Martian atmosphere and surface weather. Launch of Mars Global Surveyor is scheduled for Nov. 6 at 12:11 p.m. EST at the beginning of a 20-day launch period which ends on Nov. 25. The spacecraft will arrive at the planet in September 1997 to begin a mission which is planned to last at least one Martian year, or 687 Earth days. Launch of the Mars Pathfinder/Delta third stage combination is scheduled to occur on Dec. 2 at 2:09 a.m. EST at the beginning of a 24-day launch period that ends on Dec. 25. Landing on Mars is planned to occur on July 4, 1997. Once on the planet's surface, the mission is planned to last approximately one month.