Space News for June 22, 2002

PlutoGets Two New Moons

TheInternational Astronomical Union has officially christened Pluto's two newestsatellites Nix and Hydra.

The tinysatellites were discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope last May and are believedto have been formed from the same giant impact that carved out Charon, Pluto'sthird satellite, discovered in 1978.

The nameswere proposed this spring by the team that discovered the satellites. Beforethe satellites received their official names, the satellites were called P1 andP2.

ShuttleLaunch Dissent Came From Risk to Shuttle, Not Astronauts

Thedecision of two top NASA managers to vote against the upcoming July 1 launch ofthe space shuttle Discovery pivoted on the risk of losing the orbiter, but notits astronaut crew, the officials said Wednesday.

NASA chiefengineer Christopher Scolese and the agency's top safety officer Bryan O'Connorsaid that, despite their objections, neither official believed the plannedlaunch of Discovery's STS-121 mission carried unacceptable risk for the sevenastronauts making the space shot.

"We feltthat the risk was to the vehicle and not the crew," Scolese told reportersduring a teleconference, adding that NASA's plan to keep shuttle astronautsaboard the International Space Station (ISS) if their orbiter is damaged andcan't return home is vital to crew safety. "While it's an undesirable situationto be in, it is certainly something that's viable and provides us with theadditional security for this mission."

ExperimentalMilitary Microsatellites Reach Orbit

Anexperimental U.S. military project to characterize the performance of twomicro-satellite trailblazers operating 22,300 miles above Earth and a prototypemaneuvering motor for small spacecraft began with a beautiful blastoff from Cape Canaveral Wednesday evening.

TheMicro-Satellite Technology Experiment, or MiTEx, was successfully deliveredinto space by Boeing's workhorse Delta 2 rocket. Launch from pad 17A occurredat 6:15 p.m. EDT (2215 GMT) after a short delay to clear both a technical issuewith the payload and any boats from the restricted waters under the rocket'sflight path.

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