Science  10 Sep 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5434, pp. 1649
  1. On the Fritz

    Space shuttle wiring problems have forced NASA to delay several upcoming launches, including one to deliver an urgently needed spare part to the Hubble Space Telescope.

    Earlier this year, Hubble researchers became alarmed after three of the spacecraft's six gyroscopes failed, leaving it with the minimum number of working stabilizers needed to do science. To prevent another loss from shutting down the $2 billion telescope, NASA officials announced in March that an emergency repair mission would visit Hubble in October (Science, 19 March, p. 1827). But a short circuit on the shuttle Columbia in July, and the subsequent discovery of more than 60 frayed wires aboard three shuttles, has prompted NASA to ground the fleet. The Hubble mission may not leave the pad until November.

    Can the healthy gyros last that long? Says John Campbell, Hubble project director at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, “We've got our fingers crossed.”

  2. Out of Sync

    Protesting a government decision to fund a new foreign synchrotron, French scientists are refusing to fire up two major x-ray sources.

    Last month, science minister Claude Allègre decided that France would help build the DIAMOND synchrotron in the United Kingdom, rather than a competing French device called SOLEIL (Science, 6 August, p. 819). Now, scientists at LURE, an x-ray laboratory in Orsay near Paris, are condemning that decision. This week, they voted to refuse to collaborate with DIAMOND's planners, and announced that they will idle the aging SUPER-ACCO and DCI x-ray sources for at least a week in a bid to pressure the government to open negotiations on building a new synchrotron in France.

    As Science went to press, French officials hadn't responded to the shutdown, which could affect the work of 1800 materials scientists, chemists, and other users. In the meantime, LURE director Robert Comès is promising that his protesters will meet again next week “to discuss the situation.”

  3. Teachers and Researchers: Unite!

    A new Russian initiative aims to bridge the gulf between universities and the nation's science strongholds, the institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). Russia's Ministry of Education and the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) announced last week that three regions each will receive $1 million to create centers that bring university and RAS researchers together.

    The RAS's 325-odd institutes have long been the preferred workplace for Russia's top scientists, as they can work unfettered by teaching demands. But last year, in a bid to improve science teaching, the Education Ministry and CRDF hatched a plan to create joint RAS-university centers that would be funded by U.S. foundations and Russian sources (Science, 29 May 1998, p. 1336).

    From 80 proposals emerged three winners: Far Eastern State University in Vladivostok, whose center will focus on marine life; Krasnoyarsk State University in Siberia, which will develop techniques for environmental remediation; and three universities in the Rostov region, which will study earthquake safety and pollutant monitoring. Another four centers are expected to be announced next May.

  4. In Flux

    Nuclear scientists have given a lukewarm endorsement to efforts to restart the Fast Flux Test Facility, a controversial research reactor that has been idle since 1993. The American Nuclear Society (ANS) is applauding last month's decision by Energy Secretary Bill Richardson to study a restart, but says it will only back the move if the reactor doesn't drain funds from other nuclear research projects.

    On 18 August, Richardson decided to move ahead with an environmental study of using the mothballed reactor in Hanford, Washington, for everything from fusion research to medical isotope production (Science, 20 August, p. 1191). But critics have opposed such plans, contending that the reactor's potential for generating radioactive waste overshadows any possible benefits.

    ANS president Andrew Kadak has a different worry: that the restart's estimated $400 million cost could siphon funds from DOE accounts that support university reactors and research. But he says the group will withhold final judgement until next year, when the restart study is expected to be completed.

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