Today’s Tidbits: December 28, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: December 28, 2018

Here are’s tidbits for December 28, 2018:  Nancy Roman passes away; China’s year in space.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Nancy Roman Passes Away

Renowned NASA astronomer Nancy Grace Roman died on December 25, 2018 after a long illness. Born on May 16, 1925 in Nashville, TN, she was 93.

Roman was NASA’s first Chief of Astronomy in the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters in the 1960s. She received her bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in 1946 and her Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Chicago in 1949. She joined NASA in 1959 and retired in 1979, but continued working as a contractor thereafter.

She oversaw NASA space-based telescope programs from the Orbiting Solar Observatory to the Cosmic Background Explorer to the Hubble Space Telescope. She is often referred to as the “Mother of Hubble” and she spoke about the telescope’s importance for a video produced for Hubble’s 25th anniversary in 2015.  []

She is remembered not only for her scientific accomplishments, but her advocacy for women in the sciences. In a 1980 oral history published by the American Institute of Physics [], she discussed the challenges she encountered as a woman pursuing a career in astronomy. published a story about her earlier this year [] that highlighted those aspects of her career.

Among those paying tribute to her today via Twitter are NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate; David Spergel, Charles A. Young Professor of Astronomy at Princeton and former chair of the Space Studies Board at the National Academies; Ellen Stofan, Director of the National Air and Space Museum and former NASA Chief Scientist; Michelle Thaller, Assistant Director for Science Communications at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center; and Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist with the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory and author of Jonathan’s Space Report.


China’s Year in Space

Andrew Jones of reports that China has had a good year in space in 2018 although it undoubtedly was disappointed “that the Long March 5 heavy-lift launcher remains grounded.”

Long March 5 failed on its second launch in July 2017.  China had hoped to return it to flight status this year.  It is needed for a number of high profile missions including launching the three modules for the China Space Station (CSS) it hopes to have in place by 2022; a lunar sample return mission, Chang’e-5; and a robotic orbiter/rover mission to Mars for launch in 2020.

On the bright side, China conducted more launches, 38, than it has in the past, which also was more than either Russia or the United States. Jones adds, however, that China is still trying to launch the space infrastructure that those two countries already have, is “catching up with delayed missions,” and “in terms of mass, China still only put into orbit around half the mass lofted by the United States in 2018.”

Another achievement was launching the Chang’e-4 lunar farside mission and its communications relay satellite, Queqiao.  Chang’e-4 is currently orbiting the Moon and is expected to land on the far side sometime next week, although China has not announced a date.  It will be the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on the far side, which always points away from Earth.

Andrew’s excellent recap of China’s year in space is posted at: []

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