Close Up on Pluto
Back in 2006, NASA launched New Horizons, a mission to explore the Kuiper belt. This is the region of our solar system that lies beyond our planets and includes Pluto. On July 14, the unmanned spacecraft made its closest approach, getting within 7,800 miles of the former planet (downgraded to dwarf planet in 1992), becoming its closest visitor ever. Scientists collected data, including photographs and measurements of Pluto as well as its five moons. In order to perform its tasks properly, New Horizons was out of communication with mission control in Maryland for nearly 22 hours, creating considerable anticipation.
Because of increased resolution technology, scientists can now see Pluto more clearly. When it was discovered in 1930, photos revealed little more than a fuzzy clump. But now, a bright spot in the shape of a heart, divided into two distinct regions is visible. Others discoveries include a mountain range that appears to be made largely of ice, and a stunning image of Clarion, one of Pluto’s biggest moons. Additional data includes the chemical makeup of the surface of the dwarf planet, as well as its range of temperatures.
Dig Deeper Check out NASA’s website for news on the New Horizons mission. List three details that appeal to you and explain why they do.
Flight 93 Visitor Center Opens
On September 11. 2001, two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and another plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.. A fourth plane, Flight 93, was allegedly also headed to the nation’s capital. Once the 40 passengers on board understood their fate, they took action and crashed the plane into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The four hijacker terrorists died with them. A temporary memorial was erected on the site in the form of a 40-foot chain link fence where visitors left tributes. The first phase of the permanent memorial was dedicated on September 11, 2011.
A 4,700-square-foot, $26 million visitor’s center will open on September 10 of this year. Located in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 75 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, the center includes a multipurpose gathering space, exhibits, walking paths and an overlook to the crash site. Some exhibits will feature photographs, video and other mementos of the passengers aboard Flight 93. Others will offer details of the day and its link to the other attacks on 9/11. The walking paths will lead to the crash site, where visitors can view names of the victims etched into a memorial wall.
Dig Deeper How much do you know about Flight 93? View the film of the same name, or read at least three articles recounting the efforts of those aboard.
btw has brought you continued coverage of the Greece Debt Crisis since 2010. There remains much to talk about. A week after the citizens of Greece went to the polls and ultimately rejected the European Union’s bailout, Greece Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras conceded to a new deal. It includes three major commitments:
- New Laws Before further discussion on new loan, the Greek parliament (equivalent to our Congress) agreed to create legislation that will increase taxes and implement pension reform to cut public spending.
- Economic Reforms The Greek government must liberalize product markets. This means lifting severe limits placed on businesses regarding hours of operation, discounting, generous vacation times, and excessive severance packages.
- Sequestrate Assets This means 50 billion euros of Greece’s assets will be set aside in a fund to be managed by the country’s creditors.
In return for successfully compliance of the conditions above, Greece will be allowed new loans that will be used to continue paying back old loans, have capital controls removed, gain liquidity for its banks, and engage in discussion on future debt relief. While Grexit (the media buzzname for the possibility of Greece exiting the eurozone) would likely spell catastrophe, nearly half of Europe (including Italy and France) is reportedly unhappy.