Friday, November 16, 2012

NASA Probes Renamed to Honor Van Allen

James Van Allen is someone I never met but will always appreciate. When the father of atmospheric physics and discoverer of the radiation belts was contacted in 1999 about our book The First Space Race: Launching the World's First Satellites, he couldn't have been more helpful to authors he had never heard of: doing a phone interview, then sitting down with my coauthor for a daylong discussion (we still have the tape somewhere), writing a Forward, and sending us a laudatory letter after the book was published.

So it's always nice when someone else remembers Dr. Van Allen.  NASA has renamed its latest probes to the Earth's magnetosphere, originally the Radiation Best Storm Probes (which was a pretty cool name already) to the Van Allen Probes.  The twin satellites went up on August 30, 2012, and have just been commissioned (declared operational).  There is an awful lot we don't know about the space immediately surrounding around our planet, and the Van Allen Probes should answer some very important questions. Good job, NASA. 

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