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The Rescue of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory

Orbital mechanics, multitasking, and a software glitch nearly ended a 12-year mission

6 min read
The Rescue of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory

24 August 2011—When the science and engineering team that operates the Chandra X-Ray Observatory celebrated the space telescope’s 12th year in orbit on 23 July, it was with a sense of real accomplishment—and also a collective sigh of relief. Just a few weeks earlier, the NASA satellite suffered the kind of mysterious failure that had the team worried that its long-lived instrument was about to sign off. It also had the astrophysics community concerned that its chief tool for taking X-ray images of the universe might be lost.

The nearly 4.8-metric-ton telescope is capable of imaging the hottest objects in the universe. Notably, it has provided astonishing insights into the anatomy and physiology of black holes and their crucial role in galaxy formation and destruction.

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Top Tech 2023: A Special Report

These two dozen technical projects should make significant advances in the coming year

2 min read
Top Tech 2023: A Special Report
Edmon DeHaro

Each January, the editors of IEEE Spectrum offer up some predictions about technical developments we expect to be in the news over the coming year. You’ll find a couple dozen of those described in the following special report. Of course, the number of things we could have written about is far higher, so we had to be selective in picking which projects to feature. And we’re not ashamed to admit, gee-whiz appeal often shaped our choices.

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