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Returning to the moon isn’t the only major project NASA is undertaking.
On Wednesday, during a committee meeting on Capitol Hill about the initial findings of the James Webb Space Telescope, a top NASA official said one of the next goals for the space agency is to build a bigger space telescope that will help answer the question of whether we’re alone in the universe.
The remarks came in response to a question posed by Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-N.M., who also highlighted during the hearing New Mexico’s contributions to the James Webb project. Tony Hull, an adjunct professor of physics and astronomy at the University of New Mexico, who as a NASA contractor led a team that polished the mirrors on the telescope, was among the contributions Stansbury referred to.
“I think the next big challenge is the search for life,” Mark Clampin, the astrophysics division director of NASA, said when Stansbury asked him what’s next.
To do so, NASA will try to build a “6 meter or more” space telescope that will look for habitable planets outside our solar system around solar-type stars, he said.
The remarks came during a meeting of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
CHACO BILL: New Mexico’s Democratic congressional delegation is seeking to create a permanent buffer zone around Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
New Mexico Democratic Sens. Ben Ray Luján and Martin Heinrich and New Mexico Democratic Reps. Melanie Stansbury and Teresa Leger Fernández introduced a Chaco Canyon bill Thursday. The bill would prevent future leasing and development of oil, gas and minerals on federal lands within a 10-mile buffer zone around Chaco Canyon.
Part of the National Park System, the historical park between Albuquerque and Farmington is known around the world for the multi-story structures built by the Chacoan people. The site was a center of culture in the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries. It’s one of 24 UNESCO World Heritage Site, according to Luján’s office.
“Since I was elected, protecting Chaco Canyon’s precious environmental and cultural resources has been my top priority,” said Luján, who introduced similar legislation when he was in the House.
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TRAVEL FORECAST: Airlines had a bit of a rough go this summer, according to Department of Transportation data.
The head of the agency, who visited Albuquerque this week, said things have improved but he remains concerned about airlines heading into the holiday season.
From June 1 through Aug. 31, 22.5% of domestic flights were delayed and 2.5%, or about 45,000 flights were canceled.
How did Albuquerque compare with the rest of the country?
Of the 5,273 that departed Albuquerque last summer, 21.2% were delayed and 1.2%, or 65 flights, were canceled.
Of flights heading to the Duke City, 26.3% were delayed and 1% were canceled.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, in Albuquerque this week, said the agency is watching the situation.
“We’re tracking very closely the issues in the national aviation system,” he said. “It seems to have improved since summer but still has us concerned about fluidity going into the Thanksgiving and then the winter travel holidays.”
Ryan Boetel: firstname.lastname@example.org