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NASA Asks for Additional Testing Of Space Telescope Camera

The Washington Post

A replacement camera for the Hubble Space Telescope has been cleared of suspicion that it is flawed, but NASA has asked for one last independent review of the data just to make completely sure.

The second-generation Wide Field/Planetary Camera (WFPC-2) -- scheduled to be installed aboard the orbiting observatory by shuttle astronauts in about 10 weeks -- had passed three rigorous tests. But data from a fourth test last month aroused concern that the instrument was as much as 8 millimeters out of focus.

By 10 p.m. Friday, a crisis team assembled from across the country reported they had "found the smoking gun," said Edward Weiler, chief of NASA's ultraviolet and visible astrophysics branch. The problem, as widely suspected, had been in the test, not in the instrument.

The discovery came just in time to avert a plan to ship the camera back for retesting at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., where the testing error was made. WFPC-2 and other Hubble instruments are at Kennedy Space Center in Florida being prepared for launch as early as Nov. 29 on a mission to install corrective lenses to remedy a flaw in the telescope's main mirror.

The error was the result of "test equipment that was badly calibrated," said Christopher Burrows of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, whom Weiler credited with the idea that led to discovery of the error.

The team that ferreted out the testing problem, after it had eluded Goddard searchers for seven weeks, worked until 2 a.m. Saturday to confirm their new findings and then met later that day with headquarters officials to convince them that the data were correct. Their analysis was persuasive, Weiler said, but NASA administrator Daniel S. Goldin asked for an independent review of the data on the testing error.

Burrows, who helped develop the camera, said his idea was to look for a ghost image -- a double bounce of reflected light in the instrument.

Naval Academy's Handling Of Cheating to Be Probed

The Washington Post


The civilian panel that oversees the U.S. Naval Academy announced Monday it would conduct its own investigation of how the academy handled the cheating scandal involving the theft of a December 1992 electrical engineering exam.

Several members of the academy's Board of Visitors said the scandal, which Navy sources say could involve as many as 125 midshipmen, has demonstrated the need for major revisions in the academy's honor code.

Academy officials originally accused 28 students of cheating on the exam, but in April, only six were found guilty after an investigation and review by midshipmen's honor boards and the academy superintendent, Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch. The six midshipmen have not been allowed to return to the academy this year as they await a decision by Dalton on whether to expel them.

In May, the scandal erupted anew when several midshipmen came forward to say that they'd overheard some classmates, including varsity football players, conspiring to coordinate their testimony before the honor boards. A lawyer representing the students recommended for expulsion also charged that a varsity football player visited Lynch's house the night before he was cleared of all charges.