Happy New Year to Fine Structure Readers!
While most people are looking back on 2009 to see what happened, I think we should look forward to 2010 to see what we can expect out of science and space this year.
The Space Shuttle's Final Year The shuttles are scheduled to fly five missions in 2010 and, unless NASA plans significantly change, this will be the final five missions for the shuttle. If you want to be there for historic events, I would recommend the landing for Atlantis after the scheduled May 14th launch. It'll be the first time we officially retire a space shuttle. Strangely, the designations for the last two flights, STS-133 and -134, are actually reversed. 134 will be the final flight of Endeavor in late July, followed by Discovery on STS-133 in September. Both will deliver cargo and spare parts to the International Space Station. Now is the time to go see a space shuttle launch and/or land! I hope to be able to see one myself this year.
The LHC First Fully Operational Year The Large Hadron Collider will be back online for it's first full year. We ended 2009 with a planned winter shutdown after a series of firsts in December, including a ramp up of the beam strength and the first collisions in the experiment halls. 2010 will hopefully see the first collisions at 3.5 TeV and all the fantastic new physics that it'll bring with it.
Finally Fusion The National Ignition Facility in Livermore, CA will finally kick off it's attempt to bring about fusion in a small pellet of hydrogen by way of 192 mercury lasers. While 2009 saw a lot of news about the completion of the facility itself, 2010 is the scheduled year to actually start experimentation. Given that the NIF houses some of the most impressive and newest laser technology around, I can imagine the date being pushed back if they run into technical problems.
Submillimeter Imaging in the Desert Although ALMA won't have all 66 of their radio telescopes ready until 2011, 16 of the telescopes are already at the prescribed sites in the Atacama desert in Chile. Three of these telescopes are already participating in coordination tests where they observe in tandem, canceling out the interference that one telescope may observe due to the Earth's atmosphere. Even though the completion date isn't in 2010, I imagine we'll see some initial impressive science coming out of ALMA this year.
What else should we be on the lookout for in 2010?