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Saturday, September 7, 2013
If all went well last night, LADEE is rocketing its way to the moon from its launchpad on Wallops Island on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
LADEE (pronounced “laddie”) is NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, which on its maiden launch rode atop a Minotaur V rocket on its own first voyage. The rocket was built by Orbital Sciences, a Virginia-based aerospace company, which added a fifth stage to its Minotaur IV to boost the lunar orbiter into position to reach the moon. And give a boost to Virginia’s aerospace profile.
The unmanned launch was the first from Wallops Island into outer space — to the moon, no less. The nighttime liftoff promised a dramatic view along the densely populated East Coast, from Maine to South Carolina and as far west as Pittsburgh, if spectators had the advantage of a clear sky and an unobstructed view.
The space agency wants amateur astronomers to look for any meteoric impacts when LADEE arrives at its destination on Oct. 6. The lunar orbiter will gather data on the moon’s thin atmosphere and dust for several months, and NASA will be testing a laser communication system onboard.
Then LADEE will take a plunge into the lunar surface, and it’s goodnight, moon.
A full house
The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine reached an important milestone recently when it welcomed its fourth class of students to Roanoke’s Riverside Center complex.
The 42 incoming students bring the medical school to its full capacity of 168 students. And the Class of 2017 is an impressive group. Nearly 2,900 applied for admission. The lucky few who gained admission earned undergraduate degrees from some of the nation’s most prestigious universities. According to a news release from the school, 13 have graduate or postbaccalaureate degrees and two dozen have “exceptional research experience.”
The school’s inaugural class will graduate next May. The school has been granted provisional accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education and is on track to gain full accreditation next year.
These benchmarks represent significant progress for the public-private partnership that Virginia Tech and Carilion forged just six years ago. In 2008, the General Assembly approved a bond package that included $59 million for construction of the medical school and research institute building off Jefferson Street. Now, the school’s leaders are happy to call it a full house.
Pennant fever in the valleys
Autumn is approaching and football is in the air. But, in the Roanoke and New River valleys, the boys of summer still command our attention.
The Salem Red Sox continued their fantastic stretch run Thursday night with an extra-innings win at Myrtle Beach and a two-game sweep of the Carolina League’s Southern Division Championship Series. Now the red-hot Sox, winners in 27 of their last 35 games, will play for Salem’s first Carolina League title since 2001.
The Red Sox will take on the Potomac Nationals in the best-of-five Mills Cup Championship Series. Potomac will host the first two games this weekend before the series shifts to Salem on Tuesday. Attendance at Salem Memorial Ballpark has been disappointing again this year, but now a league championship is on the line and pennant fever should be contagious. The Sox deserve a packed house.
Speaking of championships, congratulations to the Pulaski Mariners for clinching the Appalachian League title Thursday night with a come-from-behind win over the Greeneville Astros at Calfee Park. The Mariners swept the best-of-three series to earn Pulaski’s first league title since 1991.
It’s been a championship summer for baseball fans in our area. And it isn’t over yet.