It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
The year in space got off to a difficult start. Just 15 minutes before they were due to land, the seven crew members of the space shuttle Columbia were killed when the shuttle exploded on 1 February. The culprit turned out to be foam insulation that had fallen on to heat-resistant tiles on the shuttle's left wing during launch - a scenario that worried engineers had discussed as recently as a day before the tragedy.
Cosmologists using the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), launched in 2001, produced the sharpest-ever image of the infant universe. Dating back to about 400,000 years after the Big Bang, the speckled portrait shows temperature differences of just millionths of a degree between patches on the sky.
The universe at that time was a scalding soup of atoms and radiation, but with denser regions in warmer spots. These warmer areas evolved into galaxies and clusters of galaxies, while cooler regions drained out to become empty space. The WMAP data pinpointed - with unprecedented accuracy - the universe's age at 13.7 billion years; its flat shape; and its makeup of just 4 per cent "ordinary" matter, 23 per cent dark matter, and 73 per cent dark energy.