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“The Search for Life”, a NASA action item

Returning to the Moon is not the only major project undertaken by NASA.

During a committee meeting on Capitol Hill on Wednesday on early discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope, a senior NASA official said one of the space agency’s next goals is to build a larger space telescope. which will help answer the question of whether we are alone in the universe.

The remarks came in response to a question posed by Rep. Melanie Stansbury, DN.M., who also highlighted during the hearing New Mexico’s contributions to the James Webb project. Tony Hull, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of New Mexico, who as a NASA contractor led a team that polished the telescope’s mirrors, was among the contributions Stansbury referenced.

“I think the next big challenge is the search for life,” Mark Clampin, director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division, said when Stansbury asked him what’s next.

To do this, NASA will attempt to build a “20-foot-plus” space telescope that will search for habitable planets outside our solar system around solar-like stars, he said.

The remarks came during a meeting of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

CHACO BILL: The New Mexico Democratic Congressional delegation is seeking to create a permanent buffer zone around the Chaco Culture National Historic Park.

New Mexico Democratic Senators Ben Ray Luján and Martin Heinrich and New Mexico Democratic Representatives Melanie Stansbury and Teresa Leger Fernández introduced a Chaco Canyon bill on 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 historic park between Albuquerque and Farmington is known worldwide 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 is one of 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, according to Luján’s office.

“Since being elected, protecting Chaco Canyon’s valuable environmental and cultural resources has been my top priority,” said Luján, who introduced similar legislation when he was in the House.

TRAVEL FORECAST: Airlines have struggled a bit this summer, according to data from the Department of Transportation.

The agency chief, who visited Albuquerque this week, said things have improved, but he remains concerned as airlines enter the holiday season.

From June 1 to August 31, 22.5% of domestic flights were delayed and 2.5%, or about 45,000 flights were canceled.

How does Albuquerque compare to 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 to Duke City, 26.3% were delayed and 1% were canceled.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in Albuquerque this week said the agency is monitoring the situation.

“We are following the issues of the national aviation system very closely,” he said. “It seems to have improved since the summer, but we’re still concerned about fluidity before Thanksgiving and then winter break.”

Ryan Boetel: [email protected]