The Range 

In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream, "Merry Christmas, Titan!"

UA scientists continue working with NASA and the European Space Agency on the conquest of Titan, the big ol' moon that orbits Saturn. On Christmas Day, the Cassini spacecraft dropped da holiday-greetings bomb when the Huygens probe slipped out of its robotic womb to rocket toward Titan at some 14,000 mph. Huygens is scheduled to hit Titan's atmosphere Jan. 14, when popping parachutes will slow its descent so it can begin analyzing Titan's environment.

Among the UA scientists who have projects attached to the Huygens probe is Martin Tomasko, who is heading up the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer, which will examine the atmosphere and take photos of Titan's surface. Tomasko says the info will allow scientists to get a better understanding of the buildup of greenhouse gases on Titan, among other revelations. Frankly, we just wanna see the bitchin' snapshots.

The probe can transmit data for as long as half an hour after landing, if Huygens doesn't bust up on impact. Tomasko tells the UA News Service that the landing will be like "riding your bicycle into a brick wall."

Learn more about the Cassini mission at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.cfm .

May We See Your Papers, Please?

Federal Judge David Bury lifted his restraining order preventing the state from implementing Proposition 200, which was approved by Arizona voters in November. Bury had blocked the law, which prevents state workers from providing public welfare benefits to illegal immigrants, after the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a suit that said it violated the U.S. Constitution. MALDEF officials are expected to appeal Bury's ruling, while supporters of Proposition 200 are pursuing their own legal action to expand the scope of the law.

Bury's decision opens the door for state officials to begin ignoring the new law as much as possible while legal skirmishes continue.

Adding Up

Another batch of high school students has passed the AIMS test, according to figures from the Arizona Department of Education, which estimates almost half of the juniors who must pass the test to graduate in 2006 have now met the state standards. Juniors who have not yet passed the writing, reading and math portions of the test will have at least three more chances.

Meanwhile, officials at the state Department of Education are continuing efforts to dumb down the test to bring it more in line with the curriculum that students are actually learning.

Ballot Box Bingo

Secretary of State Jan Brewer grabbed headlines with the release of the Brewer Voting Action Plan, a 160-page document that tells us that we're gonna stick with the optical-scan ballots now in use, because they provide a solid paper trail in case of electoral hanky-panky. Brewer also vows to put specially designed voting devices--most likely touch-screen devices that include a paper trail--in every precinct to assist handicapped voters.


The Arizona Corporation Commission pulled the plug on the $3 billion purchase of Tucson Electric Power's parent company, Unisource Energy, by a Wall Street investment firm. Commissioners Kris Mayes, Bill Mundell and Jeff Hatch-Miller rejected the deal, saying they could see little upside for TEP customers, given that suitors Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. were basically borrowing most of the money for the deal and were planning on flipping the company to a new buyer in a few years.

Unisource officials say they are considering their options. If the deal isn't consummated by March 2005, Unisource is on the hook for $7 million in transactions costs.

In other collapsed-deal news: A three-team trade that would have sent Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson to the New York Yankees fell apart when the Los Angeles Dodgers wussed out. Count on Steinbrenner to take a few more swings at the Big Unit.

Elsewhere on the sports beat: Muchas gracias to the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame, which sent The Range a copy of the late congressman Mo Udall's Too Funny to Be President. The Hall of Fame recently came by several cases of Mo's recounting of political wit and wisdom. (Mo himself is enshrined at the hall "for many reasons, especially because of his career as a basketball player at the University of Arizona and his service and commitment to the State of Arizona," according to exec director Matt Welch.

Welch tells us anyone can get a copy of the book for the low, low price of a $5 donation to the Hall of Fame, which is located downtown in La Placita at 110 S. Church Ave. For more info, call 296-3788.


More by Jim Nintzel


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