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Gravity Probe B

Stanford Puts Einstein to the Test

By Robert Lee Hotz

Sometime before October 2000, as the last days of the 20th century count down, a sleek Delta II rocket will roar into a polar orbit from a seaside launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base. It will carry aloft a daring challenge to modern physics conceived more than 37 years ago by three naked Stanford scientists musing between laps at a men's swimming pool.

The result of that poolside encounter between William M. Fairbank, Robert Cannon and Leonard Schiff is methodically taking shape at Stanford today as a remarkable three-ton, trumpet-nosed spacecraft called Gravity Probe B. It is the focus of a unique $500-million NASA experiment designed to probe the invisible forces that weld together space, time and gravity.

Einstein says, “What happens if you prove me wrong? What will it
mean for modern science?”><FONT SIZE=Einstein says, “What happens if you prove me wrong? What will it mean for modern science?”

In the generation since that poolside brainstorming session, a growing cadre of university scientists, engineers and students led by principal investigator Francis Everitt and program manager Bradford Parkinson has labored to create what is widely considered the most precise, sophisticated - and controversial - test yet of a scientific vision of gravity that has shaped our century's understanding of how the universe works: Albert Einstein's Theory of General Relativity.

Gravity Probe B (Plain text)

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