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Science
FRONTIERS
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Wednesday 21:00-21:30
Frontiers explores new ideas in science, meeting the researchers who see the world through fresh eyes and challenge existing theories - as well as hearing from their critics. Many such developments create new ethical and moral questions and Frontiers is not afraid to consider these.
radioscience@bbc.co.uk
LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 23 April
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Wednesday 23 April 2003
Gravity Probe B ©Stanford University
Gravity Probe B ©Stanford University

Gravity Probe B

In 1916 Einstein first put forward his general theory of relativity. Now, nearly 90 years later, physicists are finally getting ready to put Einstein to the test. Gravity Probe B is a satellite containing some of the most precise measuring devices ever built. It has been more than 40 years in the making, cost over 600 million dollars, and has needed to invent a dozen completely new technologies in order to make it happen.

Not only has the financial investment been huge, but it has been a life time’s work for many of the scientists involved, including Francis Everitt, the chief scientist on the mission. Everitt has dedicated 42 years to Gravity Probe B and hopes this year will finally see his life’s work come to fruition with the Probe’s launch. This extraordinary experiment is set to reveal once and for all whether Einstein’s brilliant predictions about the Universe were in fact correct. But as the September launch date draws nearer, NASA has just ordered a last minute review on the project and its very survival hangs in the balance.

Peter Evans visits Stanford University - the home of Gravity Probe B - to find out how this extraordinary experiment came to be, why it has taken so long and why the plug may be pulled at the last minute. The project has had some of the greatest minds in physics working on it, but just why has it taken nearly 90 years to get even close to testing Einstein’s landmark theory?

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