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Habitat gets a $100M gift

This synthetic image shows the Mars rover Spirit on the flank of the planet’s “Husband Hill” in 2005.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2005)

This synthetic image shows the Mars rover Spirit on the flank of the planet’s “Husband Hill” in 2005.

The housing market may be sputtering, but Habitat for Humanity is getting a $100 million gift from an Atlanta developer who said his work has offered him a look at the struggle of poor people to find decent housing.

The nonprofit group said it is the largest individual contribution in its history, and will help build 60,000 homes around the globe.

The donation comes from J. Ronald Terwilliger of Atlanta, a former chief executive of housing developer Trammell Crow Residential Co. and a longtime member of Habitat's board of directors.

"People need a decent, safe, clean residence where they can get a good night's sleep and families can be together," Terwilliger said. "If they have that as an anchor, they have a way to send their kids off to school regularly and a better chance those children will be healthy."

Habitat will use $30 million to fund an endowment that will make yearly grants to help build more houses. The remaining $70 million will set up a microfinance fund to help low-income families around the world repair and improve their housing.

New FEMA trailers lower on toxins

It was Extreme Makeover: FEMA Edition on Thursday as the relief agency rolled out six newly designed mobile homes to replace the maligned trailers used in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Many of the people who lived in those homes said they got sick, and the trailers were later determined to have a high level of formaldehyde. The new models range in price from $45,000 to $75,000 and meet FEMA standards for safe formaldehyde levels.

Hubble outfitted with its new camera

A pair of spacewalking astronauts overpowered a stubborn bolt and successfully installed a new piano-sized camera in the Hubble Space Telescope on Thursday, the first step to making the observatory better than ever. John Grunsfeld and Andrew Feustel also completed other major chores, replacing a science data-handling unit that broke last fall and hooking up a docking ring so a robotic craft can guide Hubble into the Pacific years from now. The newly inserted wide-field and planetary camera — worth $132 million — will allow astronomers to peer deeper into the universe.

• "From orbit: Launch was awesome!! I am feeling great, working hard, & enjoying the magnificent views, the adventure of a lifetime has begun!" It's no "one small step for man" but it was the first tweet from space. Astronaut Mike Massimino, a.k.a. Astro—Mike, is on, sending updates from space.

Mars rover stuck: The long-lived Mars rover Spirit is stuck in the sand on Mars, and controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., are scrambling to extricate the vehicle before it becomes entombed. The rover, which landed on Mars in 2004 for a three-month mission that has reached five years, was driving toward a pair of volcanic features when it became ensnared by soft sand. Over the past few days, controllers at JPL have tried to free the vehicle, but its wheels have just sunk deeper into the ground. Project manager John Callas said if the rover is unable to move, it could still perform some science, at least until the winter arrives, when the sun is low on the horizon. It just wouldn't be a rover anymore.

Los Angeles Times

Habitat gets a $100M gift 05/14/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 14, 2009 10:05pm]
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