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Q&A: Chandra Mission

Q:
I believe incipient breakthroughs to understanding possible origins, nature, and age of our known universe, were made a short while ago. If I'm not mistaken, Chandra is the reason for those breakthroughs. At the time of reading the newspaper, the uniqueness of that asset wasn't known to me. Dark matter, dark energy and the 4% remaining: stars, planets and ourselves, make up the fabric of this 17 billion year old existence. I was dazzled when I read that, wanting to learn more about how we arrived to these conclusions. Is the above information correct, as I have read in the Houston Chronicle?
Are my assumptions correct, in that Chandra X-ray telescope was the primary device making these discoveries possible?

What is Chandra's maximum speed? It would seem to have a sling shot effect with each pass, producing hellish speed and mass.

How does Chandra keep itself aligned in its elliptical orbit, returning so close to Earth with each pass? Is it trapped in Earths gravity, needing no propulsion for correction? I'm not certain but that seems impossible. Isn't it traveling too far out to be pulled back by the Earth alone?

How far into space does Chandra travel before its return pass and how long does it take to complete an orbit?

A:
Chandra has been extremely important in answering the biggest questions about the universe, but we have had much help in this from other observatories (including cosmic microwave observatories, the Hubble Space Telescope, and others).

Chandra's biggest contributions thus far have been in understanding the nature and evolution of our universe. The Hubble Telescope has made the greatest contributions to our understanding of the age of the universe, which seems to be about 13.7 billion years old.

We have some other information at
http://chandra.harvard.edu/chronicle/0403/dark/index.html

Your specific questions on the Chandra X-ray Observatory will be answered in the following pages. For a general Chandra overview:
http://chandra.harvard.edu/edu/chandra101.html

For the speed and orbit travel time:
http://chandra.harvard.edu/resources/faq/chandra/chandra-42.html
It is being held in its orbit by the gravity of the Earth, the orbit is large but not large enough to allow Chandra to escape the Earth's gravitational pull.

The Chandra Mission pages will also be useful for you:
http://chandra.harvard.edu/about/axaf_mission.html

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