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home > space & science news > space & science news: July 2000

NASA decides on rover mission for 2003 Jul 28, 2000
Two more extrasolar planets Jul 24, 2000
Comets of different age revealed by grain structure Jul 21, 2000
Deep Space 1 to encounter Comet Borrelly Jul 12, 2000
Star-bound Pioneer 10 still in touch - just Jul 12, 2000
Haughton-Mars Project resumes Jul 11, 2000
Metabolically-active microbes found at the South Pole Jul 7, 2000
Galileo impact to protect Europa Jul 3, 2000

Mars 2003 rover
NASA decides on rover mission for 2003
(Jul. 28, 2000)

NASA announced its decision yesterday to send a rover – and possibly two rovers – to Mars in 2003. Mars Rover will be a larger and more capable version of the highly successful Mars Pathfinder that trundled over the Martian surface in 1997. It will use the same "drop, bounce and roll" landing technology but will carry a larger array of instruments and be able to move around 100 meters each Martian day. The landing site(s) have yet to be selected but will probably be a dry lakebed or water channel. A decision on whether to send one or two rovers (at an additional cost of $150 million) will be made in the next few weeks.

For BBC report, go here.

Two more extrasolar planets
(Jul. 24, 2000)

The discovery of two more extrasolar planets has been announced by the highly successful San Francisco State planet search team. This brings the total number now known to more than 40. The new planets are in orbit around the stars HD 38529 and HD 92788.

Comet Puckett-3
Comets of different age revealed by grain structure
(Jul. 21, 2000)

New research suggests that comets could have formed at different times during the evolution of the solar nebula. Their age is revealed by the structure of their dust grains: those with amorphous grains being presolar and those with a crystalline structure in their grains having formed after the Sun began to shine.

Deep Space 1
Deep Space 1 to encounter Comet Borrelly
(Jul. 12, 2000)

On June 28, 2000, NASA's Deep Space 1 ion-powered probe began accelerating toward an encounter with Comet Borrelly in September 2001. If the successful, the rensezvous will take place when Borrelly is near its closest approach to the Sun and, thus, very active. Mission scientists plan to capture detailed pictures of the comet's nucleus and gather data on the violent jets of gas and dust being expelled from it. Deep Space 1 could become just the second spacecraft to study a comet from a distance of less than 2,000 km; the first was the European Space Agency's Giotto mission that flew by Halley's Comet in 1986.

Star-bound Pioneer 10 still in touch - just
(Jul. 12, 2000)

Launched over a quarter of a century ago, the first probe to fly through the asteroid belt and past Jupiter, Pioneer 10, is now more than 7 billion miles distant and heading for interstellar space. Controllers at NASA's Deep Space Network continue to keep in touch with the little craft, which is still producing enough power from its nuclear batteries to run its communications gear and some science experiments, though the telemetry is now incredibly faint.

For more, go here.

Haughton-Mars Project resumes
(Jul. 11, 2000)

The fourth season's work is underway of a NASA-led international field research program in the Canadian Arctic. The program centers on the scientific study of the Haughton impact crater and its surroundings on Devon Island, considered to be one of the closest analogues on Earth to a Martian environment. For daily field reports go here.

Metabolically-active microbes found at the South Pole
(Jul. 7, 2000)

A research team has discovered evidence of microbes able to thrive in the extreme cold, low light levels, and heavy ultraviolet bombardment at the South Pole. Edward Carpenter, of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Senjie Lin, of the University of Connecticut, and Douglas Capone, of the University of Southern California, have tentatively identified the bacteria as being similar to a species of Deinococcus. Other members of the genus Deinococcus are well known for their ability to survive massive doses of radiation by making extensive genetic repairs. Said Carpenter: "While we expected to find some bacteria in the South Pole snow, we were surprised that they were metabolically active and synthesizing DNA and protein at local ambient temperatures of -12 to -17 Celsius (10.4 to 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit)." If the team's findings are confirmed, the discovery not only has important implications for the search for microscopic life elsewhere in the solar system.

For more, go here.

Galileo impact to protect Europa
(Jul. 3, 2000)

The Space Studies Board's Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration (COMPLEX) has recommended to NASA that the Galileo probe be crashed into Jupiter at the end of its mission in order to "Safeguard the integrity of future studies of Europa's biological potential." It's feared that if the spacecraft were inadvertently to impact on Europa, any terrestrial organisms it might be carrying could compromise whatever prebiotic or biotic environment might already exist there.

For more, go here.


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