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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: December 2004
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Huygens probe
Mission cleared for Titan plunge
(Dec 4, 2004)

The Huygens probe is on target and all set for its encounter with Titan, the mysterious large moon of Saturn. The 2.7m-wide robot lab has passed its final systems check-out and scientists have confirmed the rendezvous can go ahead on 14 January as planned. Huygens has spent the past seven years riding on the Cassini spacecraft, which arrived at the ringed planet in July. The probe's ejection and plunge into Titan's thick atmosphere should be one of the mission's major highlights.

Read more. Source: BBC

Opportunity site on Mars
Rover data makes return a must
(Dec 3, 2004)

Data from NASA's Mars rover Opportunity shows its unique landing site is a prime spot for a return mission to look for life, scientists say. The robot was not designed to find evidence of biology on Mars and did not detect any during nearly a year spent exploring the Meridiani Planum region. But writing in Science, team members claim the site may have been habitable for long periods of Mars history. And locations on Earth with similar conditions do host microbial life.

Read more. Source: BBC

planetary systems interaction
Did our sun capture alien worlds?
(Dec 2, 2004)

Computer simulations show a close encounter with a passing star about 4 billion years ago may have given our solar system its abrupt edge and put small, alien worlds into distant orbits around our sun. The study, which used a supercomputer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., was published in the Dec. 2 issue of the journal Nature by physicist Ben Bromley of the University of Utah and astronomer Scott Kenyon of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass.

Read more. Source: University of Utah

Ariane 5
'Super-rocket' aims for January
(Dec 1, 2004)

Europe's "super-rocket", the Ariane 5-ECA, will be back in action in January 2005, says its operator Arianespace. The launch will be the vehicle's first since its maiden flight ended in an explosive failure in December 2002. The qualification flight was originally scheduled for November, but was then put back after a review highlighted a number of outstanding technical issues. The ECA is important to the European launch industry because it can lift multiple payloads at reduced cost.

Read more. Source: BBC

Ancestor's DNA code reconstructed
(Dec 1, 2004)

Scientists have reconstructed part of the genetic code that would have existed in a common ancestor of placental mammals, including humans. The creature, thought to be a nocturnal shrew-like animal, lived alongside dinosaurs about 75 million years ago. The researchers used computer analysis to compare and contrast modern mammal genomes and then modelled a sequence that would have been common to all.

Read more. Source: BBC

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