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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: March 2006
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Space plane concept. Credit: Space Adventures
Human spaceflight goes commercial
(Mar 22, 2006)


We are about to witness a revolution in human spaceflight. Launching people into space has until now been the almost exclusive preserve of superpower governments. But, according to industry experts and entrepreneurs, the commercial exploitation of space is about to open a new frontier for mass tourism. For one of the pioneers of this revolution, Burt Rutan of the Californian company Scaled Composites, it reminds him of the imaginings of his youth.

Read more. Source: BBC

tektite. Credit: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Space impact clue in Antarctica
(Mar 22, 2006)


Evidence for what may be a large and relatively recent impact crater has been found off the coast of Antarctica. Scientists say the evidence, if correct, points to a space rock some 5km across having crashed into the Ross Sea about three million years ago. This could have generated a huge tsunami, according to a member of the team investigating the collision. [Image: tektite from core drilling under Ross Sea]

Read more. Source: BBC

Soyuz capsule near the International Space Station
Station crew gets away for short trip in Soyuz capsule
(Mar 21, 2006)


The International Space Station's two-man crew took a little drive aboard a Soyuz spacecraft today, leaving their orbital home for a short time while moving the capsule from one docking port to another in preparation for visitors due next week. Expedition 12 commander Bill McArthur and flight engineer Valery Tokarev floated inside the Soyuz parked at the Earth-facing port of the station's Zarya control module Sunday evening. They had secured the station's systems in case a problem prevented them from returning.

Read more. Source: Spaceflight Now

Hayabusa
Probe yields Earth defence clues
(Mar 20, 2006)


Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft is providing an unprecedented insight into one of the many asteroids that cross into Earth's neighbourhood. Data from the mission shows Itokawa is a relatively young body formed out of debris from the collision of two larger objects. Scientists presented their results at a major science US conference held in Houston, Texas. The mission could also provide clues to preventing asteroid strikes on Earth.

Read more. Source: BBC

Mars Exploration Rover
Front wheel on Mars rover stops
(Mar 20, 2006)


One of the wheels on NASA's Martian rover Spirit has stopped working. The robotic vehicle is now dragging the wheel as it moves to a slope where it can get maximum sunshine on its solar cells to sustain it through the winter. Spirit's right-front wheel has played up before because of a lubrication problem, but engineers on Earth were able to return it to normal operation. This time, however, it appears to be the motor that rotates the wheel that has ceased to function.

Read more. Source: BBC

river of stars
Astronomers discover a river of stars streaming across the northern sky
(Mar 20, 2006)


Astronomers have discovered a narrow stream of stars extending at least 45 degrees across the northern sky. The stream is about 76,000 light-years distant from Earth and forms a giant arc over the disk of the Milky Way galaxy. In the March issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Carl Grillmair, an associate research scientist at the California Institute of Technology's Spitzer Science Center, and Roberta Johnson, a graduate student at California State University Long Beach, report on the discovery.

Read more. Source: Caltech

Titan
Earth could seed Titan with life
(Mar 19, 2006)


Terrestrial rocks blown into space by asteroid impacts on Earth could have taken life to Saturn's moon Titan, scientists have announced. Earth microbes in these meteorites could have seeded the organic-rich world with life, scientists believe. They think the impact on Earth that killed off the dinosaurs could have ejected enough material for some to reach far-off moons like Titan.

Read more. Source: BBC

Deep Impact collision
Ice layers record comet creation
(Mar 17, 2006)


The Deep Impact mission is casting new light on how comets formed and how they shed their ice in space. The US space agency probe sent a 370kg projectile crashing into Comet Tempel 1 and then studied the plume of debris with its suite of instruments. NASA's mission scientists say images from last July's encounter reveal as many as seven different layers on the comet's surface.

Read more. Source: BBC

evolution of universe as seen by WMAP
Best ever map of the early universe revealed
(Mar 17, 2006)


The universe went through a traumatic growth spurt before it was a billionth of a billionth of a second old, according to the latest data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). The probe has also given physicists their first clues about what drove that frantic expansion, and revealed that the cosmic "dark age" before the first stars switched on was twice as long as previously thought.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Venus as mapped by the Magellan spacecraft
Doubt cast on Venus catastrophe
(Mar 17, 2006)


Accepted views of how the planet Venus evolved are challenged by new age dates for its surface. Massive volcanism 500 million years ago was thought to have covered over much of the planet's ancient features. But work carried out at Imperial College London, UK, suggests a "volcanic catastrophe" is not needed to explain the look of Venus's surface.

Read more. Source: BBC

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