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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: November 2009
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Titan
Extraterrestrial rafting: Hunting off-world sea life
(Nov 9, 2009)


If life is to be found beyond our home planet, then our closest encounters with it may come in the dark abyss of some extraterrestrial sea. For Earth is certainly not the only ocean-girdled world in our solar system. As many as five moons of Jupiter and Saturn are now thought to hide seas beneath their icy crusts.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

ExoMars test
NASA and ESA sign Mars agreement
(Nov 9, 2009)


The US and European space agencies have signed the "letter of intent" that ties together their Mars programs. The agreement, which was penned in Washington DC, gives the green light to scientists and engineers to begin the joint planning of Red Planet missions.

Read more. Source: BBC

LaserMotive experimental space elevator. Image: Spaceward Foundation
'Space elevator' wins $900,000 NASA prize
(Nov 9, 2009)


A laser-powered robotic climber has won $900,000 in a competition designed to spur technology for a future elevator to space. Building a space elevator would require anchoring a cable on the ground near Earth's equator and deploying the other end thousands of kilometers into space.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

simulated impact. Image source: P. H. Schultz, Brown University and AVGR
Was life founded on cyanide from space crashes?
(Nov 7, 2009)


Life may have been built on a foundation of cyanide formed in the fiery wakes of asteroids and comets plunging through Earth's atmosphere, high-speed impact experiments suggest. The new experiments show that although impacts destroy the original organic molecules in the colliding objects, they may help create new ones at the same time.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Mars Spirit rover
Mars rover plans its escape
(Nov 6, 2009)


After being stuck in soft soil on Mars for six months, Spirit, one of two NASA rovers on the red planet, is about to attempt an escape. "It's likely that this process will take months and we don't even know if we'll be successful," says John Callas, project manager for Spirit and its twin rover Opportunity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Read more. Source: Nature

debris disk around HR 8799
Spitzer observes a chaotic planetary system
(Nov 5, 2009)


NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has found a young star with evidence for the same kind of orbital hyperactivity that once existed in the Solar System before the planets found their way into stable orbits. Young planets circling the star are thought to be disturbing smaller comet-like bodies, causing them to collide and kick up a huge halo of dust. The star, called HR 8799, was in the news last November 2008, for being one of the first of two stars with imaged planets.

Read more. Source: NASA/Spitzer

Mercury
MESSENGER spies iron on Mercury
(Nov 4, 2009)


Mercury is even more of an "iron planet" than scientists had previously supposed. Richer concentrations of iron and titanium have been seen on Mercury's surface by NASA's MESSENGER probe. Previous Earth and spacecraft-based observations had detected only very low amounts of iron in the silicate minerals covering the innermost world.

Read more. Source: BBC

Borexino experiment
Dark-matter test faces obstacles
(Nov 4, 2009)


A group of scientists is hoping to replicate a controversial Italian experiment that claims to have detected dark matter. But they might have to do so without the help, or the equipment, of the original group.

Read more. Source: Nature

Enceladus plumes
Cassini makes deepest dive yet into Saturn moon's jets
(Nov 3, 2009)


NASA's Cassini spacecraft made its deepest plunge yet into the plumes of Saturn's moon Enceladus on Monday. The dive might reveal complex organic molecules that could hint at life. Researchers have been fascinated with Enceladus since July 2005, when Cassini revealed plumes of ice particles and water vapor shooting out from the moon's south pole.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

SMOS
European water mission lifts off
(Nov 2, 2009)


A European satellite is set to provide major new insights into how water is cycled around the Earth. The SMOS spacecraft will make the first global maps of the amount of moisture held in soils and of the quantity of salts dissolved in the oceans. The data will have wide uses but should improve weather forecasts and warnings of extreme events, such as floods.

Read more. Source: BBC

Ares booster
Rocket booster damaged on return
(Nov 1, 2009)


The booster used on the Ares 1-X test rocket on Wednesday was damaged when it fell back into the ocean, the US space agency says. The recovery team sent to retrieve the stage from waters east of the Kennedy Space Center found a large dent in the side of the booster. NASA said the damage resulted from failures in the parachute system.

Read more. Source: BBC

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