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Small steps to Mars are a big leap for Indian companies
By Shyamantha Asokan NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian companies that built most of the parts for the country's recently launched Mars mission are using their low-cost, high-tech expertise in frugal space engineering to compete for global aerospace, defence and nuclear contracts worth billions. India's Mangalyaan spacecraft was launched last month and then catapulted from Earth orbit on December 1, clearing an important hurdle on its 420 million mile journey to Mars and putting it on course to be the first Asian mission to reach the red planet. The venture has a price tag of just 4.5 billion rupees ($72 million), roughly one-tenth the cost of Maven, NASA's latest Mars mission. Those firms with proven space know-how will find themselves with the advantage as India, the world's biggest arms importer, shells out $100 billion over a decade to modernise its military with the country favouring local sources.
SpaceX rocket lifts off on first commercial satellite launch
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - An unmanned Falcon 9 rocket developed by Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, blasted off on Tuesday to put its first commercial satellite into orbit, staking a potentially game-changing claim in a global industry worth nearly $190 billion a year. The 22-story rocket lifted off from its seaside launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 5:41 p.m. EST/2241 GMT. Perched on top of the rocket was a 7,000-pound (3,175 kg) communications satellite owned by Luxembourg-based SES S.A., which operates a 54-satellite fleet, the world's second-largest. "I'd like to thank SES for taking a chance on SpaceX," company founder and chief executive Elon Musk posted on Twitter an hour before the launch.
Short-cut to produce hydrogen seen as step to cleaner fuel
By Environment Correspondent Alister Doyle OSLO (Reuters) - Scientists have produced hydrogen by accelerating a natural process found in rocks deep below the Earth's surface, a short-cut that may herald the wider use of what is a clean fuel, a study showed on Sunday. Used in rockets and in battery-like fuel cells, hydrogen is being widely researched as a non-polluting fuel, but its use is so far hampered by high costs. A few hydrogen vehicles are already on the roads, such as the Honda FXC Clarity and Mercedes-Benz F-Cell, and more are planned. Researchers in France said aluminum oxide speeded up a process by which hydrogen is produced naturally when water meets olivine, a common type of rock, under the high temperatures and pressures found at great depths.
China launches lunar probe carrying 'Jade Rabbit' buggy
China launched its first ever extraterrestrial landing craft into orbit en route for the moon in the small hours of Monday, in a major milestone for its space program. The Chang'e-3 lunar probe, which includes the Yutu or Jade Rabbit buggy, blasted off on board an enhanced Long March-3B carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in China's southwestern Sichuan province at 1:30 a.m. (12.30 p.m. EDT). President Xi Jinping has said he wants China to establish itself as a space superpower, and the mission has inspired pride in China's growing technological prowess. If all goes smoothly, the rover will conduct geological surveys and search for natural resources after the probe touches down on the moon in mid-December as China's first spacecraft to make a soft landing beyond Earth.
India's Mars mission enters second stage; outpaces space rival China
By Shyamantha Asokan NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's first mission to Mars left Earth's orbit early on Sunday, clearing a critical hurdle in its journey to the red planet and overtaking the efforts in space of rival Asian giant China. The success of the spacecraft, scheduled to orbit Mars by next September, would carry India into a small club, which includes the United States, Europe and Russia, whose probes have orbited or landed on Mars. India's venture, called Mangalyaan, faces more hurdles on its journey to Mars. "While Mangalyaan takes 1.2 billion dreams to Mars, we wish you sweet dreams!" India's space agency said in a tweet soon after the event, referring to the citizens of the world's second-most populous country.
Bacterial Bubble Hitchhikers Could Help Keep Greenhouse Gas in Check
SAN FRANCISCO ? Seafloor-dwelling bacteria may hitch a ride on methane bubbles seeping from deep-sea vents, preventing the methane from reaching the atmosphere by eating it up, new research suggests. The findings, presented here today (Dec. 9) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, could help explain how such huge amounts of the greenhouse gas methane are belched from the ocean floor, yet somehow never reach the atmosphere. "Above these methane seeps, you have these bubbles released from the sediment and you can see a higher abundance of these microbes in the water column," said study co-author Oliver Schmale, a geologist and marine chemist at the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research in Germany. "The microbes consume methane from these seeps before it escapes into the atmosphere." [Earth in the Balance: 7 Crucial Tipping Points]
Forests Recover Quickly After Bark Beetles Attack
SAN FRANCISCO ? A forest ravaged by the "red hand of death" ? also known as a bark beetle attack ? recovers quickly with little ecosystem damage, scientists said here today (Dec. 9) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. A species called the mountain pine beetle is one of the primary culprits, leaving large swaths of forest dying of a fungus carried by the tiny insects. Forests look awful after a beetle attack, but the wound isn't as terrible as it looks, according to two separate studies by researchers from the University of Wyoming and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). In Wyoming's Medicine Bow National Forest, botanist Brent Ewers of the University of Wyoming examined whether tree deaths sent more water into streams (because there is less vegetation to suck up precipitation), as well as released additional carbon and nitrogen from dead, decaying trees.
Why Eerie Green Lightning Zapped an Erupting Volcano
SAN FRANCISCO ? A storm of charged particles coursing through a volcanic ash cloud sparked the spectacular green lightning seen at Chile's Chaiten Volcano in 2008, a researcher said here Monday (Dec. 9) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. "It probably occurs in all thunderstorms, but you never see it," Few said.
Private Mars Colony Project Unveils 1st Private Robotic Mission to Red Planet
WASHINGTON ? An ambitious project that aims to send volunteers on a one-way trip to Mars unveiled plans for the first private unmanned mission to the Red Planet today (Dec. 10), a robotic vanguard to human colonization that will launch in 2018. The non-profit Mars One foundation has inked deals with Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) to draw up mission concept studies for the private robotic flight to Mars. Under the plan, Lockheed Martin will build the Mars One lander, and SSTL will build a communications satellite, the companies' representatives announced at a news conference here today. "We're very excited to have contracted Lockheed Martin and SSTL for our first mission to Mars," Mars One co-founder and CEO Bas Lansdorp said in a statement.
Orbital Sciences Names Next Private Space Station Freighter for NASA Astronaut
The next U.S. private spacecraft to fly to the International Space Station has been named for Gordon Fullerton, the late NASA astronaut who helped to deploy air-launched rockets built by the company behind the space freighter. Orbital Sciences Corp. is preparing to launch its second Cygnus unmanned spacecraft to the station Dec. 18 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Continuing a 25-year company tradition, Orbital's officials named their maiden Cygnus after someone who played an early role in its success. "We named our first Cygnus spacecraft to go to the space station the G. David Low, in honor of a former astronaut, a classmate of mine and former Orbital employee who was involved in the early days of COTS [Commercial Orbital Transportation Services] from the very beginning and who we lost a few years ago unfortunately," Frank Culbertson, Orbital executive vice president and former astronaut, said in a media briefing.
Record low temperature recorded in Antarctica: scientists
By Irene and Klotz SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The Arctic air blasting the eastern United States is positively balmy compared to the record minus 136 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 93 degrees Celsius) temperature measured in Antarctica in August 2010, according to research released on Monday. Scientists made the discovery while analyzing 32 years of global surface temperatures recorded by satellites. They found that a high ridge in the East Antarctic Plateau contains pockets of trapped air that dipped as low as minus 136 Fahrenheit on August 10, 2010, researchers said at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. The previous record low was minus 128.6 F (minus 89.2 C), set in 1983 at the Russian Vostok Research Station in East Antarctica, said Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.
Tea Kettles Stop Whistling In The Dark
More than a century after relativity, physics can now explain how a tea kettle whistles. Wayt Gibbs reports.
How Elephant Seals Know Who's Boss
SAN FRANCISCO ? Male elephant seals recognize the unique calls of their rivals, helping them know when to fight or flee, new research suggests. The findings, presented here at the 166th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, suggest that in the seals' hypercompetitive mating market, recognizing their rivals' calls to avoid senseless fights can be a good strategy. "If you can call at your rival and save yourself from having to fight again, that's really good," said study co-author Caroline Casey, a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Scientists test ideas in bird botulism outbreaks
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) ? For more than a decade, people walking along Great Lakes beaches have come upon a heartrending sight: dozens, or even hundreds, of dead loons, gulls and other waterfowl ? victims of food poisoning that paralyzed their muscles and eventually caused them to drown.
Nobel winner: scientists get it wrong most of time
STOCKHOLM (AP) ? One of this year's Nobel Prize laureates says learning how to handle failure is key to becoming a successful scientist.
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