A Chinese-Brazilian satellite launched by China on Monday failed to reached its planned orbit and likely fell back to Earth, Brazil's Ministry of Science said. The satellite was the fourth in a series designed to monitor land use in Brazil, including forest cover in the Amazon basin. Brazil's space program is seeking to reduce the country's dependence on U.S. and European space equipment and launch vehicles and expand the domestic aerospace industry, already the world's No. 3 producer of commercial jet aircraft. The CBERS-3 satellite developed by China and Brazil was carried to space on Monday morning aboard a Long March 4B rocket from China's Taiyuan satellite launch center, the Brazilian ministry said in a statement.
By Irene Klotz SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Scientists have found evidence of an ancient freshwater lake on Mars well suited to support microbial life, the researchers said Monday. The lake, located inside Gale Crater where the rover landed in August 2012, likely covered an area 31 miles long and 3 miles wide, though its size varied over time. Analysis of sedimentary deposits gathered by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shows the lake existed for at least tens of thousands of years, and possibly longer, geologist John Grotzinger, with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, told reporters at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco. Analysis of clays drilled out from two rock samples in the area known as Yellowknife Bay show the freshwater lake existed at a time when other parts of Mars were dried up or dotted with shallow, acidic, salty pools ill-suited for life.
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.
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.
Spinning Trap Measures 'Roundness' of an Electron
A new technique could one day provide the most precise measurement yet of the roundness of an electron, scientists say. That measurement, in turn, could help scientists test extensions of the standard model, the reigning particle physics model that describes the behavior of the very small, said study co-author Eric Cornell, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the JILA Center for Atomic, Molecular & Optical Physics in Boulder, Colo. An electron's shape comes from a cloud of virtual particles surrounding a dimensionless point; Past measurements have suggested the positive and negative charges are at equal distances from the center of the electron, Cornell said.
The idea, described here Monday (Dec. 9) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, is to place hundreds of floating seismic devices into the seas to measure the vibrations of earthquakes coming from the seafloor. And the floating seismic stations have now passed their first tests on two real excursions, showing they can distinguish the sounds of relatively small-magnitude earthquakes from the din of whale calls, ships passing and other ocean noise. Though seismologists track earthquakes from thousands of devices on land, just a few permanent island stations record earthquakes at sea. As a result, when waves from a deep earthquake travel through the Earth's mantle and core, most of a wave's path goes unrecorded, hidden in the depths of the ocean.
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]
Dark seasonal streaks on slopes near the Martian equator may be a sign of flowing salt water on Mars, liquid runoff that melts and evaporates during the planet's warmer months, scientists say. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted the dark streaks on Mars as they formed and grew in the planet's late spring and summer seasons, when the Martian equatorial region receives the most sunlight. These seasonally occurring flows — known as Recurring Slope Lineae — were previously seen on Martian slopes at mid-latitudes, but the MRO spacecraft has now detected them near the equator of the Red Planet. While there have been no direct detections of liquid water, the new findings hint at a surprisingly active water cycle on Mars today, said study leader Alfred McEwen, a professor of planetary geology at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Colonizing the solar system might sound like a big job, but some think that humans are destined to do it. The newest episode of "Futurescape" — a new series from the Science Channel — explores just how far humanity's reach might extend into the universe in the distant future. The episode called "Galactic Pioneers" is set to air tonight (Dec. 10), and delves into the ways that humans could leave Earth to populate other planets. "Once we do have the technology, humankind will no doubt be making its new home out here among the stars," James Woods, actor and host of "Futurescape," said at the start of the new show's "Galactic Pioneers" episode.