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Spacecraft has nearly arrived at the Red Planet.
Dec 10, 2003 After travelling for more than 400 million kilometres, the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft has nearly arrived at the Red Planet. Things are about to get pretty busy. On December 19, the Beagle 2 lander will detach from the spacecraft and plunge through the Martian atmosphere six days later. At the same time that Beagle 2 is making its way down to the surface, the Mars Express orbiter will begin its aerobraking maneuvers to get into its final orbit around the Red Planet.
Dec 10, 2003 The European Space Agency's SMART-1 spacecraft is continuing to function well on its long roundabout mission to the Moon. The spacecraft recently completed its 139th orbit and everything seems to be functioning properly, despite the recent solar storms that damaged a few other satellites. It's running its solar-powered ion drive full time now, and incrementally raising its distance with each orbit around the Earth. SMART-1 will reach its final orbit around the Moon in March 2005.
Dec 10, 2003 Using data from several NASA satellites, scientists believe that the Spring thaws in the Northern latitudes are arriving earlier and earlier each year. The change is so dramatic, that the thawing has come on average one day earlier each year since 1988. The shorter Winter warms up areas that were previously permafrost (permanently frozen), and this releases additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. scientists are just starting to understand what role the polar areas have in the regulation of the Earth's climate.
Dec 10, 2003 According to a new simulation by a team of University of Washington astronomers, Earthlike worlds could be more common that previously believed. The team performed 44 computer simulations of planet formations near a star, and found that an Earth-sized world was created nearly every time - and a Terrestrial planet was in the star's habitable zone 25% of the time. The simulations also showed that the orbits of Gas giants in a system might decide how much water remains on a terrestrial planet.
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