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The Atacama Desert is located in Chile.
A team of scientists have traveled to one of the driest places on Earth to help understand why past missions to Mars have failed to detect any life in the soil. The Atacama Desert is located in a region of Chile which is blocked on both sides by high mountain ranges, so it's incredibly dry. The scientists have studied the soil and realized that organic material is there, it's just so minimal that the instruments on board the Viking lander, which visited Mars in the 1970s, wouldn't have been able to sense them. More sophisticated instruments should be installed on future missions to find evidence of life.
The European Space Agency provided new details about the next Soyuz flight to the International Space Station, and their astronaut, André Kuipers. The Soyuz will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in April 2004, carrying Kuipers and the crew for Expedition 9. Kuipers hails from the Netherlands, and as with previous ESA astronauts, he will only spend a week on the station, performing a series of scientific experiments and observations.
NASA announced that three additional astronauts will fly into space aboard the Space Shuttle when it returns to flight some time after September 2004. STS-114 will consist of Mission Commander Eileen Collins, Pilot James Kelly, and Mission Specialists Stephen Robinson, Soichi Noguchi, Andrew Thomas, Wendy Lawrence and Charles Camarda. The mission objectives for the flight will be to test the new safety procedures developed as part of the Columbia accident investigation including shuttle inspection and repair techniques.
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