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Orbiting the Earth for a month.
Oct 29, 2003 Astronomers have uncovered a green mineral on Mars called olivine that could indicate that the planet has been completely dry for at least a billion years, since the mineral was exposed to the Martian air. Olivine is found in many rocks on Earth, and it's highly susceptible to chemical weathering. If liquid water was present at any time in the past, the olivine would have altered into other materials - but this hasn't happened. The areas will be further investigated in 2005 by the upcoming Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has 100 times the resolution of the Mars Global Surveyor.
Oct 29, 2003 The European Space Agency's SMART-1 spacecraft has been orbiting the Earth for a full month now, and has made 64 complete orbits. Engineers have been wary this week about firing its ion engine with the increased solar activity. There have been a few problems: the engine unexpectedly turned off, but worked fine on the next firing; its star tracker had difficulty orienting the spacecraft but upgrades to the software resolved that. It's still on track to reach the Moon by March 2005.
Oct 29, 2003 The terrible wild fires in Southern California have destroyed thousands of homes, killed more than 16 people and are still out of control in many areas. The Palomar observatory is in the area, but its operators feel that the 200-inch telescope isn't at risk. The observatory was built with two layers of concrete and steel, dead trees and underbrush have been removed from a significant area, and it boasts a large water tank and volunteer fire fighting team. Smoke and ash have put a temporary halt to observations, though.
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