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ASTRONAUTS ANNOUNCED FOR STS-121
Dec 3, 2003 - NASA has announced four astronauts who will launch on the space shuttle for mission STS-121; the mission after the shuttle returns to flight in late 2004. STS-121 was added to the schedule to help take over some of the tasks that were originally required on the Return to Flight mission. Commander Steven W. Lindsey, pilot Mark E. Kelly and mission specialists Carlos I. Noriega and Michael E. Fossum will be joined by three more unnamed crew members. They will re-supply the International Space Station and continue testing new hardware developed as part of the return to flight process.
ASTRONOMERS FIND A PAIR OF NEUTRON STARS
Dec 3, 2003 - Astronomers have discovered a pair of neutron stars that could assist in the search for the long theorized "gravity waves", first predicted by Einstein. Separated by only 800,000 kilometres, the twin objects take only two hours to rotate each other. The theory is that the pair is losing energy in the form of gravity waves, and will eventually slow down and merge with a blast of energy. This new discovery tells astronomers that these twin neutron stars are more common than previously believed, and new gravity wave detectors should locate a merger every year or two, and not once a decade.
THE GAMBLE OF GETTING TO MARS
Dec 3, 2003 - The odds aren't great. For every three missions sent to Mars, two fail. With NASA's twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, now only a few weeks away from their encounter with the Red Planet, it's important to appreciate the challenges they still have to face. Already in space for five months, they've endured several solar storms. But the hardest work is still to come: they have to decelerate through the atmosphere, deploy their parachutes, and then land on their airbags.
EARTH'S FIELD OPENS UP FOR THE SOLAR WIND
Dec 3, 2003 - Researchers have discovered that temporary cracks can form in the Earth's magnetic field that can permit some of the solar wind's energy to slip through and disrupt electronics and communications. These observations were made using NASA's Imager for Magnetopause to Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) satellite, which tracked a large aurora for several hours. The ESA's Cluster satellites flew over the same location and spotted a stream of ions slipping through a crack which normally should have been deflected by the Earth's magnetosphere.
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