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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Red Planet's Newest Visitor
13 March 2006 (All day)
Despite disquieting news about the future of NASA's science budget, researchers took time on 10 March to celebrate the arrival of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter at the Red Planet. The spacecraft dropped safely into Mars orbit after traveling 500 million kilometers since its 12 August 2005 launch.
"Our spacecraft has finally become an orbiter," said a relieved Jim Graf, project manager for the mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The $450 million probe carries a sophisticated suite of instruments and has the ability to send back an order of magnitude more data than previous Mars orbiters. That abundance of information will help researchers determine "when water was on the surface and where it is now," adds project scientist Richard Zurek.
But there is still a long wait before the mission begins to use all its toys. Besides a spectrometer to map water-related minerals and a radar designed to locate water locked underground, the onboard equipment includes a telescopic camera to peer at small features on the surface, a weather-monitoring camera, and a radiometer to examine variations in dust and water vapor in the Martian atmosphere. The craft will gradually sink into a more circular orbit during the next 6 months before the instruments will begin gathering data. That added time, though, is worth it, say planetary scientists. The spacecraft carries almost two-thirds less fuel than if it went directly into a productive orbit--leaving more room for science payloads.