European Columbus laboratory Ready for delivery

The Columbus laboratory is Europe’s cornerstone contribution to the International Space Station. Final integration has been successfully completed in Bremen. Columbus will be shipped to Cape Canaveral at the end of May, from where it will be flown on a Space Shuttle to the ISS in the second half of 2007.

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Rivers Under Antarctica

British scientists have discovered rivers the size of the Thames in London flowing hundreds of miles under the Antarctica ice shelf by examining small changes in elevation, observed by ESA’s ERS-2 satellite, in the surface of the oldest, thickest ice in the region, according to an article published in Nature this week.

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Human High Gravity Study

NASA has teamed up with two universities to study ways to reduce the adverse effects of space travel has on astronauts’ physical heath.

Scientists are conducting a pilot study at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., on the 20-G centrifuge, a machine that creates artificial gravity forces by spinning and that can simulate up to 20 times the normal forces of gravity we experience on Earth.

“The 20-G Centrifuge is our largest facility certified for use by humans,” said Jeff Smith, a manager in the Life Sciences Division at Ames. “Its capabilities make it a unique NASA resource and a very versatile research tool that is ideal for developing health-maintenance activities for astronauts.”

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Inuit Students Chat with ISS

Thanks to Amateur Radio and an international teleconferencing link, Inuit students attending Jaanimmarik School in Kuujjuaq, Quebec, Canada, joined the space program May 4. The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program arranged the contact between NA1SS and ARISS veteran Tony Hutchison, VK5ZAI, in Kingston, Australia. Verizon Conferencing donated a two-way audio link between the northern Quebec school and VK5ZAI. Speaking from NA1SS, US astronaut Jeff Williams, KD5TVQ, told the students that it’s very exciting to be in space.

“To look at the earth from up here and to see the entire earth at one time is fabulous,” Williams said. “Of course, being weightless is also fantastic, when you float around, and everything else floats around too, if it’s not tied down.”

Williams reported that he and Expedition 13 Commander Pavel Vinogradov, RV3BS, are doing experiments involving crystal growth in a microgravity environment as well as fluid dynamics and growing plants. In what little spare time he has in his busy work week, Williams–like many ISS crew members before him–enjoys looking through the ISS window at Earth some 220 miles below.

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Tumbling Neutron Star

Using data from ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory, an international group of astrophysicists discovered that one spinning neutron star doesn’t appear to be the stable rotator scientists would expect. These X-ray observations promise to give new insights into the thermal evolution and finally the interior structure of neutron stars.

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Venus South Pole Images

ESA’s Venus Express has returned the first-ever images of the hothouse planet�s south pole from a distance of 206 452 kilometres, showing surprisingly clear structures and unexpected detail. The images were taken 12 April during the spacecraft�s initial capture orbit after successful arrival on 11 April 2006.

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Hubble Sees Tenth Planet

For the first time, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has seen distinctly the “tenth planet,” currently nicknamed “Xena,” and has found that it is only slightly larger than Pluto.

Though previous ground-based observations suggested that Xena’s diameter was about 30 percent greater than Pluto, Hubble observations taken Dec. 9 and 10, 2005, showed Xena’s diameter as 1,490 miles (with an uncertainty of 60 miles). Pluto’s diameter, as measured by Hubble, is 1,422 miles.

“Hubble is the only telescope capable of getting a clean visible-light measurement of the actual diameter of Xena,” said Mike Brown, planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. Brown’s research team discovered Xena, officially cataloged as 2003 UB313, and its results have been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.

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Ocean Surface Topography Mission

NASA has signed an agreement with other U.S. and international agencies to launch the Ocean Surface Topography Mission in 2008.

The satellite, named Jason-2, will increase our understanding of ocean circulation and improve climate forecasts and measurements of global sea-level change. The 3- to 5-year mission will extend the ocean topography measurements collected since 1992, first by TOPEX/Poseidon and now by Jason.

NASA is cooperating with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), France’s Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) on this mission.

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Venus Express enters orbit

On April 11,2006, at the end of a 153-day and 400-million km cruise into the inner Solar System beginning with its launch on 9 November 2005, ESA’s Venus Express space probe fired its main engine at 09:17 CEST for a 50-minute burn, which brought it into orbit around Venus.

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