NASA has tested rocket engines and parachutes that could be instrumental in developing the first spacecraft crew launch escape system in almost 30 years.

The tests pave the way for a series of integrated Pad Abort Demonstration (PAD) test flights to support NASA’s Orbital Space Plane (OSP) program. Launch pad abort tests support development of a system that could pull a crew safely away from danger during liftoff. Knowledge gained from the testing will reduce the future design and development risks of a launch escape system that could be used for the OSP.
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NASA supported biologists developed a modeling approach that uses satellite data and specimen locality data from museum collections to predict successfully the geographic distribution of 11 known chameleon species in Madagascar. The model also helped lead to discovery of 7 additional chameleon species new to science.

The discovery suggests for poorly explored regions, NASA satellite data and data from museum collections can help identify promising places to survey for new species of life, while locating areas likely to be of conservation importance.
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A new window to the universe was opened with today’s release of the first dazzling images from NASA’s newly named Spitzer Space Telescope, formerly known as the Space Infrared Telescope Facility.

The first observations, of a glowing stellar nursery; a swirling, dusty galaxy; a disc of planet-forming debris; and organic material in the distant universe, demonstrate the power of the telescope’s infrared detectors to capture cosmic features never before seen.
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NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey missions have provided evidence of a relatively recent ice age on Mars. In contrast to Earth’s ice ages, a Martian ice age waxes when the poles warm, and water vapor is transported toward lower latitudes. Martian ice ages wane when the poles cool and lock water into polar icecaps.
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2003 busy time for Arianespace

The end of 2003 is a busy time for Arianespace commercially and for launch activity, and the Arianespace Web site has the latest details!

Arianespace today (December 17) signed a new launch contract to orbit the MSG 3 weather satellite for Europe. This spacecraft will be carried by an Ariane 5 in 2009, and is the 9th satellite entrusted to Ariane by the Eumetsat organization.

Also, preparations continue at two very different launch sites for missions with Arianespace involvement.
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As Europe’s leading satellite operator, Eutelsat today announced its Official Sponsorship of the XX Winter Olympics in Torino 2006. Within the framework of this partnership Eutelsat will also provide the TOROC (the Torino Organising Committee of the XX Winter Olympics) with a package of 50 video channels that will be broadcast for the duration of the Games to competition sites, Olympic Villages and Media Villages. This will enable the Olympic community to benefit from live events coverage and to access broadcasts by leading international television channels.
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Improved Satellite phone and data services

An agreement signed by ESA and Inmarsat brings the reality of reliable mobile broadband communications services a step closer. For the first time, global mobile broadband services will be available for those at sea, in a plane or travelling on land virtually anywhere in the world.

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Dark Energy?

ESA’s X-ray observatory, XMM-Newton, has returned tantalising new data about the nature of the Universe. In a survey of distant clusters of galaxies, XMM-Newton has found puzzling differences between today’s clusters of galaxies and those present in the Universe around seven thousand million years ago. Some scientists claim that this can be interpreted to mean that the ‘dark energy’ which most astronomers now believe dominates the Universe simply does not exist…

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NASA has selected student teams from universities coast to coast to fly on the agency’s “weightless wonder” aircraft as part of the 2004 Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program. The student teams are in for a buoyant ride in the spring as they conduct experiments on NASA’s KC-135A aircraft based at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston.
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