Livermore, Calif. -- A U.S. scientist said material picked up during NASA's Stardust mission indicate that parts of the comet Wild 2 were formed close to the sun.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researcher Sasa Bajt and international colleagues analyzed gases within Stardust samples and found that some of the Stardust grains match a special type of carbonaceous material found in meteorites.
Earlier research showed that the comet formed in the Kuiper Belt, outside the orbit of Neptune and only recently entered the inner regions of the solar system. New research, published in the journal Science, showed that some of the particles in Stardust are consistent with early solar nebula.
"The unusual isotope ratio of helium and neon demonstrate that materials in comet Wild 2 had been much closer to the young sun than previously expected," Bajt said in a release.
Moscow -- The new year will be a busy one for the Russian space program with 13 satellite launches and two manned missions on the schedule.
The list released Friday by Russia's Federal Space Agency included six satellites that will provide global navigation services and another three that will handle broadcast and communications.
Russia's Interfax news agency said the manned Soyuz missions would be aimed at re-supplying the International Space Station. There will also be five Progress-M supply ships dispatched to the orbiting station.
There was no word on any expected military or intelligence satellite launches.
On the ground, the space agency will begin construction of a new space center in central Russia.
Houston -- U.S. space officials said Thursday the much-delayed launch of space shuttle Atlantis will have to wait until late January or early February.
Fuel sensor system issues postponed two launch attempts in December. NASA said it is looking at a Jan. 22 launch date, although that date will be modified as required, the agency said Thursday in a release.
Other launch opportunities could come between Jan. 24 and the first week of February.
A connector suspected of prompting false readings during two previous launch attempts is undergoing intensive testing at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
Meanwhile, technicians at Kennedy Space Center in Florida will modify a replacement connector for the one that was removed. The new connector is scheduled to be in place by Jan. 10.
Or rather, their Russian successors. On Tuesday, Russia launched the last three satellites needed to complete its Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS). A revitalization of the Soviets' creaky old Cicada system, which dated from 1976 and had fallen into disrepair along with the rest of the empire, GLONASS represents President Vladimir Putin's latest effort to rebuild the old Soviet military machine -- and potentially boost Russia's consumer electronics industry along with it.
Astronomers have calculated that a recently discovered asteroid named 2007 WD5 which is about 100 meters in diameter, is heading towards Mars and has a 1 in 75 chance of impact. The collision with the Red Planet could occur on January 30 according to the scientists.
Moscow -- A Russian cargo craft detached from the International Space Station Saturday for a month-long independent voyage.
The Progress M-61, which is at the end of its service life, is to be used as a platform for experiments until the middle of next month when its orbit will begin to disintegrate and it will burn up in the Earth's atmosphere, RIA Novosti reported Saturday.
The same was done previously with the Progress M-60. Automated Progress spacecrafts deliver food and water to the station's crew, fuel to maintain the station's orbit and other cargo and research equipment.
La Canada Flintridge, Calif. -- Scientists with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration said an asteroid has a good chance of colliding with Mars near the end of January.
Researchers with NASA's Near-Earth Object Program in La Canada Flintridge, Calif., said the asteroid has about a 1-in-75 chance of hitting the fourth planet from the sun on Jan. 30, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
The 1-in-75 shot is "wildly unusual," said astronomer Steve Chesley with the Near-Earth Object office, which has been tracking the asteroid since it was sighted in November.
"We're used to dealing with odds like one-in-a-million," Chesley said.
"Something with a one-in-a-hundred chance makes us sit up straight in our chairs."
Asteroid 2007 WD5 measures about 160 feet across, a comparable size to the asteroid that flattened Siberian forests in 1908, the scientists said.
Moscow -- Russia is developing a space platform from which missions to the moon and Mars could be launched, the Russian space agency said Tuesday.
Space agency head Anatoly Perminov said the project is expected to be up and working after 2020, with the first moon mission slated for 2025, the Russian information agency Novosti reported.
Perminov said any Mars mission, projected after 2035, is seen as an international effort because of the costs and technical expertise involved.
Once the International Space Station is decommissioned between 2016 and 2025, Russia plans to deploy a low-earth-orbit platform to be used to assemble spacecraft, Perminov said. He said Russia plans to continue using the ISS as a laboratory complex until 2020 although the United States says the facility should be scrapped by 2015.
Kourou, French Guiana-- The European Space Agency said its first human-rated spacecraft is being readied for a February launch to re-supply the International Space Station.
The ESA said the pressurized module of the Jules Verne -- the most complex automated spacecraft ever developed in Europe -- has been inspected and closed at the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
"In order to eliminate any risk of disease or contamination for the astronauts on board the ISS, we have disinfected all the surfaces inside the pressurized module with pure hydrogen peroxide," said Patrice Amadieu, the ESA's deputy project manager.
Last week, the spacecraft's tanks were filled with about 71 gallons of drinking water for the ISS astronauts. The water from the Turin, Italy, municipal water supply will eventually be transferred to the space station's Russian service module, where the Jules Verne will be docked for up to four months.
Phoenix -- A team of air-quality modelers, climatologists and air-policy specialists said they expect U.S. space agency satellites to greatly improve pollution monitoring.
The Arizona State University researchers said they have developed a new way to close gaps in the global pollution monitoring by using NASA satellite data to detect precursors to ozone pollution.
The technique, devised in collaboration with the University of California-Berkeley, uses satellite data to improve existing computer models of ozone events.
"The satellite data provides information about remote locations," said Rick Van Schoik, director of Arizona State University's North American Center for Transborder Studies. "It gives us data from oceans and about events from other countries with less advanced monitoring capabilities, such as Mexico."
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