PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 46/2003 - 23 May 2003


"The injection from space of evolved microorganisms that have well-attested terrestrial affinities raises the possibility that pathogenic bacteria and viruses might also be introduced. The annals of medical history detail many examples of plagues and pestilences that can be attributed to space incident microbes in this way... With respect to the SARS outbreak, a prima facie case for a possible space incidence can already be made."
--Chandra Wickramasinghe, Milton Wainwright, Jayant Narlikar, The Lancet, 24 May 2003


"The virus believed to cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) may have come to Earth from outer space, according to scientists writing in a leading British medical journal. However, a number of Sars experts believe the theory itself seems to have come from another planet."
--Richard Black, BBC News Online, 23 May 2003


"Why does anyone go to horror movies anymore? A week's worth of news seems scary enough. SARS, which can kill you, is a household word. So is mad-cow disease. Also this week the government started flying the Code Orange terror warning again. Al Qaeda is back, blowing up buildings and people in Saudi Arabia, and suicide bombers are again killing civilians in Israel. And of course North Korea, having contracted mad-man disease, may be loading nuclear bombs onto ballistic missiles."
--Daniel Henninger, The Wall Street Journal, 23 May 2003


(1) "SARS FROM STARS"
    BBC News Online, 23 May 2003

(2) SARS - A CLUE TO ITS ORIGINS?
    The Lancet, 24 May 2003

(3) "SARS FROM OUTER SPACE"
    Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

(4) DID SARS COME FROM OUTER SPACE?
    UPI, 22 May 2003

(5) WHO NEEDS HORROR SHOWS? THE FABULOUS WORLD OF FACT, FACTOID AND SARS
    The Wall Street Journal, 23 May 2003

(6) ORDER OUT OF CHAOS: THE CATASTROPHIC ORIGIN OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM
    Planetary Science Reseach Discoveries, 21 May 2003

(7) NEW ROSETTA WORRIES: COMET CHASER COSTS RISE
    BBC News Online, 20 May 2003

(8) DEEPER IMPACT
    Tech Central Station, 22 May 2003

(9) AND FINALLY: "PUTIN WILL SPRAY RAIN CLOUDS TO GUARANTEE SUNSHINE FOR CELEBRATIONS"
    Ananova, 21 May 2003


========
(1) "SARS FROM STARS"

BBC News Online, 23 May 2003
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2931246.stm

By Richard Black
BBC science correspondent

The virus believed to cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) may have come to Earth from outer space, according to scientists writing in a leading British medical journal.

In a letter to The Lancet, the scientists, led by Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe of Britain's Cardiff University, say the Sars coronavirus is so unlike other viruses that an extra-terrestrial origin is logical.

However, a number of Sars experts believe the theory itself seems to have come from another planet.

The idea that Sars comes from the stars relates to a theory called panspermia. This says that life itself evolved somewhere out in the cosmos, and is carried from one planet to another on comets.

Professor Wickramasinghe, who is a leading panspermia enthusiast, says the Sars coronavirus is so unusual that it could not have arisen on Earth.

"The particular genetic sequences of this Sars virus appears to be dramatically different from all the other known coronaviruses; and that has suggested an independent evolution of that virus to be required."

Flawed evidence?

In other words, the virus evolved somewhere else, perhaps on another planet, before coming to Earth.

Professor Wickramasinghe admits there is no hard evidence for his theory; and researchers who have been working on Sars reacted with a mixture of disbelief and ridicule.

There is nothing strange about the Sars coronavirus, they said; it certainly evolved from other known viruses.

One leading expert said Professor Wickramasinghe's letter "must be a joke"; another said it is simply ridiculous.

And a spokesman for the World Health Organization re-assured me that they have no plans to send Sars inspection teams into outer space just yet.

Copyright 2003, BBC

=========
(2) SARS - A CLUE TO ITS ORIGINS?

The Lancet, 24 May 2003
http://www.thelancet.com/journal/vol361/iss9371/full/llan.361.9371.correspondence.25778.1

Sir--We detected large quantities of viable microorganisms in samples of stratospheric air at an altitude of 41 km.1,2. We collected the samples in specially designed sterile cryosamplers carried aboard a balloon launched from the Indian Space Research Organisation/ Tata Institute Balloon Facility in Hyderabad, India, on Jan 21, 2001. Although the recovered biomaterial contained many microorganisms, as assessed with standard microbiological tests, we were able to culture only two types; both similar to known terrestrial species.2 Our findings lend support to the view that microbial material falling from space is, in a Darwinian sense, highly evolved, with an evolutionary history closely related to life that exists on Earth.

We estimate that a tonne of bacterial material falls to Earth from space daily, which translates into some 10^19 bacteria, or 20 000 bacteria per square metre of the Earth's surface. Most of this material simply adds to the unculturable or uncultured microbial flora present on Earth.

The injection from space of evolved microorganisms that have well-attested terrestrial affinities raises the possibility that pathogenic bacteria and viruses might also be introduced. The annals of medical history detail many examples of plagues and pestilences that can be attributed to space incident microbes in this way. New epidemic diseases have a record of abrupt entrances from time to time, and equally abrupt retreats. The patterns of spread of these diseases, as charted by historians, are often difficult to explain simply on the basis of endemic infective agents. Historical epidemics such as the plague of Athens and the plague of Justinian come to mind.

In more recent times the influenza pandemic of 1917-19 bears all the hallmarks of a space incident component: "The influenza pandemic of 1918 occurred in three waves. The first appeared in the winter and spring of 1917-1918 . . . The lethal second wave . . . involved almost the entire world over a very short time . . . Its epidemiologic behaviour was most unusual. Although person-to-person spread occurred in local areas, the disease appeared on the same day in widely separated parts of the world on the one hand, but, on the other, took days to weeks to spread relatively short distances."3

Also well documented is that, in the winter of 1918, the disease appeared suddenly in the frozen wastes of Alaska, in villages that had been isolated for several months. Mathematical modelling of epidemics such as the one described invariably involves the ad hoc introduction of many unproven hypotheses--for example, that of the superspreader. In situations where proven infectivity is limited only to close contacts, a superspreader is someone who can, on occasion, simultaneously infect a large number of susceptible individuals, thus causing the sporadic emergence of new clusters of disease. The recognition of a possible vertical input of external origin is conspicuously missing in such explanations.4,5

With respect to the SARS outbreak, a prima facie case for a possible space incidence can already be made. First, the virus is unexpectedly novel, and appeared without warning in mainland China. A small amount of the culprit virus introduced into the stratosphere could make a first tentative fall out East of the great mountain range of the Himalayas, where the stratosphere is thinnest, followed by sporadic deposits in neighbouring areas. If the virus is only minimally infective, as it seems to be, the subsequent course of its global progress will depend on stratospheric transport and mixing, leading to a fall out continuing seasonally over a few years. Although all reasonable attempts to contain the infective spread of SARS should be continued, we should remain vigilant for the appearance of new foci (unconnected with infective contacts or with China) almost anywhere on the planet. New cases might continue to appear until the stratospheric supply of the causative agent becomes exhausted.

*Chandra Wickramasinghe, Milton Wainwright, Jayant Narlikar

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
*Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3DY, UK (CW); Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Sheffield University, Sheffield, UK (MW); and Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, India (JN)
(e-mail: wickramasinghe@cf.ac.uk )

1 Harris MJ, Wickramasinghe NC, Lloyd D, et al. The detection of living cells in stratospheric samples. Proc. SPIE Conference  2002; 4495: 192-98. [PubMed]

2 Wainwright M, Wickramsinghe NC, Narlikar JV, Rajaratnam P. Microorganisms cultured from stratospheric air samples obtained at 41 km . FEMS Microbiol Lett 2003; 218: 161-65. [PubMed]

3 Weinstein L. Influenza: 1918, a revisit?  N Engl J Med  1976; 6: 1058-60. [PubMed]

4 Hoyle F, Wickramasinghe NC. Diseases from Space. London: JM Dent, 1979.

5 Wickramasinghe C. Cosmic dragons: life and death on our planet. London: Souvenir Press, 2001.

Copyright 2003, The Lancet

===========
(3) "SARS FROM OUTER SPACE"

Andrew Yee < ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca >

The Lancet
London, U.K.

Contact:
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe
Director of the Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology
Cardiff University, UK
Tel. +44 (0)2920 752146
Fax +44 (0)2920 753173
Email: xdw20@dial.pipex.com

Richard Lane
The Lancet
+44 (0) 20 7424 4949

richard.lane@lancet.com

Embargo until 23 May 2003 00:01 GMT

SARS From Outer Space?

An alternative theory to the origin of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is proposed by scientists in a letter in this week's issue of THE LANCET -- that the disease may have originated in outer space.

Chandra Wickramasinghe from Cardiff University, UK, and colleagues describe how around a tonne of bacteria is deposited on the earth every day, and propose that pathogenic bacteria and viruses could have origins in outer space. They comment on the unusual nature of major epidemics such as the plague of Athens and the 'flu epidemic of 1917-19' where infection rates and deaths are not easily explained by epidemiological modelling.

He comments: "With respect to the SARS outbreak, a prima facie case for a possible space incidence can already be made. First, the virus is unexpectedly novel, and appeared without warning in mainland China. A small amount of the culprit virus introduced into the stratosphere could make a first tentative fall out east of the great mountain range of the Himalayas, where the stratosphere is thinnest, followed by sporadic deposits in neighbouring areas. If the virus is only minimally infective, as it seems to be, the subsequent course of its global progress will depend on stratospheric transport and mixing, leading to a fall out continuing seasonally over a few years. Although all reasonable attempts to contain the infective spread of SARS should be continued, we should remain vigilant for the appearance of new foci (unconnected with
infective contacts or with China) almost anywhere on the planet. New cases might continue to appear until the stratospheric supply of the causative agent becomes exhausted."

Peer reviewed publication and references:
THE LANCET Issue 24 May 2003

============
(4) DID SARS COME FROM OUTER SPACE?

UPI, 22 May 2003
http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=20030522-053904-8405r

CARDIFF, England, May 22 (UPI) -- A group of British scientists proposed Thursday the organism that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome might have originated in outer space.

This extraordinary theory, appearing in a letter to the May 24 issue of the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, suggests, "if these bugs are coming from space, a scheme to monitor the stratosphere could be important," astronomer Chandra Wickramasinghe, director of the Cardiff Center for Astrobiology, told United Press International.

Other scientists with expertise in either exobiology -- the study of possible alien life forms -- or SARS remained skeptical about Wickramasinghe's bold suggestion.

"It is absurd and unnecessary," biologist John Rummel, NASA's planetary protection officer in Washington, D.C., told UPI. "The chance that anything microbial that is alive can persist in space above the atmosphere, without shielding, is vanishingly small."

More than 8,000 cases and 682 deaths from SARS have been reported in 28 countries since the disease was first recognized last February. Fever, aches and coughing are common symptoms and 10 to 20 percent of patients require mechanical ventilation. About 8 percent die.

A virus related to ones behind the common cold causes the disease, and is thought to be spread by close, lengthy personal contact. "There are lots of things about SARS that raise questions," Wickramasinghe said. It appeared suddenly and "it's only weakly infective, but swept across the whole of China," he explained.

Wickramasinghe and colleagues report that over the past year, they have collected vast amounts of bacteria at heights of more than 25 miles via balloons. They estimate more than a ton of microbes fall to Earth from space daily.

Citing the unexpected appearance and unusual pattern of spread of the virus, Wickramasinghe and colleagues write, "a small amount of the culprit virus introduced into the stratosphere could make a first tentative fall out east of the great mountain range of the Himalayas, where the stratosphere is thinnest, followed by sporadic deposits in neighboring areas."

They also theorize that a number of major epidemics, such as the plague of Athens and the great worldwide flu of 1917 to 1919, are unusual in how their infection rates and deaths are not readily explained by current scientific models.

"Life on Earth, including humans, is still profoundly influenced by an extraterrestrial cosmic system of life. It also then gives an extra impetus to the theory known as panspermia, which asserts that life did not start here on the Earth, but came from space via comets," Wickramasinghe added. "If so, the process must continue even to the present day."

However, SARS researcher Edison Liu, executive director of the Genome Institute of Singapore, found "so much of this hypothesis is without scientific basis. In addition, the authors display a seeming lack of basic microbiology and epidemiology."

For instance, Liu noted, "viruses do not survive well outside their host organisms, especially since a potent method of inactivating a virus is by ultraviolet light, of which there are significant levels at high altitudes."

Rummel noted the bacteria that Wickramasinghe and his team collected are well-known on Earth. He added "there are plenty of precedents for viral mutation and for human association with other species and their viruses leading to epidemic diseases in our populations without recourse to 'a space incidence' of the virus."

Most SARS researchers suspect the virus jumped to humans from animals. Regarding the flu, Liu said major epidemics were caused in part by animal flu strains. "It does not require an 'X-Files' explanation for their occurrence," he said, referring to the popular television series. "Reports like this raise paranoia unnecessarily."

The bacteria Wickramasinghe's team collected and cultured "are (completely identical) to Bacillus simplex and (99.9 percent identical) to Staphylococcus pasteuri, common terrestrial bacteria," Rummel said. In addition, a fungus was isolated and identified as Engyodontium album, a known terrestrial fungus. Although the authors "suggest that the most likely source of these organisms is from space ... they do not address the most likely source -- that they were carried aloft from the ground or lower atmosphere by the balloon itself."

(Reported by Charles Choi, UPI Science News, in New York)

Copyright 2001-2003 United Press International

===========
(5) WHO NEEDS HORROR SHOWS? THE FABULOUS WORLD OF FACT, FACTOID AND SARS

The Wall Street Journal, 23 May 2003
http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/dhenninger/?id=110003534

BY DANIEL HENNINGER

Why does anyone go to horror movies anymore? A week's worth of news seems scary enough. SARS, which can kill you, is a household word. So is mad-cow disease. Also this week the government started flying the Code Orange terror warning again. Al Qaeda is back, blowing up buildings and people in Saudi Arabia, and suicide bombers are again killing civilians in Israel. And of course North Korea, having contracted mad-man disease, may be loading nuclear bombs onto ballistic missiles.

On Wednesday, President Bush denounced Europe for fostering fear of genetically modified food, calling their nightmares over Frankenfoods "scientifically unfounded." But probably a lot of people in Europe, home of Grimm's fairy tales, really are afraid, because they have read, or their public leaders have said, that its safety remains "unproven." Who can you trust? Similarly in the U.S., irradiating foods such as chicken and hamburger, which kills often dangerous bacteria, is harmless and would save lives, but many people are still unsettled by the unfortunate name; so a good technology is kept off the market.

It seems to be the case now more than at any time in memory that the real risks in life and the phony ones have congealed into an undifferentiated glob of uncertainty. On Tuesday, the same day the government issued the orange alert, an early-afternoon announcement in New York City's crowded Penn Station said no trains would enter or leave the station because of a "police investigation." The armed soldiers in the station started moving around, and some fire engines pulled up outside. The Saudi bombings had occurred just days before. But inside Penn Station virtually no one budged. Neither did I.

What was my calculation of risk inside Penn Station based on? Pretty much nothing. The Office of Homeland Security swears its warnings are based on "signals" or something, but absent anything resembling facts, who knows?

One might argue that this attitude simply reflects a healthy skepticism, but I think it reflects something less benign. It suggests that most people today live in a state of perpetual, low-grade confusion about much that goes on in the world. In terms of knowing what to believe and what not to believe, what's real and what's only sort of real, these are very strange times.

My impression is that most people find the story about Jayson Blair and the New York Times startling, but it doesn't shock them. It may be that after 25 years of post-modern history and humanities instruction, most people really do believe that events and news are mostly just a "narrative." From Michel Foucault to Jayson Blair to wherever this logic was headed--the Iraqi information minister?

Still, there are hold-outs. When I give talks, someone almost always asks, "Where do you get your facts?" This isn't a challenge; it's a request to learn where they can get access to a simple set of unadulterated facts about what is happening around them.

Who can blame them? In the world of media, at least, it's a rare fact that is allowed to stand on its own short legs anymore; instead, the little factling has to be poked, pinched and shaken until it gives up its "meaning." Much cable news consists almost wholly of earnest anchormenschen asking a never-ending stream of experts what something that we just saw with our own eyes really means, or better yet, what it's going to mean. "Whaddaya think's gonna happen here, Jim?" People who watch fortunetellers every night are likely to believe, or not believe, anything.

Even most newspaper stories across the U.S. today are an increasingly odd amalgam of fact, hypothesis and prediction, and it's a little hard to see how anyone in the news business could be surprised that the day would finally arrive when a Jayson Blair, product of an era in which facts came to be known as factoids, would decide he might just as well sit home and connect the fact-dots however he pleased. One commentator suggested that even if Blair got a lot of facts wrong, his take on many events was essentially "true." Spin wins.

Until SARS. This deadly new virus may be forcing the pendulum of public knowledge away from opinion masquerading as something else and back toward an interest in harder stuff. Like the HIV virus, which at first had a tough time convincing people that some behavior was in fact dangerous, SARS is showing itself to be quite impatient with a world more willing to esteem political propriety than hard data. Unlike almost any other issue in the news nowadays, SARS looks immune to spin, moralizing and the delights of demagoguery.
SARS scientists are tunneling into this problem with the most exacting and precise questions about the nature of the virus. It matters greatly if SARS came from an animal virus or derives from a human coronavirus. Much of the reporting and commentary on SARS has been careful and one might even say humble in the face of what it is possible to know, a k a the facts.

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, Drs. Richard P. Wenzel and Michael B. Edmond said: "We simply do not know where we are on the epidemic curve. Some fear is rational, but the 4.9% mortality rate is in fact similar to that seen generally with community-acquired pneumonia in the United States." But the precision of the analysis really does matter, insofar as many people may die if we get it wrong. No one who flew through college on the imaginary wings of grade inflation need apply to work on this project.

SARS, like a lot else now, may be scary, but on this one at least, were managing to scare ourselves in the right way.

Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His column appears Fridays in the Journal and on OpinionJournal.com.

Copyright 2003, The Wall Street Journal

=============
(6) ORDER OUT OF CHAOS: THE CATASTROPHIC ORIGIN OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM

Planetary Science Reseach Discoveries, 21 May 2003
http://www.psrd.hawaii.edu/May03/SolarSystemTrigger.html

Triggering the Formation of the Solar System

--- New data from meteorites indicates that formation of the Solar System was triggered by a supernova.

Written by G. Jeffrey Taylor
Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology

One of the most amazing discoveries in space science is the unambiguous evidence from meteorites that the solar nebula (the cloud of gas and dust in which the Sun and planets formed) contained radioactive isotopes with half-lives so short that they no longer exist. These include isotopes with very short half-lives, such as calcium-41, 41Ca, (100,000 years) and aluminum-26, 26Al, (740,000 years), and those with longer half-lives such as plutonium-244, 244Pu, (81 million years). The short-lived isotopes are particularly interesting. If they formed in an exploding star, that explosion might have triggered the collapse of the huge interstellar cloud in which the Sun formed. On the other hand, if they formed in the solar nebula by intense radiation close to the Sun, then it would prove some hypotheses about the young Sun and jets of radiation from it.

As synthesized and lucidly explained by Ernst Zinner (Washington University in St. Louis), recent data from ancient objects in meteorites point strongly to the supernova trigger idea. K. K. Marhas and J. N. Goswami (Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, India), and A. M. Davis (University of Chicago) found clear evidence in meteorites that beryllium-10 (10Be), the one isotope that everybody agrees can be produced by solar radiation, is not accompanied by other short-lived isotopes as it would be if they were all produced by radiation flowing from the young Sun. (10Be can also be made by galactic cosmic rays in the interstellar molecular cloud from which the solar system formed.) Two other research groups reported at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (March, 2003) that unmetamorphosed ordinary chondrites contained iron-60 (60Fe), an extinct isotope with a half-life of 1.5 million years. 60Fe cannot be produced by intense, energetic solar radiation, so it must have been made before the Solar System began to form. The best bet is that much of it was made during the supernova explosion that triggered the formation of the Solar System.

References:
Zinner, Ernst (2003) An isotopic view of the early solar system. Science, v. 300, p. 265-267.

Marhas, K. K., Goswami, J. M., and Davis, A. M. (2002) Short-lived nuclides in hibonite grains from Murchison: Evidence for solar system evolution. Science, v. 298, p. 2182-2185.

Mostefaoui, S., Lugmair, G. W., Hoppe, P., and El Goresy, A. (2003) Evidence for live Iron-60 in Semarkona dn Chervony Kut: A nanosims study. Lunar and Planetary Science XXXIV, abstract #1585.

Tachibana, S. and Huss, G. R. (2003) Iron-60 in troilites from an unequilibrated ordinary chondrite and the initial Fe-60/Fe-56 in the early solar system. Lunar and Planetary Science XXXIV, abstract # 1737.

FULL ARTICLE at http://www.psrd.hawaii.edu/May03/SolarSystemTrigger.html

===========
(7) NEW ROSETTA WORRIES: COMET CHASER COSTS RISE

BBC News Online, 20 May 2003
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3043937.stm

By Jonathan Amos
BBC News Online science staff

The postponement of the audacious Rosetta mission to chase down and land on a comet has put a 70-million-euro (50m) hole in the European space budget for this year.

Officials must now juggle their funds to pay for a new flight for the probe early in 2004.

Rosetta is currently being stored in a "clean" facility at the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana.

Scientists have confirmed they want to send the spacecraft to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko now that the original target, Comet Wirtanen, is no longer reachable in the desired timeframe.

The opportunity to go to Wirtanen was lost when all European rockets were grounded following an accident at Kourou in December.

The new quarry will require some slight modifications to the lander craft and the way scientists plan to get it on to the surface of the icy body.

'Worth doing'

Rosetta, a flagship mission for European space science that has been more than 10 years in development, has already cost in the region of a billion euros (700m).

Now, Professor David Southwood, the European Space Agency's (Esa) director of science, says he has the headache of finding the extra funds to prepare Rosetta for a second launch attempt.

"I have a small funding crisis right now - nothing serious," he told BBC News Online. "I will have to sign the contracts soon to prepare the spacecraft and I will need to borrow forward some money from succeeding years.

"But we're in pretty good shape. We have all the technical clearances we need - we have a new target, everybody believes it's a safe target and everybody thinks it is scientifically worth doing."

Rosetta is a remarkable mission. The probe will pursue the comet at breakneck speed and then attempt to put a lander on its surface - a first.

The complex series of space manoeuvres required in getting the probe in the right place and with a high enough speed to tag the comet means the outward part of the journey will take the best part of a decade.

Stiffer legs

A detailed assessment of Churyumov-Gerasimenko has been undertaken by researchers to determine whether the body is a suitable target for Rosetta.

And last week, based on that assessment, senior Esa scientists formally approved the proposal to modify the mission to go after the new comet.

Its greater mass than Wirtanen - it is just under two kilometres wide compared with Wirtanen's 0.6-km diameter - will mean the lander's legs will need to be stiffened to withstand the impact.

Scientists think they can also change the way they approach the comet to reduce the speed with which the lander has to touch down.

Dr Ian Wright, from the UK's Open University and a lander scientist, said: "I think people have now convinced themselves that it's all entirely doable, provided the density of the target is not above a certain amount.

"There is still some nervousness about the exact measurement, but it's a bit of a Catch-22 - one of the reasons we're going to a comet is to understand what the density of these objects is.

"This comet is also more active than Wirtanen and scientifically that's more interesting. From a mission risk point of view, that does give you more to worry about - but I'm confident we'll get down and do some good science."

Full tank

The mission's problems began in December last year when Europe's new super rocket, a beefed-up version of the Ariane 5, exploded over the Atlantic on its maiden flight.

Although Rosetta was scheduled to fly on a standard version of the launcher, the post-accident investigation ordered a thorough review of systems on all the rocket variants.

The delay while this was carried out pushed Rosetta beyond the launch window necessary to get it into position to catch Wirtanen.

Preparation for a February 2004 blast-off from Kourou will probably begin around September/October. Most of the Rosetta spacecraft is still in its launch-ready state - it still has its fuel on board.

"Corrosion takes place when you expose something to oxygen so it may be the fuel is best left in the spacecraft - that's our view at the moment," Professor Southwood said.

"The Americans defuelled the Galileo spacecraft and ended up having to purchase a new tank because of corrosion."

Copyright 2003, BBC

==============
(8) DEEPER IMPACT

Tech Central Station, 22 May 2003
http://www.techcentralstation.com/1051/defensewrapper.jsp?PID=1051-350&CID=1051-052203C

By Kenneth Silber

In his excellent 1999 book "Deep Time: How Humanity Communicates Across Millennia," Gregory Benford, a physicist, author and TCS contributor, wrote about two ways of transmitting information to the future. One is what Benford called "High Church"; it involved efforts to convey the best of current culture through monuments and the like. Benford called the other mode "Kilroy was Here," after a somewhat mysterious graffiti message that emerged around the time of World War II.

Kilroy messages are those aimed at leaving some kind of mark, with little regard for content or quality. Benford described how a project to place a marker aboard the Cassini space probe to Saturn degenerated from High Church to Kilroy. The original plan called for a diamond disk with images and symbols indicating humanity's place in space and time, for the benefit of whatever beings might visit Saturn's orbit in the far future. What ended up being sent was a CD-ROM with some 600,000 scanned signatures, plus a few baby footprints and pet paw prints.

I reviewed Benford's book for the now-defunct webzine IntellectualCapital.com. (As best I can tell, my review is no longer online, which is vaguely ironic given the topic. I would not be surprised if no physical or electronic copy of my review now exists.) At the time, I was receptive to Benford's negative appraisal of Kilroy messages. I am far less so now (although some of his examples, such as tourists carving their names into ancient monuments are, I agree, reprehensible). What causes me to rethink my position is another NASA project that involves sending names into space.

A spacecraft called Deep Impact, scheduled for launch in December 2004, has the mission of rendezvousing with Comet Tempel 1 on July 4, 2005. Deep Impact will release an "impactor," weighing more than 800 pounds, which will crash into the comet and create a crater that may be as wide as a football stadium and over 10 stories deep. The resulting data and images will allow new insights into the composition of comets, the history of the solar system, and the implications of a collision between Earth and a comet.

Project managers at NASA and the University of Maryland recently announced that people could have their names added to a disc that will be placed aboard the impactor. If you're interested, go to this website. It's free of charge. (You've paid for the $280 million mission with your tax dollars. Deep Impact is part of NASA's Discovery Program, which performs relatively low-cost missions.) The project will stop taking names in January 2004.

Sending your name to a comet is, in a sense, the ultimate Kilroy message. Far from transmitting high culture to posterity, the mini-CD containing the names will certainly be destroyed in the collision with Comet Tempel 1. Nonetheless, the name disc is a worthwhile effort, for several reasons. It will get a broader range of people interested in the Deep Impact mission; as such, it will be an antidote of sorts to the insularity scientists sometimes show toward the public that pays many of their bills. The disc will contribute to science education, providing an avenue for students to learn more about the mission's serious scientific objectives.

The disc will allow people with a strong interest in science and space to convey, in a small but symbolic way, a sense of the importance that they attach to these subjects. In addition, the disc underscores that space technology is not solely about science but has relevance to various social and individual objectives, including adventure and recreation.

The Deep Impact mission, incidentally, provides a more substantial way for the public to participate. Amateur astronomers have played a valuable role in monitoring Comet Tempel 1, sharing their observations under the project's Small Telescope Science Program. The impactor's collision with the comet is expected to be visible through small telescopes from some parts of the Earth. The Fourth of July in 2005 should have some unusual fireworks.

Copyright 2003, Tech Central Station

===========
(9) AND FINALLY: "PUTIN WILL SPRAY RAIN CLOUDS TO GUARANTEE SUNSHINE FOR CELEBRATIONS"

Ananova, 21 May 2003
http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_783584.html?menu=

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he can guarantee sunshine for the St. Petersburg's 300th birthday celebrations by ordering the Russian air force to spray chemicals on rain clouds.

Ten planes will be kept ready for action in case rain clouds accumulate around the city, the Defence Ministry in Moscow confirmed.

The planes will then spray the undisclosed chemicals on the clouds to make them rain outside the city and spare the celebrations from disruption.

More than 50 world leaders including Tony Blair and President Bush are expected to attend the event that commemorates the founding of the city by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703.

Meanwhile, scores of gardeners in St Petersburg are said to be taking legal action after their allotments were scorched and gardening sheds burnt down to clean up the city before the VIPs arrive.

The plots were all on municipal land along Peterburgskoye Shosse, which runs past the new presidential residence at the Konstantinovsky Palace, in the Petrodvortsovy area, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

Gennady Lebedev, head of the Maintenance Committee of the Strelna Municipal Administration criticised local officials in the Petrodvortsovy District.

He said: "They basically ran ahead of the locomotive with what they did. We'd have to burn down half of Russia if we followed this reasoning."

Copyright 2003, Ananova

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