European space controllers positioned the Mars Express spacecraft in preparation for a critical step in their mission to explore the Red Planet -- the launching of a probe designed to search the Martian surface for organic matter and water. \nIf all goes well, the Beagle 2 was to push off from the Mars Express and be sent on its way at 8:31 GMT yesterday. The British-built probe should land on the surface of the Red Planet roughly six days later. \nEngineers at the European Space Agency's mission control in Darmstadt, in western Germany, expect to confirm the Beagle 2's launch at around 10:31 GMT. \nThe probe's launch is the first in a series of critical navigational maneuvers on which the success of the mission depends. \nOfficials say the launch consists of having the spacecraft gently push away the probe and setting it spinning to keep it stable as it heads toward Mars. Early on Dec. 25, the lander is expected to reach Mars' surface. \nAt the same time, mission engineers plan to position the Mars Express craft to fire its main engine for about 30 minutes, sending it into Martian orbit. \nShould the attempt to drop the lander fail, it would disrupt the timing of efforts to put Mars Express into orbit, and possibly doom the mission, project manager Rudolf Schmidt said. \n"If we get the timing wrong, the spacecraft could burn up in the atmosphere or miss Mars altogether," Schmidt said in a statement. "We just get one single chance." \nThe Mars Explorer, which cost about US$345 million, is an attempt to demonstrate that Europe can have an effective -- and relatively inexpensive -- space exploration program. \nLaunched atop a Russian Soyuz-Fregat rocket from the Baiknour cosmodrome in Kazakhstan June 2, Mars Express has weathered solar eruptions that bombarded it with high-energy particles, temporarily disrupting its computers, as well as an unexpected drop in electrical power. \nThe 65kg Beagle 2 -- named for the ship that carried naturalist Charles Darwin on his voyage of discovery in the 1830s -- will use a robotic arm to gather and sample rocks for evidence of organic matter and water, while Mars Express orbits overhead. \nDuring its working life -- planned for one Martian year, or 687 Earth days -- engineers hope Mars Express will send back detailed overhead pictures of the Martian surface and use a powerful radar to scan for underground water. \nScientists think Mars, which still has frozen water in its ice caps, might have once had liquid water and appropriate conditions for life but lost it billions of years ago. It is thought water may also still exist as underground ice.
CLOSELY TRACKED: A US officer said that the warplanes were watched as they flew from Russia by way of Iran and Syria to Libya and were photographed multiple times The US Africa Command flatly rejected Russian claims that Moscow did not deploy fighter jets to Libya, saying on Friday that the 14 aircraft flown in reflect Russia’s long-term goal to establish a foothold in the region that could threaten NATO allies. US Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, deputy director of intelligence, said that the US tracked the MiG-29s and Su-24 fighter bombers flown in by Russian military, passing through Iran and Syria before landing at Libya’s al-Jufra air base. The base is the main forward airfield for Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army, which has been waging an
‘SACRIFICED’: Hu Weifeng became the sixth doctor to die from COVID-19 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where calls to raise the alarm over the virus were suppressed The death of a Chinese doctor at Wuhan’s “whistle-blower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting front-line health workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Weifeng (胡衛鋒), 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital where the whistle-blower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus. Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen (艾芬), said that authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming
Singapore’s otters, long adored by the city-state’s nature lovers, are popping up in unexpected places during the COVID-19 lockdown, but their antics have angered some and even sparked calls for a cull. With the streets empty, the creatures have been spotted hanging out by a shopping center, scampering through the lobby of a hospital and even feasting on pricey fish stolen from a pond. While many think of tiny Singapore as a densely populated concrete jungle, it is also relatively green for a busy Asian city, and has patches of rainforest, fairly clean waterways and abundant wildlife. There are estimated to be about
‘LEAST WE CAN DO’: The gesture was made famous by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality that targeted minorities They are images that surprised and moved Americans: police officers taking a knee alongside protesters in the most widespread civil unrest to rock the US in decades — and in doing so embracing an anti-racism gesture denounced by US President Donald Trump. As Trump pushes for a crackdown on often-violent protests over the death of George Floyd, police officers from New York to Los Angeles to Houston, Texas, are making gestures of solidarity with demonstrators incensed at the latest case of an unarmed black man dying while in police custody. “I took off the helmet and laid the batons down. Where do