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Sunday, November 20, 2005


Lichen in Space

Lichen is actually two types of creature, rolled into one: a fungi and an algae
Lichen is actually two types of creature, rolled into one: a fungi and an algae
Credit: L Sancho
The ESA is reporting that lichen can survive in space. The Russian launched Rhizocarpon geographicum and Xanthoria elegans, two species of lichen, on the 31st of May this year. The capsule's lid was opened for 15 days in space. The lichen were exposed to temperature shifts from -20 to 20 degrees C and strong UV. “To our big surprise, everything went fine after the flight,” says Rene Demets, ESA’s project scientist for the Foton project. “The lichens were in exactly the same shape as before flight.” The lichen’s DNA was not damaged and the majority of the cells were able to start growing when brought back to Earth. This offers evidence for panspermia (the theory that life could travel through space to populate a distant planet) and also that lichen can survive on Mars. There are still some problems to be solved, but some of the larger ones have been shown to be solved naturally.

(More info: New Scientist)


- posted by Jim @ 15:05 EST

(permanent link)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Halfway to Mars

Illustration of the MRO
Illustration of the MRO
Credit: CNN
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter fired its engines for 20 seconds to adjust its flight path. The MRO is expected to reach Mars orbit in March. After a few more maneuvers, the MRO will join 3 other orbiters around the Red Planet. The orbiter has the highest resolution camera yet sent to Mars. It will also continue the search for water, using some of the most sophisticated instruments ever sent. It will also act as another communications relay for the MER's and future missions. The mission is slated to last 4 years, but scientists believe it could go for 8, until its fuel runs out.

Thanks to Tim for bringing this to our attention.

(More info: CNN)


- posted by Jim @ 9:11 EST

(permanent link)

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