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News briefs: March 19
Posted: Wed, Mar 20, 2002, 10:25 AM ET (1525 GMT)
  • The successful launch of a Rockot booster Sunday has paved the way for closer integration of Russian launch vehicle efforts, Itar-Tass reported Tuesday. The Rockot used a Breeze-KM upper stage, which is based on the larger Breeze-M upper stage developed for the Proton and new Angara launch vehicles. Khrunichev officials also said the Rockot launch pad at Plesetsk will also be used for the Angara, but did not explain how the same facility would be able to serve both the Rockot and much larger Angara.
  • An Australian government official has stirred up controversy in the astronomy community by claiming that searches for near-Earth objects that could pose a threat to the Earth are a waste of time. Peter McGauran, Australian science minister, said that he would not be "or panicked into spending scarce research dollars on a fruitless attempt to predict the next asteroid" during an interview on the Australian television program "60 Minutes". McGauran also dismissed a letter sent to him, signed by 91 scientists and other proponents of asteroid searches, saying it represented the opinion only of "scientific generalists."
  • An optical interferometer in Arizona has successfully imaged the three components of a triple star system. The Navy Prototype Optical Interferometer, located outside Flagstaff, combined the light from its six small telescopes to generate a high-resolution image of the Eta Virginis star system, revealing its three stars. The image has the resolution of one taken by a single telescope 50 meters across, five times the diameter of the twin Keck Observatory telescopes, the world’s largest.
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