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News briefs: May 31
Posted: Sat, Jun 1, 2002, 10:19 AM ET (1419 GMT)
  • Chinese officials said Friday that they are "on track" to launch humans into space in the near future. In an article published by the news agency Xinhua, Qi Faren, chief designer of the Chinese Research Institute of Space Technology, said that the recent flight of Shenzhou 3 convinced engineers that the spacecraft and Long March 2F booster are capable of supporting human spaceflight. However, the article gave no indication of precisely when China plans to attempt such a flight.
  • The fate of one of the leading makers of telescopes for amateur astronomers is in doubt. Tasco Worldwide announced this week that it has begun selling assets after defaulting on millions in loans. Tasco owns Celestron, whose telescopes are popular among many advanced amateur astronomers.
  • Astronomers have detected a rare type of ammonia in a distant molecular cloud, raising questions about how rare that type really is. Astronomers detected traces of "triply deuterated ammonia", which has three atoms of deuterium, a heavy isotope of hydrogen, in a molecular cloud 1,000 light-years away. The relative ease by which the ammonia was detected by the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory leads astronomers to wonder if unknown processes are creating more of this type of ammonia than expected.
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