News briefs: May 18-19
Posted: Mon, May 20, 2002, 9:00 AM ET (1300 GMT)
- China plans to launch its first spacecraft to the Moon by 2010, a Chinese newspaper reported Monday. The article in the English-language publication China Daily quoted Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of China's moon exploration effort, who said that such a mission would be followed up later, presumably manned, expeditions to establish a base there. No timetable for those later missions has given.
- Researchers have proposed an alternative spacecraft propellant that could be more powerful and safer than existing alternatives. University of Florida researchers say that a complex nitrogen molecule, composed of five positively-charged and five negatively-charged nitrogen ions, would form a crystalline salt with twice as much energy as hydrazine. The proposed propellant has yet to be synthesized in the lab, however.
- British astronomers have discovered why some of the oldest stars in the universe lack the abundance of lithium expected by Big Bang models. The astronomers found that three old stars, which should contain traces of lithium created directly by the Big Bang, are part of binary star systems whose companion stars destroyed the lithium. The existence of the binary companions also explains why the stars are spinning much faster than expected.