Space News Update (11 Jan 2007)

In recent years, NASA, the United States’ space agency, has been dominating exploration of the solar system. At Mars, NASA has two craft in orbit (2001 Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter—plus the recently lost Mars Global Surveyor, and the two rovers Spirit and Opportunity on the surface), while Europe has the Mars Express. But as Stephen Battersby reports in New Scientist, Euprope is contemplating additional moon and Mars missions, including speculating on the possibility of human spaceflight.

Also, Bill Christensen at writes about a proposed partnership between Google and NASA. Google will help process the data and make it available to the public. Google doesn’t seem to derive any significant direct benefits, but it certainly isn’t making enemies by its continued support of science and nerdy topics in general.

Amazon Plants Grow on Saharan Dust

A recent article in Environmental Research Letters studies this interesting phenomenon. As Richard Fisher at New Scientist reports,

The trees and plants in the Amazon rainforest rely on nutrient-rich dust from a single valley in the Sahara desert for sustenance, researchers have discovered.

Scientists know that millions of tonnes of mineral dust are blown from the Sahara desert to the Amazon basin each year. The dust helps keep the Brazilian rainforest soils fertile.

(continue reading at New Scientist)