Status Report

French Advances in Science and Technology (Excerpts)

By SpaceRef Editor
June 29, 2001
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Everybody agrees that this slowly rotating planet with the very heavy
atmosphere has had a troubled past, but two CNRS researchers have now shown
how this past could account for one of its most surprising features, a
rotation in the opposite sense of the earth’s rotation. Using the math of
catastrophe to build a model of what might have happened when Venus first
got spinning, the pair found that the classical explanation–a nearly
sideways spinning planet which at some point flipped over–is not the only
plausible one. Their chaos model predicts four outcomes: two where the
planet rotates in so-called normal direction, two showing reverse spin. And
one of each is very tilted, leading to a flip over. In other words, with all
that was happening on and below Venus’ surface, a chaotic evolution allows
for the possibility that Venus simply began to spin the other way. In this
scenario the axis tilt is nearly zero, thus eliminating one of the
improbabilities in the classical explanation. (Agence France Presse, June


The European Space Agency has decided to foster-parent
the newly-born 120-member association of European astrobiologists, the
European Exo/Astrobiology Network, by proposing a far-reaching program of
research in two directions: extraterrestrial life and human life in space.
The Agency plans to submit a hefty budget request to its governing council
this Fall for an agency-wide strategy involving both the Space Science
department (looking for signs of life on Mars, Jupiter’s Europa, asteroids
and our own moon) and the Manned Spaceflight department (laying the
groundwork for extended human space exploration). The Network’s president, a
CNRS molecular biophysicist, says a decade of discovery in various sciences
highlights the importance of pursuing exo-life now, and he adds that Network
members will be lobbying national entities hard to support the funding
request. (Science, June 1, p1626)

SpaceRef staff editor.