Malaysia missing plane: Automated signals offer more clues
The story of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is a mystery for sure, but information is now starting to emerge that allows us to join some of the dots.
We know the aeroplane was fitted with a satellite system that enabled it to pass information to the ground during its journey.
This system, called "Classic Aero" and operated by London's big satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat, can transmit a range of data, even voice calls.
In its official statement, all Inmarsat will say is that it did indeed receive signals over its network from the plane, and that these were automated "pings".
All this has been shared with the Malaysian authorities.
Malaysia plane: Indian Ocean search for missing jet
This story is a mystery for sure, but information is now starting to emerge that allows us to join some of the dots.
We know the aeroplane was fitted with a satellite system that enabled it to pass information to the ground during flight. It is my understanding that this system, operated by London's big satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat, received an automated signal from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at least five hours after the plane was reported lost.
There is no way that signal could have been sent unless the plane was intact and powered. These types of satellite systems can pass a range of data, even voice calls.
But even if the last communication was a simple, automated ping carrying no real information, its receipt alone should make it possible to work out an approximate position for the aircraft at the time of that last signal. This may well explain why the US has now sent search teams to the Indian Ocean.
Opportunity rover clocks 10 years on Mars
The American space agency (Nasa) is celebrating 10 years of operation for its Opportunity rover on Mars.
The six-wheeled vehicle landed on the planet's Meridiani plains on 25 January, 2004, at 05:05 GMT.
It has since trundled 38.7km across the surface, studying the local geology and returning over 170,000 images to Earth.
How much longer the rover can continue working in Mars' harsh environment is unknown, but Nasa is confident it will keep rolling a while yet.
"The rover has some degraded components," explains John Callas, the manager of the agency's Mars Exploration Rover Project, which looks after "Oppy", as it is often called.
European Space Agency sets a path for big space science
Europe has fixed a broad plan for the big space science missions it will launch over the next two decades.
It will likely lead to a large X-ray telescope being launched in 2028, and to an orbiting observatory to detect gravitational waves going up in 2034.
Together, these two ventures will cost in excess of 2bn euros (£1.7bn).
They join a mission already approved known as Juice, which will see a big satellite sent to observe Jupiter and its icy moons in 2022.
The path ahead was set by the Science Policy Committee (SPC) of the European Space Agency (Esa), which is meeting in Paris, France.
UK-built cameras heading for space station
Monday sees the launch to the space station of two cameras that are sure to provide some fascinating new views of Planet Earth.
One in particular will catch people’s attention because it will send down high-definition video.
If pre-launch simulations are accurate then the imagery from this particular piece of hardware will – I’m sure – be seen regularly on the evening TV news.
At a resolution of 1m per pixel, you will be able to observe large crowds and moving vehicles.
Falkland farewell for 'Space Ferrari'
The final moments of the Goce satellite were caught on camera as it blazed across the sky above the South Atlantic.
Falkland Islander Bill Chater managed to record the scene as he returned from a day's outing to see penguins.
“We saw what we first thought was a shooting star,” Bill told me.
“It soon became obvious it was the satellite we had heard about on BBC Radio News an hour before.
“It left a long trail of smoke which was bright white in the dark sky, presumably lit by the Sun which we could no longer see.”
Red destination: Choosing an ExoMars landing site
The search for a suitable site to land Europe's ExoMars rover in 2019 is about to begin.
A request will go out in the next few weeks to the scientific community, asking for expressions of interest to join a working group on the subject.
Once this panel is in place, planetary researchers will then be invited to a meeting, likely to be in the spring of next year.
This will formally kick-off the site selection process, which should take a couple of years to complete.
The European Space Agency's ExoMars rover - a roughly 350kg vehicle - is currently in the late stages of its design.
Computer chemists win Nobel prize
Persistence pays off. Michael Levitt did his physics degree at King's College London, and was then desperate to do a PhD at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. The LMB was where he could learn from "towering heroes" - the likes of Francis Crick, Max Perutz, John Kendrew and Aaron Klug.
But the 19 year old's requests to join the intellectual hothouse were repeatedly, but politely, rebuffed. Thankfully for the world of science, Levitt wouldn't take 'no' for an answer. He drove to Cambridge from London, and camped outside Perutz's office until the Nobel Prize winner would see him. Whatever Levitt said on that sunny Friday in April 1967, it clearly had an impact because the LMB relented and gave him his opportunity.
The first thing the lab did was pack him off to Israel to work with Shneior Lifson and a student of his - Arieh Warshel. These men were using computer modelling to try to understand the behaviour of large biological molecules.
Israel, Levitt says, had two profound influences on his life. The first - it was where he met his wife, Rina. The second - it was the place that set him on the research path that melds the worlds of computers and structural biology.
Asked for some advice to give young scientists, Levitt says: "Believe in yourself. I tell this to all the students I see: 'If you don't believe in yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?' Be passionate, and also be stubborn. Being stubborn is an important characteristic."
Recycled rockets: SpaceX calls time on expendable launch vehicles
Have we witnessed the beginning of a revolution in rocketry?
On Sunday, the SpaceX company launched the latest version of its Falcon 9 vehicle from California, placing a cluster of small satellites in low-Earth orbit.
The new vehicle has been given the additional performance it needs to start lofting commercial telecoms spacecraft and other payloads, and nearly all of these modifications appear to work just fine.
But it's what happened to part of the rocket after it had completed the primary mission goals - as it fell to Earth - that really has everyone talking.
Normally, the first-stage of a rocket – the segment that gets it up off the ground – is discarded at altitude, whereupon it begins a destructive dive back through the atmosphere.