Quick Read: Solar car completes round-the-world trip


Published on 07/12/2008

Solar car completes round-the-world trip

A Swiss teacher completed the first round-the-world trip in a solar-powered car last week and said he hoped the 52,000km (32,000-mile) odyssey would inspire carmakers to make greener models. Louis Palmer smashed his “solar taxi” through a wall of polystyrene blocks marking the end of the 17-month trip outside the venue of UN climate talks in Poland with Yvo de Boer, the UN’s top climate change official, in the passenger seat. He said he got an enthusiastic welcome everywhere on a trip that took him through Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and North America, with some stretches by ferry. Only Japan, which bans cars with Swiss licence plates, refused entry. The car runs on solar power but Palmer also had a battery for travel at night or in less sunny nations, such as winter-time Poland, that he recharged from local electricity.

China, Russia to send probes to Mars next year

China will team up with Russia to launch two satellite probes to take pictures of Mars and one of its small moons in October next year as it seeks to cement its place in the select ranks of global space powers. A Chinese-built probe will piggy-back on a Russian-built rocket which would also be carrying a Russian satellite, the Beijing News said, quoting a Chinese lead designer on the project. The Chinese probe, called “Yinghuo 1”, would “carry two cameras to take photos of Mars and Phobos (Mars 1),” the paper quoted Chen Changya, the mission’s deputy design chief, as saying. The two countries’ satellites would travel together for 11 months, with the Chinese probe powered by Russia’s, before separating on entering Mars’ orbit, the paper said.

NASA delays robot Mars life-search mission

Nasa said last week that it would postpone by two years the planned launch of a major mission to study whether Mars was ever capable of harbouring life, citing development and testing delays.

Nasa administrator Michael Griffin said the Mars Science Laboratory mission must be pushed back from next year in part because of problems with motors on the six-wheeled rover designed to operate on the unforgiving surface of the Red Planet. The delay of the planned October 2009 launch to autumn 2011 is expected to add about $400 million to the program’s cost, now estimated at $2.2 billion to $2.3 billion, said Doug McCuistion, director of the Nasa Mars exploration programme.

The mission is designed to assess whether the Martian environment is or ever was able to support microbial life. It is the latest in the exploration of Earth’s neighbour.

— Reuters

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