Are there mechanics on Mars?

NASA’s attempts to free the Mars Rover ‘Spirit’ begin this week; it has been bogged down in sandy soil on the Red Planet for the past seven months. NASA expects the process to be long, and the outcome uncertain, but Spirit has already lasted 22 times longer than it was designed to. Anybody who saw this week’s Doctor Who will be hoping that none of the recently-found water on Mars has got into the workings.

It’s a big week at CERN as well, as the first beams are expected to circulate around the Large Hadron Collider, testing out the safety systems that were installed after last year’s quench and helium leak incident. The collider suffered a power cut recently when an errant French owl dropped a chunk of baguette into its workings. The LHC team is to start with low-energy beams, working up to collisions sometime next month; the power of the beams will gradually be ramped up over the next few months.

Those in London this week will be able to see aerospace thermodynamicist and rocket engineer Alan Bond’s Brabazon Lecture at the Royal Aeronautical Society, where he will be speaking about the UK’s capability to develop a new generation of engines for space flight. Bond was on the team that worked on the UK’s abandoned HOTOL launcher plans, and is currently working on spaceplanes and hypersonic flight.

Stuart Nathan
Special Reports Editor