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In Brief:

MirCorp plans 2nd manned mission to space station

April 27, 2000
Web posted at: 3:36 p.m. EDT (1936 GMT)

MOSCOW -- Holland-based MirCorp said Thursday it plans a finance another manned flight to the Mir space station later this year.

MirCorp, a private company that leases the Russian-owned Mir, has given the aging station new life as a commercial orbiter. Russia would have been forced to allow it to burn up in the atmosphere this year had MirCorp not provided private financing to maintain it.

Cosmonauts Sergei Zalyotin and Alexander Kalieri were sent up to Mir earlier this month to assess if it could be turned into a "space hotel," as envisioned by a group of international investors.

An unmanned Progress M1-2 cargo ship was expected to dock with Mir Thursday evening, bringing two tons of fuel, oxygen and supplies for the crew.

Earlier Thursday, a MirCorp director said the Holland-based company also will send another cargo ship to the station later this year.

MirCorp is 60 percent owned by RSC Energia, the private partner of the Russian Space Agency, while the remaining 40 percent held by its investors.

Chandra used in new method to calculate celestial distances

GARCHING, Germany -- Researchers using the Chandra X-ray Observatory have developed a new method to estimate distances to deep space objects, astronomers said.

One of the most crucial pieces of information needed in astronomy is the distance to stars and galaxies. But the data is difficult to obtain because astronomers rarely can measure distances directly and must use a variety of ingenious but imprecise techniques.

The new method relies on the scattering of X-rays by interstellar dust grains between a source and the Earth. The dust produces a halo, much like the halo around a street lamp on a foggy night.

The radiation from the halo is delayed and smeared out. By using the Chandra to observe the time delay and variations at different parts of the halo, astronomers can determine the distance to the source.

Chandra "opened a new world," said Peter Predehl of the Max-Planck Institute in Garching, Germany. Predehl is the lead author on a report to be published in the European journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

After observing Cygnus X-3 and analyzing time variations in its halo, the astronomers determined the distance to the X-ray source is about 30,000 light years. In principle, the method could work for nearby galaxies, scientists said.

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Chandra X-ray Observatory

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