|Russian Science & the World|
(Monthly Digest on world electronic media)
Space Daily, CA / Sep 05, 2006
Is The Golden Age Of Russian Space Science Still Ahead
- by Lev Zeleny, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) and Director of the RAS Institute of Space Research
Despite the troubled times in the 1990s, Russia is still a great space power. It is enough to mention that it is the leader in the number of space launches, accounting for 40% of the world's carrier missile launches in the 2001-2005 period.
Regrettably, the majority of them were commercial launches of foreign space vehicles, as well as Soyuz and Progress spaceships for supporting the International Space Station.
In the last 15 years, Russia has put into orbit only three research satellites. In the past, space researchers used to send two or more vehicles into space every year. They were put into near-earth orbits, or sent to the Moon, Mars, and Venus. The VEGA project (Venus-Halley's comet) was the culmination of research.
Upon the completion of the Venus part of the mission, when for the first time experiments in its atmosphere were conducted with balloons, the Vega-1 and Vega-2 space vehicles were sent to Halley's comet, and went through its coma one by one. They received the images of the nucleus and the dust of the coma, measured its plasma, dust flows, and the composition of its dust and gas components. Today, Russian scientists are mainly focusing on space plasma and solar-terrestrial relationships, using domestic Interball and Coronas-F spacecraft.
The launch of the automatic station Mars-96 in November 1997 was frustrated by the failure of its carrier's upper stage. Since this black day in the history of Russian planetary studies, Russian scientists have been taking a modest part in the studies of Mars and Venus. They are using excellent spacecraft - Marx-Express, Venus-Express, and Mars-Odyssey - on board of European and American spaceships. As for other planets of the solar system, they had to forget about them altogether.
The implementation of the Relikt, Astron, Kvant, and Granat projects in the late 1980s-1990s allowed Russia to be more or less on the same level of astrophysical research with Western countries. But it failed to carry out a series of Spektr projects, which had been planned in the Soviet times to study virtually the entire range of electromagnetic radiation. If this program had been implemented in the 1990s as scheduled, Russian science would have been ahead of the world in the field of extra atmospheric astronomy. The situation is somewhat improved by the European Integral Space Observatory, placed into orbit by a Russian carrier, which entitles Russian researchers to 27% of its monitoring time.
The RIM-PAMELA (RIM is the acronym for the Russian-Italian Mission) project is another example of this form of international cooperation, involving also researchers from Germany, Sweden, and the United States. The project deals with fundamental cosmology problems, such as the nature of the dark matter, generation and dissemination of galactic space rays, solar processes and space rays, and high energy particles in the earth's magnetosphere. Research is being conducted by the Pamela precision magnetic spectrometer, a fruit of Russian-Italian cooperation, which is installed on board of the Russian Resurs DK1 E0 (earth observation) satellite.
Unfortunately, these are single examples of Russian participation in recent space experiments. Many projects, some of them unique, were not carried out because new Russia had slashed the funding for space research.
Today, the situation is changing for the better in many respects. By 2010-2012 Russia is expected to have from eight to ten space vehicles. Russian researchers are planning to launch in 2007 the RadioAstron observatory with powerful space information ability, and a 12-meter antenna with a deployable parabolic reflector. A global network of ground-based facilities will support the performance of the space-based telescope. In resolution capacity, these ground-space systems or interferometers have the power of a radio telescope with an antenna diameter, which is equal to the distance between ground and space hardware. At an altitude of 350,000 km, the resolution capacity of the RadioAstron interferometer will equal hundreds of thousands' fractions of an angle second.
This orbit is very suitable for an almost permanent monitoring of interplanetary parameters, such as solar wind plasma, magnetic field, and energy particle flows, at huge distances from the Earth. Importantly, it has a very high time resolution, which is important for space weather forecasting. In this context, scientists from the Institute of Space Research have suggested that the RadioAstron project (of which the Astronomical Center of the RAS Physical Institute is in charge) should be supplemented with the Plasma-F magneto plasma experiment.
In 2010, Russia is planning to put into high-elliptical orbit its Spektr-UF extra-atmospheric observatory to monitor the electromagnetic spectrum in the ultraviolet range. The Hubble space telescope is considered to be the most powerful and expensive (with a price tag of six billion dollars) research instrument in this field. But it works in near-earth orbit, thus losing about 50% of the observation time. The Russian telescope will be placed into a very outstretched orbit with the apogee of 300,000 km, or even better, in the area of the libration point of the Sun-Earth system, which is about 1.5 million km from our planet. Location of the observatory at this point will reduce terrestrial and lunar influence to the minimum. The Russian telescope will be able to receive the images of comparable quality spectrums, which are 20 times weaker than those observed by the Hubble.
Roskosmos (Russian Space Agency) and its European counterpart have decided to coordinate their space programs for X-ray space studies. With this aim in view, the Spektr-Rentgen-Gamma project was transformed into the Spectrum-RG/eRosita/Lobster program. They are considering putting the observatory into an ideal equatorial orbit (in terms of minimal background radiation) at an altitude of 580-600 km, that is, below the Earth's radiation belt with a zero angle achieved by the launch from the space center in Kourou in French Guiana by the Russian Soyuz-2 booster.
The Phobos-Ground mission has received priority in planetary studies. It is one of the world's biggest recent projects with multiple objectives. Under the project, a spacecraft will fly to Mars, land on its Phobos satellite, take a probe of the ground, and return it to Earth. A long-life station will remain on Mars for automatic monitoring of its climate, and the near-Mars space. The launch is scheduled for 2009.
Experience accumulated in the implementation of this project will make it possible to go over to the next stage of planetary studies - delivery of Martian ground to Earth. In addition, there are plans to deploy a number of small research stations on the surface of Mars in 2009-2011.
Researchers are discussing such planetary projects as the construction of a module for deployment on Mercury, and development of a long-life Venus-9 surface station.
The Russian federal space program for 2006-2015 provides for the Luna-Glob project initiated by the RAS GEOHI geochemistry institute after a more than 30 year long break in space lunar research. The main aim of the mission is to study the internal structure of the Moon, find signs of water ice in the cold trap on the lunar pole, and establish whether the Moon has a nucleus, and of what size.
The nearest project in space plasma physics and solar-terrestrial relationships is the Coronas-Photon magnetosphere mission. Its objective is to continue monitoring the processes on the Sun, and its activities. In the past, this task was carried out by the Coronas-I and Coronas-F spacecraft. All three are part of the long-term program of comprehensive orbital near-earth observation of solar activities (CORONAS), which has been implemented since 1994. The aim of the mission is to study the structure of the Sun, and its atmosphere, the nature and mechanisms of solar activities, such as the origin and acceleration of the solar wind, which has a direct influence on the Earth and near-Earth space; mechanisms of transforming different types of solar energy within the magnetosphere and ionosphere, and their influence on terrestrial processes.
Apart from solar studies, one of the major elements of space weather forecasting is continuous monitoring of the solar wind on its journey from the Sun to the Earth. Russian researchers are developing this multi-level monitoring system.
Researchers will conduct observations in the low orbit ionosphere with the help of the Chibis micro satellites designed by the Institute of Space Studies. They will be put into orbit from the International Space Station. Resonans space vehicles will do the monitoring in the internal magnetosphere and the radiation belts. They are scheduled for launch in 2012 as the key element of the would-be system. For the first time ever, they will allow scientists to study magnetospheric cyclotron resonance masers, which play a major role in the magnetosphere of the Earth and other planets with a magnetic field. Maser mechanisms determine a whole series of solar and stellar processes. But the terrestrial magnetosphere is not very far from us, and this is why researchers can take detailed measurements of it, and then extrapolate the results of studies to remote astrophysical objects.
It is important to study magnetospheric masers because they regulate the composition of the terrestrial radiation belts, and researchers will obtain information on the number of energy particles in the belts, forecast their status, and study the dynamics of perturbation.
In order to continue Plasma-F project, Russian researchers are planning to deploy, at the top of Radioastron (mentioned earlier) satellite system for forecasting solar activities and their aftermath, a group of Klipper micro satellites with a solar sail at a distance of three to four million kilometers from the Earth. The sail will make it possible to stabilize the satellites in a definite point in space, or move them closer to the Sun by handling the reflecting sail.
Finally, there is a solar research project entitled Intergeliozond. Researchers are planning to send a spacecraft to the Sun, using the Venus's gravitational slingshot, and put it into an orbit which would be 42 million km away from the Sun (60 solar radiuses). Subsequent gravitational maneuvers may lower the orbit to 21 million km, and then further to 10-12 solar radiuses. Low power engines can change the angle of the orbit in a way that will allow scientists to see the Sun's polar zones, which are invisible from the Earth.
Other promising Russian projects - a small solar Strannik spacecraft for precision measurements in those fields of the magnetosphere which are crucial for the formation of space weather (it should become part of the international space system in 2014-2020), and the polar-ecliptical probe for total observation of the Sun with the same purpose - are still in the cradle stage. It is not yet possible to move them into the designing stage for shortage of funding, among other reasons.
The Russian space budget for 2005 was one third bigger than in 2004. In 2006, it should grow by another quarter, and is expected to continue going up every year. Nevertheless, these allocations are too small to extricate Russian space research from the deplorable condition of the last 10 to 15 years. It would be great to be able to launch the Resonans spacecraft in 2009-2010 instead of 2012, but financial restrictions make it wishful thinking.
As in all previous years, half of the funds earmarked for space will be spent on the International Space Station (ISS), where Russia was acting as a space taxi until recently. All money is channeled into its functioning and upgrading. By the time its construction is completed, it will be almost as old as the Mir before it was sunk with all the ensuing consequences.
Although the Federal Space Program for 2006-2015 is aimed at bringing closer the interests of fundamental research and piloted space flights, they will still be locked in fierce competition, and in different weight categories.
In the United States, the space program consists of Exploration and Research. Exploration deals with discovering new areas, which also includes certain research, whereas Research proper means strictly research in the interests of fundamental science. The first section has a clear political meaning, and receives much more money than the second one. This is probably how it should be. The main point is that the two budgets do not get mixed, and it is clear within a certain balance how much was spent on pure research.
There is no such division in Russia. Maybe, all the setbacks of domestic space research stem from the approach to the funding of fundamental science on the national scale as a whole, which barely allows it to float between life and death.
Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.
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Medical News Today / 22 Aug 2006
Gelatin Treats Ulcer
The stomach ulcer of various origins is well prevented and healed by short peptides, which are part of gelatin. The conclusion has been made by the task group combining researchers from the Institute of Molecular Genetics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Faculty of Biology of the Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Shemiakin and Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences. Gelatin's short peptides - glyprolines - consist of amino acids of glycine and proline. It is them that protect the stomach mucous tunic from injuries. The highest antiulcer activity was discovered by the researchers with the PGP-sequence peptide: proline, glycine, proline.
Glyprolines are easily absorbed in the stomach and remain in the blood for a long time without breaking up. They act not only on the stomach cells but also on the central nervous system overcoming the blood-brain barrier, therefore they cure even the ulcers caused by stress.
Glyprolines are natural peptides. They are generated in the organism in the course of collagen synthesis or decomposition. During the experiments carried out by the Moscow biologists, gelatin (partly hydrolyzed collagen) added to rats' feed partly protected the rats from ulcer.
Further experiments were carried out by the researchers with gelatin hydrolysate. Processing gelatin by hydrochloric acid imitates the process taking place in the stomach. After gelatin hydrolysis was performed, the researchers educed and refined about 30 short peptides, also including glyprolines.
It has turned out that gelatin peptides reinforce resistance of the stomach mucous tunic to ethanol and stress action, decreasing the ulcer area by twice. If peptides are introduced to the animals with already developed ulcer, it will also close quicker. Therapeutic effect was revealed by peptides not only in case of intraperitoneal introduction but also in case of intragastric introduction, this method being even more effective.
The researchers point out that gelatin hydrolysate produces protective and medicinal effect comparable to the action of pure PGP peptide, which is currently known as the most active glyproline. In the researchers' opinion, not only the above-mentioned glyprolines but also short peptides unknown so far participate in the antiulcer action of gelatin peptides. Therefore, to produce the most promising protective and medicinal antiulcer drugs, the researchers are planning to investigate the action of all substances that make part of gelatin hydrolysate.
© 2006 MediLexicon International Ltd.
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AlphaGalileo / 01 September 2006
Clouds: round-the-clock diagnosis
A unique automated information system has been developed by specialists of the Scientific and Research Center for Space Hydrometeorology "PLANETA". The system is intended for the round the clock tracking of weather in Russia. Speaking more strictly, the system is to monitor meteorological parameters of atmospheric phenomena and cloudiness over the entire territory of Russia up to latitude 68-74 North, the monitoring being done in exceptional detail.
The system based on a number of Russian patents was devised and implemented by a group of researchers and inventors under the guidance of Mikhail Bukharov, Ph. D. (Physical and Mathematical Sciences). The system enables to recognize in the online mode (judging by the information from geostationary satellites) the regions where cumulo-nimbus cloudiness, heavy showers and hail in the clouds are most likely, and to assess precipitation phase, its average and maximum intensity, altitude of the upper bound of clouds, maximum speed of vertical ascending motion in cloudiness and other meteorological parameters. The system does that all automatically and very minutely - every quarter of an hour to within 0.1 degrees (latitude- and longitudewise). The system is called AIS "Meteo-ISZ".
It should be noted that there is no additional measurement instrumentation in the system. To solve the task, the authors used measurements of intensity of outgoing thermal radiation of the earth surface, the measurements being constantly taken by radiometers in the infrared band from the Meteosat-8, Meteosat-7, Meteosat-5 and MTSAT-1R geostationary satellites. All necessary basic data is available to multiple services all over the world - however, nobody has managed so far to "pull out" so much useful information from this data.
However, the authors do not expatiate on the way they managed to do that. Which particular parameters out of measurable ones are necessary, what calculations are to be performed with them later are the know-how area, the secret that the researchers do not disclose to journalists or do not reveal to full extent even to their meteorologist colleagues. The point is that by measuring the air temperature at the cloud upper bound from satellites and by assessing the air temperature and moisture in the atmosphere bottom layer as predicted, as well as some other parameters, the authors learnt to get a lot of interesting information about the cloud. Figuratively speaking, they learned to diagnose the cloud.
That is - to recognize in it the presence of thunderstorms, hail (and the size of hailstones to be expected from this cloud), snowfalls, heavy showers, rain and to assess the most probable average and maximum precipitation intensity. Or they diagnose that the cloud is quite safe - the utmost it can do is to hide the Sun.
The new system possesses two fundamental distinctions from all systems applicable so far. On the one hand, these are the methodology and respective software, which enable recognition of a wider range of atmospheric phenomena, than it was earlier, and the recognition is more precise. By the way, the most informative and precise system of the previous generation was developed not long ago by the same authors. But the new system possesses even more capabilities. Besides other things, the system utilizes the data obtained not from polar orbiting satellites, as it was previously, but form geostationary satellites. Due to that, there is an opportunity to monitor cloudiness and to measure its parameters not once in two hours as previously, but practically in the online mode, every 15 minutes.
As a result, it is possible to create with the help of the AIS "Meteo-ISZ" system on-line maps of meteorological parameters of atmospheric phenomena in cloudiness over the territory of Russia. By the way, this particular system was used by respective services during the Summit that took place this summer in St. Petersburg. Certainly, the system is unable to "order" the weather, but it did provide flight operations officers in the Pulkovo airport with the fullest possible information. And the system never made a mistake.
© AlphaGalileo Foundation 2003.
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innovations-report / 04.09.2006
Laser striking the tumor: new outlook
Is it possible to ablate malignant neoplasm with the help of laser in such a way that healthy tissues are not damaged? In other words, is it possible to perform an operation, avoiding an incision, bleeding or concomitant thermal burn, healing up of which is long and difficult? How can the "bad" tissue be destroyed without damaging the "good" tissue, and is it possible at all?
Russian researchers expect to get answers to these and other questions connected with laser application in medical practice via ascertaining how laser high-intensity impulses act on biotissues, first of all - on pathological tissues. The investigation involves specialists of three biggest national scientific centers.
These are the Troitsk Institute of Innovation and Thermonuclear Investigations, the Blokhin Russian Oncological Scientific Center and the Federal Nuclear Center in Sarov. The subject of inquiry is the tumors located in the "near-surface" skin layers. Specialists are well aware that it is here that up to 95 percent of all malignant skin diseases develop, including mortally dangerous black cancer.
The authors' expectations are based on the fact that malignant cells and respectively tissues differ in some way from normal ones. Among the differences, two are most important in this case. Firstly, the tumor tissue is as a rule more than ususal penetrated by blood vessels: the tumor grows quickly and therefore needs "nourishing diet". Secondly, uncontrolled dividing tumor cells are characterized by hyperchromatosis of nuclei, i.e., by more intense color. Therefore, one way or another, the tumor differs from its surroundings by spectral characteristics. The researchers decided to take advantage of this fact.
"If the tissue containing malignant cells is affected by a laser impulse of required wave-length, sufficient power and short duration, it can be achieved that the impulse is selectively absorbed and only malignant cells are subsequently destroyed - surrounding healthy cells would not be influenced", explains Ludmila Chernysheva, project manager, main specialist of the direction. "To this end, we assume that the impulse should be sufficiently intense, but short, its duration being of several nanoseconds so that macromolecules' photodisruption took place in the tumor under the impact of radiation, but not macromolecules' thermal disruption (evaporation or coagulation). By the way, the latter is most important. Otherwise selectivity of influence is lost: both diseased and healthy tissues suffer and there is no guaranty that lesion foci are eliminated completely."
To reveal the optimal irradiation modes - wave-length, power, duration and impulse frequency, under which the effect would be the highest possible but undesirable consequences would be minimal, the authors are planning to act by radiation of different parameters at various biotargets (from standardized test solutions through tissues of laboratory animals). The first experiments have already been carried out, and they bring out clearly that the concept "works".
However, when the impulse duration is decreased, power density increases, which leads to various nonlinear effects. The authors are planning to find out if a short powerful laser impulse possesses (in general and specifically in the modes selected by them) mutagenic and/or cancerogenic action, that is to determine how safe the suggested method is. So far, nobody has dealt systematically with this problem, therefore, the authors believe it necessary to make sure that the method is safe enough.
"As a result, we hope that optimal parameters and laser impact modes will be determined and worked out from the point of view of efficiency and speed of ablation of malignant mass, the lowest degree of injury, cytotoxicity and mutagenic danger, healing times and postoperative complications, as well as ways to deliver radiation into the impact area, continues L.V. Chernysheva. The laser source for oncology and radiation delivery vehicle will be approved on the objects in vitro, and then - in the clinical environment. The determinative selection factor will undoubtedly be the therapeutic effect."
© copyright 2006 by innovations-report.
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Shanghai Daily - Shanghai, China / 2006-09-07
Russian scientists eye cooperation
A 120-MEMBER-DELEGATION of Russian scientists will visit Shanghai late this month to explore cooperation in nuclear and space technology, the Shanghai Science and Technology Association announced yesterday.
The delegation also includes Russian government officials and high-tech business leaders, as well as 13 members of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The Chinese Science and Technology Ministry invited the Russian team and hailed it as an integral part of activities coinciding with "The Year of Russia" in China.
"It will be the biggest delegation of Russian scientists to China," Liu Jian, head of the association's international cooperation department, said yesterday.
Some of the Russian scientists previously worked here during late 1950s or early 1960s, officials said.
There will be a round-table discussion between Russian and Chinese scientists on September 25.
They are expected to enhance mutual understanding and to look for cooperation in four major areas: civilian nuclear programs, aviation, space technology and the petroleum industry.
Before stopping in Shanghai, the delegation will also visit Beijing, Nanjing and Suzhou.
Copyright © 2001-2005 Shanghai Daily Company.
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