|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
Ученые Института теоретической и прикладной механики СО РАН разработали метод лазерной сварки авиационных материалов с применением наночастиц, что значительно повышает прочность сварного шва. Подобная технология позволяет отказаться от использования заклепок при изготовлении корпуса летательного аппарата и тем самым значительно облегчить его конструкцию.
Des chercheurs de l'Institut de mécanique théorique et appliquée (IMTA) de la Section sibérienne de l'Académie des sciences russe ont conçu une technologie qui permettra de construire des aéronefs d'une nouvelle génération, en recourant aux nanotechnologies pour la soudure.
Le simple fait de diminuer le nombre de rivets de plusieurs millions (pour les gros avions de ligne) en recourant à la soudure, permettrait d'alléger considérablement les aéronefs, de diminuer les coûts de production et d'améliorer sensiblement les caractéristiques d'exploitation. Ceci impose que les soudures et le matériel soudé soient tout aussi résistants que les matériaux traditionnels. Les chercheurs de l'IMTA ont conçu une soudure au laser recourant à des nanoparticules. L'idée de cette nouvelle technologie consiste à diriger le processus de cristallisation lors de la soudure à l'aide de nanoparticules issues d'une combinaison de matières difficilement fusibles (par exemple du carbure de titane), qui pénètrent dans la soudure.
L'introduction de nanopoudre dans la soudure modifie radicalement le processus de nucléation qui se produit à l'intérieur des particules de taille nanométrique et modifie sensiblement la morphologie et la dispersion du grain en croissance.
En conséquence, les propriétés mécaniques (solidité et plasticité) du métal de la soudure s'en trouvent améliorées : l'allongement relatif s'accroît considérablement, la charge limite de rupture et la limite de déformation élastique augmentent elles aussi.
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ZPEnergy - USA / Monday, April 07, 2008
Superinsulators promise to transform materials research, electronics design
Newly discovered "superinsulators" promise to transform materials research, electronics design
Группа российских, германских и бельгийских ученых под руководством старшего научного сотрудника Института физики полупроводников СО РАН Татьяны Батуриной и директора Института теоретического материаловедения Аргоннской национальной лаборатории (США) Валерия Винокура обнаружила уникальное явление - сверхизоляцию, обратную сторону другого удивительного явления - сверхпроводимости, открытой около 100 лет назад. Явление сверхизоляции было обнаружено во время экспериментов с тонкими пленками нитрида титана при ультранизких температурах. Сообщение об открытии опубликовано в журнале Nature 3 апреля.
Superinsulation may sound like a marketing gimmick for a drafty attic or winter coat. But it is actually a newly discovered fundamental state of matter created by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory in collaboration with several European institutions. This discovery opens new directions of inquiry in condensed matter physics and breaks ground for a new generation of microelectronics.
Led by Argonne senior scientist Valerii Vinokur and Russian scientist Tatyana Baturina, an international team of scientists from Argonne, Germany, Russia and Belgium fashioned a thin film of titanium nitride which they then chilled to near absolute zero. When they tried to pass a current through the material, the researchers noticed that its resistance suddenly increased by a factor of 100,000 once the temperature dropped below a certain threshold. The same sudden change also occurred when the researchers decreased the external magnetic field.
Like superconductors, which have applications in many different areas of physics, from accelerators to magnetic-levitation (maglev) trains to MRI machines, superinsulators could eventually find their way into a number of products, including circuits, sensors and battery shields.
If, for example, a battery is left exposed to the air, the charge will eventually drain from it in a matter of days or weeks because the air is not a perfect insulator, according to Vinokur. "If you pass a current through a superconductor, then it will carry the current forever; conversely, if you have a superinsulator, then it will hold a charge forever," he said.
"Titanium nitride films, as well as films prepared from some other materials, can be either superconductors or insulators depending on the thickness of the film," Vinokur said. "If you take the film which is just on the insulating side of the transition and decrease the temperature or magnetic field, then the film all of a sudden becomes a superinsulator."
Scientists could eventually form superinsulators that would encapsulate superconducting wires, creating an optimally efficient electrical pathway with almost no energy lost as heat. A miniature version of these superinsulated superconducting wires could find their way into more efficient electrical circuits.
Titanium nitride's sudden transition to a superinsulator occurs because the electrons in the material join together in twosomes called Cooper pairs. When these Cooper pairs of electrons join together in long chains, they enable the unrestricted motion of electrons and the easy flow of current, creating a superconductor. In superinsulators, however, the Cooper pairs stay separate from each other, forming self-locking roadblocks.
"In superinsulators, Cooper pairs avoid each other, creating enormous electric forces that oppose penetration of the current into the material," Vinokur said. "It's exactly the opposite of the superconductor," he added.
The theory behind the experiment stemmed from Argonne's Materials Theory Institute, which Vinokur organized six years ago in the laboratory's Materials Science Division. The MTI hosts a handful of visiting scholars from around the world to perform cutting-edge research on the most pressing questions in condensed matter physics. Upon completion of their tenure at Argonne, these scientists return to their home institutions but continue to collaborate on the joint projects. The MTI attracts the world's best condensed matter scientists, including Russian "experimental star" Tatyana Baturina, who, according to Vinokur, "became a driving force in our work on superinsulators."
Scientists from the Institute of Semiconductor Physics in Novosibirsk, Russia, Regensburg and Bochum universities in Germany and Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre in Leuven, Belgium, also participated in the research.
The research appears in the April 3 issue of Nature.
© 2002-2005 by ZPEnergy.
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Космический грузовик "Прогресс М-63", отстыкованный 7 апреля от МКС, был затоплен в несудоходном районе Тихого океана.
A Russian space cargo ship has successfully been dumped into the South Pacific after completing its mission, according to a report.
The Progress M-63 ship, which docked with the International Space Station in February, had delivered 2.5 tonnes of cargo including food, equipment and other supplies.
Russian Information Agency Novosti said the ship was yesterday deployed successfully into the South Pacific.
"Having partly burned up in the Earth's dense atmosphere, Progress ended its existence in the designated area in the southern Pacific," a spokesman for mission control told the agency.
© Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2007.
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К концу текущего года Роскосмос планирует вывести на орбиту восемь навигационных спутников - одно из завершающих звеньев собственной навигационной системы России, которая называется ГЛОНАСС - "Глобальная навигационная спутниковая система".
Ожидается, что система начнет действовать над российской территорией и частью прилегающих к ней районов Европы и Азии, а в 2009 году станет всемирной и составит конкуренцию американской "Глобальной системе позиционирования" (GPS). На сегодняшний день США является монополистом в сфере спутниковой навигации, к тому GPS разработана и контролируется военными, то есть может быть отключена в любой момент.
MOSCOW, April 3 - The days of their cold war may have passed, but Russia and the United States are in the midst of another battle - this one a technological fight over the United States monopoly on satellite navigation.
By the end of the year, the authorities here say, the Russian space agency plans to launch eight navigation satellites that would nearly complete the country's own system, called Glonass, for Global Navigation Satellite System.
The system is expected to begin operating over Russian territory and parts of adjacent Europe and Asia, and then go global in 2009 to compete with the Global Positioning System of the United States.
Nor is Russia the only country trying to break the American monopoly on navigation technology. China has already sent up satellites to create its own system, called Baidu after the Chinese word for the Big Dipper. And the European Union has also begun developing a rival system, Galileo, although work has been halted because of doubts among the private contractors over its potential for profits. Russia's system is furthest along, paid for with government oil revenue.
What is driving the technological battle is, in part, the potential for many more uses for satellite navigation than the one most people know it for - giving driving instructions to travelers. Businesses as disparate as agriculture and banking are integrating it into their operations. Satellite navigation may provide the platform for services like site-specific advertising, with directions that appear on cellphone screens when a user is walking, for example, near a Starbucks coffee shop or a McDonald's restaurant.
Sales of G.P.S. devices are already booming. The global market for the devices hit $15 billion in 2006, according to the GPS Industry Council, a Washington trade group, and is expanding at a rate of 25 to 30 percent annually.
But what is also behind the battle for control of navigation technology is a fear that the United States could use its monopoly - the system was developed and is controlled by the military, after all - to switch off signals in a time of crisis.
"In a few years, business without a navigation signal will become inconceivable," said Andrei G. Ionin, an aerospace analyst with the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, which is linked to the Russian defense ministry. "Everything that moves will use a navigation signal - airplanes, trains, yachts, people, rockets, valuable animals and favorite pets."
When that happens, countries that choose to rely only on G.P.S., he said, will be falling into "a geopolitical trap" of American dominance of an important Internet-age infrastructure. The United States could theoretically deny navigation signals to countries like Iran and North Korea, not just in time of war, but as a high-tech form of economic sanction that could disrupt power grids, banking systems and other industries, he said. The United States government's stated policy is to provide uninterrupted signals globally.
G.P.S. devices, in fact, are at the center of the dispute over the Iranian seizure of 15 British sailors and marines. The British maintain that the devices on their boats showed they were in Iraqi waters; the Iranians have countered with map coordinates that it said showed they had been in Iranian waters.
Russia's project, of course, carries wide implications for armies around the world by providing a navigation system not controlled by the Pentagon, complementing Moscow's increasingly assertive foreign policy stance.
The United States formally opened G.P.S. to civilian users in 1993 by promising to provide it continually, at no cost, around the world.
The Russian system is also calculated to send ripples through the fast-expanding industry for consumer navigation devices by promising a slight technical advantage over G.P.S. alone, analysts and industry executives say. Devices receiving signals from both systems would presumably be more reliable.
President Vladimir V. Putin, who speaks often about Glonass and its possibilities, has prodded his scientists to make the product consumer friendly.
"The network must be impeccable, better than G.P.S., and cheaper if we want clients to choose Glonass," Mr. Putin said last month at a Russian government meeting on the system, according to the Interfax news agency.
"You know how much I care about Glonass," Mr. Putin told his ministers.
G.P.S. has its roots in the American military in the 1960s. In 1983, before the system was fully functional, President Ronald Reagan suggested making it available to civilian users around the world after a Korean Air flight strayed into Soviet airspace and was shot down.
G.P.S. got its first military test in the Persian Gulf war in 1991, and was seen as a big reason for the success of the precision bombing campaign, which helped spur its adoption in commercial applications in the 1990s.
The Russian system, like America's G.P.S., has roots in the cold war technology to guide strategic bombers and missiles. It was briefly operational in the mid-1990s, but fell into disrepair. The Russian satellites send signals that are usable now but work only intermittently.
To operate globally, a system needs a minimum of 24 satellites, the number in the G.P.S. constellation, not counting spares in orbit.
A receiver must be in line of sight of no fewer than three satellites at any time to triangulate an accurate position. A fourth satellite is needed to calculate altitude. As other countries introduce competing systems, devices capable of receiving foreign signals along with G.P.S. will more often be in line of sight of three or more satellites.
Within the United States, Western Europe and Japan, ground-based transmissions hone the accuracy of signals to within a few feet of a location - better than what could be achieved with satellite signals alone. The Russian and eventual European or Chinese systems, therefore, would make receivers more reliable in preventing signal loss when there are obstructions, like steep canyons, tall buildings or even trees.
Still, a Glonass-capable G.P.S. receiver in the United States, Western Europe or Japan would not be more accurate than a G.P.S. system alone, because of the ground-based correction signals. In other parts of the world, a Glonass-capable G.P.S. receiver would be more reliable and slightly more accurate.
American manufacturers that are dominant in the industry could be confronted with pressure to offer these advantages to customers by making devices compatible with the Russian system, inevitably undermining the American monopoly on navigation signals used in commerce.
In this sense, the Russians are setting off the first salvo in a battle for an infrastructure in the skies. Russia sees a great deal at stake in influencing the standards that will be used in civilian consumer devices.
The market for satellite navigators is growing rapidly. Garmin, the largest American manufacturer, more than doubled sales of automobile navigators in 2006, for example, and in February it showed a Super Bowl ad that was seen as a coming of age for G.P.S. navigators as a mass market product.
Jeremy D. Ludwig was one consumer who said he would be willing to pay a slight premium for a device equipped with a chip capable of processing Russian navigation signals.
He recounted a recent trip on Interstate 25 in Colorado, when, he said, he was dismayed to discover the G.P.S. device on his BlackBerry had inexplicably lost its signal, just as he was trying to decide which exit to take into Denver.
"If you don't know which exit to take, you're already lost," Mr. Ludwig, an art student, said in a recent telephone interview from Colorado Springs.
That kind of attitude is what Russia is banking on even as it also takes a stab at making consumer receivers - so far without much success.
But the Russian goal of diversifying navigation signals used in commerce will be achieved, Mr. Ionin said, even if foreign manufacturers simply adopt the Russian standard, and even if Russia's own attempt to make consumer devices fails.
To encourage wide acceptance, Mr. Putin has been pitching the system during foreign visits, asking for collaboration and financial support.
Now, only makers of high-end surveying and professional navigation receivers have adopted dual-system capability.
Topcon Positioning Systems of Livermore, Calif., for example, offers a Glonass and G.P.S. receiver for surveyors and heavy-equipment operators. Javad Navigation Systems is built around making dual-system receivers, with offices in San Jose and Moscow.
Javad Ashjaee, the president of Javad, said in an interview that wide adoption was inevitable because more satellites provided an inherently better service. "If you have G.P.S., you have 90 percent of what you need," he said. Russia's system will succeed, he said, "for that extra 10 percent."
Adding Glonass to low-end consumer devices would require a new chip, with associated design costs, but probably not much in the way of additional manufacturing expenses, he said.
Already this year, in a sign of growing acceptance of Glonass, another high-end manufacturer, Trimble, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., introduced a Russian-compatible device for agricultural navigators, used for applying pesticides, for example.
Whether consumer goods manufacturers will follow is an open question, John R. Bucher, a wireless equipment analyst at BMO Capital Markets, said in a telephone interview.
Garmin, which has more than 50 percent of the American market, has not yet taken a position on Glonass. "We are waiting," Jessica Myers, a spokeswoman for Garmin, said in a telephone interview.
For most consumers, she said, devices are reliable enough already. Growth in the industry is driven instead by better digital mapping and software, making what already exists more useful. Garmin's latest car navigator, for example, alerts drivers to traffic jams on the road ahead and the price of gas at nearby stations.
At home at least, the Kremlin is guaranteeing a market by requiring ships, airplanes and trucks carrying hazardous materials to operate with Glonass receivers, while providing grants to half a dozen Russian manufacturers of navigators.
Technically precise they may be, but even by Russian standards, some of the Russian-made products coming to market now are noticeably lacking in convenience features.
At the Russian Institute of Radionavigation and Time in St. Petersburg, for example, scientists have developed the M-103 dual system receiver. The precision device theoretically operates more reliably than a G.P.S. unit under tough conditions, like the urban canyons of Manhattan.
With its boxy appearance, the M-103 resembles a Korean War-era military walkie-talkie. It weighs about one pound and sells for $1,000, display screen not included. To operate, a user must unfurl a cable linking the set to an external antenna mounted on a spiked stick, intended to be jabbed into a field.
"Unfortunately, we haven't developed a hand-held version yet," said Vadim S. Zholnerov, a deputy director of the institute.
© Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company.
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Россия и ЕС практически одновременно заявили о намерениях активизировать работу по созданию собственных систем спутниковой навигации. При этом Россия значительно опережает Европу - к запуску готовится лишь второй спутник европейской системы Galileo, тогда как в ГЛОНАСС уже в следующем году будет 24 спутника (минимальное количество, необходимое для покрытия территории всей планеты).
A space race between the European Union and Russia quickened on Monday with separate announcements of plans to speed up work on their respective satellite navigation systems.
The EU and Russia aim to compete with the US by building more accurate rivals to the military-run global positioning system (GPS), which has spawned a high-tech market in receivers and digital maps.
EU transport ministers rubber-stamped plans to build Galileo, its troubled €4bn (£3bn, $6.3bn) system, entirely from taxpayer funds, paving the way to tender contracts.
Moscow separately said that its upgraded Glonass system would have six further satellites to ensure it could cope with malfunctions. Both constellations will have 30 in orbit.
Viktor Kosenko, first deputy chief designer of state-run OAO Information Satellite Systems, told a conference that Glonass would have the 18 satellites for domestic coverage in place this year and the 24 needed for global coverage next year, Bloomberg reported.
Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia has poured money into modernising the cold war-era system.
Moscow aims to beat the EU into space. Galileo's second satellite is to be launched this month and it will not be fully operational until 2013.
Nevertheless, Monday's decision was a "decisive step", the bloc said.
Radovan Zerjav, the transport minister of Slovenia chairing the ministerial talks, said: "We are sending a clear message to Europe and the world that Europe remains committed to its goal of allowing all European citizens and companies a high quality satellite navigation system by 2013."
Infighting between governments and companies wanting a share of the lucrative business has delayed Galileo by more than a year.
A group of private contractors pulled out of funding it last year because they would not be assured a return on their investment.
There will be six publicly financed contracts to build the €3.4bn system, to be issued in the next few months by the European Space Agency, which is managing the project with the European Commission.
The contracts are likely to be shared out among big European aerospace companies, such as Thales of France and Franco-German EADS, in an effort to champion cutting-edge engineering in the EU.
A seven-strong body comprising three representatives of government, one from the Commission and three members of the European parliament will meet quarterly to oversee the construction process and try to head off political disputes.
"We believe they will have regard to the European interest rather than their own country's," said one European diplomat.
Russia and the EU expect the taxpayers' money spent on the projects to be recouped by selling their services. They will be compatible with GPS, which is also being upgraded.
Galileo will be accurate to within a metre.
A new generation of mobile phones can use satellite navigation to guide owners through cities and find the nearest pizza restaurant or hospital.
© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.
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Федеральное космическое агентство (Роскосмос) и ГК "Роснанотех" подписали соглашение о сотрудничестве в области нанотехнологий.
The Russian Federal Space Agency and Russian technology company Rosnanotekh are partnering to promote nanotechnology in Russia's critical industries, beginning with the space industry.
Leonid Melamed of Rosnanotekh said: "The current task is to create competitive advantages for Russia`s space agency using nanotechnology. This will help our space industry not only to maintain its current market position but also to enter other international markets."
According to the article, Russian businesses have been slow to adopt innovations by Russian researchers because of the delay in profits from investing in new technologies. Insurance analyst Evgeny Shago explained that the Russian government is the only entity poised to invest in such projects as nanotechnology.
According to the article, Russia is also interested in remaining competitive against China and India, both of which are exploring nanotechnology. The article can be viewed online at the link below.
Copyright © 2003 Meridian Institute. All rights reserved.
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На базе Петербургского института ядерной физики им. Б.П.Константинова будет создан Международный центр нейтронных исследований. Предполагается, что его высокопоточный исследовательский реактор ПИК составит конкуренцию реактору Международного института Лауэ-Ланжевена (Гренобль, Франция), который считается лучшим в мире.
Un Centre international d'étude des neutrons ouvrira bientôt ses portes à Saint-Pétersbourg. Son réacteur surpassera la plus puissante installation de ce type, qui se trouve à Grenoble à l'Institut international Laue-Langevin.
Le Centre international d'étude des neutrons doit être implanté dans l'Institut pétersbourgeois de physique nucléaire de l'Académie des sciences russe, à Gatchina, non loin de Saint-Pétersbourg, sur la base du réacteur scientifique PIK. D'après le directeur adjoint de l'Institut, Igor Baranov, le lancement de l'installation est prévu pour 2009, la mise en service du réacteur de 100 MW et le début des recherches en 2011, et tous les travaux d'infrastructure du complexe devront être achevés en 2012. Une fois mis en service, il constituera une base unique de recherche scientifique en Russie.
Le rayonnement neutronique est un instrument universel d'études, qui possède un large éventail d'applications dans divers domaines de la science - physique, chimie, biologie, géologie, connaissance des matériaux, médecine, et industrie.
Le programme des recherches prévues, avec la participation de spécialistes russes et étrangers, sera mis au point sous l'égide d'un Conseil de coordination interministériel russe dont feront partie d'éminents scientifiques de différentes administrations.
Le réacteur PIK est prêt à plus de 90%. Les pièces les plus importantes - le réacteur lui-même, le circuit de refroidissement, le circuit d'eau lourde et plusieurs systèmes auxiliaires, tels le lieu de stockage du combustible usagé et les systèmes de refroidissement en cas d'accident - en sont déjà au stade final de l'assemblage technologique.
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В Гаване состоялась восьмая сессия Межправительственной российско-кубинской комиссии по экономическому, торговому и научно-техническому сотрудничеству.
LA HAVANE, 3 avril (Xinhua) - La visite de quatre jours à Cuba du ministre russe des Transports Igor Levitin, qui a pris fin jeudi, a aidé à renforcer les relations économiques entre les deux pays, a annoncé le ministre cubain des Affaires étrangères, Felipe Perez Roque.
M. Levitin est arrivé à La Havane pour assister à la 8e session de la Commission inter-gouvernementale Cuba-Russie concernant la collaboration économique-commerciale et scientifique-technique, qui s'est terminée mercredi.
La réunion a été un franc succès, a indiqué le ministre russe.
Après ses entretiens avec M. Levitin, M. Perez Roque a déclaré que les perspectives de la croissance commerciale, de la communication aérienne et de la coopération touristique avec la Russie semblent prometteuses.
"Les relations entre Cuba et la Russie sont dans une nouvelle phase, caractérisées par un dialogue politique permanent et ample", a expliqué M. Perez Roque.
Il a ajouté qu'il y aura "un intérêt réciproque et commun pour promouvoir les relations bilatérales lorsque nous aurons trouvé le moyen de développer les relations économiques, et les nouvelles opportunités de l'augmentation de l'intérêt mutuel."
M. Levitin a aussi rencontré le dirigeant cubain, Raul Castro, et ils ont établi les priorités et ont souligné les tâches principales afin de promouvoir les échanges dans les domaines du tourisme, des transports, de la culture, de la biotechnologie, des communications, des produits pharmaceutiques et des sports, parmi d'autres domaines.
M. Levitin a aussi discuté avec les ministres cubains sur les transports, les communications, le commerce extérieur, les investissements économiques et la collaboration.
Copyright 2004: pour l'Agence de Presse Xinhua.
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Прототип советского многоразового транспортного космического корабля "Буран" станет экспонатом Технологического музея германского города Шпайер. Работы по созданию "Бурана" начались в 1970-е годы в ответ на создание в США многоразовой космической системы Space Shuttle - как средство сдерживания "потенциального противника", с расчетом на оснащение боекомплектом ракет. Из нескольких экземпляров корабля полет совершил лишь один - в 1988 году, без экипажа, полностью на автоматическом управлении. Программа была закрыта в 1993 году.
It was built to take on America in Cold War star wars, but now a Russian version of the US Space Shuttle has come to earth with a bump to end in a German museum.
The Buran or Blizzard orbiter, was designed to be equipped with high-technology lasers or missiles and space mines, as Soviet war planners assumed America has weaponised the Space Shuttle.
But 15 years after the project was finally shut down in 1993, marking the end of the Cold War's most ambitious and expensive confrontations, Buran is making a much more peaceful journey into retirement.
Once able to orbit the earth every 100 minutes, it is now chugging down the Rhine on the back of a barge at roughly five miles per hour.
It is headed to the town of Speyer, in South Western Germany, where it is due to arrive on Friday in order to be unloaded and installed as the prize exhibit at the town's Technical Museum.
There museum director Hermann Layher insists it will become "Europe's most spectacular exhibit".
"This is a dream for out museum," said spokeswoman Corinna Handrich, "it will be our highlight."
The museum has fitted the now slow-moving space orbiter with a tracking device, so that enthusiasts can follow its progress down the Rhine.
"Crowds are following it on the river bank," she said. Buran, considered by the Soviets to have improved on many design flaws in the Shuttle, now appears somewhat less cutting edge than it once did.
Its white heat-resistant tiles have become a little grubby with time, and it has been temporarily shorn of its tail for its journey downriver.
The Speyer Technical Museum reportedly paid up to 7 million pounds to acquire Buran from Bahrain, where is was gathering dust in a warehouse after making a rare public appearance in the 2000 Sidney Olympic Games.
After the Games the spaceship was moved to an exhibition in the Gulf where the museum said it become entangled in a protracted legal battle to secure ownership of the craft.
After a four and half year court battle, Buran was finally dismantled and shipped to Rotterdam earlier this year.
When it arrives in Speyer it will be housed in a specially built hangar, where it is due to be put on display later this summer.
The cost to the museum is just a fraction of the billions of roubles and millions of man hours that the Soviet Union invested from Buran's inception in the 1970s.
But by the time that it took it first flight in orbit, in 1988 after more than a decade in development, the Soviet Union was nearing collapse.
Unmanned, it twice orbited earth in under four hours, before coming back to land on automatic pilot.
Like the Space Shuttle, it was transported on the back of a conventional airplane, but it never flew into space again.
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2008.
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В Санкт-Петербурге прошла пресс-конференция, посвященная хронике исследований мамонтенка, найденного на Ямале в мае прошлого года. Были представлены результаты первых исследований - и сам мамонтенок.
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian scientists say they have obtained the most detailed pictures so far of the insides of a prehistoric animal, with the help of a baby mammoth called Lyuba found immaculately preserved in the Russian Arctic.
The mammoth is named after the wife of the hunter who found her last year. The body was shipped back to Russia in February from Japan, where it was studied using computer tomography in a process similar to one doctors use to scan patients.
"We could see for the first time how internal organs are located inside a mammoth. It is pretty important from a scientific point of view," said Alexei Tikhonov, deputy director of the Russian Academy of Science's Zoological Institute, who has been leading the project.
"Her internal organs were well preserved - the heart was seen distinctly with all its ventricles and atria, as well as the liver and its veins," Tikhonov told Reuters.
"This is the best preserved specimen not only of the mammoth but of any prehistoric animal."
The mammoth species has been extinct since the Ice Age. Tests on Lyuba showed she was fed on milk and was three to four months old when she died 37,000 years ago in what is now the Yamalo-Nenetsk region in Russia's Arctic.
Scientists were excited by the find because, although her shaggy coat was gone, her skin was intact, protecting her internal organs from contamination by modern-day microbes.
Tikhonov said the computer tomography, which provided a sharp three-dimensional image of Lyuba's insides, revealed no injuries or fractures.
The scans showed her airways and digestive system were clogged with what scientists believe was silt, leading them to conclude that she must have drowned.
Tikhonov, who heads the Zoological Museum in Russia's second city of St Petersburg, said Lyuba's contribution to science could be far bigger than thought up to now.
"If we take samples of Lyuba's tissues by biopsy, without unfreezing her, there is a big chance we can obtain promising results in genetics and microbiology," he said by telephone from St Petersburg.
"I believe the genetic map (of the mammoth) will be decoded within a year or two. As for (Lyuba's) practical use, we will have discovered methods of decoding the genetic map of any extinct prehistoric animals," he said.
"There were species that died out during the human era. And while I do not think someone would attempt to reproduce the mammoth, it would still make sense to bring back to life gigantic birds from Madagascar or New Zealand, or the Steller's sea cow (an extinct mammal), and so on and so forth."
Lyuba's body is stored in a purpose-built container that maintains sub-zero temperatures to prevent the pre-historic tissue from decomposing. She will soon be flown to Salekhard, capital of the Yamalo-Nenetsk region.
"She will be exhibited in Salekhard starting this summer," Tikhonov said. "A special glass-case with constant sub-zero temperatures has already been prepared for her."
© Reuters 2008 All rights reserved.
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